medium format

A light metering solution.

Aching muscles.

These two words as of late have become synonymous with my recent trips out with my cameras. I generally (try to) keep myself in pretty good shape. Exercise is something that I value and enjoy and, without getting on a pedestal about it, I think taking care of ones body in this way is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and general longevity. My general fitness routine involves lifting weights, biking, and taking long walks. What does this have to do with photography? Well, I have found that it helps when it comes to lugging around photographic kit, but even then, carrying a lot of equipment around on your back for long distances is still tiring work and having burning, chafed skin on your shoulders where you bag straps dig in is never a fun experience. The main reason my bag can be so heavy is that I frequently lug around both my medium format and my digital kit (alongside a heavy tripod).

As a user of both systems I enjoy the advantages that each of them confer and it is often why I go out with both kits. Some of the time, however, I have been carrying my digital camera with me when my main intention has been to shoot with my medium format kit. Why do this? Well, I have used my digital camera as a light meter for my film work. The digital camera has the ability to display a histogram and I have used this as a barometer as to whether or not I have a good exposure to work with for my mamiya. Lately I have found myself wanting to shoot a lot more things with my mamiya and lugging around an extra camera and lens purely for the purpose of reading the light levels is beginning to feel unnecessary, especially given the fact that  have owned a handheld light meter for quite some time.


The Sekonic L-558 Dualmaster.

The Sekonic L-558 Dualmaster.

I originally bought this light meter with the sole intention of using it with my film camera. I had owned another sekonic light meter a few years previous that only had an incident meter on it and whilst it was a nice little meter, it was pretty inadequate for any subject that was not sitting under the same light as I was (as you tend to find in things like landscape shots), so I sold it to help fund this purchase. 'Yes, a new handheld meter that has spot metering functionality!' I triumphantly thought to myself. So I took it out and experimented with it and the shots I got back with it were not working out as I had hoped; the results were infrequently good and I was wasting film. I then spent a while reading more about using handheld meters and I then took it out with my digital camera. I would diligently meter off what I thought were mid-grey tones and use those for my settings but I was again experiencing middling results (though as I was using my digital camera there were not really any resources being drained other than the cameras battery). Frustrated, I packed the light meter away and did not really use it that much for a few years. After all, I could use the histogram on the back of my digital camera to see if I was getting things right or not so I continued to use this as my metering solution for film shots.

Recently, however, this was beginning to become a pain. I would get to the end of a long day out with my camera where I not taken a shot for whatever reason and I had aching muscles. Aching muscles from carrying around this extra kit purely for the purpose of light metering (and perhaps grabbing a few shots that I didn't want to waste film on). I had resolved at the start of the year to get to know how to use my light meter once and for all, so I started searching about again for any article or video that would finally cement proper light metering technique into my mind and I came across this video by American photographer Ben Horne (

In this video, Ben talks about how he goes about metering a scene, accounting for both shadow detail and highlight detail, and how to utilise these when using either positive film or negative film. I can say that this has been nothing short of a revelation as to how I go about using the L-558. I ran some test shots using my digital camera again but using Ben's technique laid out in the video and the results I was getting back in the histogram were exactly what I was looking for. It has actually made me overhaul my metering technique even for my digital photography, as I have found that I am now producing a better RAW file to work with before any processing takes place.

I am so happy that I found this video as it has finally given me the confidence to head out with just my medium format kit knowing that on the whole I can take a light reading using my meter, using Ben's methodology, and be confident that I am getting things right. A bonus of this video has been that I have been exposed (no pun intended) to Ben's wonderful work, of which I am now an avid follower. There is a coastal hike I am planning on doing soon and it is going to be just me, my mamiya, and my light meter. I am quite happy in the knowledge that I can shoot with my mamiya knowing that I do not have to use my digital kit as a crutch when it comes to exposure.

After long distance hikes, however, I fear I may still have aching muscles