- Date taken:
- Needham, MA
- The B&W image promised in the discussions in this thread:
Taken in 1972 - Kodak Pan X, ASA 125 and probably developed in D76. Camera - Minolta SRT 101 with a Rokker 50mm (gone but not forgotten ;) ) This is one of the first still life images I ever tried to execute way back then - and trying to learn exposure values from natural light.
Simply a B&W film image.
This is for @yhattara, @Flyer01 and anyone else who may be interested...1 18 May 2014
OK – let’s see if we can’t figure this out – the goal being to capture as much “range” in B&W as possible, show dynamic contrast – and minimize post-processing on any image. Ready?
First – we have to understand these simple truths:
First – all camera light meters are either lazy – or they lie. Sorry – but, I mean it. Most in-camera meters average light across the entire image – and deliver up the “optimal settings for what it thinks is a value of 18% grey (reflectance value). So – in that way – it is “lazy”. It also “lies”. For example – if you are a wedding photographer and meter on the brides white dress – guess what happens? The groom’s black tux is irretrievably “lost” in the shadows – and that “white dress” is mid-tone grey. Don’t believe me? Meter a landscape with a lot of white snow… The snow is now grey, right? So – do NOT trust the light meter entirely – and rather – use it as a guide to shoot "what you see” and what you want the audience to "see".
Second – AND THIS IS TRUE FOR FILM NEGATIVE SHOOTERS ONLY (not slides/film positives)! - photographers who use negative film actually have an advantage! Understand – that you can “overexpose” a bit keep some detail in the shadows – AND, unlike digital, can “adjust” your processing to maintain the highlights (and why most professional digital photographers shoot RAW, as there is more information in the shadows/highlights that can be processed in software). That’s exactly what I did in the image in this thread. I used the old saying “Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights”. That’s what I want to walk you through…
Third – as a film shooter – each combination of film and development chemicals/temps/times will impact the final negative – so, I need you to establish a “baseline” for each film and development recipe. In other words – shoot a roll using the cameras meter (or whatever you use) – and develop it using what will become your “standard”. These will be your reference images – so when you play with exposures – you will know EXACTLY the effect in the final print. All done with that? Awesome… How do you do that? Simply like this:
- I want you to find scenes that you typically shoot – and shoot them! BUT – I want you to shoot each at the following exposure (on a tripod): -2, -1, 0, +1 +2 – and make notes on the light conditions. In other words – soft light (early AM, late afternoon); direct light (full sun); natural in-direct light (shade or cloudy day); diffused light (a “grey, overcast day); etc. You can shoot different scenes every 5 exposures – BUT – you have to keep a record, as the record will tell you your baseline. Record light type, light meter reading and your ISO/shutter speed and f/stop for each frame.
- Next – and this is critical – develop the roll exactly the way you intend to develop your images in the future for that film. Don’t alter a thing – developer, temps, time, etc. Again – we are working to a set of reference images.
- Finally – I need you to “read your negatives”. Too thick, they are over-exposed and too "thin" - they are underexposed. What you are looking for is the “best negative and exposure” that retains as much information as possible. Overall – the negative is too “thick” (very "dense" in the highlights)– it’s over-exposed.. Overall it’s too “thin” (the color of the film substrate) – it’s underexposed. So – you’ll quickly understand both metering and how to adjust your light-meter given the available light – and yes – you can do all that on a 36 EXP roll of film..!
So, what I’ve done in this “revision” (SEE THE REVISION AT THE END OF THIS POST! - NOT THE ONE ABOVE!) I just uploaded is overlaid the grey scale – and matched it to areas of the final image. Zone #1 is absolute black with no or very little detail, #2 is shadow near black with only “texture” and no discernible detail, #3 is discernible shadow texture/detail, etc.. #5 is pretty close to what your camera sees as 18% grey while #9 is pure white with irretrievable highlights. OK – so that’s the scale…
So – in my image in this thread – the camera probably originally “metered” 18% grey reflectance as a full stop less than I wanted, given the light and overwhelming “lighter” areas (measured by both overall area and reflectance values in the larger area measured). So – let’s move that “scale” by adjusting exposure. In this case – I wanted more shadow detail in the background, so I “over-exposed” (+1 stop more in light) the image by a stop – as it was “natural light” (see below). Great in theory – BUT – you should ask won’t I lose all the ZONE 8 detail as it will push it into Zone 9? Nope…
Let’s go back to your reference images – and process this NEW roll and adjust development times (develop for the highlights). So, we know that:
In natural light - Increase exposure time buy adding +1 to exposure and cut the development time by a total of around 20% (we don’t want to “over process” and blow out the highlight);
And – in strong direct light with strong shadows and harsh highlights – we need to Increase exposure +1.5 stops and the cut the development time by a total of around 33%.
And – if it’s diffused light (a “grey day”) shoot whatever your reference image says…
Got all that?
Hi John. This may be your first still life shot but you made a great job of it. Good focus. exposure, clarity and contrast. Great shot. Mike.18 May 2014