Manual metering of dynamic lighting conditions

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Alexz, Sep 24, 2004.

  1. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Just few days ago pleased myself with a few hours of dedicated MF session shooting seascapes at sunsets. That was just a third film shoot by me in MF (Bronica GS-1 with standard 100mm/3.5 PG lens), but first film I paid full attention to try to apply MF-oeirnted mind.. :smile: due to my lack of MF shooting experience.

    Well, many things to share with you, some are funny, some are less ...
    (like forgetting the need of manual focusing for a half of film due to being used to AF), but the most improtant is first:

    I find the most challenging was exposure metering and evaluation.
    Most agree that incident metering is teh best option, and I have no reasons to doubt that opinion, but I can hardly see how it can be applicable for landscape shooting. In studio, or with close subjects - sure, but landscapes ??
    Thus the next option would be spot metering and its variations. However here I found applying that to be difficult or sometimes next to impossible in dunamically changing lighting conditions.
    I shot sunsets. As you know the most gorgeous lighting happens just few minutes prior to sun settling over the horizon, so you have about 3-5 minutes to make you shots. Besides, the lighting is changing constantly during these few minutes, so spot-metering and exposure evaluation in my brain, trying to keep up with sun running away almost had my brain to explode.. :smile:. I was sorry my head isn't a latest Pentium or likewise processor to run tens of millions math operations in sec. :smile:

    So, how do you handle such situations ?

    I have AE metering prism on my Bronica, but metering is center-weighted. I wasn't sure how reliable it can be given such huge range of contrast it subjected to at sunset.
    I fitted a GND (2 or 3 stops) to bring the range to more narrow boundaries and not being able to keep up by spot-metering, switched on Bronica's AE center-weighted hoping it may cope better with more narrow density ranges. Have yet developed the film, so no results yet.

    What are your experiences and advises ?
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Regarding your questions on incident metering as it applies to landscapes...it appears that you are relating from a standpoint of differences of reflective surfaces. That doesn't apply to incident metering. Light is light!!! Simple as that.

    The degree of shadow may be variable to some degree in consideration of open shade or a darkened opening in a structure for instance. Thus if one were to orient the incident dome from the direction of the photographed object toward the camera lens to determine the highlight exposure and then again from a representative shaded position toward the camera lens the contrast can be determined. If the contrast range is greater then 7 stops the development would be reduced. If less then 7 stops the development would be expanded. If the contrast ranger were 7 stops this would be normal development.

    I have the AE metered prism on my Bronica and would not find it applicable to controlled and knowledgeable exposures for my work.
     
  3. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Thanks Donald.
    What I actually meant is application of incident petering from practical standpoint. No doubt it offers the most reliable exposure, the question is how it can be physically applicable for landscape shooting.
    Say your composition in the finder is a a landscape and certain landmark you focused on and the rest of entire field of few of the lens.
    As far as I understand, to apply incident method you have to approach the actual subject and meter the light falling on it durecting the dome towards the light source.
    So the question is how "approachable" could be landscape shooting for such kind of metering ? :smile: Seems to be impossible at all until I do not understand the principle of incident metering.

    Am I wrong ?
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Alexz...While it is nice if one can approach the actual object, it is not necessary. If for instance you are photographing a scene in which the scene is lit by the same sun as the sun shining on an object that is 20 feet in front of the camera then it makes no sense that the sun would have varied in intensity in 50 feet or 1500 feet (unless a cloud were to obscure the sun). Even that would normally be a matter of limited consideration. Now the next question is what are your shadow conditions and hence the contrast within the scene. If one looks at the scene being photographed and sees open shade then the open shade will probably have very nearly the same exposure considerations whether it is one mile distant or 100 feet distant. What I am saying is that the same incident considerations will exist nearer then the actual object being photographed. Sometimes I even meter using my own shadow. While this may not be an absolute duplication, it is near enough for the work that I do.
     
  5. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Oh, that makes sense indeed.
    So just for the case, if I have clear sky, I can effectively meter incidently the falling light just at the place I'm at and apply this metering considerations fo the actually photographed scene regardless of the distances involved, right ?

    Now, if a part of the actual distant scene is covered by a shadow, what I can do is create a shadow of at least approximately similar density and incidently meter it to obtain the necessary exposure, right ?

    This sounds very useful, especially for seascapes when a large part of the scene
    might be a sea surface heavily reflecting...
     
  6. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Oh, that makes sense indeed.
    So just for the case, if I have clear sky, I can effectively meter incidently the falling light just at the place I'm at and apply this metering considerations fo the actually photographed scene regardless of the distances involved, right ?

    Yes that is correct

    Now, if a part of the actual distant scene is covered by a shadow, what I can do is create a shadow of at least approximately similar density and incidently meter it to obtain the necessary exposure, right ?

    Yes that is correct as well...it makes no difference if the shadow is caused by a cloud or a standing person...the sunlight does not care what is obstructing it. The only departure would be an enclosed deep shadow which is affected by the amount of light reflected into it from surrounding surfaces.

    This sounds very useful, especially for seascapes when a large part of the scene
    might be a sea surface heavily reflecting"

    Yes that is correct. The reflections from a sea scene would be something that would be considered, of course. Sometime specular high lights will print white if they are of small enough size. I have found that once one begins to use this type of metering that one becomes very adept at reading the scene contrast without the meter and when this occurs one's photography becomes much more intuitive and hence expressive.
     
  7. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Great, many thanks Donald for your help and lesson.
    I think I'll borrow the Minolta meter we have in the office and will burn a film, carefully writing down the notes describing metering details per each shoot. (will also compare this type of evaluaiton with my Canon's zone metering in various conditions).
    Apparently that would be the most effecient way to learn.

    Best regards, Alex
     
  8. Tom Duffy

    Tom Duffy Member

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    The only time incident metering doesn't work is when you are taking a picture of a light source. the classic example is a stained glass window. unfortuanately, in your case, it also applies to sunsets...
     
  9. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Thanks Tom.
    Can you please clarify why this technique won't work for sunsets and alike (the sun is a part of the composition, but still don't understand why this is not applicable in this case).