Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Theory versus practice

Overexposed How many keen photographers report taking anomalous pictures? Having had contact with many people who've taken anomalous photos, over the years, I've never got the impression that any were keen photographers. Of course, there's no reason why they should be. However, more oddly, I've got the same impression sometimes when talking to people who have analyzed anomalous photos. While they generally show significant theoretical knowledge of photography, they often miss simple anomalies that any enthusiastic practical photographer would spot instantly.

Take the tree photo (right) here. You will notice that some of the branches appear to fade away into the distance. Why would that be? It is unlikely to be a focus issue because the effect seems to be more related to the thickness of the branch than its distance from the camera. A keen photographer would probably guess that it is overexposure caused by exposure bracketing. And, indeed, the EXIF shows +3 stops exposure bias was applied to the frame. In other words, the picture was deliberately taken with a longer exposure than that selected by the camera's in-built light meter. Photographers play with exposure bias to reveal extra detail in situations, like high contrast, where a light meter does not cope well.

This is the sort of thing an enthusiastic photographer knows about from simple experience. Such a person would also be familiar with many photographic artefacts (see here) and their causes. This is probably why they rarely, if ever, report anomalous photos. From my own informal survey of anomalous photos, most photographic anomalies are caused by those aspects of photography that are likely to be well-known to keen practical photographers. In my opinion, practical experience of photography is more helpful than a theoretical knowledge of the subject when analyzing anomalous photos.

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