Project: Dynamic Range, Scene Dynamic Range

After discovering the camera’s dynamic range in the previous exercise, the idea here was to investigate the dynamic range 0of various photographic scenes. The course notes said to take five pictures of varied lighting conditions. Here is what I took:

Cutting Down a Tree


This was taken in sunny conditions (as can be seen from the shadows). There was no highlight clipping in the camera display and spot readings taken showed a highlight at the saw and white parts of the tree stump at1/350 and f6.7 (EV13.9) and a shadow in the shadow of the bush at 1/20 and f6.7 (EV9.8). This was with an ISO setting of 100. This is a fairly modest dynamic range of 4.1, well within the camera’s ability.


Saw in Wood


It was cloudy by this time, so I was expecting a more restricted dynamic range. With the ISO set at 200, the highlight here was in the handle of the saw at 1/350 and f5.6 (EV12.4) and the shadow at 1/10 and f5.6 (EV7.3). A dynamic range of 5.1.




It was getting later by this time, the sun was going down and I needed an ISO of 800. The highlight on the lightest parts of the exposed stump was 1/160 at f5.6 (EV9.3). The darkest part turned out to be the area of bark to the right which recorded a spot reading of 1/15 at f5.6 (EV5.9). This results in a dynamic range of 3.4.




This picture of the family pet was taken indoors at late afternoon opposite a west-facing window. ISO was 200 and there was highlight clipping on the couch just behind her head. This gave a spot reading of 1/350 at f5.6 (EV12.4). The lowlight is the dark blanket on the couch at 1/10 at f5.6 (EV7.3). This gives a dynamic range of 5.1.


Takara Close-up


At ISO800 the clipped highlight on the left muzzle showed 1/45 at f5.6 (EV7.5) while the shadow rendered 1/8 at f5.6 (EV5.0). This gave a dynamic range of 2.5.


This was an interesting and useful exercise for a number of reasons. It is clear that my subjective assessment of the contrast range of a scene is not very accurate. The first image, which I considered at the time to have a high range turned out to be fairly modest. The subsequent image, which I thought was flatter, had a higher range. Also, the tonal range showed by many of the histograms do not match the measured dynamic range.

Secondly, my judgement of which part of the scene is the highlight and which is the deepest shadow in inaccurate and probably the measurement of the exposure value is not as precise as it could be.

This exercise proved very instructive and I intend to repeat it to continue to develop my eye and ability to recognise tonal ranges in a scene.

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