"I want to be the tripod, the light meter,
the motor drive."
—Eve Arnold on using the simplest equipment
From the materials of an 1980s Arnold exhibit
in Seattle, as remembered by Rob Atkins
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Question from Jona: "Hmm, I like holding the camera in my hands and doing manual focusing and winding on, but how hard is it to learn to shoot without a light meter? I have a Rolleicord and I hate carrying a separate light meter. Plus there are tons of great old cameras for B&W that do not have light meters. I could mess around with those if I learned how to shoot without a light meter."
Mike replies: I love it when this happens because...I actually have an answer for that, if you're willing to do a little reading. I shot without a light meter every day for six months a while back. It's actually very cool and quite freeing once you get used to it...and once you get going with it, sometimes you can arrive at exposures easily that would be difficult to determine with a light meter.
For instance, I have a shot of some delicate sunlit bare tree branches late in the day with lots of deep shadow behind the tree. It would have been tough to meter...an average reading would have been off because of the preponderance of shadowed area, but the tree branches were too skinny to spot-meter. What I did was to give my usual sunlit-subject exposure for that time of day, plus half a stop extra to make sure the shadow area had detail. It was perfect and made a lovely print. But even a sophisticated meter would have had trouble getting it right.