Sunny 16 Rule for Fast Response

When I'm out exploring the world on my bike, I always have a camera with me. And if I'm shooting film, I tend to set the exposure using the Sunny 16 Rule to enable quick captures of the life rushing by me. (I use this for digital cameras too. More on that later.)

firetruck-in-action.jpg "Firetruck" - Captured with a Pentax ME Super and a Pentax 35-70mm zoom lens, Fujicolor 200 film. Photo by Derrick Story.

Case in point is the firetruck shot. I heard the siren approaching. I pulled off to the side, put the camera to my eye, and pressed the shutter. All of this in a manner of seconds without any time to make an adjustment.

Shooting with ISO 200 film, I had the shutter speed set to 1/500th of a second with the aperture at f/11 - my version of Sunny 16. Then I don't have to worry about the light meter being fooled or the camera delaying the capture in any way.

The Sunny 16 Rule is shutter speed set to the film ISO, aperture set to f/16, in bright sunny conditions. As lighting changes, you can adjust either the aperture or shutter speed keeping in mind that one full f/stop equals one full shutter speed, equals one full ISO setting.

For this shot with the Pentax, Sunny 16 would dictate 1/250th at f/16 with the Fujicolor 200 film loaded. If I open up the aperture one stop to f/11, then all I have to do is increase the shutter speed one full setting to 1/500th.

The interesting thing about Sunny 16 is that it gives your images, whether captured on film or digitally, a different look. The blacks are black and the whites are white. Light meters analyze scenes and often try to preserve shadows or prevent highlights from blowing out. Sunny 16 just lets everything fall where it will. You'll notice it. And you can try it today with your digital camera.

The other thing about it, regardless of what medium you're using for capture, is that it puts you in touch with reading light. Suddenly you're thinking about luminance in a more focused way. It's a great way to sharpen your skills. See what you think...

Do You Like Film?

Take a look at theAnalogstory - Film Photography in the Digital Age. We cover great 35mm cameras, personal stories from film photographers, quick tips, and even a camera shop. Stop by, won't you?

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