Experience with Sunny 16

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by thuggins, Nov 23, 2011.

  1. thuggins

    thuggins Member

    Messages:
    431
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2008
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'm sure this question has come up before, but I would like to hear different folks' experience with the Sunny 16 rule. I lived in Pennsylvania when I first became aware of exposure, and nothing was ever Sunny 16. The best you could hope for with the sun directly behind you at mid-day was Sunny 11; Sunny 8 was pretty common. Then I moved to Texas, and the summer sun directly behind would meter f16, but f11 was still more common. On trips to the Rockies, the Sunny 16 rule (as displayed on the back of my Olympus S II's) worked out right, and I could feel the increased sun's intensity on the back of my neck. I also saw f16 on trips to Hawaii. So for many years I was content to interpret Sunny 16 as a "brightest possible sun" rule, often seen in the tropics and a mile or more up in the Rockies, occassionally seen in Texas, never in Appalachians.

    I recently got back from a trip to England, in September. Two weeks before the equinox, at latitudes above 50 degrees, essentially at sea level I was concerned that the 100VS film would be pushing its practical limits. But the meter showed otherwise. England was metering a full stop faster than I would have expected in Texas. The processed film proved the meter was correct.

    What have other people observed about Sunny 16 at various locations?
     
  2. tomalophicon

    tomalophicon Member

    Messages:
    1,572
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Location:
    Canberra, AC
    Shooter:
    Sub 35mm
    There's sun in England? Wow!
    Sunny 16 works here but I use a meter.
     
  3. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

    Messages:
    2,106
    Joined:
    Dec 18, 2007
    Location:
    South Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  4. derwent

    derwent Member

    Messages:
    94
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2010
    Location:
    Tasmania, Au
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Here in Tasmania I have had reasonable success with sunny 16 using neg film, both colour and mono bur haven't used it for slide.
     
  5. polyglot

    polyglot Member

    Messages:
    3,472
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2009
    Location:
    South Austra
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I regularly get Sunny-16 in Australia, even when it's not summer. I found though that Europe (Prague and St Petersburg) was metering at about f/13 so I have a bunch of slides that are about half a stop dark. And even slight haze of high-level cloud will reduce the visible light here to f/11.

    For a quick comparison of daylight (and UV) intensities, consider that you can spend a day in full sun in Europe with little or no effect, maybe the beginning of a tan and a bit of warm feeling in the cheeks. In Australia, that "warming" takes 10 minutes; an hour will get you a painful burn, 4 hours will burn you bad enough that you can't sleep and 6 hours will require hospitalisation. So there are definitely geographical differences in sunlight intensity, especially if you want to shoot (UV-sensitive) alt processes.
     
  6. Two23

    Two23 Member

    Messages:
    356
    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2010
    Location:
    South Dakota
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    If there aren't any clouds at all, and the time is between 10 AM and 4 PM, Sunny 16 is certainly close enough for me to use with print film. It gets tricky here in winter though, with our usual snow cover. Then, it's Sunny f22!


    Kent in SD
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,995
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    i usually get sunny 11 here in new england
    but i don't really worry about rules cause
    the reason they are there is to break'em.
    my film doesn't seem to suffer, so i just
    remember the light conditions and expose
    according to experience, not steadfast rules
     
  8. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

    Messages:
    829
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Shropshire,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I live in England and yep, there is a sun up there somewhere...

    As I understand it (and maybe I don't) the atmosphere acts as a big UV filter and the more atmosphere the sun's rays have to penetrate the less UV it contains. Consequently at higher latitudes when the sun never gets very high in the sky the rays have to penetrate a lot more atmosphere than when the sun is overhead in mid summer at the equator. This means that at the moment it would be impossible for me to get a sun tan (and my cyanotypes take ages) but I can walk about in the day time without bumping into things ;-)

    When I went on a summer holiday to the Yosemite I over-exposed everything. Using my own calculated film speed and trusty meter I failed to allow for the fact that the brightest light at 9, 000+ feet in clear air that far south the light must have been much more actinic than anything I was used to...

    I suppose it will also depend on the film and equipment you use. Maybe a lens with a lot of glass in it and a uv filter on the front might not show much difference compared to an unfiltered, uncoated triplet?
     
  9. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

    Messages:
    543
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Location:
    Bothell, WA
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I usually go with sunny 11 on decent days here in Seattle - for those 3 months a year. There rest of the time I fall back to metering as I have trouble with the shades of overcast the rest of the year. :wink:
     
  10. licari

    licari Member

    Messages:
    4
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2011
    Location:
    Omaha, Nebra
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Stop Up

    I use the rule somewhat but mostly I stop up twice from whatever the rule tells me in sunlight. Then again, I don't really use the rule I just kind of get a feel for what the light is and follow my gut. Works most of the time. Most.
     
  11. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,267
    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2009
    Location:
    Rome, Italy
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think the "Sunny 16" rule is a bit misnamed.
    The Sun shines with the same intensity over any place of the planet given a certain inclination over the horizon.
    The rule is supposed to apply two hours after sunrise, two hours before sunset, (other say: with the sun more than 20° above the horizon) with clear sky, and - importantly - with the sun on your back, i.e. in front of the subject (with side sun you will want to open exposure a bit).
    The rule is based on the fact that once the sun is high enough, the exposure will be basically the same throughout the day.

    That said:
    - Pollution can probably alter sunlight, but really not much unless you live in XIX century London, or XXI century Peking (Beijing);
    - What complicates things is the reflectivity of the environment surrounding your subject.

    I find that for a normal urban environment, with cobblestones and asphalt, EV14.5 ("sunny 13") is the right rule.

    The sunny 16 rule was enunciated by somebody working in the US Navy, for "field" condition, with the sea reflecting sunlight on the boat, and light grey painted boats reflecting sunlight on the boat itself (paint makes a smooth surface which behaves a bit like a mirror).
    I suppose the half a stop excess closing is due to these particular conditions.

    In a "concrete jungle" environment the rule should be enunciated as sunny 13 IMO. But everybody goes on saying sunny 16 (possibly because there normally is no "13" on the aperture ring).

    Fabrizio
     
  12. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

    Messages:
    6,930
    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2007
    Location:
    Richmond VA.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I usally use my meter. But I found that it is sunny 11 - 13.

    Jeff
     
  13. martyryan

    martyryan Member

    Messages:
    133
    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2007
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I live in Oklahoma and even in winter on a sunny day (such as yesterday) my meter reading will be a sunny 16.

    Marty
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2011
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

    Messages:
    1,148
    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2004
    Location:
    Near Tavisto
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I've just shot two rolls of 100ASA b/w film, one in a Kodak Retina 1a and the other in a FED I. Using 'Sunny somewhere between f8 and f11' and extrapolating backwards accordingly, I was pleased (and surprised!) to find that I didn't have a single unprintable exposure amongst the 40-odd shots. It has to be said that some of the content was inevitably rubbish, but it was all reasonably well exposed rubbish. Part of this undoubtedly comes down to the Sunny rule, but as light levels fall guesstimation becomes more difficult and I believe that past experience plays a greater part. Using mainly a totally manual TTL metering camera and taking note of the indicated readings over the years in various lighting conditions undoubtedly helps when one is meter-less.

    Steve
     
  16. Ian C

    Ian C Member

    Messages:
    722
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2009
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Here’s a particular version of the “Sunny 16” rule that has given recommendations that closely mirror what my incident light meters read around 42° 28’ North (Ann Arbor, Michigan) in the main part of the day. It's better than the simple rule because it takes a variety of lighting conditions into considerration.

    Printed on the Inside of a Box of Kodak Plus-X pan, ASA 125 expiration 05/1998:

    “Set your camera or meter to ASA 125 and shutter speed to 1/125 second.

    Bright or hazy sun on light sand or snow f/16

    Bright or hazy sun (distinct shadows) f/11—use f/5.6 for backlit close-up subjects

    Weak, hazy sun (soft shadows) f/8

    Cloudy bright (no shadows) f/5.6

    Heavy overcast/open shade f/4—subject shaded from the sun but lighted by a large area of clear sky”


    The weak link in the process is our ability to accurately access the lighting conditions. Early morning or late afternoon light is weaker than the main part of the day or in foul weather.

    Of course, nothing beats an accurate light meter when exposures have to be correct.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2011
  17. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,203
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I am unclear as to what the bold sentence means. Are you saying that in Texas at the same time of year and same light conditions of bright sun then if you were getting the correct exposure with say f11 in Texas you had to use f16 in England. I think I must have this wrong but clarification from you would be appreciated.

    Thanks

    pentaxuser
     
  18. thuggins

    thuggins Member

    Messages:
    431
    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2008
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks for the great responses. There were some good points that got me thinking, and looking back at the slides. First, it wasn't often sunny in England. The few times there was clear, unobstructed sun were in the late morning or mid afternoon. So it was high enough to be strong, but low enough to be right behind me and shining directly on the subject. The subject is the other part. Most of the shots were of buildings, with vertical sides reflecting the light straight back. The light-colored stone and brick reflected a lot of light, too.

    This was very different from shooting landscapes. Foliage is much darker and horizontal surfaces don't reflect as much light toward the lens. I should heve remembered that a shear rock face will typically meter at least a stop brighter than the forest below it.
     
  19. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,203
    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Location:
    Daventry, No
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Any chance of clearing up my confusion about your sentence in bold?

    Thanks

    pentaxuser
     
  20. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,540
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2005
    Location:
    U.K.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've been shooting film for more than fifty years and was raised on sunny 16 and know well how to use it, but IMO the human eyes are very poor instruments for evaluating fast changing lighting conditions because they react too quickly in a way that is imperceptible to the owner, and in this day and age when light meters are the norm and their cost can soon be offset by avoiding spoiled exposures but some photographers still insist on using sunny 16 out of some sort inverse snobbery to demonstrate how clever they are because they don't need a meter.
     
  21. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

    Messages:
    829
    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2007
    Location:
    Shropshire,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    But isn't that the whole point of the rule? You don't trust your eyes, you evaluate the seen and apply an exposure based on the conditions and make allowances for cloud, shadow, time of day - because you can't trust your automatically compensating eyes.

    I use sunny 16 a lot - but don't think of myself as a snob. It is mainly because I am an enthusiast for old mechanical cameras, especially folding 6 X 6 cameras. Most of these have no meter. I find guessing the exposure is part of the fun. If I wanted to ensure I took a decently exposed picture I would use a meter - but chances are if it was an 'important' picture I wouldn't be using a folding 6 X 6 in the first place, I'd use a camera with built in metering.
     
  22. BrianL

    BrianL Member

    Messages:
    547
    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Location:
    Toronto ON C
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I grew up on the Sunny 16 system and still at 63 use it before turning on the meter if I have it with me. With practice, you eye and mind can follow light and quickly judge the adjustments starting with the rule but I seriously doubt many have made a project or set a goal of learning the system. I used to teach it to my 1st year photogrpahy students who generally as a group quickly grasped the concepts as thye had not be trained to rely on a meter as of yet.

    If you want a good, actually excellent, system chart go find an older Rolleiflex that has the latitude and time adjustments on the chart for the system. In testing it I found it was a good refinement of the general rule but possibly because of changing atmospheric conditions and the ozone layer just provided a better jumoing off place to start.

    I think the largest issue with the system is one similar to using a meter which is what is the true speed of the film. It seems to me at least that with older film the listed speed seemed closer to its ideal; maybe a reult of more subjective testing back them. If the listed film speed is a stop or more off from the ideal you have to adjust accordingly and why you may have some error introduced with the system. An iso 100 film better rated at iso 50 will throw off the system by an entire stop and it is not unusual for todays' films to be that far off. Maybe the makers are simlply relying on the film latitude to make up the difference and they "need" a certain listed film speed for marketing reasons.

    I seem to remember Fuji (I remember it being Fuji) at 1 time published a modified Sunny 16 guide in one of its color film cartons that was a Sunny 11 syetem. A fellow photogrpaher who knew film better than I told me it was because the listed speed was not the same as the optimal speed and hence the maker modded the system on the box to advise buyers to set their metering to the preferred optimal speed. I guess a way to get a specific film speed to market for the marketing guys while telling those smart enough what the photographers what it really should be shot at.
     
  23. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,213
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    spot on!good enoigh to calibrte the metin grmany ,floridaand elsewhere!
     
  24. mdarnton

    mdarnton Member

    Messages:
    318
    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2008
    Location:
    Chicago
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I recently bought the first camera I've ever had with an "A" on the shutter speed dial, and I'm sold. It's f/4 and A most of the time, except where it's f1.4 and A. :smile: Like some of the others, I've been doing this for 50+ years, but when I look at my recent film compared with 30 years ago. . . well, the camera is doing a lot better than I did. And I was such a Luddite back then!
     
  25. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

    Messages:
    1,492
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2010
    Location:
    Santa Fe, NM
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    For the record, I went on a week long backpacking trip in SE Utah to some rock art and ruins I have been wanting to photograph for years and when I setup for my first shoot, I realized I forgot my meter. No worries, I used the sunny 16 and some common sense (that alcove seems a little darker...) and 75% of my slides were correct and easily 90% of my negs. Funny, it was almost a higher percentage than if I used a handheld meter because sometimes I overthink things.

    It works, just use your brain with it.
     
  26. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,423
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Did not Brett Weston say something like,,, what do I need a meter for, what would happen if it broke.