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A way to better Learn exposure?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by WT21, Nov 23, 2011.

  1. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Just some thoughts. A bit of a rambling post, and not likely useful to real old-timer DSLR types, but might be worth a read for the serious amateur who is looking to get better in their understanding of exposure.

    The meter on my $35 Canonet died, so I was looking for a light meter alternative to a cleaning, repair and adjustment (CLA I think it's called) which typically runs $100-200. Well, light meters aren't much cheaper than a CLA (and the good ones actually cost more!), but you can get an app for your cell phone (iphone in my case). The one I got, which seems the most popular based on the research I did, is simply called "Light Meter" and it's free to download, and $0.99 to turn off the ads, which I did.

    So, I downloaded a list of EV ranges from wikipedia: and set off with my iPhone app, and checked EV100 readings wherever I went.

    Truth be told, it was very educational. As a base, I learned that daytime sky (without the sun directly in view) is an EV of about 14. A typical outdoor seen is maybe 12, and good lighting indoors is about EV 7-8. I also learned that outdoor scenes (let's say, shadowy trees vs. the sky) is about a 5-7 EV spread. Well, EV 7 to 14 is 7 stops! So, that's the difference between f/1.4 and f/16 (there abouts). So, other variables have to change. Dropping from a shutter speed of 1/4000 to 1/30 is about 7 stops, and radically changes the image, and can even introduce blur if you are shooting a lens long enough without IBIS or taking pics of faster moving subjects (assuming the aperture is constant here) . I never realized an outdoor exposure could be this broad.

    What I've come to the conclusion is, I'm not paying enough attention to ISO, as I leave that on Auto most of the time. Floating ISO I think isolates us from getting a better, intuitive feel of light and exposure, shutter speed and aperture. I've started fixing my ISO at 200 outside (I'd prefer 100, but I'm an m43 shooter! We don't need no stinkin' ISO100!) and 400 or 800 indoors. By choosing to fix my ISO, it's making me pay better attention to the interplay of aperture and shutter speed. More specifically, about what shutter speed I could expect to achieve indoors (because I'm mostly shooting wide open aperture indoors, so aperture is fixed, practically speaking).

    So, now I know I can expect to be around 1/30-1/60 second indoors with my 25/1.4 at a reasonable ISO (400 or 800). I hope to get better at narrowing it down intuitively, and might even get to the point where I'll venture into "M" shooting.

    Why would I do this? I've no idea really :) other than my Canonent's meter isn't working. But I still think, long term, I'll benefit as a photographer to have a better, intuitive grasp on exposure, but I'm finding that I have to de-auto my ISO setting to have any hope to get there.

    Like I said, just some random, rambling thoughts. Would love to hear your thoughts on how you are learning/improving your understanding of exposure.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  2. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Pavel
    Congratulations! It seems you have discovered the famous "Sunny f/16" rule all by yourself :)
     
  3. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    Are you being snarky :)

    I knew that rule, but I guess what I'm (probably unsuccessfully) trying to convey is that I want to move beyond mathematically calculating exposure, to getting to intuitive understanding of common exposure settings, and I'm finding auto ISO interferes with that.
     
  4. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Luke
    I understood what you were getting at. I'd love to achieve the same thing. Just eyeballing a scene and knowing what manual settings to use to get the shot you want. Wow, I'm a million miles away from that now. I think you're on the right path.
     
  5. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    The almost-sub-amateur here appreciates your post WT21, but my brain hurts a bit now.
     
  6. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Luke
    my understanding of exposure is limited to this. If it's winter and I'm shooting outside, I need to limit my exposure by wearing gloves.:rofl:
     
    • Like Like x 4
  7. krugorg

    krugorg Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 18, 2011
    Minnesota USA
    :rofl:

    You totally just made me think that I need to get some of those gloves with the removable fingers for shooting in cold weather. :cool:
     
  8. shnitz

    shnitz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    989
    Aug 25, 2011
    Austin, TX
    If you have some free cash lying around, go to a local camera store and buy an old meter-less camera like a Leica III. My great-grandfather never used a lightmeter with his, just pulled it out and shot. RT_Panther really has the right idea, going back to film, and if more newer photographers did this, there would be much less fundamental misunderstandings about photography (not saying that you're a new photographer, or that you have those misunderstandings, just speaking in general about some of the misinformation I've seen online in forums).
     
  9. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I have a Canonet (Canonet G-III QL17 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) with a broken meter, so I'm already there!
     
  10. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I used to work with a very intellectual guy who always wanted to go into the microscopic detail of what was occuring within the metal to explain why it failed the testing. Conversations I was willing to have, but at some point, I always asked "but how does this help us ship this order".

    Same thing with exposure these days. Yes, I think understanding the fundamentals of the interplay between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are important, but every modern camera has highly reliable metering built in. Why not use it?

    I don't see how having a "calibrated eyeball" and setting exposure manually "helps us ship this order".
     
    • Like Like x 1
  11. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    But the same could be asked about posting on this site, or even my taking pictures for myself. It's not about efficiency, but about what you enjoy, IMO.
     
  12. I find the ability to manually calculate exposure as something that is nice to know but is no longer necessary to know. With some experience you'll learn roughly what ISO and aperture may be required to give a reasonable shutter speed in difficult lighting conditions. Combined with a bit of knowledge of how each metering mode works and when each one is appropriate, auto-exposure is reliable enough to trust it to do it's job especially with an accurate preview available through live-view or even the live histogram.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Luke
    Maybe this analogy works and maybe it doesn't. But I think a thorough understanding of lighting and being able to read it with the eyeball vs. the great automatic metering could be viewed as similar to the mature violinist performing a piece with years of experience and emotion vs. a child prodigy who can play every note on the page technically perfect and yet it still doesn't convey the same emotion.

    Not a perfect analogy because the auto metering may very likely choose the same settings, but I think the old musician who plays the notes and imbues them with his feeling probably gets more out of it than the performer who can technically play back a piece exactly the same each time.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  14. peterbee

    peterbee Mu-43 Veteran

    226
    Nov 2, 2011
    Huddersfield, UK
    Peter Bartlett
    I've enjoyed this thread. At the risk of showing my age I learned about exposure, many years ago using, first with an old Halina 35X and then two Praktikas (a Nova 1b and an L) neither of which had built in meters.

    With all modern cameras having auto metering I can understand how difficult it is for new photographers in the modern era to learn about exposure, depth of field and so on.

    WT21's solution and research is an excellent means of getting a grip of this issue. Well done.
     
  15. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    An intimate understanding light, the practical and visual properties of light, will take you to the next level of photography. That level is seeing the light, seeing and categorizing the light quality of all the light, not just the light reflected off your subject. By 'eyeballing' the light, you are seeing what the camera sees. You instinctive know your basic settings without touching the camera and now you're mentally working out ISO, focal length, aperture, shutter speed to obtain a previsualized image based upon your mental measurement of the light. Once you have started looking at the light, not just the reflected light ... you can start the dance and begin quantifying light. The next time you are at large fountain that is being hit with late afternoon (directional) light ... slowly do a 360 around the fountain and closely observe how the water droplets and light interplay with your viewing angle.

    62032945_YwXAt-L.

    Exceptional and constantly exceptional photography is not mathematics ... it is a dance. It is a dance between yourself, the camera and the light. Your dance will be better when you can feel the music, the beat resonating in your body then if you're dance reading the notes off a piece of sheet music. So too with photography. The ability to mentally grasp the light is the first step in that dance.

    Gary
     
    • Like Like x 4
  16. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    This is not about shipping ... this is not about a computer perfect picture. This is about capturing the exceptional photograph ... this is about the human touch in our digital world ... this is about expanding your photograph into an artistic expression.

    Gary
     
  17. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    SoCal
    Strat is right ... you have begun the dance ... all on your own. Congratulations!

    Gary
     
  18. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Luke
    "I won't Dance"
    [ame=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGwcg4g-1Ik]I Won't Dance - Frank Sinatra - YouTube[/ame]
     
  19. avidone

    avidone Mu-43 Top Veteran

    520
    Jun 24, 2011
    Rome, Italy
    I did this recently with a Fed 2a I got off EBay for like 20 euro, loaded it up with fujicolor 200 and made a little simplified excel sheet for sunny 16 and useful variants and printed it as a cheat-sheet. My only meter was my eyes. And, yes I know the film has a decent latitude, but still, I must say all the pics came out at least OK.

    Only problem is, I rediscovered what a hassle and cost it is to buy film/ load film/ take across town for processing, keep going back to be told it will be there the next day, then finally a week later pay 10 euro for negatives, 10x15 prints and a Cd-rom of jpegs.

    anyway, it was satisfying to see that you don't NEED all the high-tech to get decent pictures, but I think I will stick mostly to digital
     
  20. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I started shooting film to get "affordable" full frame, but with development and digitization costs, it's not much cheaper than a Canon 5D + a FF lens, lol.

    Still, the Canonet is more pocketable than a 5D, and the feel of film is, IMO, different than digital too. But the workflow is a pain, and the learning (how did that picture come out?) is a bit divorced from the instant of the snap.