We’re photographers for a reason. We like or are interested in what we see in the world around us. We’d like to capture an image for ourselves or to show other people.
However, we have a problem. We’ll never be able to store the representation of the image in our minds with all the complexity of the processing of our eyes and brain.
Our eyes look at only a small area of the image and our brain fills in the rest of the surrounding detail. Our eyes have an iris, which adjusts to give us the exact exposure to the intensity of the light so that we can see the maximum detail in any part of the scene. The result of all of this is that we see everything around us as perfectly exposed (except when its too dark to see).
When taking photographs, all areas of the image have the same exposure. We can adjust the exposure but areas, which are darker or lighter than others will be just that, light, or dark in the image.
The aim of the photographer has always been to keep details in the darker and lighter areas. We use tricks like fill in flash, graduated filters, polarising filter etc. to keep important details but often we just accept that our photographs will just have a blow out sky or dark shadows. After a while, we start using shadows and high lights creatively as part of our photographs, creating an image that you would not be able to see directly using your eyes.
We could start taking photos during the night using screen lights and we can go out at dusk to try to balance the intensity of the light left in the sky to the artificial lights in our towns and cities.
As photographers we now have a wide range of additional tools in our tool box that allow us to adjust, enhance and even change the natural picture that we see through the lens. It enables our eyes to see what our brain creatively imagines.