Jamie Maldonado is an editorial and fine art photographer working out of East Texas whose speciality is environmental portraiture, where he aims to portray the heart and soul of his subjects using richly layered locations. He started out using a handheld meter for his film work, but has since found that it gives him an edge while working in digital as well. His story and images follows.
Though I learned the basics of photography on film, I became serious about my craft in the digital age. It was easy to think the histogram and preview on the camera back was enough to replace a handheld light meter. However, the more I integrate an external meter into my work, the more I discover its value.
I learned most of what I know about photography from O. Rufus Lovett at Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas. Rufus is an accomplished photographer and printmaker, and helped teach me the value of previsualization and getting the shot at the camera.
I began using my L-508 Zoom Master (note: discontinued – modern version is the L-758DR DigitalMaster) when I purchased a long-coveted Hasselblad film camera a couple of years back. Having no built-in meter with the camera, it was a no-brainer to have such a versatile tool to use. Though I felt a pull to use digital cameras to meter and preview, I quickly learned how cumbersome and detractive the practice is. There is a beautiful freedom to just having the camera and meter in hand, trusting my craft, like Rufus has taught me.
These bridal fashion photos were made for a regional wedding magazine called The Wedded Bliss. The images were made with the lighting assistance of the magazine’s art director, Joel Dryer, who himself is a big fan of his Sekonic meter, and has helped me hone my metering skills greatly. Taking these fashion images on such a tight and frantic schedule without the use of external metering would have been madness.
While I used to take shot after shot to get ratios and levels balanced to my liking, I have started to use a meter to get me there faster and more precisely. I am very much still learning the craft of good metering, but it proved valuable immediately, with finer control over my images. I’m finding it far easier to achieve a wider range of detail and better transitions from light to shadow.
Even when I am having to wing it with my in-camera meter, I’ve found that my experience with external metering has improved my abilities and instinct.
An added benefit of my switch from “chimping” for my levels is that it saves wear and tear on my cameras. As someone who rarely gets to give his cameras a break, I’ve especially grown to appreciate saving my shutters and bank account some pain.
Though I consider myself an external meter neophyte, I look forward to growing with my Sekonic for years to come. Better work and healthier gear appear to be in my future.
All images and quotes in this post are used with permission and ©Jamie Maldonado, all rights reserved; story is ©Sekonic. Please respect and support photographers’ rights. Feel free to link to this blog post, but please do not replicate or re-post elsewhere without written permission.