2016 May 9    Film   Miscellaneous

Background


Many film cameras have no light meter.  Even if yours does or you carry an external one, sometimes you just want to take a quick photo without metering. 

Various charts and articles mention different EV or LV numbers.  Most of them have some variation of the Sunny 16 Rule.

Let's talk about photography on those dark-cloudy, rainy, or all-around heavy-overcast days.





A Quick Note


Articles like this one are possible only with the support of readers like you, when you use the links on here to purchase your gear. 

Your help is greatly appreciated and helps keep this website on-line.  Thank you to everyone who helps make this site what it is.


In This Article


EV and LV

Sunny 16 Variant

Easy Solution

Couple More Notes

Really Dark Clouds

For Large Format Shooters

Conclusion





EV and LV


There are plenty of long, drawn-out explanations of EV and LV, so let's skip that for now. 

EV is used in a couple different aspects in photography, but here's the main thing to know.  EV 10 for 200 film calls for a different aperture/shutter speed than EV 10 for 100 film.  And so on, for all the different film speeds.

LV is Light Value, which is independent of the film speed. Some people will say it's linked to ISO 100 film, but actually, LV doesn't care;  it exists whether you have a camera or not.  Example: landscapes ten minutes after sunset are LV 9.

Once you know the LV, you can go ahead and look up the settings here or in your Kodak Photoguide.  Or, in some other reference.

Here's the problem, as it pertains to overcast days.

Many charts say LV 12 for heavy overcast.  If you go by this, the photos may look a bit dark.  If you darkroom print, it's not that much of an issue, because up to a point you can correct for this.  If you scan, though, the shadows may be grainy.

Top

Table of Contents



Sunny 16 Variant


The Sunny 16 rule says, basically, "f/16 and 1/100th of a second for 100 film".  The shutter speed is the reciprocal of the ASA or ISO film speed.  That combination works well on a sunny day. 

400 film on a sunny day would therefore be f/16 and 1/400th.  Since most cameras don't have 1/400th, I use 1/250th instead.  (With slide film you could use 1/500th for high saturation).

Now, what about a heavy overcast day?

For heavy overcast, the rule says to go three stops from f/16.  So we count f/11, f/8, f/5.6.  Keeping the shutter speed the same, we get...

f/5.6 and 1/400th.  That translates to f/8 and 1/200th.

Most cameras don't have 1/200th of a second;  they have 1/250th or 1/125th.  For negative film, use the closest shutter speed that's slower... 1/125th.

So, we get f/8 and 1/125th.

Top

Table of Contents



Easy Solution


Before I'd ever read that variation of the Sunny 16 rule, I arrived at the same combination by sheer bumbling.  Actually it wasn't really ineptitude... I used a light meter on a film camera, and went from there.  After shooting some film, I knew what usually worked.

With 400 film on heavy-overcast days, I found that f/8 and 1/125th of a second was about right.  If the sky seemed unusually dark in the middle of the day, I'd use f/8 and 1/60th. 

But mostly, f/8 and 1/125th was good, even on the heavy overcast days.  You know, the ones where looks like it's just going to rain all day (but somehow doesn't).

f/8 at 1/125th is EV 11 for 400 film.  Shoot at EV 11 for heavy overcast days.

If you really want to bracket on a day like this, shoot at EV 10, or f/8 at 1/60th for 400 film.

When pushing film to 12800, I'll shoot these scenes at EV 10.  For 12800, that would be f/8 at 2000th; on a camera that has a max shutter speed of 1/500th, I might use f/22 and 1/250th, or perhaps f/16 and 1/500th.

Top

Table of Contents



Couple More Notes


For highly-pushed films, it may help to err on the side of overexposure.  Instead of fully pushing the film to 6400, say, you might want to be shooting at 3200 and developing for 6400.  This ought to give you the best results for many types of scenes.  It also depends on the film and the developer.

At first it will seem like you're stumbling through a bunch of highly-dense technical information, having to think a lot before you actually make a photograph.  Realize that even the best photographers had to go through that stage.  In fact, even the most accomplished ones still have to mind the tech details;  it's just that they're able to do that without a lot of head-scratching.  Where they use light meters, they still have to pay attention to what the meter is saying;  it's just that the process looks a whole lot less clumsy for them.

Some artists will try to act as if they're above technical details, but that only happens if you use a trashcam or something where there's only one shutter speed and aperture.  Even a Holga has two different settings and a focus adjustment.

Top

Table of Contents



Really Dark Clouds


Thinking back, I was sure I'd used f/8 and 1/60th for 400 film on some days.  At first I thought I was mistaken, but then we had a bout of exactly the kind of weather.  I'd gone out to try getting a 4x5 photo of a particular building.  At first the whole landscape was lit uniformly beneath the typical heavy-overcast skies.  This, I thought, was perfect.  I was all ready to use f/8 at a 125th or the equivalent.

Then I looked off to the west and saw even darker clouds rolling in.  The clouds were so dark, in fact, that they blocked out most of the skylight from that direction. The building, which I'd hoped to photograph, now had a "sky shadow" on one end.  The rest of the sky, which earlier made me think of slate or lead, now looked incredibly bright by comparison.

And so, I remembered why sometimes I had to use f/8 and a 60th with 400 film.  If the sky is already heavy-overcast, and there's something that dims it even more-- such as a black cloud or a large building, you may want to figure the scene as EV 10 rather than EV 11.

Top

Table of Contents



For Large Format Shooters


Sometimes the correct EV will put your camera in that zone where blurred images are likely to happen.  There are at least two cameras that especially do this:  the Speed Graphic and the Pentax 67.  I've shot a lot of pictures on a Speed Graphic in that range:  1/30th to about 1/2 a second.  However, if you're after the sharpest images, try to pick a combination that's outside this range.

Let's say you're going to shoot 400 film.  Here are the various aperture / shutter speed combinations for EV 11:

f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 f/22 f/32
500 250 125 60 30 15 8


With medium and especially large format, you can still get some background blur at f/11.  Medium format shooters often use f/16 or f/22, and large format shooters often use f/22 or f/32.

Problem:  Look at the chart and you'll see what shutter speeds that is going to require.  On a LF camera with a Copal shutter, that's no big deal, but on a Speed Graphic with its big cloth shutter, that could blur the picture (even on a tripod).  Any camera that has a mirror but doesn't have a "mirror up" setting could also blur.

What to do?  Well, you could either push the film to 1600, or just settle for an aperture that allows more background blurring.  f/11 can have very short depth of field at close distances with large format, so you'll have to decide based on the scene you're photographing.  Ground-glass focusing allows direct depth-of-field preview, although the image does get dimmer as you stop down the aperture. 

For more distant subjects, f/11 may offer enough depth of field for a good photo.

Again, this really doesn't matter so much if you're using a Copal shutter;  mainly it's for those who are using the big focal-plane shutter of a Speed Graphic.

Top

Table of Contents



Conclusion


Heavy overcast days might be EV 12, but I would use EV 11.  If you're using 400 film, just remember f/8 and 1/125th, and convert from there. 

If this article helped you out in any way (or you just found it entertaining), please help me by shopping for your stuff through the links on here.  It's the only way I can keep this site on-line.  Your help is greatly appreciated.


Thanks for visiting my website!






Contact me:

3 p o.t o . 1 2 0 s t u d i o.. c o m


This won't directly copy and paste.  Please manually type it into your mail program.
No spaces between letters.




Home Page


Site Map


What's New!




Disclaimer

Copyright 2010-2016










Back to Top of Page