My Nikon Exposure Confusion and the Huge Lesson for Everyone (that explains how I came up with perfect exposures even though I was being a dumb-ass). And an ACR HSL/Grayscale Tip. « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

My Nikon Exposure Confusion and the Huge Lesson for Everyone (that explains how I came up with perfect exposures even though I was being a dumb-ass). And an ACR HSL/Grayscale Tip.


On Sunday morning I micro-adjusted my two Nikon bodies with the 200-500. I used my LensAlign Mark II set-up. Once that is done both Nikon bodies do the grunt work automatically by comparing the Live View focus with the phase detection AF that we use most of the time. This results in a savings of literally hours of work. To confirm my results I went to FocusTune and ran an AFC test that did just that. There will be a free tutorial on micro-adjusting the D5 and the D-850 coming soon. Right after lunch I micro-adjusted my 24-120mm. I was hoping that it would cloud up later in the afternoon and it did just that so I was able to head outside, set up my lighting gear and the LensAlign Mark II target, and adjust both bodies with the NIKON TCE 14 at 700mm. I will relive the whole experience in a coming blog post.

I enjoyed a cold 1/2 mile plus swim late in the day.

I was glad to learn very recently of the following:

IPT veteran and dear friend Patrick Sparkman sold his Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens in near-excellent condition for $8800, his Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens in like-new condition for $1250, his Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II Tilt-Shift lens in like-new condition for $1250, two 1.4X II and two 2X III TCs in excellent condition for $285 each, and two Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR camera bodies in excellent to like-new condition, each for $2550. All within two days of being listed.
Gerald Barrack sold his Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital camera body (with extras) in excellent to near-mint condition for $1,200.00 in mid-January.
Steve Ellis sold a his AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR lens in near-mint condition for $1499 in mid-January.

There are two openings on the spoonbill IPT. Click here for complete info. If anyone would like to join me shooting spoonbills for 1 1/2 days, February 19 (full day) and February 20 (morning session only), please get in touch via e-mail.

Today I unpack the big box that I sent from San Diego and will get started on getting my fire sale gear to the proper buyers once their checks have cleared.

The Streak

Today makes one hundred eighty-nine days in a row with a new educational blog post! This one took about two hours to prepare. With all of my upcoming free time (or not …), the plan right now is to break the current record streak of 480 … Good health and good internet connections and my continuing insanity willing.

Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM Lens (the “old five”) with extras!

Price reduced $100 on 4 FEB 2018.

Greg Morris is offering a Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens in very good plus condition for $3600 (was $3700). The lens was cleaned and checked by Canon in December 2017 and the lens mount was replaced. The sale includes a Canon Extender EF 1.4X II, a Canon Extender EF 2X II (both in like new condition with caps and pouches), the rear lens cap, the lens trunk, the leather front lens cover, and insured ground shipping via major courier to US addresses only.

Your item will not ship until your check clears unless other arrangements are made.

Please contact Greg via or e-mail by phone at 1-580-678-5929 (Central time).

The 500mm f/4 lenses have been the world’s most popular telephoto lenses for birds, nature, wildlife, and sports for many decades. I owned and used and loved my “old five” for many years. If you don’t have the cash for the 500 II and can handle the additional 1 1/2 pounds, then this is your best super-telephoto option. Most everyone can produce sharp images with this lens and a 1.4X TC. Folks with good to excellent sharpness techniques can do the same with a 2X TC. With the new 500 II selling for $8,999 you can save a neat $5299.00 by grabbing Greg’s lens (plus the two TCs!) artie

ps: The Series II TCs work perfectly well with the older super telephoto lenses; the series III TCs are best when working with the newer Series II lenses.


Booking.Com came through for me twice again recently with both the DeSoto Fall IPT and next July’s UK Puffins, Gannets, and Bempton Pre-trip room reservations. And all the rates were great. If you’d like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and you will earn a $25 reward. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of folks whom I see in the field, and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

This image was created on the afternoon of January 26 on the 2nd San Diego IPT with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 480mm) and the mega mega-pixel Nikon D850 DSLR.. ISO 400. Matrix metering: 1/1200 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode was about zero EC as framed. AWB at 3:40pm in late afternoon light.

d-9/Shutter Button AF with the AF points on the pelican’s face. Click on the image to enjoy a larger version.

Brown Pelican, Pacific race, resting

My Nikon Exposure Confusion

Good Nikon Exposure Questions Left in Blog Post Comments

Jeff Friedhoffer

In the Trying to Explain … blog post here, blog regular Jeff Friedhoffer wrote on January 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm:

Artie, As usual a beautiful picture. Have a question about the picture captions. Why are you now writing “Matrix metering probably -1/3 stop as framed: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Manual mode”? The word “probably” did not occur in captions of Canon pix. What is the significance of “probably” is this context.

Thanks, Jeff

David Policansky

IPT veteran and blog regular David Policansky commented (in part) on the Scratching Perfection blog post here):

February 1, 2018 at 12:54 pm.

I do have a question, though. Since you’ve been using your new Nikon (gear), the words “about” and “probably” show up in your descriptions of the exposures you use. I don’t remember that you ever used those words when you were shooting Canon. Can you explain? David

The EXIF for today’s featured image

Please click on the image so that you can read the fine print.

The EXIF for Today’s Featured Image

Note in the EXIF for today’s featured image that the +1.7 EC that I had been using that morning to create some pleasing blurs in S mode (Tv in Canon), was still in effect even though I was in Manual mode. Nikon folks need to get in the habit of setting the EC back to zero when switching from any automatic exposure mode back to Manual mode. Read more below. And learn.

My Promised Response

There are several reasons that I am not quite yet spot-on when commenting on the exposure compensations used to create my Nikon images. But there is a huge lesson at the end for everyone …

  • 1-Matrix metering and exposure compensations (ECs) with Nikon are all new to me. Since I work in Manual mode about 90% of the time, and since Nikon (like Canon) does not show the actual EC in the EXIF, my exposure comments for now need to include the words “probably” or “about.” Things are slightly different with Nikon’s Matrix metering than with Canon’s evaluative metering and I am still learning the fine points.
  • 2- With Nikon though my increments for everything exposure are set to 1/3 stop, the analogue scale reads in 1/6 stops. The analogue scale on the D5 show +/- three stops. On the D-850 the scale only shows +/- two stops. The latter is one of many things not to like about Nikon … More coming soon.
  • 3- I did not realize at first that if you set an EC when working in an automatic mode that the Nikon bodies will apply that left-over EC when you are working in Manual mode! Canon does not work that way. Prior to creating this image I had been working in S (shutter priority with Nikon, Tv with Canon) and had set the EC to +1.7. So when I created today’s featured image I was confused by the fact that the analogue scale showed something close to -2 stops EC. With Canon I would have been somewhere close to zero EC. Why did I need close to -2 stops? Because I had to counteract the effect of the left over +1.7 EC … Once I realized that after the fact with this image, I realized that the same thing had been happening for days because I was often shooting high ISO flight in S mode in the pre-dawn with +1 EC set.

    Note: I have long stated that by enabling either EC or Auto ISO when working in Manual mode that the photographer gives up all the control that comes with working in Manual mode. I hate it 🙂

Over time as I become more familiar with Matrix metering and remember to put the EX back to zero, I will become as familiar with my new system as I was with my Canon gear and will be able to include more specific EC comments in the educational captions that accompany posted images.

The Huge Lesson for Everyone

At this point you should be asking, “How in the world did artie consistently come up with perfect exposures when he did not realize that the forgotten +1.7 or +1 ECs were affecting his exposures when he was working in Manual mode?”

The answer is a simple one: I determined my exposures by looking at the histogram and the blinkies … Just as I have been teaching everyone here to do for years. I will have lots more to say on the subject of comparing Nikon histograms with Canon histograms in future blog posts.

An ACR HSL/Grayscale Screen Capture

ACR HSL/Grayscale Tip

As I was exposing to prevent over-exposing the WHITEs (by checking the histogram and checking for blinkies) the BLUEs in today’s featured image were much too dark. To lighten only the BLUEs I went to the HSL/Grayscale tab during the RAW conversion in ACR, clicked on the Luminance tab, and moved the slider to +100.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my (stupendous) efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

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To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

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In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

28 comments to My Nikon Exposure Confusion and the Huge Lesson for Everyone (that explains how I came up with perfect exposures even though I was being a dumb-ass). And an ACR HSL/Grayscale Tip.

  • avatar Wilf

    To clear up one or two points…

    EC in manual mode:
    In manual mode dialling in EC does precisely nothing – it does not adjust exposure. It can’t. EC is designed only to work in auto modes which is also why EC values are only displayed in EXIF for shots taken in auto mode. Quite logical really.

    Following on and a little difficult to follow; in essence, in manual mode, adjusting EC is pointless as it not only does nothing but is misleading as it causes the meter to appear to indicate over/under exposure (i.e. it changes the calibration of the internal meter). If this is then ‘corrected’ back to zero, over/underexposure by the amount set will result.

    In other words if you want EC in manual mode, one should either adjust shutter/aperture by the desired amount as you recommend (the meter shows how much) or one can adjust the EC dial and recenter the meter (but I wouldn’t as it gets confusing.
    Basic rule to follow is don’t mess with the EC dial in manual mode.

    As for not cancelling EC when moving from auto to manual mode, Nikon assume that if you wanted EC in auto mode, you may also want it in manual mode – just centre the meter and you’ve got it. Or, as a professional, remember to switch it off. You could equally well have forgotten to switch it off in auto mode?

    Meter compensation readout:
    Although the meter read out only shows up to +/-2 stops on some models, in auto mode the EC dial can apply up to +/-3 stops.

    EC in Manual+Auto ISO mode:
    With manual + auto ISO, applying +/- compensation will adjust the ISO and the meter indicator will stay centred indicating correct exposure.
    In P mode when the normal parameters run out, shutter speed is adjusted until you reach your selected minimum shutter speed at which point ISO is adjusted.
    In A mode the shutter speed is adjusted until you reach the selected minimum speed at which point ISO is adjusted.
    In S mode, aperture is adjusted until you reach full aperture at which point ISO is adjusted.
    In M mode aperture and shutter speed are fixed (unless you manually adjust them) and Auto ISO is invoked from the start.
    When you hit the bump stop for ISO Maximum Sensitivity, the camera will override the minimum shutter speed and try to produce an acceptable exposure.
    The bottom line seems to be “shutter speed rules.

    I fail to see why you hate Auto ISO. It’s not really a manual mode at all, (it’s an auto mode like any other as the operator is giving up full control of the camera) – and a very useful one as you can fix aperture and shutter speed and still automate exposure (or more correctly, image brightness) within chosen parameters for minimum shutter speed and maximum ISO. What’s so bad about that? It’s just like aperture or shutter priority but with more control.

    EC in Auto mode:
    A largely pointless exercise as multi-segment metering behaves inconsistently with different background brightness, different scene contrast, different manufacturers and even different models from the same manufacturer. The only consistently accurate way to apply EC is to spot meter from an important highlight in either auto or manual mode and add +3 EV. By default, a camera’s spotmeter is calibrated such that between the exposure recommended by the spotmeter and the maximum exposure in RAW there is approximately 3 EV (2.5 EV for JPEG). The RAW file will then be fully exposed short of clipping with minimum noise in the shadows. The JPEG histogram is inaccurate and of limited value although for practical purposes it’s just about good enough if applied with a little thought. This is not my opinion but proven science from a leading industry expert in photographic imaging.

    • avatar Wilf

      Forgot to add:
      The variance in exposure when using EC in auto mode with matrix type metering can be more than +/- 0.3 stop (and much more in backlit situations) and is entirely inconsistent and unpredictable. We are at the mercy of an algorithm – rather like trying to apply compensation to iTTL flash. Pointless. The algorithm will overrule our intent.

  • avatar Anthony Ardito

    #3 above in “My Promised Response” doesn’t make any sense at all. Artie, I’m not questioning your observations, however, if true, that’s some crazy stuff.

    How is anyone supposed to work like that….constantly adding an “offset” to your own EC offset! How do you even remember where you were, to even have a chance to know where you have to go.

    How can the camera’s internal meter be linked to the last exposure? Makes no sense.

  • Hey Arthur, Interesting information here. Still can’t believe how dark that water background was. I look forward to these type of blog posts.

  • Arthur – Auto-fine tuning a zoom lens leads to questions – at what focal length did you do your fine tuning?

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Nikon only allows you test at one focal length. I tested both at the long end. With Canon you can test W & T for a zoom lens and the system extrapolates from their as you zoom in or out. Advantage Canon.


  • avatar Denny

    Artie, I retired 14 years ago, but for a couple years before that, I did lots of layovers at LA, and the longer stays were at a hotel across the road from the beach at Redondo beach. I also did San Diego, but the weather was always better at Redondo Beach. I’m seeing all these brown pelican images, and wondered if you ever did any photography at Redondo Beach; the birds are very plentiful, excellent backgrounds, and great facilities. Just wondering? Good luck with Nikon, I just switched from Nikon to Canon.


  • avatar Eugen J. Dolan

    Great Lesson:
    You have always given us the “rule” for a correct exposure if we can quickly take one “pre-view image”.
    – Expose into the far right box, and make sure you have no blinkies!.

    So I believe you have proven:
    Follow Artie’s instructions and you will
    Get Correct exposure
    – regardless of the system used
    or how much the “auto” controls try to screw things up 🙂

  • Hi Artie, regarding exposure with Nikon, here is how I do it. In the Photo Shooting Menu under ISO Sensitivity Settings I set Auto ISO to On. I set the minimum to 100 and the maximum to 6400. I always use Manual Mode adjusting the Shutter Speed and Aperture as my experience indicates is needed to capture the image. I change the exposure/ISO by using the EV button based on either or both experience and histogram. I believe with modern a DSLR and noise reduction software the least important value of the exposure triangle is ISO, especially photographing birds where there always seems to be movement of the subject. Interested in your thoughts…

    P.S. Using this the exposure compensation/EV shows in the EXIF data

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I am glad that your system works for you. I agree that ISO is of no great concern with the latest Nikon or Canon cameras.

      I am confused when you write that you are in Auto ISO but that you “change the exposure/ISO …”

      with love, artie

      • When you set Nikon Camera in Auto ISO and Manual combination. You can control Shutter speed and Aperture. The camera will set the ISO automatically.

        So if you want to over exposure or under exposure by 1/3 etc, you need to add 1/3 stop Exposure compensation which will increase ISO. So Exposure Compensation in Auto ISO will change ISO and will always keep aperture and Shutter Speed constant.

        I haven’t used it extensively so far, but I think its a good way and works well in some cases.

        Below link has more information

  • avatar byron prinzmetal

    Great point about turning ec back to zero after every shot sequence. My camera has a ec dial and I have forgot to change it back to zero a number of times. Just two easy to forget. Many of the images I take are situations that only exist for a moment (e.g. street photography) where I have little or no time to think. Better to have in my case ec at zero that some setting that has nothing to do with the current image.

  • avatar Adam

    Agree with you on the appearance of the blues in that image. Do you have an explanation for dark, saturated appearance? ACR ‘s profile or were you using a polarizer?

  • avatar Jean-Guy

    Hi Artie, in this blog your talking of the histogram and blinkeys to get the right exposure. Can you get them both displayed at the same time on your D850 and D5 screen?

    Best regards,

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Yes. I have the small JPEG with blinkies and both the RGB and luminosity histograms. Unfortunately with Nikon you need a degree in nuclear physics to do that 🙁

      with love, artie

  • I did not know that Nikon D5 shows upto +3 in Analog Scale. My D500 and D850 show only +2 and I thought all Nikons show +2 only. I do remember my older Nikon D3300 and D7100 also shows +2. This could be a feature only in D5. Can you explain the below statement
    “2- With Nikon though my increments for everything exposure are set to 1/3 stop, the analogue scale reads in 1/6 stops.”. I checked D850 and I could see analogue scale which shows 1/3 stops. May be I am missing something.

    See my comment to Guido below …

    with love, artie

    • avatar Guido Bee

      Inside the viewfinder of my D500 the scale shows +/- 2 stops. On top, in the display it shows +/- 3 stops. I have my selection to show 1/3 of a stop in the scale; I have not tried to see if the 1/2 stop selection gives a different display. I think what Artie is seeing that makes him say 1/6 stops is that some displays show an intermediate dot between the 1/3 marks on the scale. I have never been able to make a 1/6 stop selection in EC. In pure manual, you might be able to use intermediate shutter speeds and iso to get there, but I have not really tried to do that. I am only making an assumption that the D5 and the D500 share those features (as they use the same processors).
      Besides, in the various displays (shooting, review, live view, and movies) there are entirely too many permutations and combinations for me to make definitive statements. All the best.

  • avatar David Policansky

    Many thanks, Artie. Some stuff to digest here….

  • Very interesting post, containing information which applies to both Nikon and Canon users. I am hoping you continue to have information of relevance to Canon users, as I do not plan (nor can afford) to switch at this point. One typo: Under Huge Lesson For Everyone: “…were effecting his exposures… should be “…affecting his exposures…” Effect is generally the noun, affect generally the verb. Thanks for your continuing efforts!


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks and fixed. I know how to use the two words but am often in such a rush that I do not think 🙂 with love, artie