What's your coolest trick?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by David Hall, Feb 22, 2003.

  1. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    With all the knowledge, experience, and ingenuity represented on this board, I imagine we could have a VERY informative thread if we were to share a trick or two we learned or figured out over the years that made photographing easier or better. So I'll start:

    1) All Caucasian faces go on Zone VI every time. I use the zone system or some bastard varaiation of it in all other cases, but this rule seems to have never failed me. Kind of goes along with "eyes always in focus".

    2) I use the Jobo Expert drum on a Beseler base. It used to "walk" off the base slowly...I thought I would have it leveled, then 5 minutes into development it would tip. I fixed it with rubber bands that show me easily and from a distance if it's walking or not.

    3) I realized that it is your heartbeat that makes it so you can't shoot a handheld camera slower than about 1/30th or maybe 1/15th. I noticed that if you relax while holding the camera you can actually see it going up and down with every heart beat. If you get your timing right, you can shoot at 1/8th at the rest between beats.

    Not the best, I know, but I am hoping you'll top mine...

    dgh
     
  2. Prime

    Prime Member

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    Before I had an incident meter I found the exposure value for the palm of my hand. I metered my hand, then metered a gray card, then compared the two readings. I found, like David did, that my palm was exactly one stop brighter than the middle gray. I'd go around metering my hand, and then opening up a stop. This technique was almost flawless in shade or soft light, but in bright sunlight the natural oil in my skin caused a reflection that led to underexposure. The technique was also difficult to use in side-lighting. Those factors are what began to get me interested in an incident meter.
     
  3. Thilo Schmid

    Thilo Schmid Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (David Hall @ Feb 22 2003, 07:46 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>I realized that it is your heartbeat that makes it so you can't shoot a handheld camera slower than about 1/30th or maybe 1/15th.  I noticed that if you relax while holding the camera you can actually see it going up and down with every heart beat.</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    David,

    the best tools to make your heartbeats visible are sprit levels in WA-finders. Although one knows that a UWA-Lens will be the least to get blurred, a bad feeling remains after seeing the bubble jumping.
     
  4. lee

    lee Member

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    one thing you might try is to expose the face to zone VII and then develop N-1. You will get a nice fat neg that is relatively easy to print with a lot of mid tones.

    try it you will like it!

    Something else to try if you make your own developers is to make D-23 and cut the development time by 15% and then put the film into a borax solution. I use about a tea spoon per quart of water. leave it in for about 3-4 minutes. You can agitate or not. then off to the fixer. You will reduce the contrast by at least one stop and maybe more if you don't agitate. I used to use Kodalk but tried Borax and it is cheaper and nearly the same chemical. to use this technique you need to plan ahead. I shoot my film at ½ the box rating anyway and when I use this technique I give the film ½ more exposure. The example I always use is HP5+ is said to be a 400 speed film. I find it more like a 200 speed film therefore, I shoot the HP5+ at 100 for this technique. I find it useful for those reciprocity problems that crop up time to time. I think this will work with Microdol-x if D23 is not available. Use is straight.

    there you go two tricks. The rest cost money!

    lee\c
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Occasionally when I run into a scene that has too wide a contrast range, I pre-expose the film on a zone three value through a diffusion panel that I carry with me. This is a way of breaking the film threshold and moving the low values up on to the straight line portion of the film characteristic curve. I meter this exposure by placing the diffusion panel over my meter lens and after arriving at a Zone III exposure I then place the diffusion panel over the camera lens for the first exposure. After the initial exposure, I then meter the scene as I normally would and make a second exposure on the same sheet of film without the diffusion panel.

    This can best be illustrated by assigning a numerical value of 1 for Zone I, a value of 2 for Zone II, and a value of 4 for Zone III. As we double the values for each subsequent Zone we, in making this preexposure, add a greater proportional value to the low zones and a very small proportional value to the upper zones. This would effectively expose a Zone III luminescence to a Zone IV value but have virtually no effect at the Zone VIII value. (effectively adding value of 4 to a VIII value of 128).

    I find that this is a way to effectively support the low values, to bring those values up on to the straightline portion with the better separation that this portion of the film curve supports, and effectively compress the scene contrast range without doing a minus development of the film.

    This is lesson eight from my zone system workshop. Good light and good fortune.
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Average indoor lighting is remarkably consistent: f:2.0 at 1/30 sec., EI 400. Open up a stop or maybe even two for dark spaces like bars, and stage lighting is something else entirely.

    Most floodlit buildings at night are about f:2.0 at 1/4 sec., EI 400.

    These two guidelines along with "sunny 16" and "moony 11" (the full moon is 1/ISO at f:11) cover a lot of situations.

    If you can't carry a camera with movements, you can always tilt the easel in the darkroom to correct convergences.

    Plasti-dipped wire letter holders available from an office supply place are the ideal thing for drying large batches of small RC prints--perfect for those who are participating in the postcard exchange.
     
  7. GreyWolf

    GreyWolf Member

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    My tip is for newcomers, as all of you seasoned folks already know this.

    When you are first starting to learn about any aspect of photography or darkroom procedures, start by reading books and all the good information on the net. Once you feel that you have an understanding of what it is you want to do, then re-read what you have previously read. You will almost always discover a clearer understanding of the ideas (the light bulb usually goes on for me here) and methods that you seemed to have missed the first read through.

    Now is the time to ask well thought out questions in these forums. Armed with that knowledge, be sure to actually put it to use, if even "just once".

    This is when you will actually learn. Theory always provides a good blueprint to build upon, but the craftsman skills come from the actual building process. I have learned long ago, by actually doing the process, I refine the theory, understand a great deal more and am able to retain the information for future use without having to back reference the book.

    Well most of the time. As I grow older some of the "gray matter" seems to be dying away.
     
  8. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    1) That hand-metering trick works VERY well. I have used that before. I think I read somewhere that Joel Meyerwitz uses that when he does his street photography in NYC.

    2) Grey Wolf, you are very profound. I always find that after I do something, re-reading about it fills in lots of blanks.

    3) The thing that has been the hardest for me to learn and be comfortable with is mixing chemistry. There is a reason why I successfully dodged chemistry classes in high school. Any tips you have about handling, mixing, and considering chemistry would be most welcome here.

    dgh
     
  9. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    When shooting a camera, as was already said, your heartbeat will have an effect which you can see if you look for it. If you use the camera more like a rifle, you can get those long exposures. Use a rest, any rest. It can be a rock, beanbag, tree trunk, anything. Just leaning against a tree will help. Borrowing positions from rifle shooters such as sitting and bracing against your knee help too. You want as many points of support as you can get. Slowly breathe out as you press the shutter. Don't hold your breath that makes it worse.
    For tilting a baseboard or easel, use a piece of graph paper. It makes it much easier to get the lines true. Without it, I always tend to overcorrect.
    When using a tripod, if it does not feel steady enough, just add weight. Hang a barbell plate, bag of rocks or spare camera from the center post and let it dangle.
     
  10. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    My number one trick so to speak is:

    STAY AWAY FROM NEGATIVE PEOPLE!

    Nothing sucks the creative juices out of you quicker. Now on to more photo specific:
    > meter the north sky, it's pretty much 18%
    > always carry the small Kodak Photograpers Guide, a wealth of info
    > I hang my camera bag from the center of my tripod to give it extra stability
    > I tripod almost everything I do, even 35mm (it makes a difference even at higher shutter speeds)
    > carry a small tool kit

    I also GPS all my shots so I can add it to my notes and if I ever want to go back to a spot exactly it's a no brainer. I can also plan when to be there based on sun and moon info from the GPS. So if I'm going back to a spot in Malaysia that I did 3 years ago and want a specific kind of light I can do some pre planning. Logistics will kill ya.

    > always have a backup camera
     
  11. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    ..
     
  12. Thilo Schmid

    Thilo Schmid Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (David A. Goldfarb @ Feb 22 2003, 11:48 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>If you can't carry a camera with movements, you can always tilt the easel in the darkroom to correct convergences.</td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    No David, you can't always. In the darkroom, you can only correct converging lines in one level. If your scene does have converging lines in several levels, you must shift the lens at exposure time. The perspective ratio between foreground and background objects is determines by the focal length (the picture angel) of the shooting lens. The resulting two-dimensional image lacks the ability to apply selective perspective corrections. The shorter your shooting lens, the more apparent will this be.

    The corresponding darkroom technique for shift lenses is not Scheimpflug Distortion. It is a pair of scissors for an image taken with a wider lens.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    True, Thilo, so I shouldn't have said "always," but often it does work, and you can compose accordingly, with correction in the darkroom as part of the plan.

    Using a wider lens and cropping to simulate shift also works, and as you say will be the only solution in more complex scenes, but if I'm carrying a small or medium format camera (which I would be in the situations described), I'd rather not crop if it can be avoided.
     
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  15. Thilo Schmid

    Thilo Schmid Member

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    Here is one that just came into my mind (I don't find it easy to remember such things "on command"):

    Newcomers to LF often find it difficult to apply the correct amount of tilt and swing with the front standard. It is usually much easier to determine tilt and swing with the back standard, because most camera models provide at least one point on the ground glass that stays in focus while applying movements. Unfortunately, back tilts and swings do change perspective and usually only monorail cameras do have protractors that allow an easy transfer of the movement angel from one standard to the other. Apart from that, almost all view camera protractors have insufficient scales. The simple and fast solution is to re-level the back standard with the tripod head and apply a little correction shift afterwards.
     
  16. Thilo Schmid

    Thilo Schmid Member

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    I would suggest to maintain a compilation of this thread on a static page within APUG.
     
  17. carlweese

    carlweese Member

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    Not sure if this is a trick, but a really valuable thing to learn is that the "sunny 16" rule is dead wrong for negative films. It's ok for chromes and polaroids, but results in dramatic underexposure of b&w or color negatives.

    However, once you find out what your own personal "sunny" number is, it will be remarkably consistent. Using large format TXT and HP5 Plus my sunlight exposure is 1/8th @ f/45 if there are only small shadow areas, 1/4 sec if there are large shadow areas. Add another stop early or late in the day when the sun is near the horizon. Other conditions can be consistent as well. Overcast light can be dull and drab, but sometimes it can be wonderful and glowing: when it's wonderful, the exposure is a full second at 45. ---Carl
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The "sunny 16" rule is also dead wrong when the sun is low in the sky - morning and evening, or even midday in high latitudes. This cost me a lot of underexposed film, as I live at 60° North... I now use "sunny 11" at midday in Norway, if I'm too lazy to get my meter out.
     
  19. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    OK, here's one that proves foolproof for me, but you're going to laugh...

    There are so many steps in making a large format photograph, from leveling the camera on the tripod to putting the dark slide back in the right way, that I go through them verbally, out loud, every single time I make a photograph. Even if I am making a portrait. Especially when I am making a portrait.

    I have ruined so many photographs by the stupidest things, like shutters not closed or slides not pulled or slides put back in white side up. And when I photograph people, I am so focused on the person that I tend to make the most mistakes.

    So there's a rythm I found years ago, and I stick to it invariably.

    dgh
     
  20. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (David A. Goldfarb @ Feb 22 2003, 01:48 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> Plasti-dipped wire letter holders available from an office supply place are the ideal thing for drying large batches of small RC prints--perfect for those who are participating in the postcard exchange. </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    hehe! I had about a dozen of the little suckers lined up on a couple of these paper sorter things the other night (I printed a few extras for toning experiments)
     
  21. Sherman

    Sherman Member

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    I ran into a LF photographer years ago who had a piece of string attached to each of his lensboards. He would loop the other end of the string around the focusing knob on the rear standard of his camera. If the string was stretched enough to prevent focusing he knew he was in "bellows compensation territory" so before he unhooked the string he got out his compensation chart (which covered his selection of lenses).

    I've thought about using this but started using a checklist instead (it covers even more of my potential screw-ups).

    Sherman
     
  22. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Sherman,
    What a simple and effective idea. I have not encountered that before. Thanks for sharing.
     
  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    That is a good idea. I have a magnification/exposure factor chart on the back of each of my LF cameras, and I still forget occasionally.
     
  24. David Hall

    David Hall Member

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    I have my rails marked, just to tell me that I'm in bellows factor territory. Then I use that little target and ruler that Calumet sells. It's GREAT for nailing it dead on.

    dgh
     
  25. docholliday

    docholliday Member

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    Here's an interesting one:

    "Quick releases can be very quick."

    I see so many newbies who go out and by the most expensive neck/shoulder strap for their camera, WITH A QUICK RELEASE. Then, during a shoot, I see them bump their quick release and ... BANG ... their new camera hits the ground, HARD. Personally, I hate QR straps. I hate straps (neck). If I do use a strap, I attach a small clip cord from the camera to the strap (kinda like a chain on a pocketwatch), especially at weddings where I have little time to watch the strap.

    Another cool trick (for MF people). Buy one of those small, cheap LED flashlights, mount an old cold shoe on it (from a busted strobe) and slap it on your camera somewhere. (On my Hassy, it's on the siderail). Works great for focusing in low light without having to use the old videolight on the Stroboframe.

    And, for LF people, cheap inkjet transparency sheet (I use color laser ones, but their more expensive, and clearer) work great for marking your shot with info. I do this so I can remember exactly what I saw when I shot. (using a grease pencil). I lay it over the GG and mark away, including any logistics that I see on why the image was layed out as it is. In the darkroom, I just overlay the sheet on my neg and it helps me see what I was after during the initial shot.

    For those wedding/event shooters who shoot with Metz 45CT/CL strobes or similar...if you want a cheap backup battery (or don't want to pay for Quantum batteries, go to Radio Sh*t and buy some of the "RC car connector repair kits" (23-445) and a bunch of cheap RC car 9.6v battery packs. Pop apart a bad battery connector and solder a coiled cord to the correct contacts, attach the RC connector to the other end, get a cheap belt pouch and you have extended power! I built one for mine, about $50.00 and I can get almost 12 hours of shooting out of it!

    Finally, there is the old string with loop at one end and 1/4-20 or 3/8 screw at the other end instead of a monopod. I've used this setup to shoot down to 2 sec (at Getty Museum in LA) with my HB and no monopod to carry. (Insert loop around foot, screw into camera, lift camera against foot and press into forehead or eye)
     
  26. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (docholliday @ Feb 23 2003, 10:32 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'> I hate straps (neck). If I do use a strap, I attach a small clip cord from the camera to the strap (kinda like a chain on a pocketwatch), especially at weddings where I have little time to watch the strap.

    </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    *Good* ideas here. I've gotta try the "flashlight" and "auxilliary power park" ideas.

    I agree with the neckstrap aversion. However, they are useful for keeping the "blad out of the muck and mire - hang the camera somewhere when you need your hands free.

    Mine has saved my 'blad from 'grab and go" thieves a time or two. Once, I was seated at an outdoor cafe' - with the neckstrap tied to the Campari umbrella. Sure enough - a bicyclist approached, slowed considerably - and most likely decided that it would NOT be a very good idea to try to escape an enraged photographer while dragging a reather large umbrella after him.