For the photograph above, I used the incident bulb on my Sekonic L-508 Zoom meter

With the meter facing the camera, I took my reading in the shade, about 20 or so feet in front of the camera - being that it was darker at the camera, it was necessary to step away from it a bit and edge a little closer to the shadow line, where it was a bit brighter 

Had I exposed for the light beyond the shadow, I would have lost the detail in and around the bus, and in the foreground  

But knowing that color negative film holds a substantial amount of information on the highlights side, more so than on the lowlights or shadows side, I knew I’d have those areas easily protected 

For my night photographs from the series, which can be seen on this site under A PLAIN VIEW at PHOTOGRAPHS, I used the spot or reflective meter on the Sekonic

This allows me to meter from the camera, which is often very objective to the scene  

I take various readings around the various light sources close to the central area of the subject

I also take readings away from that central area to see how far off the non or less-lit areas are from the light sources 

There’s usually a kind of averaging that occurs  

If I’m getting a couple of f/11 readings, and some f/5.6 readings, I’ll expose the scene at f/8, which happened to be a bit of a common f-stop for quite a few of the night photos. f/11 would be fine, but it’s all about creating that balance between highs and lows, circumstance and scene to circumstance and scene 

I’m also going to of course get f/1.4 and such readings, and EU (‘Exposure Under’), as well, which means losing some shadow detail

But that’s fine, as in scenes like the one below, our focus is on the thing itself, where the lights are. But to overexpose the film in the name of preserving shadow detail that may not even matter, and subsequently be left with blown-out lights and the surrounding reflecting surface areas, wouldn’t be good 

You want to pay more attention to those higher f/stop readings to protect the light sources and highlights  

The shutter speed for most of these night scenes would end up falling somewhere around 15 seconds  

Needless to say, a tripod is necessary for such photos  

With day photos, especially when the sun is above, I find it necessary to keep the incident bulb inside its housing, or to cover the top of it when it’s extended, as I’m usually only interested in the light that’s in front of the subject and not above it 

If my bulb were extended at a noon-day scene, for example, versus covering it, I’d have a much richer reading. And if I followed that reading, I’d be in jeaopadry of losing shadow detail, which, again, isn’t as protectable as highlight detail is  

Metering is really important, and can be played with in a variety of ways - even slight movements with the meter up or down, side to side, can make a noticeable difference in f-stop readings 

It’s all in how you want to expose the scene, coupled with how you’re rating your film and what kind of look and feel you’re going for  

A fun and necessary process for having greater control over your exposures  

However, handheld meters while using cameras with built-in meters aren’t necessary, but it’s still interesting to bring an external light meter along and see what kinds of differences you can find with both. Experimenting is always fun, and can be really informative 

For handheld meters, I love my 508

Really nice meter ...   

Jason Lee4 Comments