Light Meter For Landscapes?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by snegron, Aug 29, 2006.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I have always been confused when it comes to hand held light meters. I would like to know what is the most appropriate handheld meter for landscape photography, reflective, incident, or spot? Also, if I were walking down a city street with a meterless camera and I spot an object across the street that I want to photograph, which would be the meter to use? My objective is that I am trying to get a meter reading without walking away from the camera. If I am 25 feet away or more from the subject and I can't walk up to the subject to get a reading, which meter can I use, reflective, incident, or spot? If I were to get a meter that had all three functions, which setting would I use for the landscape or object across the street, reflective, incident, or spot?
     
  2. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Assuming you are working with transparencies, a 1 or 3 degree spot meter is what you would need. For B&W, there are other people that have better answers than I do.
     
  3. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    As Robert said for transparencies a spot meter is often preferred. I use a 1 degree spot meter. It will take a little learning and understanding how to use this kind of meter however. But, results will start to become very consistent. With transparencies we normally read for the highlights and correct.

    Rich
     
  4. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    An intelligently used spot meter is ideal. With any reflected light meter, if you can't get close to the subject, a reading of an object with the same light value works well. For most outdoors photography an incident meter also works. They were sometimes used in movie making so the scene, not the subject, would be consistantly exposed. Learning how to use whatever meter you have is more important than upgrading equipment.
     
  5. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Incident meters are, by design, averaging meters, measuring the light falling on the subject. The measurement will always be an average to some degree. Spot meters measure the light reflecting from a specific places within the subject. Spot meters are more difficult to learn to use effectively, but give far more information, once mastered. Color or B&W makes no difference.
     
  6. nlochner

    nlochner Member

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    I am poor, and cant afford a light meter, so i use some guys "Ultimate Exposure Calculator" It works great, and costs 0 dollars.

    Google The ultimate exposure calculator for details.


    nlochner
     
  7. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    What Jim says is correct - you need to learn to properly use whatever meter you have. I used a spot meter for more than 20-years in landscape photography - mostly B&W, but some transparancy. I measured the low values for B&W and the highs for transparancies.

    I'm now using an incident meter by the Phil Davis method - measuring the shadow EV for exposure and comparing that to the sunlight EV to determine development. This method seems to clutter my mind less.

    Each method is valid, although I think a regular wide-field reflected light meter gives the least useful information.
    juan
     
  8. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    For such situations,experience is more valuable than a meter.
    Remember exposures in similar situations from the past and use them.
    Also, knowing and practicing the "Sunny 16" rule has worked for a lot of people for a lot of years. One just has to be able to recognize one and two stop shadows in order to adjust exposure.
     
  9. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Perhaps with B&W, but I sure wouldn't want to do that for color transparencies.

    To expand on what Rich said above, a good spot meter would be used to meter the highlights and the shadows to see if they fall outside the range of what color transparencies will hold; if the range is too great, consider using either a split neutral density filter to hold back the highlights or let the shadows go dark. Others have stressed how important it is to learn how to properly use a spot meter. I would strive to always use a spot meter, and while you are learning the process, you might use a regular 35mm camera meter as a sanity check. But, you shouldn't get in the habit of using one as your regular meter, since they tend to average the readings.
     
  10. mark

    mark Member

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    Both work just fine. I use both for color and BW negative and color transparency. But you have to realize that where I live and photograph, plus what I tend to photograph means I never really have extremes in lighting. On those rare times when I am faced with extremes I resort to my 5 degree spotmeter attachment.
     
  11. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Good point Mark. snegron needs to determine what type of lighting he will encounter most of the time. In my case, I tend to shoot very early or late in the day, rarely in the middle of the day. This means that the light is much more variable, and in 30+ years of doing this, I find I still can't determine by sight what exposure to use.
     
  12. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I often play a little game with myself where I guess the exposure by eye, then meter it to see if I am right. I'm pretty good at it these days, meaning I'm right or close enough for negative film more than half the time, but I'm wrong enough that it would be allot more expensive than a good spotmeter, not to mention blowing a great shot.
     
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Jason,

    Absolutely! Practice may not make perfect, but it sure as hell improves the odds.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
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  15. OldBikerPete

    OldBikerPete Member

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    I would have to agree with Robert and others in that a spotmeter is best for landscapes. In Australia we often have harsh lighting having a dynamic range greater than the capability of the film to render. Shooting large format, one can not afford to waste frames on the guesstimate that the range is not too large, so one needs a meter which can read highlights and shadows separately so that one can measure the range of lighting in the scene as well as the exposure required. Averaging meters just give a fairly good estimate of the exposure required which will be good enough in relatively 'flat' lighting conditions - or where one absolutely MUST operate quickly.
     
  16. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    Well, you can also use incident measurements to establish the scene brightness range, as described by Minor White in the Zone System Manual, for example. It can be a quick and accurate method once you have a little experience with it. I'm not saying that it's better or worse than spot metering, it's just another method, with its own advantages and disadvantages.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  17. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks for all the input, however, I am still a bit confused! Let's use an example:

    Let's say I am using Porta VC, ISO 160 film outside and I want to photograph a tree and the surrounding landscape. The tree will be on the left of my frame and the rest of the scene will be on the right. There is more light on the right side of the frame, the tree has more shadows. I want to have as much detail from the tree as well as the background. It is late afternoon/early evening and my "tree" reading indicates 125 sec at F5.6, but my background reading indicates 125 sec at F16. Now what? Do I average it all out to 125 at F8, maybe F11? Will a spot meter give me the readings of the tree and the background and then I have to do the math and come up with the average reading on my own?

    Let's say we have the same readings for the same scenario as above, only this time I am using slide film. Would this change my average meter reading?

    Also, does subject distance influence the reading in a spot meter? Will I still get 125 at 5.6 from the tree at 10 feet away vs. 1000 feet away?
     
  18. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Shooting negative film is different from shooting transparencies. With transparencies, if you burn out the highlights, you aren't going to get it back, you can get the shadows back much easier.

    If I was shooting this, with transparency film, I would take a spot meter reading from the hightlight on the right side, another from the shadow on the left side. If the range is greater than 2 or 3 stops I would probably choose to put a 1 or 2 stop split neutral densitity filter, with the dark area over the highlight. Keep in mind, it would depend how deep I would want my shadows to go. The detail you say you want, could only come by using a split neutral density filter.
     
  19. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For black and white film, I would expose into the shadows, and burn down the bright part when I printed it because negative film will hold into highlights better than shadows, so a little overexposure can be dealt with.
     
  20. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Would using an ND filter work for color film and transparency?
     
  21. naturephoto1

    naturephoto1 Subscriber

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    Yes, the Grad ND filters will work with color negative film as well, but they are a more important part of the filter arsenal for outdoor color transparency shooters. A 1 stop Grad ND filter would not probably be of that much value to color negative film. Additionally some including myself also use 3 stop Grad ND filters for transparencies. The 2 and 3 stop Grad ND filters would be of more value for color negatives.

    Rich
     
  22. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It does! What I have got out of it, is when I take a reading, sometimes its just not right, and further investigation is called for. Usually its an ASA mistake, but sometimes more. If I hadn't a clue what to expect, I would be less likely to know when things go wrong in the field, and instead be standing in the darkroom staring at an opaque negative, with an equally opaque look on my face.
     
  23. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Either type of meter will work. It is just a tool and as any tool, it needs to be used properly to provide what you need.

    I like an incident meter...I used a spotmeter for over twenty years and it worked fine. The mental distance between composing and exposure is a lot shorter for me with an inciident meter.


    I find most of my exposures are usually 1/2 second at F22...in fact I don't mess with the meter some days and my exposures and development gives me prints that I want.
     
  24. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    There is no one way, circumstances differ, and people differ.

    An incident meter AND a spot meter are in my bag.

    It's only partially a conceptual choice, like a woodworker's hand going to the right tool. Practice, practice, practice.
     
  25. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    3 stops is a low contrast so you won't go much wrong with either B&W negs or color slides. How to deal with low- and highcontrasts subjects I will let others more knowledgeable tell you :smile:
    If I recall correctly B&W film holds about 7 stops in subject brightness range and slides will manage 5. Your problems starts when your subject is close to or exceeds that. Your tree reads 1/30 sec f/4 your background reads 1/250 f/22 = 8 stops your average will be something like 1/125 f/8 but that wile seriously underexpose your tree so no details here. So you take a spot reading from the tree and adjust your exposure 2,5 - 3 stops (test) and let highlight be highlights. How to deal with high and low contrast........ ROGER, LES SOMONE HELP :wink: Its something with overeksposing and underdeveloping for highcontrast and vice versa for lowcontrast.
    Your meter will see what your lens sees so distance won't matter much except for the mist.
    Cheers, Søren
     
  26. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Yes, and B&W as well, although most B&W photographers don't use them. BTW, if you check out this page: http://www.visionlandscapes.com/Resources.aspx?Resource=Books you can see my recommended list of books that can help. Particulary the books by Jack Dykinga and John Fielder. Both have excellent sections on metering.