First time using a spot meter help needed

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by h501c, Nov 15, 2011.

  1. h501c

    h501c Member

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    Today was my first time using a spot meter and need advice on if i did it correctly. I metered the sky, the front door and the water and then averaged them to get this exposure. I thought i would meter the brightest of the sky down to the dark water. Did i do this right and does anyone have advice on a better way of metering the scene? Below is a scan of the negative. The film is Efke 25 and i used a Pol filter and shot the scene @ 6 iso to make up for the pol filter.
     

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  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    If you are satisfied with the results, then you did alright.
     
  3. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    For a first time effort the image looks superb, assuming you have not fundamentally altered exposure during the scan process to put it up here on APUG. :wink:

    Essentially, metering off a highlight, mid-tone and shadow around the key subject will give you an ideal basal exposure. The tipping point can be the sky; often it is 2-3 stops over the basal readings, meaning over-exposure there is a given. This means if the sky is largely featureless, then it can be foresaken for correct exposure of the key elements of the image. If the sky is moody, overcast and atmospheric, it must be included in its richness of detail, and spot metering here of highlights and mid-tones, along with the rest of the image done likewise, will bring up a well-balance image.

    This image is symmetrically very pleasing to the eye. The trees (firs?) are eyecatching. And that's a real nice house you have there.
     
  4. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Averaging the spot readings does take into account the actual subject brightness range----you should read the darkest area of the scene that you wish to retain texture/detail and then the lightest area and then set the meter halfway between those readings. Most that use a spot meter will base the exposure on "placing" the most important shadow area i.e., one stop minus the reading, two stops minus the reading, etc...Then, will read the important high value and see where it "falls" relative to your placement of the shadow area---development is then decided upon given where the high value falls on the gray scale. It's all basic Zone System stuff, there's plenty of info out there from which to learn from if you choose. Like Rick A. said though----if you find that you are satisfied with the final result with "averaging" the low and high values, then roll with it. If you find you like your shadow areas but are unhappy with how the high values are being rendered, then I would suggest some deeper learning and use that spot meter in a more ZS like fashion.
     
  5. h501c

    h501c Member

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    Thanks for the helpful information. I was planning to read up on the Zone System but i was told it only works if your processing single sheets (large format), i shoot medium format 6x7.
     
  6. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    You don't have to process each shot differently to use the Zone system. Of course there is limit to what you can do if you are forced to process all frames the same. I found the Zone system is useful for knowing what you are going to get in the final result before taking the shot. How much controls you have on this respect depends on whether you process 1 frame at a time, shooting B&W or color or you shoot transparency. But with good knowledge of the Zone system you know what your final image will look like.
     
  7. Augied

    Augied Member

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    The Zone System is most effective with sheet film, but that doesn't mean you can't apply it, at least partially, to roll film. I usually try to keep track of my exposures, and then develop for either the majority, or the most important exposures on each roll. Sometimes, I'll load two roll film backs for my RB67 with the same film, and use one for high contrast scenes, and the other for low contrast.

    Edit: As usual, I've been beaten to the point.
     
  8. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Why?

    Why go through all that trouble? He is a MF user after all. Thus for the purpose of that ZS is not relevant, just metering practice.
    ZS might be appropriate (but not a be-all and end-all) for large format, but it is not, nor universally, just that.
    Peoplel are turning up beautiful photographs in any format not necessarily following fond orthodoxy.
     
  9. CPorter

    CPorter Member

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    Smaller formats are a bit more restrictive, but it's entirely relevant. There's a book that details how to use the ZS with 35mm, can't recall the exact title or author though------"expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights", in a nutshell that's what the ZS is based on---it's just a more refined and methodical application of that old maxim, and large format photography, of all the formats, is capable of making the most of it.
     
  10. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    "Expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights" is the Zone System for sheet film in a nutshell. For roll film users, I say, "Expose for the shadows and use paper grade changes for the highlights." This takes care of all but the contrastiest situations.

    So, in my opinion, a modified Zone System is entirely relevant to and useable with roll film.

    Now, to the OP's original question: The big advantage of a spotmeter is that you can use it to deal with two very important shortcomings of averaging meters, 1) making sure the shadows have enough exposure and 2) measuring the subject brightness range. This latter is more important when one has control of development for each photograph, enabling one to develop each image to the contrast so it prints as desired. With roll film, this is less of an issue, and contrast is usually dealt with by changing paper grades at the printing stage.

    The first issue, shadow placement, however, is still of prime importance. So, if I were you, I'd read up on enough of the Zone System to understand shadow placement and the associated film speed test (easy to do with roll film, BTW, a lot easier than with sheet film:smile:). In essence, however, all you need to do to start is measure the shadows that you want to contain detail (i.e., not just be featureless black) and then give 2 stops less exposure than the meter indicates. This will get you going till you become more sophisticated with placing values.

    If you want to get the most out of your spot meter, then do use it to measure important shadows and place them properly. The problem with averaging, as mentioned above, is that if the subject is very contrasty, an average exposure of high and low readings will severely underexpose the shadows. Placing the shadows ensures that this does not happen. With my method, you don't even have to bother metering the higher values (but you certainly can, for curiosity's and learning's sake).

    Somewhere here I have expounded a "Zone System for roll film users" that eliminates the need for a lot of different development times. It standardizes on a less-than-normal-contrast development and paper-grade changes to deal with contrast. Maybe a search on my name will turn it up. If not, and you are interested, PM me and I'll send it to you.

    Best,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  11. Dave Ludwig

    Dave Ludwig Member

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    It's all a process. You can use ZS with MF as I do, typically we get into an area and shoot at least a roll therefore your roll will
    be consistent when processed. True, ZS is not needed but you need to know your camera and how it meters. The photo looks great by
    the way. Sometimes I will simply find an area in the scene I want to be a nuetral gray(zone 5/6), then everything falls into place, sometimes
    I expose for the shadow and develop for hilites. Depends what you want the outcome to be. Proper use of spotmeter and ZS when doing
    large format is almost always required, sheet film is more expensive and you can't afford to bracket 3-4 shots. As suggested get a grey card
    and a grey scale find out how your camera meters and your spotmeter go from there. Or do as you do, seems to work. Everyones
    sugestions are good, find what works for you and refine it.

    "Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance."
    Plato
     
  12. pekelnik

    pekelnik Member

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    IMHO, the central point of the zone system is that it teaches the photographer to visualize
    the final print when he takes the photograph. I don't see it as much more than - I want this
    to still have substantial texture, thus it shouldn't be less than zone III/more than zone VIII, etc.
    With MF and 35mm you still have the chance for instance to pull in development to reduce contrast,
    if you calculate with that while shooting.
     
  13. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I use a spot meter all the time with roll film. I meter the darkest shadow I want detail in, set my exposure, check the brightest highlight and make sure I can fit it in using paper grades. If it doesn't fit, I need to make a choice.....lose a zone or two of highlights or shadows or change the development for that roll. I used to carry an extra back, but honestly, I almost never needed it. I think the zone system for roll film is exposing for the shadows and knowing where the highlights will fall.
     
  14. SWphoto

    SWphoto Member

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    I think this is the thread Doremus is referring to, sound advice:

    http://www.apug.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-50549.html


     
  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Since B&W film speed is based on the minimum exposure to obtain an excellent negative, you need to make sure the lowest values in the scene give enough exposure to the film.
     
  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I pick out what I want to be middle gray and meter that. I may pick a Zone 2 or Zone 3 and meter to place them in the right expose, but I also will check a Zone VII or Zone VIII to make sure that the high lights will not be blown out.

    Normally I will not meter the sky; it just blows off the exposure.

    Steve
     
  17. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    SWphoto,

    Thanks for digging up the old thread for me! I didn't have the time to do the search myself. Yes indeed, that is what I was referring to. Glad you found it useful.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  18. dslater

    dslater Member

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    ^This - you can definitely use the zone system with roll film. Especially for something like 120 film as you can easily use a whole roll of film in a given shoot. Include some bracketing and that roll goes even faster. As a result, often you can apply development control to the entire roll. In cases where you will have more mixed lighting on a roll, I believe Ansel Adams "The Negative" recommends increased exposure coupled with n-1 development to ensure you capture the whole dynamic range, then printing on harder paper for negatives that need more contrast.
     
  19. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Excellent advice indeed. Any 35mm camera with spot metering will benefit from this, as will anyone shooting any other format using a spot meter. The main reason people don't think roll film cameras benefit from ZS, is the number of exposures involved. I simply use a different body or roll for different situations, keeping all similarly exposed frames together.
     
  20. rakeshmravi

    rakeshmravi Member

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    I think being technically correct is not something you should aim for. Underexposure or Overexposure to a certain degree is all up to the photographer making the picture. If it looks good to you, then it is good. If you want to read some materials, the only book I would suggest is

    http://www.amazon.com/Shaws-Nature-Photography-Field-Guide/dp/0817440593

    It is very important to be good at looking and getting the metering you want on a slide film. On print, you are pretty safe within a 1/2 stop margin. When taking things onto street, where I have to take shots fast and don't have time to setup and check exposure every time, I do a very simple trick; I just check that the highlights are not over 2-stops from metered (i.e if you want to capture some details in those highlights).