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Thread: Spot meter technique with E6

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    Spot meter technique with E6

    Hey all, thought I'd ask this question here first:

    Just wanting to try get my head around how you all use your spot meter when using e6 film when shooting under high contrast conditions. I'm talking specifically about exposing for a scenes where there needs to be detail in the sky but the foreground / landscape meters significantly darker. If one wants to maintain the natural ambience of the scene and still have useable detail in the foreground, what is the most commonly used technique to get the best of both worlds while maintaining enough highlight detail to not blow out?

    For example, this photo attached:

    The sky was actually a really impressive, red sunset. It metered about 1/8th at f16 while the foreground metered 1/8th at f4.0. I basically metered the foreground with a handheld meter and took a spot reading from the sky. I then exposed around 1/8th at f5.6/8 as I wanted to maintain a little detail in the the foreground...

    How would you have exposed this scene? Am I mental? How would you calculate things with a spot meter?

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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Oops, here's the attachment:
    Last edited by tjv; 7th January 2012 at 01:23.

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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    To be honest, there is really not so much you can do in these very contrasty situations. Slide film has a very small dynamic range -- maybe 4-5 stops. The only way around this is to meter for the midtones you want and let the shadows go black and the highlights white. The only other real options are neutral grads (which is why so many landscape photographers use them when they shot E6) or to find a less contrasty light.

    Anyway, I tend to prefer to use a narrow center weighted meter, like the one in Leica M's and in the Hasselblad 203FE...I generally put that along the horizon, and it will give me an average of the sky and the foreground like you did there. There is not really much more you could have done -- if you opened up more you would have a completely washed out sky, and if you stopped down further, you would have no foreground detail. Some photos just don't work well on E6...or you could have used fill flash, but that is again another deal entirely...
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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Thanks Stuart, I appreciate you response.
    I was actually inspired to ask this question after looking at some of your landscapes in the Fun With Film thread. They are very well exposed in what looks like similar conditions. Funny you mention the M metering pattern, as it's the best I've used because it's so utterly predictable and has given me the most consistent results in the past. I always employed the technique you describe.

    Fill flash was a possibility, and I tend to think that although it would have flattened out the foreground on a shot like this, done subtly it could have helped maintain the sky detail and colour without breaking too much of the ambience / feel in the foreground.

    Grad filters are a no no for me. Just don't have time, but if were to be doing landscapes more often they would be essential.

    As an aside, how does one test the dynamic / contrast range of a film to ascertain when highlights blow out and shadows plug up? I think the best thing for me to do would be to conduct some controlled tests with the films I use so I can more confidently find proper settings in the field and diagnose mistakes on the light table. Nothing better than seeing things for yourself rather than being told what to do.

    Thanks again.
    Tim

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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Yes, shooting is really the best cure. My first camera was a canon S30 digital. My next was a 20 year old Canon film camera with slide film, and that is how I learned how to take real photos. Just shooting slides a lot and gives you a feel for what you can get away with. But there are definitely certain times when it just does not work that well. In general, it does not do backlit very well. I agree with you about grads though -- I find them a pain, and for some reason I feel like they are cheating. I know that that is pretty ridiculous, but I really like capturing a pure, unfiltered image and then doing as little editing as possible, but if I will edit, I would rather do it post-exposure.

    The best advice I can give would be to try a few different films and get the feel for them. Astia and films like EPP and EPN have the widest dynamic range in E6 because of their lower contrast. I find Astia particularly good in the Mamiya since it has such contrasty lenses. Next best are E100G and the Provias -- they are good general purpose films. Velvia 50, 100, 100F and Kodak E100VS are very contrasty, and the Mamiya 7 lenses render these films as REALLY contrasty on a sunny day. Best to keep them in your bag and only take them out for the most overcast days.

    Other than that, exposing a little under with slide film is generally more pleasant to look at than a little over, but you might reverse this if you mostly scan film, and as long as you can hold the highlights -- scanners don't really like dark slides...

    Whatever you do with slides, you need to find something and stick to it. You really have to be consistent in your technique with slides, otherwise you are never going to get them right. Like you said, the M camera meters are so great because they are NOT complex, multi zone etc. They are always the same from the M6 to the M9, every one is the same with every lens. The Hasselblad 203FE is basically identical too, and it is no coincidence that I find it easiest to shoot slides with those cameras.
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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Tim,

    Now there are so many great negative films that could handle this DR so much better it may behoove you to invest in a good light meter Sekonic 758 that will allow you to maximize your chances to capture as much as possible...profile the films and maximize your captures.

    I personally love positive film on a light box but prefer negative film as it allows for more latitude in exposure and capture.

    If you put in the effort.....controlled environment in the studio will alllow positive film excellence. However the majority of landscape situations with the exception of cloudy rainy overcast days ( which is why the UK landscape photographers have such a great ability to show wonderful captures ) will benefit from the larger DR of negative film. Find a good emulsion and use it to your advantage in these situations.

    Bob

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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Don't listen to Bob! Color negative films are the way of the Devil!

    hahaha, kidding of course, but I really do have to say that for me, color is E6 or digital. I just hate the look of color neg -- the grain, the colors etc...
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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    There are E6 films which have wider exposure latitude than others, like Fuji Astia. A good rule of thumb for holding highlight detail with a spot meter is to expose two stops in from any highlight reading that you want to hold detail. Doing an ambient reading will also help to make a decision around the equation of blocked shadows vs blown highlights. An afternoon with a roll of Velvia in a 35mm camera with a notepad and a spot meter will be time well spent if E6 is your thing....

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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Seems like you all have confirmed the way I've been working all along as "good technique." It's not that I miss the mark wildly a lot, just sometimes the images on the light table don't match up to my memory of taking them.

    I've shot Astia almost exclusively for six years with good results but find myself becoming more and more pedantic about the finer points of exposure, especially under harsh local conditions where I often fail to capture exactly what I have in my minds eye. Astia is a beautiful film, my absolute favorite. I also use Provia 400X when needed, and often push it several stops with excellent results and tonality. I really don't like C-41 films for my own work, the reasons being the same as Stuart has outlined above. Grain aliasing is a real problem with scanned neg, not so it seems with E6. I also prefer Fuji colour over Kodak. I love Kodak colour in other peoples work, but in mine I feel things look too nostalgic and peachy. I prefer the Fuji greens and blues and the way it reacts under low, cool light.

    I'm very much in need of a Sekonic L-758D light meter to replace / compliment my battered 308s. I feel it will help me diagnose situations quicker.

    It's amazing, after almost 10 years of photographing professionally I'm still learning.

  10. #10
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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Find and read some of the older Sinar literature on exposure latitude in transparency films. 2.3 stops above middle gray is the cutoff for detail in the highlight end of transparency film for all practical purposes. A bit more or less depending on the film but that is for experimentation and controlled testing to tweak it.

    Some push/pull and dilution of chemistry can work but involves even more testing to get it right.

    Sinar has/had some of the finest information out there on precision metering for shooting film intolerant of mistakes.

    In addition, check out SinghRay split neutral density filters for the type of subject matter you are thinking of. Not a perfect solution but much of the time it can help a lot.

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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    I just bought 23 rolls of Fujichrome Sensia 100 at a shamefully low clearance price (in date). This discussion has caught my eye because I asked a similar question over at Rff.

    I have an M5, which has a semi-spot meter (8% of center I believe). And I knew I would have to modify my metering from what I do with C-41 or BW films. And metering the Mid-Tones with a small sample of some highlight in the metered area was what I thought might be a good starting point, not to blow out important highlights. Is this what I am understanding so far?

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    Re: Spot meter technique with E6

    Yes, that is usually a good method. Or find a dark and a highlight next to each other and put it right between (this works well with horizons). Otherwise I would just say get a good feel for what 18% gray looks like (in colors as well as gray)...that will really help you the most. Otherwise it is good to just focus on a general midtone you want to be right, and just meter for that. It does not take too long though to figure out what are the areas to meter. I would recommend trying to shoot a whole roll and get it processed very quickly though, so you can still remember how you metered by the time you see the results...at least until you get a hang of it.
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