Huge Exposure Error Mystery and the Surprise Results « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Huge Exposure Error Mystery and the Surprise Results


This image was created with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (at 236mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/20 sec. at f/8 in Av mode (???)

Central sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the closest Wildebesst ):)) and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Huge Exposure Error Mystery

This image–of a herd of Wildebeest waiting to cross the Mara River (along with a single, uninterested hippo), was made on a cloudy afternoon. At +1 1/3 stops as framed, the image should have been only a bit if at all over-exposed. How can you explain the huge over-exposure?

Could there be something decent here? I thought so.


The Converted Image

Not sure why, but I converted the image above three stops darker in Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP). The result was simply an image with severely greyed-out WHITEs. But still I saw some potential, possibly something reminiscent of a daguerreotype.

To learn why and how I use DPP see our DPP RAW Conversion Guide here.


This image was of course created with the hand held Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender (at 236mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1 1/3 stops: 1/20 sec. at f/8 in Av mode (???)

Central sensor/AI Servo Rear Focus AF on the closest Wildebeest and re-compose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Image A

The Straight Up Image Optimization

I began with the converted image, did a standard Levels adjustment, executed a pano crop, and raised Vibrance about 80 points to juice up the greens. A daguerreotype indeed….


Image B

Silver Efex Pro High Structure

Next I applied a 100% layer of Nik SIlver Efex Pro “High Structure” filter to convert the image to black and white.


Image C

A Touch of Color

Too create the image above I added a Layer Mask to the Silver Efex layer and painted back much of the vegetation color.


How did I wind up with such a huge over-exposure?

Which of the three optimized images do you like best, Image A:the Straight Up image, Image B>: the Silver Efex Pro High Structure image, or Image C: the Touch of Color image. Though it may be difficult to do so, try to let us know why. If you do not like any of the three, feel free to say so. Just be nice :).


Avistar Patagonia. the Bird Photography Workshop

Denise Ippolito and yours truly will be speaking at the Avistar Patagonia event in southern Chile next week. We would love to see all of our South American friends there. I am pretty sure that registration is still open and will be for at least a few days more. Learn more here.

I am looking forward to seeing old friend Dave Tipling again and to meeting many of South America’s greatest bird photographers. I hope that you can join us for what will be a most exciting event n Chilean Patagonia. Denise and I are staying on for an addition week to photograph at the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park.


BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition

Learn more and enter the BIRDS AS ART 2nd International Bird Photography Competition here. Twenty-five great prizes including the $1000 Grand Prize and intense competition. Bring your best.

2014 Tanzania Summer Safari

If you are interested in joining us in Tanzania next summer please shoot me an e-mail and I will be glad to forward you the PDF with dates, itinerary, and price.

Support the BAA Blog. Support the BAA Bulletins: Shop B&H here!

We want and need to keep providing you with the latest free information, photography and Photoshop lessons, and all manner of related information. Show your appreciation by making your purchases immediately after clicking on any of our B&H or Amazon Affiliate links in this blog post. Remember, B&H ain’t just photography!


Everyone buys something from Amazon, be it a big lens or deodorant. Support the blog by starting your search by starting your search by clicking on the logo-link below. No purchase is too small to be appreciated; they all add up. Why make it a habit? Because I make it a habit of bringing you new images and information on an almost daily basis.


In all Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or leave a comment regarding any typos, wrong words, misspellings, omissions, or grammatical errors. Just be right. πŸ™‚

IPT Info

Many of our great trips are filling up. Two great leaders ensure that you will not learn more anywhere about how to make great images. Click here for the schedule and additional info.

24 comments to Huge Exposure Error Mystery and the Surprise Results

  • avatar faraaz abdool

    Wow Artie, image B. Is my definite favourite.

    As for your question, you happened to inaadvertently hit ae lock inside the van? I have no clue how 1 1/3 led to a white out like that though.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes, as posted somewhere I accidentally hit the star button while the camera was inside the van, probably pointed at the floor.

  • Hi Artie,

    I dont think Garry’s answer applies to my situation. The overexposure/underexposure has occurred many times during my trip of 20 days recently. I use P and also use 9 frames a second many times. And the series of over/under is part of the many correct exposure in the same series.

    Regards/ Kunj

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Kunj, I agree 100%. Are you using Program mode? How big is the over- or under-exposure?

  • Thanks Artie, I think that was the solution for me also.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      YAW. I have done it a few times before but it always takes a while to figure out what happened….

  • avatar Julian Mole

    Image B definitely! πŸ™‚ Even your mistakes are good Artie! πŸ˜‰

  • avatar Ingrid Liem

    My theory would be totally out to lunch, but let me guess, at 236mm, which is equivalent to 330mm (with the full-frame 1D-X, and I’m assuming you were using the internal 1.4x extender?), you should be shooting handheld at 1/500-1/1000 sec, but you ended up with 1/20 sec, about 5 stops over exposure, could it be that simple?

  • avatar Gary Axten

    I’m a bit out of practice lately but I recall you set a custom function to enable rear focus and another to lock exposure, I guess you pressed the latter with the lens pointing inside the van? πŸ™‚

    Amazing recovery though, I would have binned that one in an instant.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good thinking. You got it. But you needed a few clues :). Well done though; it took me a while to figure it out.

      Glad that you liked it.

  • My favorite is the Silver Efex Pro even though I’m not usually fond of B&W. The optimizations with colors, especially the green color, take my eye to them rather than to the subjectβ€”the hippo and the wildebeest herd. What a recovery !

  • avatar Gary Axten

    Do you have some kind of exposure lock enabled?

    I prefer C, I was initially edging towards the black and white image as the greens are a little lurid but I feel they do lift the image. It reminds me of those old fashioned hand coloured images, it’s great.

    Have you tried without the hippo?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Gary,


      Do you have some kind of exposure lock enabled?

      You are on the right track. If you use Canon gear, you should be able to figure it out…. Remember, I was photographing from a safari van….

  • avatar Rob Melone

    You went from manual to Av mode by mistake. +1 1/3 was already dialed in from manual mode.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Nope: +1 1/3 is +1 1/3. And +1 1/3 should not have resulted in such severe over-exposure. Why did it?

  • avatar Joel Eade

    I would guess perhaps the camera meter was fooled by the large herd of animals which are dark in color and thus it wanted to add more light than was needed for correct exposure.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Good try but know. The image at +1 1/3 stops as framed would not have been five stops over-exposed. But it was. Why???? When folks hear the answer they will kick themselves….

  • Well, the b/w (B) is very, very good. It makes sense. For what concerns the color images, I don’t like them – I’d like to see subtle colours and less contrast (but more contrast than the original, recovered image). A middle way would be aesthetically interesting. In the end, I’d probably still prefer the b&w, since it lives well with the high contrast and makes more sense with the subject, which has been taken in bright light; a version with less contrast would recall a misty landscape which is not compatible with the subject (I know, I know, we shouldn’t always apply these constraints in art… still I’m a bit perplexed when the subject is completely discarded from its context).

  • Hi Art,

    While I like your workflow for recovering a hugely overexposed image, you have not explained why it happened.
    I recently returned from a 20 day (repeat 20 day) tour of Masai mara and i have several instances of Overexposure and also under exposure mages and I cannot understand why. I use Canon 1Dx and Canon 200-400 f/4 1.4 converter.

    If you have no explanation, can you give me the e mail address of the Canon’s research or relevant department so that i can send them the unexplained exposure images for analysis and reason.

    Thanks for your assistance. best regards/ Kunj Trivedi

  • Hi Artie,
    Had to comment on this as I had similar strange exposures with my 1DX with 200-400 on a recent safari. Will love to find out why. As far as the posted images are concerned, I prefer image B, the black and white one. In fact, I love it. The reason I don’t like the ones with some colour in is because I don’t find the colour of the two larger bushes (on on the left on the cliff top and the one on the right sandy bank) complimentary to the other colours. They seem to jar a little more to my eye.
    Amazed how little movement you have at 1/20sec.
    Best regards

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hilary, Did you see Gary’s correct explanation above? The same thing may have happened to you….