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Thread: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

  1. #1

    Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    Howdo all,

    Colour Temperture Meters - are they really worth having for landscape photography?

    While I have shot plenty of colour E6 4x5 and rollfilm, I've never really been a position to use filters beyond that of a polariser and UV. However, I will be in places (mountains and desert) where colour temperatures are potentially going to vary more than I'm used to. I'll be expecting to use warming and cooling filters and have figured that a good guess may be okay for this type of photography (rather than studio where I'm guessing it's more important). I doubt if I want to go the whole way and do actual colour correction but I'll never say never. Would a meter ease things greatly?

    Also, and partly as an aside, because I've had little need to manipulate scanned transparencies, I've not really played with the 'filters' available in Photoshop. I'm always a little wary of using such digital filters - partly because I'm not trusting of their accuracy but more importantly I've always regarded a scanned E6 transparency as a fixed 'raw file' with little room for, in this case, colour correction unlike a true digital raw file. I also like to get things done properly in the field rather than try to correct 'mistakes' in front of the PC screen so the less time correcting, the better. Is this a fair comment or can Photoshop do a really good job on E6 transparencies?

    Cheers,
    Duff.

  2. #2
    8x10, 5x7, 4x5, et al Leigh's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    Hi Duff,

    I doubt you would find a use for one when doing landscapes.

    I have a very good Gossen color temperature meter.
    I use it in studio and on location (interiors), but never needed it outdoors.

    A point to consider...
    If you do decide to buy one, buy a modern one.
    By definition, color temperature is the ratio of red light to blue light.
    It knows nothing at all about green.
    That's because the green component from an incandescent bulb is totally predictable.

    That's not true with fluorescent bulbs, which typically have very high green content.
    Older color temp meters don't know that.
    Modern ones measure it separately and tell you the value.
    My Gossen even tells you the amount of filtration (magenta) to use to tame it.

    - Leigh
    Last edited by Leigh; 26-Sep-2017 at 21:54. Reason: typo
    If you believe you can, or you believe you can't... you're right.

  3. #3

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    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    Duff,
    Once you've scanned your E-6 transparency, it is just another digital file. No different than if it was a file from your DSLR. Yes, Photoshop can do a 'good job' with your color files; it is a very powerful program, and results are down to the user's choices and skill. It is the de-facto tool for color corrections in this century.
    Color temperature meters, and the wide array of warming/cooling/color correction filters, are a remnant from the days when the professional's camera-original transparency was the deliverable to the client. So you had to get it right in-camera, and color meters, filters, and lots of testing was mandatory for success.
    When using color-negative film, they were less useful, because you could correct (to a certain degree) in the optical printing process.
    I've made many hundreds? thousands? of color landscape photographs on 4x5 in the last 35 years, and have never used, or needed, a color meter for that work.
    In the days of film-based architecture photography, I could have used one, but somehow succeeded without it. (There were Polaroids then, too).
    But if you feel you need a color meter, take Leigh's advice and give it a try.

  4. #4

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    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    The main reasons for a color meter is for artificial light, and what is the color temp for that light??? Different tungsten light types may have slightly different color temp, and is it warmer/cooler than what you are filtered for, or mostly for florescent lights that usually have a different balance for each type, so if you were shooting interiors available light you can read the differences and filter for it...

    For landscape, the early optical or electronic meters for warming or cooling filters that would be most useful if one shot in the different shade conditions a lot, or in areas where the overcast color light levels change a lot... There used to be optical viewing filters from Harrison & Harrison, Tiffen, etc that would usually measure with your eye in the mired system (with a matching set of sometimes over a dozen filters), but in general, most of your on camera corrections might just need a slight warming or cooling (mostly a little blue cut), so having an 81 A or B filter would do you OK... You soon learn when to use it...

    Steve K

  5. #5

    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    Leigh's and LabRat's point about the accuracy of older color meters with fluorescent and LED light sources is very important, but may not be relevant to you if you are only using this outside.

    One option to explore the usefulness of color meters, before you spend $1500, is an iOS app, Cine Meter II with a Luxi diffuser. It is far cheaper than a new color meter ($46 for the app and diffuser) and just as accurate as my older Minolta color meter. I use mine with video, but it should work just as well with chromes.
    Last edited by Jason Greenberg Motamedi; 27-Sep-2017 at 11:24.

  6. #6

    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    Thanks Leigh, Mark, Labrat, and Jason for your replies

    Based on what you have all said, I think I'll forego the meter - even second-hand, a good modern one is up around the /$300-400 mark so I think the money can be better spent elsewhere (such as film), and I don't see myself doing any film photography under artificial light so even less reason to get one.

    Thanks Jason - that Cine Meter app would be useful, and surprisingly no less accurate than a meter, if I had an iphone/pad thingy.

    Thank you Mark for allaying my fears about colour correction in Photoshop of E6 transparencies. Just to satiate my curiosity, I'll do some shots without and with filters (I'm able to borrow the latter) and see how they compare after the filter-free image is processed in Photoshop, but it looks like I can forego the filters as well.

    Thanks again to all for helping - appreciated as always (especially as you've saved me some money!!).

    All the best,
    Duff.

  7. #7
    Andy Eads
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    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    If you use a color meter for landscape photography, you will likely correct away the very thing that makes the landscape beautiful. When I worked at a large government facility, a color meter was indispensable for various light sources we encountered. I don't recall ever once being tempted to use it outdoors. Have fun! -Andy

  8. #8
    Greg Davis's Avatar
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    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    I have a Sekonic C-500 color meter that I use mostly for interior lighting control, but lately I have used it more for shopping for led strips to make daylight balanced light boxes to display backlit photographs.

  9. #9

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    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sampson View Post
    Duff,
    Once you've scanned your E-6 transparency, it is just another digital file. No different than if it was a file from your DSLR. Yes, Photoshop can do a 'good job' with your color files; it is a very powerful program, and results are down to the user's choices and skill. It is the de-facto tool for color corrections in this century.
    Color temperature meters, and the wide array of warming/cooling/color correction filters, are a remnant from the days when the professional's camera-original transparency was the deliverable to the client. So you had to get it right in-camera, and color meters, filters, and lots of testing was mandatory for success.
    When using color-negative film, they were less useful, because you could correct (to a certain degree) in the optical printing process.
    I've made many hundreds? thousands? of color landscape photographs on 4x5 in the last 35 years, and have never used, or needed, a color meter for that work.
    In the days of film-based architecture photography, I could have used one, but somehow succeeded without it. (There were Polaroids then, too).
    But if you feel you need a color meter, take Leigh's advice and give it a try.
    Yea, Mark remembers the old days, but I'll add that the times one has a chance to shoot a sheet of chrome film and process, another way to decide the final film balance would be to place chrome on color correct lightbox, and insert a CC filter behind it, until you find one that balances the neutrals on the exposed/processed film... CC filter sets were sold with color printing sets, and could be found cheap... Add that value filter to your camera when you shoot, but don't forget to add in your filter factor... Or find a Kodak color print viewing set, and use the black side (used for reversal print processing)... Also good if you are starting to shoot a new box of old film (that might be color shifted)...

    Steve K

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Colour Temperture Meters - are they worth having for landscape photography?

    A color temp meter is still distinctly useful. It's a myth that everything can be corrected in PS after the fact. Or at least it's far easier to do things right in the first place. All my "master" calibration negatives and chromes were exposed using a color temp meter. I don't carry one in the field because I've done lots of metering and testing of analogous outdoor conditions in advance. Chromes can be evaluated on a good lightbox. But some color neg films (esp Ektar) can throw quite a curve ball if you don't balance for color temp. I always carry a 2B sky filter for mild tweaks and high-altitude UV, an 81A for bluish overcast skies, and sometimes an 81C for deep blue shade in the mountains. For indoor shoots I'll carry a much larger filter set and actually pack the meter too. But I don't do much interior work in color anymore.

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