Before Going Fully Manual, Thoroughly Prepare for Constant Heartbreak (part II)
Film photography, in my experience, is not fun, rewarding nor satisfying. Since the moment I decided that I absolutely abhorred 1.6x crop factor and took my father-in-law’s Baldamatic, I have lived in constant want, need, expectation, disappointment, blame and self-loathing.
Take the title photo of this post. I trusted someone, who knew someone, that could develop my film on-the-cheap. All of the detritus and junk on that photo you see wasn’t suspended amongst the atmosphere, in my camera, nor on my lens. It was somehow added by some muppet in a home lab ruining my film. I have since made peace with that film, and I now like the ‘noise’ in this photo. But at the time… That’s right, full Eeyore.
I can not express over what is such a relatively short time using film, just how many photos I have completely screwed up by using old film gear: You can not chimp your Mamiya 6. I repeat:
I have also just utterly and unforgivably missed epic shots while I was dithering on whether the lightmeter reads Light Value 11 or 12… At the most extreme end of the pain scale, I have suffered the sort of grief that only an imbalanced camera lover can feel when breaking one (3 times so far). So, before you proceed any further, get used to heartache.
Go Fully Manual No, really, do it. I am angry that at 17 I was never led by some sage old hand to cupboard in the family seat, where there was a burnished and worn, but bright and crisp Leica III. I believe that I may have even fufiled my potential had I picked up a manual rangefinder at 17. I certainly would have had won a World Press Photo or five by now.
Why does manual matter? Because it will hasten your acceptance that light, exposure and composition are everything.
Exposure The Canon 5D Mark III has 63 exposure zones. 63. Sixty-three. I am quite sure it is utterly impossible to take an under or over exposed photo with that sort of technology. The Leica III, has none. 0. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah. That’s right, you have to choose what you’re going to expose on, and then expose on it. You can walk around all day with a light meter pointing everywhere, but you’ll soon learn your Sunny 16 Rule instead:
And, you can still walk around checking spot, reflective and incident readings of everything. It’s actually quite fun. Especially if your light meter looks like this! (Note to readers: first person to find me an Egon made light meter gets a kidney.) But, soon enough, you’re going to come across a photo with serious contrast. To cope with contrast, you’re going to want another rule. It’s the Zone Metering System. Please, read up on it, and enjoy your aneurism. I just remember this:
Darkest part of photo (deep shadow) = -2 stops
Rich deep tones (deep reds) = -1 stop
Light parts of photo (whites) = +1 stop
Brightest highlights of photo = +2 stops
Oh Stop It I keep banging on about stops… I mean the accepted photographic convention of graduated light values. E.g., LV 15 is one stop brighter than LV 14. Luckily, 'stops’ translate to ƒ-stops, and shutter speeds. I see more tattoos in your future… Oh, and film moves in stops too. For the same film ISO and shutter speed, each of the following ƒ-stops/apertures is ONE WHOLE STOP different:
FYI: with a 25 speed film and ƒ32 aperture on a rainy day you’re looking at a 2 second shutter speed. FYFI: with a 3200 speed film and ƒ1.4 aperture you’re taking portraits, in the dark, with no shake-blur.
No really, stop it. My head hurts. And I’m not actually sure this is where this post was meant to go, I just geeked out on stops. See you in part III.