I've been using a spotmeter and the zone system for black and white roll films, even 35mm, for 15 years now, and it works perfectly.
Incident metering will not ensure good shadow detail. In diffuse light with soft shadows, it will suffice for a good overall exposure, particularly for reversal film. But where shadows are strong they need to be spotted and evaluated then balanced with a midtone checkpoint and highlights. Essentially, with a spot meter you meter for the darkest place where you want to see detail, but not total black shadows, then a midtone checkpoint then highlight value. Average this. Only a spot meter takes into account individual illumination variations. The Zone System is an unnecessary hindrance when introduced with spot meters: many beginners are best started with metering essentials and the ZS left out until much later when skills are stepped to understanding.
Canon EOS1N ('Brutus', 1993—), TS-E 24mm f3.5L, 20mm f2.8, 17-40 f4L, 70-200 f2.8L
Pentax 67 ('Pentaximus', 2010—) + SMCP 45mm f4, 55mm f4 & 165mm f4LS;
Zero Image 6x9 multi-format pinhole (2008—); Sekonic L758D;
Olympus XA, Nikon Coolpix P7700
"If you're not having fun, then you're not doing it right!"
I have become use to determining development of the film based on the brightness range of the scene. A spot meter certainly helps me to get those readings, as sometimes I can not walk up to them. I develop the negs to fit what I consider optimal contrast for how I make my carbon tissue, or if I am developing negatives for pt/pd printing, I aim for a negative contrast that requires no contrast agent in my coating mixes. So when my Pentax spot meter reads just above "1" in the shadows where I want info and the highlights read "9", I think, "Alright! I won't have to bump the contrast up much at all with this neg!" Quite a bit different than one's needs with roll film.
When using roll film (120), I usually use a Luna Pro SBC and go with an average reading unless the scene has significant info in the shadows or the scene has more contrast than normal, then I will try to take a separate shadow reading. But that is what's nice about roll film, if I am not sure, I can take another exposure one stop in the direction I might be erring on. And I like the sensitivity of the SBC for when one can use a meter the most, when the light gets very low. I think the only time I have used the SBC in incident mode has been copying flat work.
Good luck, I figure that everyone eventually finds an system that will give them good exposures under average conditions and a way of figuring things out when things are no longer average.
At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can be a good day of exercise.
For B&W, in BTZS, you take two readings, one where you "simulate" shaded part of your subject (to guess the amount of light "incident" under the tree for example). Then you take a reading in the sun. You use the difference in readings to estimate the subject luminance range, which you then use to decide development.
Originally Posted by baachitraka
The BTZS book explains how to simulate shadow lighting effectively without carrying it too far. So it would be worth picking up if you plan to use this method. Then you won't have to rely on distorted translations (which this is probably a good example).
Using an incident meter to determine low-luminance placement has always been a step or two too many for me. When I shoot roll film (rarely these days) I like to use my in-camera meter if I have one. If not, I carry the spot meter. If you only have the incident meter, then do some reading up and learn how to use it to find a usable reading in your situation.
In any case, there are several approaches you can take to applying the Zone System to roll film. I find that carrying separate camera bodies or film backs is a hassle and slows me down, thus defeating the whole purpose of smaller cameras. I advocate not trying to develop to different contrasts for roll film, but rather to standardize development and use different paper grades to adjust contrast.
The trick for metering then, is making sure you have adequate exposure for the shadows. With a spot meter, directly reading a shadow luminance is no problem. Place, shoot, develop to your standard and deal with the contrast in the darkroom (that said, I find that it's easier to standardize to a bit lower contrast and then increase it in the darkroom. My roll-film negative "normal" is tailored for grade 3).
With an averaging meter/in-camera meter, you can shoot without worry for most scenes once you have determined a personal E.I. The only pitfall here is a high-contrast scenario. In this case, an averaging meter will dump the shadows. Therefore, (counter-intuitively) one has to give contrasty scenes more exposure when using an averaging meter. One stop usually does the trick. If you are in situations that would require an N-3 contraction or more, then 2 stops, or just forget it and get out the big camera In any case, if your "normal" development leaves enough latitude for over-exposure, then printing on a lower grade paper takes care of the extra contrast. Most modern films hold detail well into Zone X or XI.
Incident metering presents another bit of complexity due to the nature of the meter. If the light is even from one source, simply use it as an averaging meter. However, in real life, such an evenly-lit scene is rare. For scenes with both lit and shaded areas, you need to use the meter to determine either a shadow placement or an average value. Reading in the shade and then placing the shadows by over-exposing two stops from the meter reading will ensure adequate shadow detail, but may be overexposed, since the shadow you are exposing for (two stops down from "middle gray" in the shade) may not be that important... Reading in shade and light and splitting the difference will get you a fairly good average reading, but may dump the shadows some in really contrasty situations. Determining luminance range using BTZS is accurate, but time-consuming and, IMHO, overkill for roll-film and small cameras (again, defeating the purpose).
So, assess your needs and available equipment and pick a method. If you only have the incident meter, learn to use it with the best method for your situation. If you have a spot meter and the time to use it to place shadows, I would do that (simpler than the incident meter for me, and I can check the rest of the scene easily and make a note about what paper grade might be suitable). If you're shooting from the hip in rapidly-changing conditions, use the in-camera meter if you've got one.
Hope this helps,
Last edited by Doremus Scudder; 03-16-2012 at 05:39 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
Originally Posted by Doremus Scudder
Usually you are spot-on with your advice, but I think you overlooked that when you take an incident meter reading from within the shady part of your picture, then the meter already recommends the correct placement for the shadows in that part of the scene. You don't open up from the calculator dial.
For a moment you pretend that you are planning a picture of a smaller evenly-lit landscape. You set exposure based on that less complex, dimmer lighting. Then you actually take the picture of the larger scene with its wider subject luminance range.
There was a discussion about incident metering where they managed 8-9 stop range in one photo. But, I do not find that thread. Hints: That photo is with a man standing next to Hasselblad in front the lake during dusk.
Hi baachitraka...I think I know what you are talking about. It was a photo of Bill Schwab taken by Don Cardwell. I'm sure the thread can be found.
Originally Posted by baachitraka
Here is my own example of incident metering within BTZS. This was on TMY2 sheet and developed in DDX as per tests. Brightness range here was over 8, with highlight reading taken outside and shadows taken behind his head. There was no lighting inside the room. Printed down a bit for contrast, but negative has detail in zone 3 and retained all highlights. No burning in of highlights was required and it was developed to fit on grade 2 paper.
I will get that BTZS book and learn it soon. I was reading the paper "The Incident System" but I do not understand how they plot that graph esp., dev times vs SBR. Hopefully, that book will bring some more understanding.
The range of tones, assuming correct exposure, will depend upon the development. The zone system is a quantification of the old saying,"expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights". If you are developing for an extended tonal range you must choose an exposure to take advantage of the extended range, but that could be spot, incident, or reflected measurement. The only problem with rollfilm vs. sheet film is that sheets can be given custom individual development, while all exposures on a roll will receive the same development.
Originally Posted by baachitraka
Last edited by E. von Hoegh; 03-16-2012 at 01:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.