who has experience in shooting without using a light-meter

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i just start too learn to "see" how much light there is......i found therefore a very usefull internet link: http://www.fredparkerphotography.com/ultexp1.htm well...now i would be interested to listen to experiences from you shooting slides without metering them. with neg.material it shouldnt be any problem....as i see now the things.....

-- rainer viertlböck (viertl@navegalia.com), March 28, 2002


Knowing how to reason out a probable exposure is a useful skill, but mostly as a check on the accuracy of a hand meter, in my opinion. It's also useful to know how to bias exposure to the reflectance of your subject. But to learn mental metering, you'll have to waste a lot of material in tests and/or bracketing, or even worse, go home having failed to capture that beautiful light that may never come again. Using large format, you typically take a meter reading, think about it, adjust as necessary and set the aperture and shutter speed. This is a far cry from total camera automation and I think foregoing a meter imposes an unnecessary handicap on the process. The exception would be pinhole photography or other non-standardized processes where you have no choice but work out standards for yourself.

-- Steve Singleton (singleton1@bigfoot.com), March 28, 2002.

Well said, Steve. I could not agree more.

I can add that I used to enjoy a game with myself where I would estimate exposure before metering it to see how well I could do. This actually does have a use. In street photography where occassionally one sees a shot that does not offer the time for careful metering, one can make a quick guess and take a "wing shot" at fleeting moment. Then, if time allows, a more precise exposure can follow. I suppose this is no longer neccessary with point and shoot automation, though I have never embraced it and still don't trust a computer to do my thinking for me.

-- Ted Kaufman (writercrmp@aol.com), March 28, 2002.

I do this fairly often using my two old folding 35mm and 6x6cm cameras with good results, usually using B&W neg film, but I've done it with slide film as well. I have a few basic reference points for situations I tend to encounter often:

"Sunny 16" rule.

Average indoor lighting is about 1/30 sec. at f:2.0 at EI 400.

A brightly lit building outdoors at night is usually about 1/4 sec. at f:2.0 at EI 400.

Then I adjust from there (e.g., outdoors open up for a passing cloud, stop down for a highly reflective subject, etc.). Test yourself with a meter and shoot only slide film for a few years (I've done this when I haven't had darkroom access), and you'll get the hang of it, and you'll get better at metering when you do have a meter.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), March 28, 2002.

My first MF camera was a folding 6x4.5. I used to shoot slide film, guessing at exposure and distance. Worked pretty well, after a while.

And the "Sunny 16" rule doesn't work in high latitudes. I used "Sunny 11", at 60° north this gives about the correct exposure...

-- Ole Tjugen (oftjugen@online.no), March 30, 2002.

Many years ago before I was really serious about photography, a seasoned professional photographer who was also a friend of mine asked could he use the landing on the back of a building I worked in as a vantage point for some photography he was doing for a client.

He came in over a period of two days with a Hassleblad and film, but no meter. Before each shot he would look around at the sky and set the camera. I always remembered that as a skill worth learning.

There was a time when I considered a spot meter indispensible, but not any more. With practice, I've learned to estimate the correct reading using an ambient meter reading and then judging the various parts of the scene. This includes difficult situations such as sunsets/sunrises. Before all you ultra accurate zone system devotees start laughing too hard, my exposures are now quicker and at least as accurate as they were when I used a spot meter, and I use Velvia and RDP, two unforgiving films.

For anyone interested, I'd suggest starting by taking an ambient reading at the start of your day, and guess the exposure values for various scenes as the day progresses. You don't need your camera for this. Check your guesses with a spot meter. Most photographers who take exposure notes would surprise themselves at their accuracy.

This has become a situation where we have allowed spot meters to take control of a task which, with a little practice and patience we could easily do ourselves.

-- Michael Mahoney (mike.mahoney@nf.sympatico.ca), March 30, 2002.

I would agree this is a valuable skill, and one that will come in useful inevitably; I can think of three or more sessions where my meter batteries died, and I had no replacements; in these situations, having a solid idea of how to work out the exposure (based on sunny 16) always saved the work. Knowing the Sunny-16 rule (and as mentioned, modifying it for latitude) is invaluable, and it always surprises m how few photographers know of it.

-- Eric Boutilier-Brown (ericbb@evolvingbeauty.com), March 30, 2002.

You should read the account of how Ansel Adams shot "Moon Rise Hernendez in his Making of 40 Photographs or autobiography. Apparently, after rushing to set up and compose before the sun set, he could not find his exposure meter. He relied on his experience, remembering the value of the moon in foot/candels. From that, he was able to determin the proper exposure with filter factor. He had time to make one negative before the sun set.

Learning to rely on intuition and experience is very valuable and not as hard as you think. By making careful tests of film speed, keeping notes of each exposure, eventually you will develope that skill.

-- Rob Pietri (light@narrationsinlight.com), March 30, 2002.

interesting your answers......i am exercising at the moment all of the day and in buildings too...to control the average which i believe is the right one...controlling it with my meter. the idea, ( which gave my the link above and which i believe make the thing really easy, is to stop to think in the right exposure time and right focus and asa etc., better and easyer it seems to me to think ONLY in EV values for asa100 and than to calculate the exposure etc. for the film you are using actaully in the moment you shoot. to learn only one EV number for the different light situations is fast, cause there are only few numbers which have importance during a day. ae. ev15 for a sunny day, ev16 for a sunny day with white walls around or on snow....ev14 when the sun is little behind a dusty sky, ev13 when it is cloudly (thin clouds) ev12 cloudy ev11 sunset......etc. really worthfull to visit this linkpage, he describes a lot of light situations and this works very accurate. so worthfull to learn this...and really easy, its nearly incredible.

-- rainer viertlböck (viertl@navegalia.com), March 30, 2002.

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