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04-26-2015, 09:09 AM   #1
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Spot meter

I have a light meter which also has a spot meter for Pentax 67.

Actually, I'm not sure how to use it properly.

For me, I look at the scene with my camera and then meter the white, black, and mid tones for average exposure. I metered more than 5 spots together for better exposure.

Is it correct way to use the spot meter?

04-26-2015, 09:32 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by sunshine7913 Quote
Is it correct way to use the spot meter?
That is one way. Purists would hold that correct usage would be to meter with the intent to record the metered areas to particular values (Zone System). The spot meter is a specialized tool and is most useful when you have particular goals in mind. A good book on exposure might be helpful.


Steve
04-27-2015, 01:20 AM   #3
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As Steve says, the spot meter and the zone system tend to go hand-in-hand. Personally, I'm of the opinion that at least a basic understanding of the zone system is useful for any photographer. Here's a pretty good introduction from Luminous Landscape: https://luminous-landscape.com/zone-system/

The book that I personally found most helpful in developing my own understanding of the zone system is "Examples: The Making of Forty Photographs" by Ansel Adams. No better way to learn than to have the great man himself show you exactly how he made the exposure decisions for some of his most famous photographs.
06-15-2015, 12:41 AM   #4
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The purpose of a spot meter is to sort out areas of the scene with different levels of luminance, or simply metering bright areas vs the darker areas and averaging them. One does not need an understanding of the Zone System for roll film exposure and for many beginners it is their point of undoing leading to frustration and inconsistent results. Leave all that Uncle Ansel stuff behind, and instead work from your excellent standpoint, thus:

"...white, black, and mid tones for average exposure. I metered more than 5 spots together for better exposure. Is it correct way to use the spot meter?"

Yes. Then average all the readings you took. You can ascertain a mid-tone more accurately if you spot meter a grey card first and include that in the meter's memory before averaging. The grey card must be in the same light as the scene. Spot/multispot metering is the bomb in contrasty light -- far more reliable (in experienced hands) than relying on an onboard meter.

I recommend you come to grips with a roll of transparency film. This suggestion may seem cruel given that transparency film is less forgiving of exposure variations than say colour negative or B&W film. But there is method in the madness! The narrow latitude of transparency film will arm you with valuable information when it comes back for viewing on the lightbox. Small errors of plus or minus half a stop may pass unnoticed. But errors of 1 to 1.5 stops will be very noticeable (either too bright or too dark) compared to negative film. You can experiment with individual slide films by deliberating over- and under- exposing, then pushing yourself to "nail" the correct exposure with discriminate metering technique as per your line above ("...white, black, and mid tones for average exposure. I metered more than 5 spots together for better exposure."). Never be discouraged by any major mistakes when it's all part of the learning experience!




06-15-2015, 01:13 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Silent Street Quote
"...white, black, and mid tones for average exposure. I metered more than 5 spots together for better exposure. Is it correct way to use the spot meter?"

Yes. Then average all the readings you took.
You can do that, but it is more complicated than need be in my humble opinion.

As for Ansel Adams (he's your uncle? Fascinating!)...there is an old anecdote regarding Edward Weston and Adams. Adams, as many of us know was the consummate technician and was capable of quickly evaluating a subject, taking a meter reading, and with appropriate darkroom work working from field notes, end up with the print he originally visualized. Weston, on the other hand was known to walk around his subject for some time, pointing his meter (not spot) in various directions, scratch his head, point his meter at a few other places and eventually make the exposure. This used to drive Adams crazy (they were neighbors and often shot together) to the point that he eventually bought Weston a spotmeter and densitometer along with pertinent books and reference materials as a gift. Legend has it that all were found after Weston's unfortunate early death, unopened.

I don't know that anyone has ever complained that Weston's work could have benefited from better attention to exposure or was sloppy in any way. Cartier-Bresson, OTOH...


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06-15-2015, 04:05 PM   #6
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The procedure I outlined is very straightforward and uncomplicated, and widely practised here in Australia amongst MF, LF, and ULF practitioners, when finalisation of exposure analysis is left to the meter rather than the mental gymnastics of the Zone System (particularly for roll film). A few people follow the Zone System; their resulting work has not actually told me the Zone System is any better or worse than a straightforward approach to metering, just a different method, the same one Ansel Adams refined (not discovered!).
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