Exposure for monochrome films.

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Keith Tapscott., Nov 19, 2013.

  1. Keith Tapscott.

    Keith Tapscott. Member

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    There have been countless theads and dicussions about film exposure and the zone-system and BTZS threads over the years, while others use incident meters, sunny 16 or one of the exposure guides available such as these. http://www.blackcatphotoproducts.com/guide.html along with calibrations etc.
    I thought it would be interesting and fun to ask the folks here on APUG which method you use and why? :smile:
     
  2. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member

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    I usually tend to reduce the rated ISO index by 1/3rd so say FP4 which is rated at 125ISO I rate at 100 then pull the development by about 45 seconds. (Using Rodinal at 1-50 dilution). This reduces the contrast but lets me have a bit more shadow detail.

    I have always thought that film was always speed over rated anyway. When the original Ilford FP3 came out it was 64ISO (ASA in those days) and almost overnight the rating went up 100% to 125 but the development times didn't. I always get better negs when I slightly over expose.

    I only use the inbuilt meter on the camera with the exception of my Bronica ETRSi which doesn't have on then I use a Weston Euromaster with incident light invercone attached.

    Although it wasn't asked, these changes with speed ratings only apply to monochrome, with colour - any type I always use the stated rating
     
  3. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    The more important the photos, the more I lean toward an incident meter.

    An incident meter provides reliable and objective reference points for me. From there the question is only; do I want my subject to fall dark, light, or normal in relation to this reading?

    When using a reflective meter there is an extra step, I need to figure out what is the meter seeing and decide how that relates to the subject (what offset?) then ask; do I want my subject to fall dark, light, or normal in relation to that offset?
     
  4. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    I use my own variant of the Zone System.

    I use a spot meter to place shadows and measure important mid and high tones so I can decide on a development scheme. I would rather build up contrast in the darkroom than by using expansions, however, and rarely use anything more than N+1.

    I determine my working E.I. by printing test negatives which I evaluate visually. I end up purposely overexposing much of the time in order to place the subject luminances on the straight(er) portion of the film curve, so my negs are often dense. They print as I wish, however, and that's the point of the Zone System. 320Tri-X is a film that has a very long toe and the shadows often benefit from overexposure. Other films can be exposed closer to box speed, but also benefit from the "lift" that overexposing a bit gives the shadow values. Minimum exposure is not always optimum exposure, especially if you are using LF film and have your camera on a tripod all the time anyway. Handheld smaller formats are another story.

    It helps to know your equipment, film and what results you desire...

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  5. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Member

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    BTZS all the way ,because it is the most accurate I've ever tried.however.I must mention that I'm extremrly impressed with Nikon's matrix metering system, and I still want to try to take a reading with a Nikon DSLR and transfer the measurement to an analog camera.I never triedbut have great hopes for this mehod to work. short of all of that an incident meter rarely disappoints.
     
  6. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    I am using the principles of the zone system, using expansion and occasionally contraction, from N-1 to N+2, with about 60% exposures at N. My use of contraction and expansion is focused not so much on the tonal extremes, which are relatively easy to manipulate in the darkroom, but rather on the local contrast, which I find easier to establish at exposure time. The films I use handle wide ranges quite well, however, I feel my photographs look better when printed around grades 2-3.5, nowadays, than when I used to print harder, in the past.

    I scan a scene with a Pentax Spotmeter, building a mental image of the values, as I make a decision as to the placement and the development.
     
  7. OP
    OP
    Keith Tapscott.

    Keith Tapscott. Member

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    I also find the metering systems in modern 35mm Cameras and the TTL metering of DSLR Cameras to be very good.

    How do you use your hand meter with BTZS? I assume it is an incident meter rather than a spotmeter?

    Thanks to all the replies so far.
     
  8. Mark_S

    Mark_S Subscriber

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    I shoot mostly outdoors, in available light. I shoot almost exclusively HP5+ I mostly shoot LF, and use a spotmeter. I determine exposure by metering in the shadow areas where I want to retain detail. I place these shadow areas in Zone IV, accepting the box speed of the film, which seems to be a bit optimistic - the net result is that I tend to have acceptable density in the shadows. I then meter my highlights to determine my development. Almost always I develop for normal contrast - I will make a note if the scene is either really flat or exceptionally contrasty to start with something other than N development. I expose both sides of the film holder identically and then develop one side - and examine the highlights on the negative to see if I have decent detail there - if the highlights look too thin, I develop the other sheet for longer, if too dense, I develop the other sheet shorter, and if the negative looks pretty good, I develop the other sheet the same as I did the first one, and I get two copies of the same neg.
     
  9. Simon Howers

    Simon Howers Member

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    Keith, as a general rule, the smaller the format the more sensitive the metering will be (see Roger Hicks on this subject). I shoot exclusively LF - mostly WP. I always take an incident reading as a baseline value. Then I look for the area in the shot which I want to be mid grey and take a reflected reading. Then factor in any filter value. Finally I take a look at the scene and evaluate what I want the final print to look like i.e. what values do I wish to emphasise and which printing process I intend for the output. This works for me because I stick to a single film FP4+ and a single development process; thus I can easily predict the outcomes. Aim for the consistency which will allow you to control the process - unless, of course, you prefer surprises!
     
  10. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    +1
    Exactly! The mid-tones and the local contrast have top priority for me as well. I am aware when I expose that I may have to do some tricky dodging and burning (I even notate this along with my projected paper grade in my exposure record). I, however, find that printing a bit harder (grades 3 and 4) is especially gratifying for lower-contrast subjects or subjects that need more local contrast and have tailored my development regimes for these situations to print on grade 3 as a starting point.

    BTW, I love the expression, "building a mental image of the values as I make a decision..." That is real essence of applying the Zone System; visualizing the scene and your desired results and knowing how to use the variables in the system to achieve this.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  11. baachitraka

    baachitraka Member

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    Incident meter: (one shadow reading + one highlight reading) / 2.0

    If no shadow, simulate one. Nothing can go wrong.

    You can also read markbarendt's primer on incident metering.
     
  12. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Which Method: Zone system
    Why: Gets the results I want (usually)

    RR
     
  13. bob01721

    bob01721 Member

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    What Regular Rod said. It works!
     
  14. darkroommike

    darkroommike Subscriber

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    I have an old Sekonic incident meter that is my go to meter for walking around with a camera, it's smaller than my LunaPro's and as you said there's no need to find a reference point. I usually use a fairly conservative EI of 2/3 or 1/2 the ISO rating (depending on the film) since I like shadow detail.
     
  15. Kawaiithulhu

    Kawaiithulhu Subscriber

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    I'm pretty basic: either I'm using an SBC in incident mode for larger formats, or a center-weighted reflected metering paying attention to avoid covering too much of the sky.
    If I know it's going to be a "hot" day on lighting I'll set the 35mm camera to one stop up so the shadows won't completely block up.
    I'm more interested in getting an image of the scene as it exists than forcing an artistic vision on its rendition, so your mileage may vary.

    Just think of it as a crude Zone system where I only want to pick the middle gray in my process...
     
  16. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hi Kawaiithulhu,

    Are you still using a vintage Weston 715?
     
  17. Kawaiithulhu

    Kawaiithulhu Subscriber

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    Those tiny numbers are hard on my eyes these days, without swapping glasses off and on. Presbyopia is annoying! SBC has a big needle and display :smile:
    I've got a couple older meters like that, wonderful bakelite designs and heavy as bricks, but with tiny little numbers...
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Box speed with the camera's internal meter. On rare occasions box speed with an incident meters
     
  19. Maris

    Maris Member

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    My strategy is borrowed from Fred Picker who advocated maximum useable exposure. No, not maximum possible exposure: maximum useable. The highlights have to be just short of blocking up. Development is targeted at a middling contrast so that variable contrast paper can do the N+1, N-1, etc manouvres that used to be the heart of the Zone System. The basic idea is to fill the negative with the most information it can carry about subject luminances.
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    And with the wide latitude of today's negative film, using box speed will put the meter reading, incident or reflective, properly taken, in the center of that wide latitude. The problem may well be getting the wide range of negative densities on to the narrow range for paper densities. For that one needs to know darkroom techniques.
     
  21. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    This works just fine if grain is not a concern. For sheet-film users it's an easy way to get a lot of info on the negative without obsessing over metering a lot. In some cases, especially with low-contrast subjects, the final exposure can be two-three stops more than "minimum" exposure might be. For smaller film users (even me with 4x5) this might result in more grain than desired. Also, if I remember correctly, Fred Picker used N and N+2 development schemes, compensating for the overexposure of extreme low-contrast scenes by placing the high value two-stops lower and then expanding during development.

    For me, it's easy to meter a shadow value and simply base exposure on that when shooting LF. If I'm in doubt, I'll give more exposure just to be certain. For small camera and film with an averaging meter I shoot at the meter setting, adding a stop or two for contrasty situations (averaging meters will underexpose in contrasty situations). I've never had a use for incident metering since most of my work is outdoors with subjects farther away and reflected-light meters, especially spot meters, seem to me to be more appropriate tools.

    As for development, I find I use expansions and contractions less than before, not because I've discovered the benefits of VC paper, but because I've found that most contraction negatives don't print that well. I'd rather wrestle with a too-contrasty neg for a better final print. That said, I do use up to N-2 contractions in some cases, just less than before. I don't like to go more than N+1 on the expansion side due to the increase in graininess, even with 4x5 film. I'll build contrast in other ways if I need to later, even using bleach-redevelop if I really need a lot more contrast.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  22. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Mee too, I find that monochrome films have about seven stops latitude, and it's difficult to produce an unprintable negative although I know the ideal is a neg. that when placed on newsprint you can read the print through the highlights and the shadows
     
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