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  1. #1

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    exposure wrong or development wrong?

    I have been having difficulties in being consistent with exposure.Last week I shot a role of 120 and used only a handheld meter (Sekonix Flashmate). I took an incident reading with the dome facing up, toward the sky. The resulting negatives were very dense (certainly couldn't read a newspaper through the highlights) and seemed overexposed. It was a terribly overcast day and the light very flat. Since I am not so experienced, I wonder if they are improperly exposed or if I make a mistake in development. I tried to be as exact as possible with the meter reading and development.

    The film was HP5 shot at box speed and developed in Ilford Ilfosol 3 at a ratio of 1:9 for 6 minutes and 30 seconds according to the Massive Development Chart. I have attached two scans (disregard the line in the center?!?). The first is a frozen lake with a mountain that is somewhat backlit. The mountain lacks detail and the sky is blown out. The foreground and grasses seem ok. The second is a church in snow where the sky is blown out as well. The negative for the church is particularly dense. Please disregard the dust and bad scan. The scans don't reflect the negative I feel. I never scan negatives, but only do wet prints.

    Do any of you have any ideas? (As a side note, I did a couple of interior shots using the same method and they turned out relatively well.) Thanks!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mountain.jpg   church.jpg  

  2. #2
    Rick A's Avatar
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    When using your incident meter, aim the light dome back toward the camera. This is usually done from just in front of the subject, but if that isn't convenient, hold the meter in the approximate light as the subject and aim at the camera. If I want to expose for shadow, I shade the meter with my hand to simulate the shadow area. If the subject is in full sun, then just hold it in the sun, but always aim the meter at the camera.
    Rick A
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    BTW: the big kid in my avatar is my hero, my son, who proudly serves us in the Navy. "SALUTE"

  3. #3

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    To add to what Rick A says above, your incident readings might have worked indoors because of relatively uniform light; if you have the meter in the same lighting conditions as the subject, the reading will be fine.

    Your first negative, where "the mountain lacks detail and the sky is blown out"---that in itself says you can't fix the whole problem with exposure, because if you exposed less, the mountain would lack even more detail, and if you exposed more, the sky would still be blown out. You've got more dynamic range in the scene than the film could capture; because you were metering up towards the sky, your meter got a fairly high dose of light and you made a relatively low-EV exposure, which is why the ground is dark---but it was an overcast day, so there was a lot of dim area in the sky contributing to the reading, and the resulting exposure was still enough to make the hot spots in the sky blow out.

    If you look at the bright part of the lake, where it isn't shaded by the mountains, it looks like you got a very good exposure for that part of the scene---which seems consistent with how you metered.

    As for the shot of the church, I don't think it's so bad. The sky is featureless, but I see detail in the snow and the church itself looks well exposed. (Again, that makes sense for how you metered; if you were pointing the dome up at a fairly uniform sky, you were reading basically the same light that was falling on the church.) The usual rule of thumb is to add about a stop of exposure for snow, but in this case I think that might have been too much---anyway, IMHO that one isn't an exposure error, it's just a tough exposure problem and you came up with a reasonable solution.

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  4. #4

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    It looks IMHO as a classical example of under-exposure and over-development. In fact, by taking an incident reading of the sky you very easily get too much light into the meter and that gives underexposure!. F. Ex. the mountain/lake photo, I would have turned my back to the subject and from there measured the incident light on a horzontal plane.
    Ilfosol? I don't know. Maybe somebody else can tell more about it.
    Peter

  5. #5
    Regular Rod's Avatar
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    Do you have a different type of exposure meter? I honestly believe that negatives correctly exposed when using an incident reading are the result of luck or extensive bracketing.

    If you eschew the incident readings and instead read the light that is coming off the subject you have much more chance of getting the exposure right. Even better is to use a spot meter to read those shadows and position their values where you want them.


    RR

  6. #6
    baachitraka's Avatar
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    That said, Incident meter will measure the illumination. If you face the dome towards the sky then it means that you are measuring more or less the light falling on you rather than the subject.

    On overcast day, incident metering is a bliss(second example) which lands you in proper exposure but then dome need to be pointed towards the camera.

    For first example, I personally suggest to place the incident meter dome facing the camera in shade. If no shadow is found you can follow Rick A suggestion to simulate one.

    Don't give up, I always got what I want from Incident metering.
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  7. #7

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    Thanks to all for good advice, I will shoot another roll using your directions. That being said, in the posted photos, I am wondering why they are so dense. The highlights are so dense nothing is visible through them, particularly the photo of the church. Is it that it just is terribly overexposed? Or, do you think it is developed improperly. I followed the manufacturers directions. Is the negative over or underdeveloped? Thanks.

    Alexis

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by fralexis View Post
    Thanks to all for good advice, I will shoot another roll using your directions. That being said, in the posted photos, I am wondering why they are so dense. The highlights are so dense nothing is visible through them, particularly the photo of the church. Is it that it just is terribly overexposed? Or, do you think it is developed improperly. I followed the manufacturers directions. Is the negative over or underdeveloped? Thanks.
    Well, the one of the church is going to look dense, because it's basically a bunch of highlights with a church in the middle---and you may have overexposed a bit, which of course makes it denser. I don't think there's really any way to distinguish overexposure from overdevelopment by looking at a scan.

    You said you wet-print---can you print through those dense highlights, or are they simply too bulletproof? I think that's your real answer. (We know there *is* some information in the snow in the church image, because the scanner got a little bit of texture there, but sometimes it's easier to get marginal detail out in a scan than optically.) I mean, if you can get the print you want, who cares if the negative looks funny?

    -NT
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  9. #9
    Regular Rod's Avatar
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    In the absence of being there with you, if you put me on the spot, I'd say the negative was under exposed and then over developed. An easy remedy when using roll film is to expose using part of the Zone system discipline and then develop using a compensating developer with a stand or semi-stand agitation regime. Basically try placing the shadow texture on Zone III by metering on the shadows where you want to retain some texture and placing the reading you get on Zone III. So if your meter, when pointed at the shadow texture you want to show up in your photograph, reads for example 10, then instead of putting the 10 on the scale at the mid point (Zone V if you have put a Zone scale on your meter) you would put it two places underexposed (Zone III) in fact putting 12 and not 10 on the mid point of the scale, but you would not be underexposing, you would be giving the correct exposure to replicate the shadow texture. This might make your highlights over exposed but this won't matter if you use a compensating developer and use a stand or semi-stand regime because that will stop the highlights form being over developed but your shadows will still develop fully. Using sheet film is different in that you can use the Zone System in full rather than the partial use necessary for roll film.


    RR

  10. #10

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    Hi there,

    no one here will be able to give you a comprehensive answer because we can't see the negatives and there are so many possible variables to consider. Also, if a scene has a lot of highlights and mid-tones (such as the church image) the negative will look far denser than a negative with a wider spread of tones. With the image of the mountain, it would be very unlikely that you could ever achieve the desired result with a straight print (or straight scan). Most likely you would need to print for the dark shadows and mid-tones and then burn in the highlights (very normal practice for such scenes).

    If you want to save yourself a lot of time, film and frustration, the best idea would be to put aside an afternoon to carry out some tests that will, once and for all, determine the correct Exposure Index for a particular film in your equipment, with your way of processing, your enlarger, etc. When undertaking the tests it is important to use direct metering (metering directly from part of the scene) so you know exactly what you are metering rather than the vague averaging that an incident dome will give you.

    The real key to testing a film/developer combination is to use a consistent and repeatable system. For your information, the following is the testing system that I have taught for many years. It is not the only way to approach testing or exposure BUT it is a system that reliably puts photographers (even novices) quickly in control of their exposure/development regime. It does not require densitometers but rather relies on doing things in a practical manner and relies on using your own eyes to achieve results that suit you.

    So on to the testing regime. The key to achieving consistently good negatives is the correct placement of your shadows when exposing the film and ascertaining the correct development time for achieving good separation without losing the highlights. A simple and relatively quick way to way to pin all this down for the future is to do the following (WARNING: reading these instructions is more time consuming and a lot more laborious than actually doing it!!):

    1. Find a scene with with a good range of tones
    2. Using the box speed, meter the darkest area in which you wish to retain shadow detail
    3. Move the camera so that you are only photographing this shadow area
    4. From the meter's reading close down the aperture by 2 stops or increase the shutter speed by two stops and then expose 6 frames at: the given exposure then +1 stop, +2 stops, -1 stop, -2 stops and -3 stops less than the meter has indicated

    5. Process the film

    6. Using the frame that was exposed at -3 stops less than the meter indicated (which should be practically clear but will have received lens flair and fogging - i.e a real world maximum black rather than an exposed piece of film that has processing fog) and do a test strip to find out what is the minimum exposure to achieve maximum black - Print must be fully dry before assessing this
    7. Do another test strip with the first exposure being what you have selected for achieving maximum black minus your dry-down compensation then plus 1 second, 2 seconds, etc
    8. The time that achieves full black inclusive of compensation for dry-down is you minimum exposure to achieve maximum black for all future printing sessions - print must be fully dry before assessing
    9 You now know the minimum time to achieve full black inclusive of exposure reduction to accommodate dry-down
    10. Using this minimum exposure to achieve maximum black exposure time, expose all of the other test frames.
    11. The test print that has good shadow detail indicates which exposure will render good shadow detail and achieve maximum black and provides you with your personal EI for the tested film/developer combination

    12 If the negative exposed at the meter reading gives good shadows, your EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 400)
    13. If the negative exposed at +1 stop more than the meter reading gives good shadows, your EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 1/2 the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 200)
    14. If the negative exposed at +2 stops more than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 1/4 box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 100)
    15. If the negative exposed at -1 stop less than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) double the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 800)
    16. If the negative exposed at -2 stop less than the meter reading gives good shadows, you EI is (when metering shadows where you wish to retain good detail) 4x the box speed (i.e. for 400 film you need to set your meter at 1600)

    You have now fixed your personal EI but there is one more testing stage to go.

    1. Find a scene with with a good range of tones
    2. Using your EI, meter the brightest area in which you wish to retain highlight detail
    3. Move the camera so that you are only photographing this highlight area
    4. From the meter's reading open up the aperture by 3 stops or decrease the shutter speed by three stops
    5. Expose the whole roll at this setting
    6. In the darkroom, process one third of the film for recommended development time

    7. When dry put negative in the enlarger and make a three section test strip exposing for half the minimum black time established earlier, for the established minimum black time and for double the minimum black time.
    8. Process print and dry it.
    9. If the section of the test strip exposed for 1/2 the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film requires 20% more development
    10. If the section of the test strip exposed for the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film is correctly developed
    11. If the section of the test strip exposed for double the minimum black time gives bright highlights with a trace of detail then the film requires 20% less development
    12. You can use the rest of the exposed highlight test film to fine tune the development time.

    YES - it is VERY boring but . . .for the investment of minimal materials and a few of hours you will have pinned down so many variables that it is really worth doing.

    Back in the real world, all you need to do in future is meter the shadows that you wish to retain good detail with meter set at your EI and then stop down the aperture 2 stops or increase the shutter speed by 2 stops. In the darkroom start your first test print with the minimum exposure to achieve maximum black (inclusive of dry-down compensation) and go from there.

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
    D.S. Allen, fotograf.

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