The Digital Photo Guy

Why Auto Anything Mode is for Snapshooters

by on Feb.06, 2011, under Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photos, Photoshop CS2/4, Photoshop Elements, Schedule, Webcast, Workshops

Another Reason to Avoid Auto Mode

Over New Years, my wife and I went to Sonny Bono Salton Sea NWR to photograph burrowing owls and experience Slab City, an odd encampment of brand new, multi-hundred-thousand-dollar RVs parked next to decrepit trailers that will never move again. Slab City is also home to Leonard Knight and Salvation Mountain, a monument to one man’s single-minded pursuit to bring God’s love to humanity. Before you write it off as the efforts of a kook, click the link and check it out. Photos can’t do justice to Salvation Mountain, it really needs to be experienced.

As I said, photos just can’t do justice to the scale and scope of Salvation Mountain. I’ve photographed it in the soft light of early morning and late afternoon. I’ve been there in the middle of blazing southern California midday sun. I’ve crouched low, shooting up with an ultra-wide angle, I’ve stood on top of my RV with a 300mm telephoto to stack the foreground and background.

While I was trying to make “the definitive photo” of Salvation Mountain, my wife made the above photo with her Canon G11, an outstanding compact digital. At first glance, I really liked it and asked for the original to make some minor edits. Once I got it into Photoshop Elements, I was perplexed by the odd color cast. Notice how colors in the foreground have a cool color cast (blue-ish) while colors further up the mountain have a warm cast (orange-ish). Because this photo was made late in the afternoon, the entire mountain should have been bathed in a warm, orange-ish glow. Upon reflection, I realized she had the camera set to Auto Mode which caused the camera to automatically fire the flash due to low light. This also set  White Balance to Auto which, in turn, caused the foreground objects within the 10 to 15 foot range of the flash to be daylight balanced while the rest of the mountain is warm.

To avoid this, she could have used a half CTO gel on the flash but most amateurs probably aren’t carrying a Rosco Strobist Gel Pack in their pockets. Fixing it in Photoshop Elements is way too cumbersome and time-consuming. The best option would have been to get it right in the camera (Where have I heard that before?) by turning off Auto Mode. That would have killed the flash and allowed her to select a proper White Balance, keeping the whole scene the same. Normally, she would have asked me but I was on top of the RV about 100 yards away. Compositionally, her photo is much better than mine but the white balance problem makes it unusable.

Speaking of composition, if you weren’t born with an innate sense of composition like my wife, be sure to register for the webinar with Gloria Hopkins. In three short hours, Gloria will teach you how to analyze, evaluate and enhance your composition, on-the-fly. Using a technique she developed called compositional map, Gloria can teach anyone how to improve their photographs through better composition. Even better, get Gloria’s book for free when you register. See the registration page for details.

Cool Site of the Week

Do you have a junk e-mail address? You know, one you use to register for sites like mine because you fear being innundated with spam when I sell your address to Google for a gazillion dollars? It’s a pain to keep your junk e-mail account cleaned out so you can find good stuff when you use it to register for a free copy of something you want.

Here’s a site called 10 Minute Mail that provides you with an e-mail address that expires in, are you ready for this… 10 minutes! OK, so what if you need it for longer? There’s a button that extends your bogus address for 10 more minutes. So when you need a bogus e-mail address for a few minutes while you wait for your registration confirmation or password or some other reply, this is a perfect solution.

It won’t work in every case because, sometimes, you don’t know how long the dummies on the other end will take to respond to your original request. I bought something on the Internet the other day and, even though I had purchased from them previously, it took them nearly 12 hours to finally send me the product.

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