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...
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.
</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'>
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.
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!
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.
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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.
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.
Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.
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.
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.
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