I really struggled on my last photography outing in Madera Canyon, AZ to photograph hummingbirds. While I came home with a few memorable photographs, I also came home with the realization that I needed to work on some photography basics. In Madera Canyon, Moose asked me if I had done the “Teddy Bear Exercise.” I looked blankly while I thought about it, trying to recall if I’d done it and whether I’d used a stuffed parrot I had instead of a teddy bear. Moose didn’t wait long for me to think about it, saying that I’d remember if I’d done it. I filed that information away and when I got home, I discovered that Moose has used the Teddy Bear Exercise as a way to teach exposure compensation for years. I was embarrassed to discover that my own autographed copy of his book Captured also contains detailed instructions on how to do this exercise.
So, the Infamous Teddy Bear Exercise is underway. The exercise involves using a black and a white stuffed bear as the subjects in various outdoor lighting scenarios using differing amounts of exposure compensation to give the exposure that best conveys the story that the photograph tells. I thought I would be able to complete the exercises quickly but the heat drives me inside long before I’m finished and so far I’ve only managed to complete a couple of scenarios each day. After reviewing the images and how exposure compensation affects each image differently depending on how much sun is in the image and whether I’m focused on the white bear or the black bear and whether both are in the image, I can see that I have much to learn from this exercise.
Nothing I’m learning is new to me but I never thought about applying exposure compensation in such an explicit way. As I take each set of photographs in each scenario, I think about the different places I’ve taken photographs and what the light was like there. As I’m starting to really see the light, I’m looking forward to applying my new-found understanding to new situations and, If I’m lucky, to return to some of the many places I’ve already had an opportunity to photograph wildlife and improve on my exposure.
Here are my two new photography teddy bears. They are posed in Scenario #1, full shade on subject and background, exposed as the camera suggests, with no exposure compensation. After I finish the first round of the Infamous Teddy Bear Exercise, I plan to do it again, next time adding flash. Yikes!