Dark, Rich, and Moody Trees

Lombardy Poplars and fallen Willows

Going back to look at the RAW files from a recent walk, I stopped at this one that I think is rich and dark. Part of the reason is that the sky had started to darken behind me and to my left behind me. So the whole scene was facing shadow.

But that’s not all the story.

Another reason the shot is dark and moody is the metering mode that I used. Even though I have been photographing for years, there are still lots of things I don’t know because I don’t look at the manual, or even the camera settings.

But a couple of days ago, as I cycled through the metering modes I noticed one that I had to google for. And I found out it is the ‘highlight-weighted metering‘ mode.

Most cameras have several metering modes.

A common mode is Matrix metering. That’s where the camera analyses the scene and compares it to photos in its memory. In the case of my Nikon, it has 30,000 photos in its memory.

Then using those scenes as a reference, it judges the exposure based on the brightness and colour information from all over the scene.

Matrix metering is sometimes described as the metering mode for beginners. There’s no reason not to use it though – after all it is there ready to be used with its AI capabilities.

Centre-weighted metering is where the camera gives more weight to the brightness in the centre of the frame. On my camera one can even adjust the size of the central area. In other words one can define the size of the central area of the frame that is going to be given extra weight in judging exposure.

Spot metering takes a reading from the focal point and ignores everything else in the scene. That ‘spot’ might be right in the middle of the frame, or if you move the focal point with the controller, then it will be wherever in the frame the focal point is located.

Finally, and this is why I am mentioning this at all, my camera has another mode, highlight-weighted metering mode. It has one job, and that is not to blow out the highlights. I think that is what has contributed to the dark, rich exposure in this photo.

Of course, I could have lifted the shadows in post processing. But that’s not the point. Changing things after the shot is OK, but for every bit of advantage, something gets lost.

So I am going to keep on using highlight-weighted metering and see where it takes me.

One thing – I think Nikon cameras really nail the greens in nature.


  1. writemeow says:

    I think my Nikon got set to centre-weighted when I got it and I never paid attention to it again. I do recognise the terms, though.


    1. You don’t still have the camera? Or you do still have it?


      1. writemeow says:

        I still have it.


        1. Are you photographing much? How’s the weather?


        2. writemeow says:

          No, only iPhone. I lost it, somehow, and can’t seem to get it back, sadly …

          We’ve had almost two weeks of warm weather — around 20° and it’s been lovely, as the brutal humidity hasn’t set in yet.


        3. Sadly? So then I hope you get it back.

          I think maybe you told me once before about the humidity. I was surprised though when you said it just now , and I just looked up the latitude where you are. I keep thinking that you are further north.


        4. writemeow says:

          45°N same as Bordeaux, France

          So much water around — the ocean, two rivers!


  2. Macey Cross says:

    Hi thanks for sharing this.


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