The meter interprets everything as Zone V. Everything. Meter a black cat in a coal mine. Use the exposure the meter gives you and take its picture. Then leave the coal mine and go out into the noonday sun with no clouds and a ground full of freshly fallen snow. Meter the snow. Use the exposure the meter gives you and take a picture of the snow. When you develop these two negatives together for the same amount of time, the black cat and the snow will have the same densities.
Originally Posted by ann
When he metered the scene at 5.6 @ 1/200th and took the picture at that setting he was placing that low by default on Zone V. To place it on Zone III, he would've stopped down to f11. F8 would've yielded a Zone IV for his 'important low' and so on.
I remember taking a workshop with Bruce Barnbaum once and he said that light meters should all be called 'gray meters' because no matter what you meter you'll always get a Zone V gray. You have to interpolate to place the shadows where you want them to be.