Exposure Lock in Action

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I was in Grand Teton National Park a couple of weeks ago, taking an evening drive. The light lingers for a very long time in Wyoming in the summer; toward the very end of twilight the mood that the fading light generated was just lovely. We paused on a bridge crossing the Snake River and looked back at the Tetons. I wanted a shot that captured the fading light without completely removing the details. So first I aimed my camera directly at the mountains, on aperture priority mode.

This is the shot exposed for the mountains. ISO 800, f/16, 1/6th of a second.


The shot wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I really wanted the light and the mood from the sky, with the mountains more in silhouette, so I aimed my camera at the sky and gave the shutter button a half-press. Then, while holding it down. I recomposed the shot and fully pressed the shutter button. This locked in the sky at proper exposure, instead of the mountains.

This is the shot exposed for the sky. ISO 800, f/16, 1/25th of a second.


This is a much better representation of the mood of that moment. Plus, the auto-focus on the camera will focus to infinity when you aim at the sky to lock in exposure, which will ensure that everything will be in focus when you recompose and shoot your scene. Here are a couple of more shots that I took using the same technique:




It is a wonderful feeling to use my knowledge of how my camera works, to manipulate the outcome of a photograph into something that more closely approaches what I see with my own eyes. It isn’t something that I have ever gotten over, or have lost the wonder of, no matter how second-nature my skills in some areas have become.

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Photos copyright Tiffany Joyce.

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  • Carol

    Forgive my beginner question but…when you say the auto-focus on the camera will focus to infinity when you aim at the sky to lock in exposure, how exactly do you do this? I know how to set the lens to auto focus, but then which focal point do I select on the camera? My camera has 9 auto-focus points–do I select one of them or all of them? I almost always have one of them selected–I never understood what the camera does when they are all selected.

  • Dennis

    Regarding example 1, Nice exposure for the sky. I would have then selectively increased the exposure of the foreground in post to bring out a few more detail there. But that’s just me.

  • Anonymous

    Great suggestion Dennis, thanks!

  • Anonymous

    HI Carol, this is a great question for a future article. Choose the focus point that corresponds with your subject… so if you’re focusing right in the middle, choose that focus point when you point the camera at the sky to focus on infinity.