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  1. #1
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Follow the nose of the subject?

    I've gone back and forth on turning an incident meter's head in alternative directions to get a reading.

    This morning I found this shot on flickr and had a minor epiphany.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mafatal...-30056819@N00/

    Seems to me that in this type of shot, pointing the meter head the same direction as the subjects nose should place the face properly, and may actually be the best practice, rather than pointing the head at the camera; to get this effect anyway.

    Anybody using this idea already?
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

  2. #2

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    Often, I point it in the direction of the light I want to expose for. In that particular case, I would probably do as you suggest.

    That said, if the meter dome was in the light from the window, and pointing to the camera, the exposure would likely be the same or very close. The danger in the pictured situation would be having the dome entirely in the shadowed interior.

  3. #3
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    I would still want to get the dome on the nose of the subject.

    It seems to me that if I did that it shouldn't matter whether the meter was in the shade or not, if I'm thinking straight it should properly place the main subject regardless.

    The idea of pointing it at the source is a very reasonable one.

    What I'm thinking though is that following the nose is that the face is not just being lit by the main source (open sky here), but also by the reflected light from the table, the restaurant's lights, blah, blah, blah...

    As with this example, what's important to me is the main subject, the rest of the frame is just there for context, not for detail.
    Last edited by markbarendt; 05-05-2011 at 07:18 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: Hit the wrong button too quick.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

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    Quote Originally Posted by markbarendt View Post

    As with this example, what's important to me is the main subject, the rest of the frame is just there for context, not for detail.
    YES!
    this is the perfect way to think about how to read the light ...
    it is the subject you want illuminated, not the background noise
    although as you said the background provides details ...

    thanks for the link!
    john
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  5. #5
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    There was some recent discussion of this on another thread with some advocating pointing at the camera and others in favour of pointing at the light source (sun).

    I recently bought a secondhand copy of the book Exposure Manual by Dunn and Wakefield. They suggest taking both readings and averaging them out.


    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.

  6. #6
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    The last discussion of this that I remember was with regard to studio lighting.

    If I remember correctly there I was advocating for pointing at the camera.

    The big difference I see between the two situations is that in a studio setup we have "control" of the light. Normally the camera, subject and background are set up along a centerline and the lighting is moved around as needed to light the subject properly.

    I'm not saying there can't be parallels in thought here but in the "apparently candid" example I used for this thread the lighting is essentially fixed.

    Pointing the dome at the camera may actually be more work. That's what I'm trying to sort here at least in part.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Smith View Post
    There was some recent discussion of this on another thread with some advocating pointing at the camera and others in favour of pointing at the light source (sun).

    I recently bought a secondhand copy of the book Exposure Manual by Dunn and Wakefield. They suggest taking both readings and averaging them out.


    Steve.
    I've used this "Duplex" method Steve for more than twenty five years and whatever direction the light is coming from front, back , or side lighting as it shows in the colour pictures of the lady in Dunn and wakefield's book it works.
    Ben

  8. #8
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Ben & Steve,

    I've thought about the duplex method in that it splits the difference between the bright side and the dark side and can give a do-it-all negative with plenty of shadow and highlight detail.

    That's not what I'm shooting to get at here.

    What I'm trying to get/find here is a way of placing the face/skin tones with great accuracy and simplicity (meaning a direct reading) while almost totally disregarding Where the highlights and shadows fall.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

  9. #9
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    I generally meter the light that is illuminating the part of the subject that I want to expose best. This does not mean the strongest light in the area in all cases (the Sun when outside). I meter the sun only if the subject is being lit directly by the Sun. In shade, the Sun is the original source of all the light, but the light on the subject is not directly from the Sun. It is from reflected Sun light. So, I meter the reflected light.

    If I want a bit more on the neg on the darker side, so that I can dodge it back, I will average the reading between the lit side and the dark side by placing the dome halfway between the two sides, i.e. at 90 degrees from the main light. In this case, a compromise is made to be able to dodge; the brighter side of the subject is overexposed in order to allow more to be dug from the darker side in printing. If I want a proper exposure for the dark side, so that I can dodge till the cows come home, I will take a reading from the darker side; I do this knowing that I am gaining the ability to print extreme shadow detail at the expense of grain and tonality changes on the lit side, due to the overexposure. I do this rarely, and when I do, I usually underdevelop the film quite a bit.

    Try doing anything but method 1 on a digital camera or slide film, and you overexpose the lit side your subject; the greater the illumination ratio, the greater the overexposure when you meter down the middle or meter the dark side. You can pull E-6 film enough to help if you meter down the middle, and I suppose if shooting digital you can try highlight recovery, though it will look weird in anything but minor overexposure of the subject. But if using these media, exposing for the subject and filling the shadows is the best way to go if you want to have a tighter illumination ratio than what nature is giving you.

    In flat lighting, such as an overcast day, or the aforementioned shady scenario, it doesn't matter all that much where you point the meter – left, right, or down the middle. If the subject is facing the camera dead on, and light is coming from all directions pretty-much equally, then the dome can follow the nose and it will work fine. But it doesn't follow the nose as a rule. If, after the dead on shot, the subject were to turn his or her head 45 degrees to his/her right, I would then meter the light falling on the left cheek. That means that the dome faces away from the cheek as if it was a huge boil on the subject's face: 45 degrees from the centerline, the other direction from how the subject turned, i.e 90 degrees from the nose.

    Of course, if the light is the same where you are as where your subject is (which it often is outdoors, since the Sun is so far away), you don't even need to walk up to the subject. I only bother putting the meter to the face if the light is different where I am vs. where the subject is.

    In any case, I never consider where the camera is. It is not relevant, beyond the obvious fact that I meter to get a good exposure for that which is shown in the frame (i.e. not the back of the subject, unless I want a silhouette). Hand held incident meters are for measuring incident light independent of the camera, not for making a composition-based reading; you use hand held meters specifically to avoid having your metering tied to composition. But by pointing the dome at the camera all the time, tying them together is exactly what you'd be doing. You'd be ignoring the lighting entirely, and chaining yourself to metering based on the angle of the film plane; you'd be missing out on a lot of the information that the meters can give you; and you'd be wasting a lot of the control that you can get with incident meters.

    If you shoot negative film and meter toward the camera all the time, you will survive, and you may never notice unless you skillfully pay attention to exactly how your negatives look and how far away from "normal" your prints deviate. But you are shooting yourself in the foot if you do this when shooting transparencies or digital.

    Studio versus natural makes no difference in this. It only makes a difference in the amount of control and time that you have. It is easier to craft the exact lighting ratio that you want when in studio.
    Last edited by 2F/2F; 05-05-2011 at 07:49 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    2F/2F

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  10. #10
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    I am using negatives so there is some latitude. Given that; the idea of rotating the head to give precedence to shadow or highlight for use later is interesting. In effect this mimics changing the EI and shadow point on the fly.

    In this thread's case though, I am actually considering only the "straight" result of the metering, simply place-the-face-tones & let-the-rest-fall on paper, no dodge or burn and hopefully having all the faces fall properly in every frame all the way across a contact sheet.

    At it's essence, rotating the head and duplexing, both seem to be akin to using exposure compensation to suit a challenging lighting situation. The EI/shadow point remains fixed in this modle.

    What I'm trying to sort in my head is if it's better to take a classic reading and compensate in my head or to guess at the "right" off center angle and take a direct reading.

    Both ideas require thought, with my follow the nose thought I was trying to take away some of the guess work, don't know if that's realistic.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Ana´s Nin

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