WOW! First off, let me state that this thread has really opened my eyes to how very, very much I have still to learn about photography! It was fascinating to read and taught me much (and left me scratching my head at some of the foreign-language posts...oh, wait, no, they were in English...I have SO MUCH to learn!!!)
And KUDOS to the gent who brought up the " you don't need to draw inorder to paint!" example - so true on so many different ways!
On the subject of the sunny 16 rule, though.
Here is a look at it from a relative beginners point of view.
I have used the sunny16 for a long time, yet when I read the name "sunny16" in a thread I started in the RF forum, I had to ask what it was. I was not familiar with that term, yet I have used it for years!!!
Just to let you know, I shoot mainly medium format with a Lubitel TLR and 35 mm with either a AE1 or my wife's Canonets (my Zenit is now retired... but served me well for years!!!).
I own a Weston Master II light meter. I often have the opportunity to work with a friend of mine who has a fair bit more experience as well as equipment, and use his spot meter and even his 10D (yes, a digital...) as a polaroid (the only good sue I have so far found for it... for that matter, why my friend bought it).
Why all this background? Well, I want you to know where I stand equipment wise, as I have been taking pictures for almost 20 years with varying degrees of involvement - but only recently have had the opportunity to develop and print my own, which gave me a new found drive to delve into this hobby in depth - more than ever.
Now, as you can see, that would make me a relative beginner with much to learn, so, where do I stand on the sunny 16 rule?
It is NOT a joke.
It DOES work.
It is NOT a spot meter, or a multi sensor, matrix, space age array of meters, either.
It IS a useful tool, providing it is understood and used properly.
Now, I shoot my film at the box speed and develop as per suggested times (unless I know I will need to push a roll). The reason for this, is that I am fairly new to the darkroom, and doing things this way for a while minimizes the variables that I may have to analyze in order to trace whatever mistakes I make. And as everyone knows, print film has a LOT of latitude, so I do make these comments keeping that in mind.
Sunny 16 works great providing you really understand what sunny-enough-for-16 really is. I find that, on average, maybe an hour out of one day in a week is truly sunny enough for sunny 16. Its not that the sunny 16 doesn't work, its just that its mainly NOT THAT SUNNY.
Also, I have recently had a discussion on another forum with a newcomer to this hobby who wanted to, and I quote "never use a light meter so that I can learn light like the greats". Well, sure... my answer to her was this:
That is like saying that a surgeon, in order to become truly great, should randomly cut people up wihtout reference or instruction, until he gets it right.
As we all know, a surgeon goes to school for 10 years, reads thousands of pages and consults hundreds of sources on the way to cutting open human beings successfully - AND keeps on learning every day of his career.
It should not be sunny 16 vs the meters. Read up on the zone system, read up on film capabilities and developing techniques. Use the meter, note the meter suggestions and wether you followed them - if yes why? if no - why?, note the conditions, note what things looked like - then see how the negs and eventual prints came out. This is to the photographer what med school is to the surgeon - no shame in it.
I think many people would have to concede that it was their definition of "sunny" that needed adjustment, not the rule. Also... sunny 16 is like a "matrix averaging" meter in many ways - you will have a decently exposed scene over all, but if you wanted to catch one detail (lets say an eye) you have to think - is it sunny where that detail is? The shadow from a baseball cap or even a nose can make it "cloudy" where the eye is... So you adjust.
Those at least, have been my experiences with sunny 16 - before and after I knew what it was called
Now, what is "f8 and be there"???