Metering against the light : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I would appreciate hearing from landscape photographers about the techniques they use when metering in situations when the lens is facing the light source (sun) frontally or at a sharp angle. Thanks

-- Julio Fernandez (, November 19, 2000


For backlit subjects, I take an incident reading directly toward the sun and an incident reading directly away from the sun--and split the difference, erring a little over or under depending on the color and nature of the subject.


-- Micah (, November 19, 2000.

Another way is to spot-measure the zone that you want to be medium- toned, for example a part of the sky in a sunset or a hillside in an aireal perspective. It works well, takes some practice however. You will probably be forced to take a split neutral-density filter. If you measure in the dark part of the filter, don't forget to take the filter factor into account.

-- Tom Castelberg (, November 20, 2000.

Julio try this : take an incident reading towards your subject, then open by 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop. Sounds crazy but works very well for me.

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (, November 20, 2000.

Julio, I do a fair bit of b/w coastal photography some of which include the rising or setting sun. I don't of course meter the suns disc (this would only terrify one), but the surrounding sky with a spot meter. This is placed quite high on the exposure scale (eg. zone X) and dev. is cut-back by as much as 40%. Any discrepancies are taken into account at the printing stage. Regards,

-- Trevor Crone (, November 20, 2000.

For sunset/sunrises/clouds or sky-in-general, I point my incident meter with flat diffuser disk towards the sun/clouds/sky-in-general and close by 3 f-stops! I have no idea why my compensation is so different from Jean-Marie's but it works every time ;-)

For backlit subjects (e.g. light falling through leaves of a tree) I meter pointing towards the camera and close by 2 f-stops.

-- Andreas Carl (, November 23, 2000.

My understanding is that if metering towards light you meter as much light as possible, thus get the smallest aperture possible. Then compensating for backlit subjects needs opening, not closing. That's the way F16 rule works, although the figures are different from what I use. I cannot comment on using flat disc and metering towards the sun for sunrise/sunset/clouds as in this case I'd rather spot metering a zone I wish to be rendered mid tone. But for backlit landscape, metering towards the light source + opening 1/2 to 2/3 stop OR metering towards the camera + closing 2 stops can give very close (not very different)results. I'll check that tomorrow morning if there is some sunshine!

-- Jean-Marie Solichon (, November 23, 2000.

Hi Jean - I apologize, I should have read more carefully. The difference between sun light and open shade is typically 3 f-stops, therefore measuring the light source (sun) and then opening about 1 stop is indeed very similar to metering the shade and closing 2 stops. For example if the direct sunlight reading gives 1/125 f16 (typical for E.I.100) you would open (a bit less than) one stop and expose 1/125 f11 for backlit tree leaves. I would measure the shade and get a reading of 1/125 f5.6, then underexpose 2 stops and also get 1/125 f11.

The first paragraph of my response was about taking pictures of the actual light source (for example sky) - which requires 3 stops under exposure in my experience.

-- Andreas Carl (, November 24, 2000.

Julio, I somewhat rushly assumed you were talking about backlit subjects, but perhaps you had landscapes (i.e. wide open spaces) in mind, where the sun just happens to come in from a steep angle in front of the lens. In this case, NO COMPENSATION is needed! For wide open spaces, I meter the light source (i.e. point the meter towards the sun) and that's it. The landscape will always look the same, no matter which direction you point the camera too.

Think about a foot ball field where you take 4 pictures, one from each side. The field looks the same from each side, so the exposure should be the same!!! (The "famous rule" to point the meter towards the camera is plain wrong in these cases)!

-- Andreas Carl (, November 24, 2000.

Thanks to all respondents to my questions. I shall be trying some of your suggestions. In open sky situations I have used a similar method to Trevor's and that worked fine. With the sun behind trees but not totally shielded by trees I was not quite sure which of the various options was best and my results were variable. You have suggested other options and that was precisely what I had hoped for. Many thanks.

-- Julio Fernandez (, November 29, 2000.

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