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  1. #1

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    Metering the palm for shadows?

    I've recently read a book on exposing/printing, a book which contained a simplified version of the zone system. As I'm familiar with the ZS since before I only half-read that section, but one thing was pretty interesting - it was on how to get a good shadow exposure using only a incident meter.

    As I understood the technique in the book, one should meter ones palm in the most important shadow in which one wishes to have any texture (placing it in zone III), but that one could substitute this by metering ones palm in the shadow cast by one self, and that both these values should fall between zone II & III (right at the film speed point, as I understood the technique).

    Have anyone read or used something similar? I usually only meter for zone III and worry about the high values later (thank you, split grade printing) but I'm trying to find a good workflow for my Rolleiflex with an handheld incident meter. I don't have the book with me at the moment

  2. #2

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    ETA: I haven't read any of the books on simplified Zone System but...

    Do you mean that you have a "reflective" light meter? How close to Zone 5 is the palm of your hand? If you know how your skin tone differs from Zone 5 then, yes, you can meter off your hand and compensate for that difference. If you do have an incident meter then the only way to meter how much light is falling on the shadows is to walk into the shadow area as far as you can and aim the dome at the camera to take your reading. Then you'll need to decide if important details in those shadows are particularly dark or light and need more or less exposure. If you can't get to that area then, yes, you could meter with your shadow on the dome but it won't be as accurate because the surrounding spill light is different. Also, many times shadow areas are deeply recessed which means they are probably far darker than any shadow you cast in the same light. Oh... and pray that the light doesn't change during this process. Are you able to buy a spot meter?
    Last edited by Old-N-Feeble; 04-08-2012 at 03:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  3. #3
    andrew.roos's Avatar
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    It sounds like a bad idea. What if the shadow areas are dark rock? Or green foiliage when you are using a red filter? Both have substantially lower reflectivity than your palm (I'm assuming you are caucasian since you are from Sweden). The problem is that to get good shadow detail you don't need to know how much light is hitting your subject - which is what metering your palm will roughly tell you - but how much light is being reflected from your subject, which depends both on the incident light and on the reflectivity of the subject.

    I'm also not sure what you mean be metering your palm if you have only an incident meter? An incident meter records the amount of light falling on the subject, not the amount of light reflecting off something (like your palm). For that you would need a reflective type meter. But if you have this then why not just meter the shadow area directly, and then adjust to place it in zone III or wherever you want it depending on the contrast range of the scene?
    Last edited by andrew.roos; 04-08-2012 at 04:08 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4

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    This sounds like an incident light meter version of using a reflectance meter ( hand held or built-in camera meter) that Carson Graves recommends. Is the book called the Zone System for 35mm Photographers?

    If it is an incident reading meter that's used then I have no idea how this works or more importantly how well this works

    pentaxuser

  5. #5

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    IIRC, the palm of a person with caucasian skin tone is zone VI, so you could meter off of your palm and open one stop, as a reflective meter such as one in a camera will attempt to put your palm in zone V.
    ME Super

    Shoot more film.
    There are eight ways to put a slide into a projector tray. Seven of them are wrong.

  6. #6

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    I often take a reading off my palm (zone VI) with my Digisix - but: much depends on what light is falling on your palm. By turning the hand slightly you can easily get a two stop metering difference, and that's where experience takes over. Try and test again and again and you'll end up knowing how to meter the light.
    I personally find that metering thelight for an exposure is the most difficult part of producing a good print.
    Peter

  7. #7
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    My Dad taught me a similar trick when I was learning photography basics from him as a child, slightly different to what you've suggested though: Hold your hand out, fingers stretched straight, palm facing towards you. Tilt your hand towards you (palm towards the ground) just enough so that there is no direct light on the palm and it is evenly lit. Meter with a reflective meter and set to zone V.

    We have 'average' Caucasian skin (ie, not pasty but not super tanned) and it used to work just right for us. I don't think I really thought about that technique again after i bought an incident meter though
    ____________________________________________

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  8. #8

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    We all seemed to be agreed that the key for the "palm reading" is a reflectance meter so it is intriguing that the OP mentions an incident meter.

    Hopefully the OP will clarify his source in terms of what book it is

    pentaxuser

  9. #9
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ME Super View Post
    IIRC, the palm of a person with caucasian skin tone is zone VI, so you could meter off of your palm and open one stop, as a reflective meter such as one in a camera will attempt to put your palm in zone V.
    That is correct treatment for a single reading in the "sun". You want to place the palm of your hand on Zone VI there in the sun because Zone VI is where caucasian skin should be placed... when they are in the sun.

    But what is happening in this scenario is simulated shadows. For a person in shadows to appear realistic, you actually want to close down instead of open up. I had to read this several times and often post it wrong. But read the palm of your hand in shadow and close down a stop (to place it on Zone IV).

    That is "shortcut exposure" advice from Minor White in 1963 so likely you have read it or heard it before...

    Dark rocks and other things in the shadow will go darker than Zone IV, but you should want them to be dark to make them look like they are in the shade.

  10. #10
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Weston meters have a position marked C for metering off the palm. It's just normal metering plus one stop of exposure.

    Caucasian or not doesn't matter. Regardless of skin colour, the palms are universally about the same shade.


    Steve.
    "People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.

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