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Thread: Picker on exposure

  1. #1

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    Picker on exposure

    In my teens I relied on average reflected reading of the scene.
    In the early 80's, I was often disappointed with the exposure of my 35mm and 120 negs.
    One day I stumbled on Fred Pickers "Zone VI Workshop". Finally, I understood how an exposure meter worked. I couldn't afford a nice 1 degree spot meter, so I started using incident readings as my method. It usually gets me close.

    Jump ahead a few years - I had been subscribing to Pickers newsletters, and when I received #51, June 1987, he described what made very good sense - reflected reading of the brightest part of the scene and placing it on zone VIII - that's it.

    I have recently acquired an old Zone VI modified Pentax Spot meter and was going to give this method a try. I was wondering if any here use it, have used it, can think of any faults in this method.

  2. #2
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    Re: Picker on exposure

    Color transparency, or B&W film?

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    Re: Picker on exposure

    I assumed Fred was talking about B&W.

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    Re: Picker on exposure

    With B&W film, it's a wise idea to place the darkest area in the scene, where you want to retain some detail, in Zone III. Merely aim the spot meter at the shadows, take a reading, then close down two stops (the meter always reads Zone V).

    That will insure that the film receives adequate exposure. Placing the highlights in Zone VIII will not insure that the shadows are receiving adequate exposure.

    "Expose for the shadows. Develop for the highlights."

    That's the basic principle of the Zone System.

  5. #5

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    Re: Picker on exposure

    Frankly, unless you're doing the entire zone system (not just exposure but also development adjustment, all previously tested and calibrated) or are going for some special effect or lighting circumstance, the incident meter reading should get you just about the same result as the 1 degree spot, well within the same exposure latitude of bw film...and so it may not be worth the price of a spotmeter.
    Last edited by cyrus; 14-Jul-2011 at 14:36.

  6. #6
    Robert A. Zeichner's Avatar
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    Re: Picker on exposure

    What Gem said about exposing for shadows and developing for the highlights summarizes zone system B&W photography. The first reading indicates what is needed to expose shadow areas sufficiently to extract detail from them in printing. The second reading helps you determine what kind of development will be needed to achieve a contrast range that will easily be printable without blowing out highlights. You sometimes need to make slight adjustments when extreme N+ or N- developments are indicated as zone III does change slightly when you over or under develop.

    The whole idea of simply using one reading and placing it on Zone VIII seems risky at best and it is certainly not Zone System techinique as one reading will never tell you the contrast range of the scene.

    Here's a simple starting point for using your meter:
    1. aim the spot at the darkest area of the scene where you want to reveal distinct textural detail. Place that reading opposite Zone III.
    2. take a second reading of the brightest area of the scene where you would like to reveal distinct textural detail and without moving the dial, observe what zone is opposite that number. If it's Zone VII, you are good to go with Normal (N) development. If it's in Zone VI, expose as indicated, but give the film Normal +1 development. If it's in Zone VIII, expose as indicated, but give the film Normal -1 development. Depending on the type of film you are using, you might be able to give the latter example normal development and still extract detail in the print, but it's a lot easier to step up the contrast filter in the darkroom than to burn in overly dense areas of the negative.

  7. #7

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    Re: Picker on exposure

    In a scene with an extended brightness range, such as I frequently find here in the desert Southwest, Pickers method will very often dump your shadows into a very unsatisfying Zone 1 or 2. It is, however, easy, and will give a printable negative more often than not. I am with most folks around here who would prefer to work a little harder and get robust shadows with plenty of detail.

  8. #8
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    Re: Picker on exposure

    Robert,

    I didn't explain how to read the brightness range, in order to determine the development time, because that was not the question that the OP asked.

    He wanted to know if placing the highlights in Zone VIII was the proper way to determine exposure for B&W film when using a 1 degree spot meter.

    It would be a good idea for the OP to make a Zone dial for his Pentax spotmeter.

  9. #9
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Picker on exposure

    I have always thought it to be a matter of compression, expansion or normal.

    If the lighting ratio is 1:3 to 1:5 I will consider normal process
    !! 1:5 and greater I will consider compression process
    !! 1:3 or less I will consider expansion process

    I agree with Robert and Gem about exposing for the shadow and letting development time control the highlights.
    I also agree with cyrus about metering.

    using the right developer for lighting ratios is also a consideration. I find PMK great for compression , but not so great for expansion development.
    HC110 type developer great for expansion, not so great for compensation.

  10. #10
    Peter J. De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Picker on exposure

    Fred's point, I believe, was that most scenes contain 5 stops of areas in which we want detail, and often there is less of a range. Moreover this was for roll film, where there were frames taken of scenes of differing contrast on one roll. If you place the brightest area in scene that you want to retain detail on Zone VIII, then the shadows will fall on Zone III or higher. If you place the important shadows one Zone III, on the other hand, then on the lower than normal contrast frames, the brightest element where you want detail would fall lower than Zone VIII, and Fred felt that the first option lead to better tonality, since if the shadows fall higher than Zone III, they'll have more tonal separation than if they fall on III.

    So basically Fred thought that giving the most exposure without risking blowing the highlights was the way to maximize image quality on rolls of film with frames of varying contrast.

    Notice that he said to place the brightest part where we want detail on Zone VIII, and not that we should place the brightest areas of the scene on Zone VIII. Light sources and specular highlights would fall higher than Zone VIII.

    I used this system for years with roll film, and it worked well.
    "No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit." - Helen Keller
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