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Photography Question 
Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
 

Snow Exposure


Hey Guys gotta question for the upcoming snow this winter (i'm going to the midwest so I might actually get to see some!) anyways...i was reading in an exposure book that an in-camera meter is going to read the white in snow as middle toned so one needs to open up 1-2 stops to shoot bright white objects. anyways he was talking and I got confused. he mentioned (i think) that hand-held meters usually are tack sharp on exposure. anyways i'm shooting RB67 with a JTL meter (it has reflected, incident, flash, and cinema modes.) anyways when I meter the scene using this meter, will it be dead on, or do I need to open up 1-2 stops? thx as always.

justin


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11/28/2005 9:34:38 AM

 
Bob Fately   So anyway, Justin, here's the scoop:

All reflective light meters, in-camera and handheld, measure the light hitting their sensor and give you a reading based on a so-called 18% grey (a mid tone). That is, if you're taking a photo of most normal scenes, the meter should be pretty accurate.

However, snow is obviously not grey, so if you follow the meter's suggestion exactly your photos will show the snow as being rather dull and grey - after all, that's what the meter was going for. Knowing this, you take what the meter says and open up your lens (or slow your shutter speed) by a couple of stops - to the meter you will be "overexposing" the shot, but then again the meter thinks everything is that mid-tone grey - what does it know? In reality, by opening up a couple of stops, you will be accurately rendering the snow as white.

On the other hand, you could go the incident route (not with the camera, but using the hand-held meter). An incident reading is different than a reflected reading - instead of reading the amount of light bouncing off the subject, and incident meter takes a reading of the light coming from the source.

So, if you use the hendheld meter in incident mode (usually with the little white dome-thingie covering the sensor) and POINT THE METER TOWARDS THE LIGHT SOURCE (presumably the sun) then whatever it tells you shouldbe the proper exposure. Again, the ideal way to use an incident meter is to stand at the subject's area, point the meter towards the camera (which is on a tripod or the hands of your lovely assistant) and take the reading. Outdoors at daytime, though, since the light source (sun) illuminating the subject is effectively the same distance from you as your subject (even if the subject is the mountainside a mile away) you don't necessarily have to stand at the subject to take the reading.

Hope that helps.


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11/28/2005 3:07:46 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Well Justin, you're close but your technique for shooting snow might leave you out in the cold...errr, so-to-speak.

There are different types of snow situations ranging from light and highly reflective in bright overhead sunlight or sunsets, (where the 1.5 stop works ok but not great) to dirty snow under cloudy skies when the 1.5 stop rule can be problematic. So, you're better off to use the hand-held meter and there are two ways to do it.

One way is to use the incident mode (using the dome) to measure the light actually falling on the scene. That works well especially in whiteout situations. Another approach is to use the reflected mode by taking a reading of the light in the scene reflecting off of a medium gray card or some medium gray piece of cloth or something else with similar color values. Then set your RB to that reading.

Sure, you can bracket 1/2 stop from your reading. Film is cheap, right? Anyways, that's my spin on this. BTW, when you're working outdoors in cold climates, keep your meter and any spare batteries inside your coat to keep it working accurately, but use the battery check function on your meter before taking a reading to make sure. And, once in awhile, even hand-held meters need to go in for servicing to have them recalibrated.
Take it light.
Mark


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11/28/2005 3:27:37 PM

 
Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  Thanks guys, exactly what I was looking for.

Justin


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11/28/2005 4:06:53 PM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  As others have mentioned, metering for snow can be tricky and the techniques they described will definately yield whiter whites.

Here's a few tips that might help:

-If the sun is bright on a cloudless day, meter the bluest part or the sky (opposite the sun), then re-compose and shoot at that setting.

-Early morning before sunrise (or after sunset), the light will be "cold" and will result in a blue-tinge to your snow. A few warming filters in different strengths might be worth bringing along.

-As mentioned, a gray card is an excellent tool for reading light falling onto the snowscape. Bright colors meter well also. Sometimes I'll wear a bright red scarf or cap and toss into the scene to get a meter reading. (It's quicker than digging around for my gray card.)

-Try to maximize your time during the periods around sunrise and sunset. The golden glow of the highlights and cool-blue shadows compliment each other well. Get set up early and shoot quickly, as this magic light is short-lived.

...Stay warm,
Bob


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11/29/2005 1:43:56 AM

 
Kevin Ekstrom
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/20/2005
  The easiest way to capture snow, and the CHEAPEST is to use a gray card. Every phototagrapher should keep one in his bag. Meter off the gray crad in similar light of the subject, frame your shot and shoot. It is an easy and sure fire way to get proper exposure for snow. There's no need to try to get fancy and technical.


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12/2/2005 12:19:49 AM

 
Bob Fately   Kevin's point is valid - though this is effectively the same thing as using a hand-held meter in incident mode.

Using a grey card, you are measuring reflected light from a subject (the card) that matches the 'expectations" of the light meter (which tries to get the scene to a so-called 18% grey). The point of using a grey card is to eliminate differences that arise from variations in reflectivity from the actual subject - if you meter from the grey card and maintain those settings then it doesn't matter if the actual subject is bright or dark.

Incident reading means measuring the light falling upon the subject (usually from the vantage point of the subject). The settings achieved this way again eliminate the variations that may arise because different subject matter has different reflectivity.

So these are both approaches designed to eliminate the variable of how reflective the subject is.


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12/2/2005 8:26:25 AM

 
Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  Ok well one of the shots I want to do is of this barn and the farm in front of it. I'm really praying it snows, I can just picture how nice it will be. Anyways where would I incident meter at? I mean I don't want to walk in the middle of the farm and get footprints to measure the light falling on the snow. Any ideas?


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12/2/2005 8:31:07 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Your last question is a good example of what we're talking about by using the incident dome on your hand-held meter. Stand facing the barn, take your meter, point it up and behind you to measure the light falling on the scene in front of you.

OR, take your gray card or piece of 18% neutral gray cloth and while facing your subject, without blocking the light falling on the cloth or card, take a REFLECTIVE reading using your hand held meter.

If you use any kind of warming filter, say an 81A, remember to compensate for that. Ok? Get the picture?
Mark


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12/2/2005 5:34:38 PM

 
Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  which brings up another good question i've been wondering. i've never used cooling or warming filters. using already daylight balanced film what effects will a cooling and warming filter give me. I also maybe wanted to get some of those snow shots that hvae almost that COLD BLUE feel to them, almost as if they were tinted, but since i'm shooting 6x7 I think it's insulting to the resolution of the film to even think about Photoslop. i'll probably use provia since it has a rep. of give a slight blue cast. any ideas on these ???s.

thanks

justin


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12/3/2005 7:00:51 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
  If you want cool blue, shoot Provia before sunrise or in deep shade without a warming filter and you will get that.
Personally I don't prefer that cold look to dominate a winter scenic unless I'm mixing the light with something else,...like a peak of early sunlight or a carefully positioned flash or other light source set to highlight only the subject in the foreground.


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12/3/2005 5:00:24 PM

 
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