It’s funny, you spend 20 years with a camera in front of your face and then you come across something that makes you realise how ignorant you are. This happened to me recently when, by accident I found the Sunny 16* exposure rule. I never really thought about how exposures were made in the time before light meters. I remember about five or six years ago a friend telling me his uncle used to ‘guess’ exposures without a meter. I just thought that was utterly ridiculous. How could anyone make any good exposures without a meter? So, here I am, and having eaten a rather large humble pie, making exposures without a meter.
So, what is the Sunny 16 rule? Simple, the following table demonstrates aperture with the subject being photographed…
f16: Bright Sun with clearly defined or sharp shadows.
f11: Bright with soft or fuzzy shadows.
f8: No shadows.
f5.6: Overcast but bright.
Notice, the aperture is dependent on, basically, the intensity of the shadows cast. What about shutter speed? Simple use the reciprocal of the EI of your film. This means if you rate your film at EI100 use a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second. Say if you were using Neopan 400 at box speed. then. your shutter speed would be 1/400 of a second. “WAIT! My camera doesn’t have that shutter speed”. No problem. Use a shutter speed of 1/500th. Well, what about using Tri-X at EI 200. Again, no problem use a shutter speed of 1/200, reducing your development time accordingly.
Hmm, Chris, does it actually work, I mean, no meter?
See for your self from the following pictures. In order from top to bottom, f16, f11, f8 and then f5.6. The negatives are Kodak Plus-X developed in HC-110, then scanned with only ‘Level’ adjustment. Voila. It works quite well.
And where does the liberation enter the picture. Well, the above pictures where taken with a Leica M2 (1959) and a Leica IIIc (1946). No electronics whatsoever, no controlling computer, no clever software, no battery. Just YOU! True liberation.
*or, if you live in the UK (as do I), the ‘Overcast 56’ rule.