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Help me get this exposure :-)


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#1 Adam Orton

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 02:39 AM

Check out this picture:

http://www.esnips.co...09297197d/road1

The picture was taken with a digital camera then tweaked in photoshop to get the look I would like to achieve when it's shot on film.

I want the road approximately that level of gray, and I like that stark, contrasted look between the sky and the road. I want the sky blown out.

Here's I'll be working with:

Kodak Plus-X Reversal 100 ASA
Overcast Day
A dirt road that's slightly darker and browner than sand

How should I meter the road? What should I tweak after getting a reading? Would a red filter give me this kind of contrast?

Let me know if I'm not providing enough information or if my question is just downright silly :-) All I need are approximations to check my guesses.

Adam
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#2 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 04:55 AM

How should I meter the road?

To my eye, the road looks like it's about 1 stop below middle gray. If you have a spot meter, take a reading of the dirt road and then stop down one stop. With an incident meter, I'd meter as if for a face, shading the top of the dome, and stop down two. Since you'll be working with reversal film, you'll want to nail your exposure right on - if you were shooting negative, I'd recommend overexposing by a stop to make sure the sky blows out, then printing down later. Luckily, reversal has very little latitude in the highlights, so you might have a blown out sky even with underexposing a stop overall. Ideally, you'd read the sky with a spot meter to make sure. Try to shoot the scene when the overcast sky is brightest obviously.

Would a red filter give me this kind of contrast?

The red filter will lighten objects in your frame that have some red color in them (like skin tones) and simultaneously darken objects that are predominantly blue or green (like the sky or foliage). So in this case, unless the dirt road has a lot of red in it, the red filter won't have any effect on it. It may darken the trees in the background, and if any blue sky peeks through the overcast it will turn dark gray (which is the opposite of what you say you want). You might instead try a blue filter to lighten the sky as much as possible while holding back the road and the trees. Generally, yellow, orange, and red filters are used to darken a blue sky. Don't forget that each filter loses a certain amount of light which you must compensate for. The Kodak website or the ASC manual should have specifics for each filter.

Another filter which you might consider using is a hard edge ND grad filter. Normally these are used to darken a sky while keeping the foreground properly exposed, but you could mount it upside down in the mattebox to darken the ground and blow out the sky. A hard edge filter has a sharper dividing line between ND and clear portions of the filter, while a soft edge filter will have a more feathered edge. An attenuator will have a very gradual shift from ND to clear. Grads usually come in sets just like regular ND's - ND.3, .6, .9, etc.
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#3 Adam Orton

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 01:01 PM

To my eye, the road looks like it's about 1 stop below middle gray. If you have a spot meter, take a reading of the dirt road and then stop down one stop. With an incident meter, I'd meter as if for a face, shading the top of the dome, and stop down two. Since you'll be working with reversal film, you'll want to nail your exposure right on - if you were shooting negative, I'd recommend overexposing by a stop to make sure the sky blows out, then printing down later. Luckily, reversal has very little latitude in the highlights, so you might have a blown out sky even with underexposing a stop overall. Ideally, you'd read the sky with a spot meter to make sure. Try to shoot the scene when the overcast sky is brightest obviously.


The red filter will lighten objects in your frame that have some red color in them (like skin tones) and simultaneously darken objects that are predominantly blue or green (like the sky or foliage). So in this case, unless the dirt road has a lot of red in it, the red filter won't have any effect on it. It may darken the trees in the background, and if any blue sky peeks through the overcast it will turn dark gray (which is the opposite of what you say you want). You might instead try a blue filter to lighten the sky as much as possible while holding back the road and the trees. Generally, yellow, orange, and red filters are used to darken a blue sky. Don't forget that each filter loses a certain amount of light which you must compensate for. The Kodak website or the ASC manual should have specifics for each filter.

Another filter which you might consider using is a hard edge ND grad filter. Normally these are used to darken a sky while keeping the foreground properly exposed, but you could mount it upside down in the mattebox to darken the ground and blow out the sky. A hard edge filter has a sharper dividing line between ND and clear portions of the filter, while a soft edge filter will have a more feathered edge. An attenuator will have a very gradual shift from ND to clear. Grads usually come in sets just like regular ND's - ND.3, .6, .9, etc.


So, just to make sure I understand....

Take my incident meter and get a reading from the gravel road with the dome facing the camera... Then underexpose by one stop to push the road into the next darker Zone (IV)?

Here's a hypothetical: The film I'm using has a latitude of 4 stops (or so I've been told). If I meter off the road and then the sky with a spot meter, and there's about a 2 stop difference between the both of them, would the sky be clipped out (assuming I'm exposing for the road)? Or does that range mean the sky must be 4 stops brighter (not 2) in order blow out of range?

I'll do some tests with the blue filter.

Thanks a lot! This is really superb advice!
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 02:21 PM

Here's a hypothetical: The film I'm using has a latitude of 4 stops (or so I've been told). If I meter off the road and then the sky with a spot meter, and there's about a 2 stop difference between the both of them, would the sky be clipped out (assuming I'm exposing for the road)? Or does that range mean the sky must be 4 stops brighter (not 2) in order blow out of range?


Don't confuse latitude with range. Latitude is the amount you can over- or under-expose the film and still recover an acceptably "normal" looking image. It's normally expressed in both + and - values, as in: "1-1/2 stops of underexposure latitude."

Range is just that, the range of brightness that the film can capture. A film with 4 stops of "range" can hold detail down to two stops under and two stops over.

People misuse and abuse the term "latitude" all the time, which only leads to this kind of confusion. If you were to underexpose your Plus-X two stops because you were told it had 4 stops of "latitude" you'd be in for a big, black, disappointment.
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#5 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 07:57 PM

So, just to make sure I understand....

Take my incident meter and get a reading from the gravel road with the dome facing the camera... Then underexpose by one stop to push the road into the next darker Zone (IV)?

Yes, but I'd underexpose by two stops if I was taking a reading this way. The reason is that a caucasian face will be a Zone 6 exposed at key. Take a look at the figure in the pic you posted, he's quite dark. If that figure's face was exposed at key, the road would be way over exposed. So I'd tend to err on the side of underexposure with reversal. You might go with 1 1/2 stops under, just to be safe. Or if you're really not sure, try bracketing your exposures (-1, -1.5, -2).

Well, with only four stops of dynamic range don't assume that you can hold detail at N-2 and N+2. It might just as well be N-3 and N+1 or somewhere in between. You have to test it to be sure. Reversal does tend to lose detail in the highlights faster than in the shadows.
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#6 Adam Orton

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Posted 09 April 2008 - 08:32 PM

Thanks a lot! If weather works out this weekend, I'll post some footage.
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#7 Adam Orton

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Posted 14 July 2008 - 10:45 AM

Posted Image

Here's a still from the footage I got. Thanks guys!
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