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Thread: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

  1. #1

    Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    I have been struggling with my metering technique and hope someone can give me some insight.

    I know it will be asked so I will provide some info about my technique/materials.

    Tmax400 at 200
    Rodinal semi stand dev inversions at each 15 min.

    I started initially metering for shadows but this caused my highlights which are usually fluffy white FL clouds to lose texture and look unappealing.

    Now I am trying to guess at where middle grey would fall and use that, I've had positive results but I feel this is just getting lucky while gambling and will not always work.

    I have both a spot and incidence meter. Incidence readings usually give me flat prints, where as my new method of spotting for middle grey is giving me nice contrast in print.

    Does anyone have any pointers for me? I have read everything I can about the zone system but at this point I understand I am not ready to begin trying this. I will begin testing tri-x320 for true film speed which is the first step in using the zone system. However for now I need a system or method that will yield repeatable consistent good exposures.

    I have attached a bad picture of a negative I found to be successful in exposure. I spot metered for the gravel in the foreground.

    Edit: I just thought about getting one of those grey cards and spotting it if possible in the same light as the scene.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	uploadfromtaptalk1424889726556.jpg 
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ID:	129891
    Last edited by RodinalDuchamp; 25-Feb-2015 at 11:48. Reason: Eureka?

  2. #2

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    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    I am sure you are going to get lots of advice in a very short period of time. My thoughts:

    1. Trying to use the zone system without a film speed and development time test is problematic.

    2. Your use of what I assume is a very dilute mix of Rodinal for very long development times with very infrequent agistation is complicating things. Why are you doing this and what do you hope to achieve? I'm not saying it is wrong, but it is unusual and a method generally used for taming contrast; specifically highlights that would otherwise be blown out. You are complaining about incidence readings giving you flat prints....then why are you using a developing technique that is used to tame contrast? You are simultaneously working to contract negative contrast and complainting about flatness.

    3. If you want to go out and get decent results now, which is how I interpret the question, set a decent meter at the rated film speed, use a recommended development time (nothing wrong with sticking with Rodinal) for a dilution more in the 1:25 or 1:50 range, with gentle agitation at no less than one minute intervals, and meter using it for incident readings. (Kodak has an excellent on line publication on how to use a light meter.) If your first sheet looks too dense, back off the development time. If it looks to thin but shadows are adequate where you need them, you can increase develpment time a bit. This should get you decent printable negatives in short order.

    4. Fred Picker, the founder of now-gone Zone VI Studios, had a technique which was his short-hand version of the zone system. Once you've done the testing, place the lightest/brightest area where you need a little texture on Zone 8 and take the picture. It works quite well in many -- dare I say most -- situations. But without the testing first, it may not. And once you throw in your special-purpose development scheme, I doubt it will. Zone VIII won't be where you placed it since you are pulling it lower.

  3. #3
    Robert Oliver Robert Oliver's Avatar
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    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    If you are going to meter for the shadows not sure how you can do it without using the zone system... Or at least a basic version of it.

    You can just take a gray card reading or incident meter and that will get you there for most average scenes.

    I wouldn't recommend semi-stand for anything but the contrasti-est scenes.
    Robert Oliver

  4. #4

    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    Reason I am sticking to semi stand for now is because the nikor tank I own produces overdeveloped regions at the center of the neg where the developer flows through faster while agitating. I am working on tray dev but I am not very good at it and have ruined more than one negative with improper agitation.

    Kevin, I understand what you are saying in point 1 but I mentioned I will begin testing tri-x for film speed very soon. I also have access to D76 which will be my main developer going forward.

  5. #5

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    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    In addition to the advice others have given, I will point out that you do not mention spot metering the mid tones and highlights. If you spotmeter only for the shadows, you have no idea what your subject brightness range (SBR) is, which is why your highlights (clouds) ended up blown out. If you are going to spot meter and try to apply the zone system, you should be taking half a dozen readings of the scene, and from there determining how to adjust your development time to accomodate the SBR. That is a highly simplified summary, but my main point was that you were not taking enough spot meterings to effectively judge the brightness range and required development approach.

  6. #6

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    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    Quote Originally Posted by RodinalDuchamp View Post
    I have been struggling with my metering technique and hope someone can give me some insight.

    I know it will be asked so I will provide some info about my technique/materials.

    Tmax400 at 200
    Rodinal semi stand dev inversions at each 15 min.

    I started initially metering for shadows but this caused my highlights which are usually fluffy white FL clouds to lose texture and look unappealing.

    Now I am trying to guess at where middle grey would fall and use that, I've had positive results but I feel this is just getting lucky while gambling and will not always work.

    I have both a spot and incidence meter. Incidence readings usually give me flat prints, where as my new method of spotting for middle grey is giving me nice contrast in print.

    Does anyone have any pointers for me? I have read everything I can about the zone system but at this point I understand I am not ready to begin trying this. I will begin testing tri-x320 for true film speed which is the first step in using the zone system. However for now I need a system or method that will yield repeatable consistent good exposures.

    I have attached a bad picture of a negative I found to be successful in exposure. I spot metered for the gravel in the foreground.

    Edit: I just thought about getting one of those grey cards and spotting it if possible in the same light as the scene.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	uploadfromtaptalk1424889726556.jpg 
Views:	147 
Size:	38.7 KB 
ID:	129891
    The most likely way to fix all this is to learn and use the Zone System. It's worth the work and it stays with you for ever once worked out....

    RR

  7. #7

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    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    I also cannot tray develop using the common technique of 4 to 6 sheets shuffled etc. I scratch them. But I tray develop, two at a time, in a tray with a divider made out of those plastic tripod things that come with home delivery pizzas. The legs (I just use two of them, sticking up) are so thin there is no agistation pattern, especially as the film constantly floats around and repositions itself. Yes it takes longer, but with the right sized tray for the format (at least 8X10 for 4X5 negatives, and 11X14 for 5X7), development is even and I never damage a negative. There must be hundreds of threads on agitation density issues involving tanks and hangers. The cure for this is unlikely to be dilute developer with nearly no agitation. Cure the problem rather than try to manage the symptoms; either use tubes or tray develop. For agitation, I use the method Kodak recommended in its publication for TMAX films, which is basically constant gentle agitation through a pattern of tray rocking, a constant cycle repeated about every 8 seconds. I use that will all films and developers and it works for me.

    If you are doing your film speed test with very dilute developer and nearly no agitation you might get in a very big ballpark of film speed, but the development time test for Zone VIII will be a problem since you are inherently underdeveloping the higher densities.

  8. #8

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    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    Why Tmax 400 at 200?
    "I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for men if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority"---EB White

  9. #9

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    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    Here is a link to the Kodak publication, which I thought was well done on metering: http://www.kodak.com/cluster/global/.../techInfo/af9/

  10. #10

    Re: Basic landscape metering question (not so basic actually)

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Crisp View Post
    I also cannot tray develop using the common technique of 4 to 6 sheets shuffled etc. I scratch them. But I tray develop, two at a time, in a tray with a divider made out of those plastic tripod things that come with home delivery pizzas. The legs (I just use two of them, sticking up) are so thin there is no agistation pattern, especially as the film constantly floats around and repositions itself. Yes it takes longer, but with the right sized tray for the format (at least 8X10 for 4X5 negatives, and 11X14 for 5X7), development is even and I never damage a negative. There must be hundreds of threads on agitation density issues involving tanks and hangers. The cure for this is unlikely to be dilute developer with nearly no agitation. Cure the problem rather than try to manage the symptoms; either use tubes or tray develop. For agitation, I use the method Kodak recommended in its publication for TMAX films, which is basically constant gentle agitation through a pattern of tray rocking, a constant cycle repeated about every 8 seconds. I use that will all films and developers and it works for me.

    If you are doing your film speed test with very dilute developer and nearly no agitation you might get in a very big ballpark of film speed, but the development time test for Zone VIII will be a problem since you are inherently underdeveloping the higher densities.
    Kevin thank you for taking the time to detail your process, it might not seem like it but its actually harder than you might think to find proper agitation strategies. Would it be a too much to ask for a picture of your tray, how its put together? Maybe you could PM it to me if you don't want it on the thread and if its not too much to ask of you. I do develop them in 8x10 trays but they never turn out right and its usually the sky that gets destroyed.

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