How Do You Meter?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by photomc, Jun 5, 2004.

  1. photomc

    photomc Member

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    There are so many excellent photographers here, I know each of you will have a different approach to metering. One thing that strikes me with each of your images is how each has a certain feel to it, one I try to duplicate but rarely do. I realize that there are many factors that go into each image - composition, focus, Exposure, developing, printing, etc. I have attached an image that I can see in my minds eye, but as yet have been able to get onto paper. The question is how would you meter the scene? If I get the bricks dark enough the whites look muddy to me, it the whites are right the bricks are to lite. Ideas, spot metering and reflected would help.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    BTW, I realize there are other problems with this image (ie not square, tilt, etc.)
     

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  2. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    I'm a meter by instinct person, so I doubt I can help. Usually to start the day I do an ambient reading reading shadow highlight then averaging. After that it's by the feel and look of the light or if I'm shooting into the shadows I'll adjust accordingly. It's the shape and the light that tells you how to expose the film. The meter only gives you values.
     
  3. sparx

    sparx Member

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    I rely on my cameras meter, a handheld meter and the old axiom 'if in doubt - bracket'.
     
  4. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    It all depends...

    If I shoot my Pentax Mz-5N, I rely on the camera meter. It has a lower miss rate than anything I do.

    If I use a 35mm meterless camera, I guess. Same with MF folders and my 9x12cm Bergheil.

    With "proper" MF and colour film, I take one incident reading pointing the meter over my shoulder, then use that setting until the light changes.

    With LF I generally spot meter and do the whole zone thing, then check my setting against an incident reading - unless i just guess about everything. It depends on the subject, time of day, and the weather conditions. I guess a lot when it's raining...
     
  5. Francesco

    Francesco Member

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    After composing and focusing the scene on the 8x10 groundglass I would stand in front of the lens and pan the spot meter on practically all areas of the scene using the EV setting. The low and high values will give me my SBR (subject brightness range), which will then give me the correct shutter and f stop setting for exposing my negatives for contact printing on AZO paper. The SBR will also determine the amount of time I would develop my film using BTZS style tubes, most likely with minimal agitation. I take only one shot per scene.
     
  6. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member

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    As for your image, perhaps printing it on a higher grade with preflashing to keep details in the highlights? Maybe I would try lith printing? 2-bath developer? I don't think it's a metering problem - if it's a problem at all, it's in the printing. Or possibly film development.
     
  7. Deniz

    Deniz Member

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    i use my sekonic incident light meter to meter the light.
    I am not a zone system user....yet.
    I take the incident reading in the shade and adjust the exposure accordingly.
     
  8. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Perhaps you should mount the print on a black mat so the whites will look brighter. White is a very relative 'color'. An as stated previously a bit of contrast will help. Don Millers masking techniques would be a boon here.
     
  9. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Perhaps it is not your metering but the quality of light falling on the building. I see no shadows, which means either it is an overcast day or another building is blocking direct sunlight. Your problem is not enough contrast to give the print a "glow" in the whites.

    If you are using the zone system I would place the bricks on zone III and the whites on Zone VIII. If you are using the BTZS, then there must be a problem in your developing testing, as this seems to be a situation with a SBR of 5, and the BTZS automatically takes into account low contrast.

    IOW, try metering for zone III and give it N+2 development.

    There are other solutions, you can selenium tone your negative to increase the highlights densities, you can change papers, make masks, etc. Is up to you if you want to do the appropriate solution in camera on in the darkroom.

    The image has potential, you just need to work at it a little bit.
     
  10. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    Mike,

    Is this a location that you can revisit?

    If so why not go back and bracket the hell out of it. Then you would have a choice of several negatives to print.

    Just a thought.

    I really like this image and think it would be worth the effort to reshoot if you are unable to print your current negative.

    Jim
     
  11. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I read only the darkest shadow and the brightest highlight, but not specular highlights such as sun on water, to determine the contrast range of the subject. I always expose for the shadows, placed on Zone IV or reduce exposure by one stop from the metered reading for those who do not use the Zone System, to ensure that I have information on the negative so that I can print it if I choose to. Depending on the contrast range and where the highlight will fall after choosing to expose for the shadows I adjust my development accordingly. For example, if there are 6 stops of contrast in the scene and I placed the shadow on to Zone IV the highlight would fall on Zone X, paper base white, which is unacceptable so I reduce development by 2 stops to bring the highlight back to Zone VIII. I would also increase exposure by 1/2 stop to compensate for reduced development. If the same scene had only 3 to 4 stops of contrast I would expose and develop normally. The old addage, expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights is my first and most important rule. Those who advocate bracketing are certain to get the correct exposure but if the contrast range is high or low they will not give the correct development and therefore still not produce the optimum negative. In my view bracketting the hell out of it only completes half the job.
     
  12. photomc

    photomc Member

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    metering

    Thank You all for your response. Think I should have given a little more information about the image - Ilford HP4+, 120, ei of 80, Rodinal 1+50 for 13 min. at 68 degrees F.

    Jorge - you are correct when you ask about the light, it was slightly overcast and early morning, I was afraid that the contrast might be too much on a sunny day. The image printed is at grade 3, using dichro head.

    JMoore - Yes, this is a location near by, I actually have gone back and burned another roll but the results (contact sheets) were not much different. At that time, I was more concerned with getting the image square, no tilt, etc.

    Will try to get back today or tomorrow, with more light and as Jim said, bracket the hell - film is cheap so, just not time to go out. Will try one roll bracketed, then another one using the zones as Jorge suggested, betting that the two rolls will match when I compare the exposures.

    I will post the results when I get through.

    Thanks,

    Was working on the reply while Les was posting..

    Les, your point about bracketing is well taken, now I will have to consider your advice - Thanks.
     
  13. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Mike, if you are using roll film, then attempting to use zone placement without using development controls seems to me an exercise in futility. If you are not busy today, why dont you try toning the negative in selenium and then printing it? You might be surprised as to the results you have already.

    OTOH, why dont you try grade four, if you get too much contrast you can use some water bath, or preflashing techniques to lower the grade 4 a little bit. If you are using VC paper, then perhaps this is the time to use split filtering.

    IMO I think, specially if you have gone back and reshoot the structure, that you have already the negative with all the info, you just need to do a little of darkroom work.

    Perhaps a little story will give you the idea. I read somewhere that Fred Picker was making a print an he could not get the water portion just right. At the time he ran into Paul Caponigro and he asked him "How do I get the water to look like water?", thinking Caponigro was going to tell him a special technique. Caponigro's response was:

    " Stay in the darkroom until it does!"....:wink:
     
  14. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    OK, how about bracket the hell out of several rolls and give each roll a different development time?? :wink:

    Take good notes and you will end up with a very good learning experience.

    Jim
     
  15. gma

    gma Member

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    I have had good results with 4x5 color transparency film using a standard Kodak 18% gray card and hand held meter. I hold the card as near as possible to the scene I am shooting. I have read posts suggesting that a 12% gray card works better for black and white film because it results in more exposure and better shadow detail.
     
  16. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I know this is terribly heathen but I tend to use sunny-16 and drop 3 stops for shadow. I have some other exposure values in my head that I know are fairly constant, like the brightness of typical office interiors and stadiums and of course my own home I have mentally metered with great accuracy. After that I feel pretty confident exposing B&W by eye. I often meter my palm and open a stop too.

    Color I shoot negs the same way, slides (and digi) I meter for the highlight (more or less) and often guesstimate, though more conservatively.

    [​IMG]
    (Shinjuku, Astia, metered for the vendor)​
     
  17. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Got to love the answer, and this may indeed be the correct answer for this image. Just work on it until it is right. Even with the even light from the cloud cover, it should have more umph! than it does and that is probably due to my lack of printing skills. However, once I get it there, the learning curve will have changed and that is a good thing.

    Thanks for you advice.
    Mike
     
  18. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Well it was an interesting an educational evening. After the negative was toned in KRST and dried, I proceeded to print it. A little tuning of the exposure time and son of a gun the darn thing started to look a lot better to me. Now, there were a couple of things that struck me while working with the print - 1. I think that one reason I can't get that zing from the print, is the plane of focus is at the doors themselves. The curb is not sharp and not all of the doorway appears to be (at least to me). 2. Since the brick is red, and I want it to be a bit darker than it seems to want to print, I plan to re-shoot the image using a Green 11 filter to see if I can punch the contrast up.

    Now 2 may give me more problems, or new ones so I plan to shoot one roll without a filter and one roll with - at least as long as the sun will come out. Am I looking at this all wrong, or does it make sense to anyone?

    Thanks again to everyone for your comments and advice.