For the past 13 years in a row, I have been fortunate to visit the polar bears of Hudson Bay, Manitoba. Basically solitary animals, the polar bears of Hudson Bay will stage along the coast waiting for the ice to return and the opportunity to feed on seals.
The arctic and sub-arctic environment provides adventure and ground level photographic opportunities for Arctic wildlife, including polar bears, caribou, ptarmigan, snowy owl, gyrfalcon, arctic fox and more in a pristine untrammeled wilderness setting.
Lingering male polar bears of similar age and size will often travel together for short periods of time. To break up the monotony, the bears often interact and play fight (spar), making for excellent photographic opportunities.
Many photographers have difficulty determining proper exposure when the viewfinder is filled with mostly high key tonal values, such as polar bears in the snow. Think Histogram... where would the tonal value need to be placed on the histogram to accurately render the snow highlights with detail?
I use the Spot Meter built into my Canon cameras, metering on the snow highlights. I add 2 to 2.7 stops (depending on the light quality) above the mid-tone recommendation to render the snow highlights white with detail. The Spot pattern does one thing; it renders whatever is in the pattern as a mid-tone value, negating the background influence. And it does it accurately and consistently. I know exactly how the pattern works and what it does every time I depress the shutter. You only need to determine how much light to add or subtract from the meter recommendation to place the metered value as desired on the histogram.
Techniques, such as Exposing to the Right (ETR) and having a firm grasp in post-production techniques, allow you to extract all the information recorded in capture. Expertise in post-production is extraordinarily beneficial, as it allows you to see the finished image in your mind at the time of capture, before depressing the shutter.
A spot meter renders whatever is in the pattern a mid-tone.
If you want the element metered to appear brighter, add exposure; to appear darker, subtract exposure. How much brighter is the snow than mid-tone gray? If pure white is roughly +3 stops above a mid-tone, then snow with detail is +2 in sunlight to +2.7 on an overcast day. Depending on your camera's dynamic range, the exact exposure may vary a bit, it is best to verify the exposure via the camera histogram and proceed accordingly.
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Canon Explorer of Light - Charles Glatzer
Charles Glatzer discusses his career and passion for photography in our series of videos introducing our Explorers of Light.
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