Monday, September 21, 2009

The end of summer

The end of summer

After staring at them online for about 6 months, I finally bought myself a used incident light meter on craigslist a few weeks ago. An incident meter tells you how much light is falling on the subject, as opposed to the meter inside of your camera which tells you how much light is reflecting from the subject back into the lens (AKA reflective metering). I’ve been experimenting with the meter for the last few weeks and I absolutely love it. I can see in f-stops and shutter speeds now, and I feel like anything is possible!

There is also this old thing called the "Sunny 16 Rule" which states that on a sunny day, at f/16, the shutter speed is equal to 1/ISO. So for a good exposure at ISO 100, your settings on a sunny day would be f/16, 1/100 sec. I guess that this is how the real old timers would do it…way before the dawn of DSLRs and one-third stops and indoor plumbing...

So I took a meter reading at ISO 100 and f/8 and got a shutter speed of 1/500 sec. And that is the picture in front of you, straight from the camera. (Just to see if the meter was worth it, I set my camera to aperture priority at f/8 and used the internal reflective meter and it gave me a shutter speed of 1/200 sec...which would have been more than 1 stop overexposed!) Later, it dawned on me that I could have done this much more simply. Let’s see…f/8 to f/11 to f/16 gives me 2 stops less light…and 1/500 to 1/250 to 1/125 sec gives me 2 stops more light…so if I shot this at f/16 and 1/125 sec that would also be a perfect exposure. And that is pretty darn close to the sunny 16 rule!

Now don’t get me wrong, my meter is cool and all, but I could have done the exact same thing with just the old standby techniques. However, lighting on location with off-camera flash is a different story entirely, and will be the topic of my next post…

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