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Sekonic L758D and the Zone System

4 readings displayed approx -2 to +3 indicating an exposure of 1/350th at F11 200ISO

Sekonic L758D and the Zone System: a quick guide explaining how to measure the contrast range of a scene to determine a Zone System exposure.

I am assuming general knowledge of the Zone System not covered here. You can find reference books here.

For information about how to determine your film speed and work out normal film development times without a densitometer  see my post Film speed test Ilford FP4 plus LC-29 developer


Clear the display first!!
Clear the display first!! I prefer to work in shutter priority display. Zero at the bottom display represents Zone 5 or middle grey.

Set up:

  1. Turn the meter on, and set it to the reflected light mode for 1 degree spot metering
  2. I am using Shutter Speed Priority display in this example
  3. Note “plus” and “minus” display along the bottom of display (you may need to set your display type in the custom setting). Note the middle “0” reading represents Zone 5 or middle grey and that the markings are plus and minus one stop deviations from middle grey.
  4. clear any previous readings using M.CLEAR button, until only the middle indicator is flashing at zero.

Example: (see pics below)

  1. take a low light reading for Zone 3 (dark grey, just seeing texture) and store in MEMORY
  2. take another two readings of a general area of interest (middle values) and store in MEMORY
  3. take a high light reading for Zone 7 (luminous grey, with texture) and store in MEMORY
  4. There will now be 4 indicator bars equal to the number of readings along the bottom display
  5. Hold the MID.TONE button down and turn the jog wheel, all indicators will move to the left or right depending on the direction the wheel is turned.
  6. Turn the jog wheel to place low reading (Zone 3) on the -2 and note how the other indicators fall along the bottom of display, especially the highest value (furtherest to right)
  7. Keep hold of the MID.TONE and read off the f stop and shutter speed, this is your exposure for your chosen placement.
  8. If your high value (furtherest to right) exceeds +2 Zone 7, then reduce development accordingly (ie N-1, N-2)
    1st light reading for dark Zone 3 placement
    1st light reading for dark Zone 3 placement
    2nd light reading for middle placement
    2nd light reading for middle placement
    3rd light reading for middle placement
    3rd light reading for middle placement
    4th and brightest reading for Zone 7 placement
    4th and brightest reading for Zone 7 placement. Note how the first is at the middle  “0” and the last is 5 stops brighter than the first.

    4 readings displayed approx -2 to +3 using the Mid.Tone button and jog wheel to move indicators within range - an exposure of 1/350th at F11 200ISO
    4 readings displayed approx -2 to +3 using the Mid.Tone button and jog wheel to move indicators within range – an exposure of 1/350th at F11 200ISO

I have used a Pentax digital spot meter for over 30 years and in 2009 had the entire circuitry replaced when the display suddenly stopped working. It is my understanding that Pentax no longer make this meter, so I purchased the Sekonic L758D as a back up. It has multiple functions, but its menu and display are no match for Pentax’s simplicity of use. I currently use both meters.


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Paperbark Tree Walpole Nornalup Australia

Paperbark tree Walpole Nornalup Australia

Walpole Nornalup National Park

Paperbark tree, photographed near Walpole reflects the tranquility on a quiet afternoon. Everything was still which is unusual. It’s right near the coast where you can hear the sound of the southern ocean’s pounding waves in the distance. Although there was no breeze where I stood, late afternoon clouds move across the sky blocking the setting sun.

I relish quiet moments.  My eyes scan the landscape. It is almost an unconscious process and unhurried. There is no immediate purpose in my mind. Thoughts float in and out without judgement as I absorb the visual information in front of me. After a while I become more conscious of my eyes being drawn repeatedly back to a particular area. This is the birth signs of the thought “would this be interesting to photograph?”. I guess in a nutshell this is what drives me to photograph. Is the visual information I’m receiving interesting to me? If so let’s explore it. Where will this photographic journey take me? In a way all photographs are an exploration of ones self as the photographer.

Personal Exploration

Paperbark tree is one such personal photographic exploration. How do I find a visual balance between key elements that I find important? The emphasis here is on “what I find important”. Yes, photography really is discriminatory.  It is by nature prejudicial because it is one person’s view. You have to decide what elements to include within your view or frame. That very act of inclusion is matched by what you exclude. So here, in a quiet moment within the Walpole Nornalup National Park, I was exploring my thoughts through photography.

Paperbark Tree

You can easily recognise paperbark trees. They have smooth creamy white papery bark. Sometimes sheets of papery bark are shed from the trunk and branches. Their white trunks and branches glow in the low angled morning and evening light. They create a stark visual contrast to the backdrop to a sea of green formed by the towering forests around Walpole. The region is renowned for its majestic karri forest and tingle trees of enormous girths. You will find the paperbarks residing on the margins of these giants, often in the swamps and wetland areas.


Paperbark tree shows a tenacity for life. At the base of the tree is a tangle of twisted tree roots. There are interesting shapes formed by root diversions, overlaps, twists, unexpected angles and knots. To me they are like lines in a face, a metaphor of a life well lived.

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Karri forest Walpole Nornalup Inlet Western Australia

Karri forest Walpole Nornalup Australia

Karri forest Walpole on the Nornalup Inlet. One of the more unusual locations where you find a small section of beach and karri forest up to the water’s edge. The Nornalup Inlet at Walpole has many moods, wild and woolly when those southerlies come blasting through, peaceful calm to misty and mysterious. There are two forested knolls that create the narrow channel between the Walpole Inlet and the Nornalup Inlet. Their steep dark slopes provide the perfect back drop to highlight the karri trees’ smooth creamy bark. During Spring you can find many delicate wildflowers growing in the forest understorey.  About hand made silver prints.

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Film Workshop Heathcote Gallery learn to develop film

film workshop Alex Bond Photography Exhibition

Last Sunday at Heathcote Museum & Gallery I conducted a film workshop offered during the course of my exhibition “dissociation”. We started by making a 4×5 exposure inside the gallery of the workshop participants, using my 4×5 field camera and a wide lens. The exposed negative was then transferred to a daylight tank and processed, during which the development steps were discussed and questions asked. After the final rinse the 4×5 neg was passed around the table for everyone to view (wet!).

This is a scan from that neg. HP5 EI 200, 65mm Nikkor 1 second f11. Developed in Blanco Negro Fomadon R09 1+50, 6.5min at 27ºC. It was fun, with that little exclamation of surprise from the participants when I pulled the 4×5 inch negative from the tank, with their image on it.

I will be holding one more film workshop at Heathcote on Saturday April 11 at 1pm. It too booked out quickly. Don’t forget I offer workshops during the year, so check my workshop web page for dates  or leave your email to be notified of future workshops.

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Flowing water Margaret River detail Western Australia

Flowing water Margaret River Western Australia

Flowing water Margaret River detail is a 16x20in hand printed silver gelatin print. The image is from an area along the banks of the Margaret River that I have visited frequently since childhood. During the drier months the dark granite boulders of the river bed protrude above the water. At this spot and an ancient marri tree leans precariously over the water. In winter its branches are submerged in raging water, causing it to vibrate. I made this image just before summer when the water was just flowing over the rocks. A huge air bell, made by the flow of water over the rock creates a dark silvery bubble.


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Paperbark roots Walpole Nornalup Western Australia

Paperbark roots Walpole Nornalup Western Australia

Paperbark roots Walpole: located about 400km south of Perth, on the south coast, surrounded by magnificent karri and tingle forests, several rivers and two large inlets, Walpole Inlet and Nornalup Inlet. This photograph was made in the few remaining minutes of daylight, with me struggling to focus and compose an image on the ground glass screen that is not only upside down and back to front, but dark as well (the largest lens aperture was using was F6.8). Part of the process of composition in landscape photography is to find order within what we perceive to be disorder, and this tangle of paperbark roots at Walpole certainly provided an enjoyable challenge. About hand made silver prints.

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Calgardup Brook Redgate Beach tidal patterns Margaret River Region

Calgardup Brook Redgate Beach Margaret River Australia

Calgardup Brook Redgate Beach, hand printed 16x20 inch silver gelatin

Calgardup Brook Redgate Beach is close to Margaret River and is a popular location for learning to surf. It lies just south of the beach, snaking its way behind marram covered sand dunes as it makes a path towards the Indian Ocean. At the brook's mouth, tidal patterns form and sea birds search for food amongst the flotsam. The sand constantly calves into new shapes and forms under the forces of opposing water currents and occasionally a large wave will erase all surface detail. About hand made silver prints.

A 16x20inch framed or unframed matted and over mounted print is available for purchase.

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Swamp sheoaks hesperantha falcatta Canning River Perth Western Australia

Swamp sheoaks and hesperantha falcatta

Swamp sheoaks hesperantha falcatta Canning River, hand printed 16×20 inch silver gelatin- sold.

Swamp sheoaks hesperantha falcatta grow in the low lying moist areas around the Canning River, Perth. The sheoaks trunks range in colour from a dull brown to a dull grey, depending upon the season, and are marked with bright white flecks and spots. The white carpet of flowers which dominates the sheoak understorey in Spring, is hesperantha falcatta, which originates from South Africa. Sheoaks are common along the Canning River but the flowers are invaders. This image is frequently mistaken to be from the northern hemisphere. While the flowers appeal to our notion of landscape beauty, they potentially displace indigenous plants and reduce biodiversity. They are a contemporary sign of our changing environment hence the reason I left the clue in the title. This image was exhibited in my solo exhibition “Dissociation” at Heathcote Museum and Gallery. It was also discussed in my blog.  About hand made silver prints.

first published in “Lost in Suburbia” in 2013, “Dissociation” 2015 Heathcote Museum & Gallery exhibition catalogue

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Paperbarks Margaret River Wallcliffe Western Australia

Margaret River Australia

Paperbarks Margaret River, hand printed 16×20 inch silver gelatin

Paperbarks Margaret River this wonderful stand of old paperbarks are located near Wallcliffe House, on the banks of Margaret River. This image was made just weeks before the Margaret River fires razed the Prevelly Park region in November 2011, resulting in the loss of many homes and historic Wallcliffe House. The area surrounding these trees was badly burnt and denuded of all vegetation, but a few of the older veterans pictured here still remain. The photograph is high in contrast due to the dappled sunlight and deep shadow. Additional exposure was  given to open up the shadows and  development was reduced. Film was  4×5 Tmax.  About hand made silver prints.

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Walking dog Canning River Perth Australia

Man walking dog Canning River Regional Park Australia

Walking dog Canning River Perth, hand printed 11×14 inch baryta based silver gelatin print

Walking dog Canning River Canning River Perth. There are several good pathways plus two pedestrian bridges within the Canning River Regional Park. In the early morning and evenings the pathways are popular with local residents exercising their pets. This image was made one particularly cool morning. There had been some overnight rain that cleared to a cold night. In the morning a light fog developed, enveloping the flooded gums and paperbarks in a soft light. I was near the pathway and had my camera set up looking towards the misty river when I noticed the man and dog walking below the tree lined path about to be bathed in bright misty light. HP5 4×5 sheet film, 4×5 wooden field camera, 300mm lens f45 1 second.  About hand made silver prints.