Last week at the Triple Sage ranch horse competition, my aperture-priority metering was fluctuating as I tracked the rider around the arena. I quickly switched to manual metering, and pulled a “trick” out of my hat to check the exposure.
I had picked a location where the sun cross-lit the scene from the right. But as the rider moved into areas where the arena panels were in the shade, the automatic metering opened up because the average brightness of the scene had dropped. Often, this is the desired camera response, but not in this instance. The riders were above the panels, and the sun was providing a nice light on their faces. As long as the rider’s features were in the sun, I wanted the exposure to remain the same.
The faces in the sun drove the exposure decision. But the riders were moving too fast to easily spot meter. I learned a trick with film, when we didn’t have no stinkin’ histograms. That was so long ago, probably in the late 1980s, that I had a camera without automatic exposure. Yep, you guys have seen them in museums, I know. Anyway, I stuck my hand out into the sunshine. A human palm, pretty much regardless of race, will meter at +1 stop of proper exposure for the lighting conditions. I haven’t tested this with any palms other than my own, but it works. I picked a shutter speed to capture action, then adjusted my aperture to meter my palm at +1.0.
Once I double-checked the histogram, I could trust that my exposures were solid as long as the lighting conditions were stable, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky that day. That confidence let me concentrate on composition and timing my shots for the peak of the action.
Another cheap, simple photography tool that works, and it doesn’t get any more “handy” than that. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)