Here’s a shot [click on it for a larger view] taken shortly after dawn at Utah’s Monument Valley (which is just an amazing place—almost surreal). I’m using this shot as a perfect example of me not following my own rules, and paying for it later. Here’s what happened:

The night before this was shot, Jeff (scroll down two posts), Dave and I went to this cool little steakhouse about 40 miles from Monument Valley, where they cook the steaks outdoors on a “Swinging Grill” (it literally swings back and forth over a huge open flame to grill your steaks). It was a quirky place, with a live country band playing outdoors, and everybody there had a camera, so we were all taking shots of the band, the grill, and the scene. It was a low light situation, so I had to show off to my Nikon-shooting buddies by changing the ISO on my Canon 5D to ISO 1600 and hand-holding for a half-an-hour of shooting while waiting for our table.

The next morning, at 4:00 am as we’re driving toward Monument Valley, I told the guys, “Hey, don’t forget to change back your camera settings from last night’s low light shooting.” Then I told them about an Acronym I use to help remind me to check my most critical settings. It’s WHIMS, which stands for:

  • W: White Balance
  • H: Hightlight clipping warning
  • I: ISO
  • M: Mode (JPEG or RAW)
  • S: Shooting (Resetting to the right shooting mode for the subject: Aperture Priorty, Shutter Priority, Manual, etc.)

If I remember to check those five things, I’m set, and I reminded them twice during our drive there. Then, when I got to spot where we’d be shooting, it was so beautiful, and I was so excited, I just jumped out and starting shooting. At ISO 1600, at f/4 (the camera settings I used the night before). It wasn’t until about an hour later, after sunrise, that I actually checked my settings and learned that I had been shooting all morning at ISO 1600. My heart sank.

To Canon’s creditâ”the noise is amazingly low (in fact, I was shocked at how little noise there is), but obviously I would have preferred that it was at ISO 100 (which is the ISO I try to shoot in as much as possible, and since I was shooting on a tripod, ISO 100 would have been ideal).

So, although this is an embarrassing story for me personally, I hope you’ll use it (and my Acronym if it helps), to keep you from making the same mistake I did.

To wrap up: the shot was taken with a Canon 5D, using a 70mm – 200mm lens with Image Stabilization) in Aperture Priority (at least I got that part right), and because of the ISO of 1600, it was shot at 1/8000 of a second. The processing was minimal: In Lightroom I simply increased the Shadow amount (dragging the Shadow slider to the right), and increased the Clarity amount. Then I went over to Photoshop and darked the clouds at the top of the photo a little bit, and ran a Unsharp Mask filter, then saved as a JPEG for the Web.

I had hoped to post some field reports today on some of the equipment I used, but I won’t get one up until Monday. Now, if you kindly scroll to the next comment, for a Friday News Wrap up.

About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference & Expo, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.