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What do fellow dp's usually do in exposure situations where they are in the shade but have a lot of highlights peppered in from the sun going through trees, leaves, branches, etc. For example walking through a shaded path in a park or the woods.

I would assume to meter in the shade as that is the dominate area (blocking any sunlight from light meter dome). From there I'd underexpose the shaded reading a bit to feel shaded but I'm not sure the right amount. A stop under for the shade feels conservative, however it's a situation where the sunny highlights are just that highlights. In instances where I'd be on a big field with an actor backlight but little shade I am much more comfortable underexposing more. 

 

Thanks

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Why do you want to underexpose? I am assuming that you are shooting color negative?? Correct? It can handle lots of overexposure, which is what you will get if you meter for the shade, the highlights will be overexposed. But there are many variables that you should consider. How do you want the scene to look is one of the biggest things to think about. Do you want nothing too bright in the scene? You can go a few stops under to protect highlights, but that isn't needed that much compared to digital or reversal. I find that film often clips in a very pleasing way. Not always and not for everyone, but it looks quite good overexposed. Vision 3 film stock can handle many stops over, someone else will have to chime in as to how many. 

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Posted (edited)

We shot this metered for the actor and area in the shade and then half a stop down if I remember correctly. This was a summer sun at 5pm and the highlights were pretty hot. Shot on Vision 3 200T.

TomGraveyard.jpg

Edited by Uli Meyer
David Mullen's comment reminded me about the half stop down.

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In mixed sun and shade, I either meter and then underexpose the shade or I meter and then overexpose the sun, depends on which is more dominant. But there is no reason to expose the shade at full key if there is sun in the background, it looks odd and overlit that way -- unless the patches of sun are very tiny.  Usually a stop under for the shade will still hold detail in the sunny areas unless you are in the deep forest.

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2 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

I either meter and then underexpose the shade or I meter and then overexpose the sun, depends on which is more dominant.

Yep, it is dependent on the situation for sure. 

Couldn't you add some light to help offset this if the character wasn't moving much? 

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Thanks all for the responses. 

In a situation to get the correct reading of the shade most block out any sunlight that could be hitting the white dome of the meter, correct?

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Isn't this a judgment call, in the end?

If we're shooting a spooky woodland scene for a haunted house movie, we might expose for the spots of sunlight, so the forest recedes into darkness.

If we're shooting under the palm trees in the oasis in the desert, we might expose for the shadows, so as to emphasise the power of the hot sun.

In either case we'd meter both separately and evaluate how much contrast there is. If it's just a few stops, most modern film stocks (and digital cameras) will deal with that, with enough to spare to, you know, actually see what's going on in both areas. You could make that decision in the grade, though probably you shouldn't. If it's ten stops, that's perhaps different.

P

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Thanks all, it seems from a quick look with my meter it would only be a 4 stop difference so underexposing shade by a stop would let my highlights be about 3 over leaving me with enough detail on the neg.

 

 

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That's the thing, out in the open there is only about a 3-stop difference between sun and shadow -- but in the woods, it can vary dramatically.

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Thank you for the response. 

I figure I would take some pictures (with iphone) to give an exact example of where I get tripped up. In those kind of shade vs sun scenarios are you still underexposing by a stop? This is of course if you are just shooting for a normal look.

Example 2.jp2 Example 1.jp2

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Another trick is to bring a DSLR to check exposure and get a visual. Set ISO to film ASA and match the stop on the lenses. I do that sometimes AFTER metering with my light meter just to give a little re-assurance when I'm not feeling 100% in some environments.

You should shoot a test roll in this location and take a lot of notes. During this test you can also bring your DSLR and shoot digital references at the same time to see if you can rely on it after you get the scan.

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In Example 1, more of the ground is shaded so the exposure should be shifted in favor of the shadows over the highlights (if shooting film, you have a lot of overexposure latitude anyway but with some digital cameras, you still have to set exposure based on how much clipping you want if any).  So I'd probably meter the shade and close down a stop. With Example 2 where it is more 50/50 sun and shade, I'd meter the sunny areas and open up a stop to make the sunny areas feel "hot" -- which is probably only one stop different than the first scenario -- so if I had a camera move that when from that sunny area to the more shaded area, I'd probably open up slowly by 1-stop as the camera moved.

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Thank you.

In the 50/50 scenario when you say  - I'd meter the sunny areas and open up a stop to make the sunny areas feel "hot" -- which is probably only one stop different than the first scenario

Is that one stop difference referring to the stop on the lens? Or is it a stop difference in the highlight readings?

 

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In the 50/50 situation, I'd meter the sunlight with an incident meter and then open up one-stop from the reading.

What I mean is that the difference between the two scenarios is probably about a stop by the time you're done.

For example, let's say that in the 50/50 situation, the sunny area meters to an f/8 (assuming ND is being used) and so you shoot at an f/5.6.  In the second situation, let's say your shade meters at f/2.8 so you shoot at f/4.  So that's only a stop different from how you'd shoot the 50/50 situation. I find that in general in parks like this, I'm riding the f-stop only about one-stop to adjust for when it gets brighter and darker, unless the actors move under heavy foliage and it's more like a 2-stop adjustment.  You don't want to overdo the stop pulls.

But with film, more of its latitude is in the bright areas, so if you are going to err, err on the side of more exposure.

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