⟨ I Know I'll Often Stop and Think About Them ⟩

20-Inaccurate light meter

WALZ MIGHTY STAR LIGHT METER

Words & Photography / Holun Tang
Translation / Fanny Chan

用底片拍照實際上能換來甚麼呢?先不算數量多得驚人的底片,如果要具體地說,別見笑,可能只是換來一堆無法忘卻的數字,例如光圈 f5.6,快門 1/125秒,簡直是直接刻進腦裡,把它解剖開來應該可以看到一個測光錶。

What have I gained from taking pictures with film? Aside from the astonishing number of film accumulated over the years, I would say I have an enormous amount of numeric figures permanently imprinted on my mind — aperture f5.6, shutter 1/125 second… If you were to cut open my brain, you’d probably find a light meter inside.

使用底片最讓人氣餒的是曝光不正確,尤其是一整卷都過曝或過暗,其中即使有著不可知的趣味,但當記憶裡絢麗多彩的日落風景變成一張中午烈日當空的白皚皚照片,長久下去,很難不去正視問題。記得以前曾在中古相機店看到一些測光錶,「或許我需要一個」這樣想著,我便買了人生第一個測光錶,竟是比我的相機更老的古董測光錶⋯⋯

The most frustrating thing about film photography is incorrect exposure, and worst of all, when the entire roll of film is either overexposed or underexposed. Imagine how a supposedly beautiful and colorful sunset can turn into an overexposed image that looks more like a bright scorching midday sun; it’s just depressing. Even though it brings a lot of joy to anticipate how a roll of film would turn out, I still can’t get over the frustration of incorrect exposure. I once recalled seeing some light meters in a second-hand camera store, and it was then I began to wonder, “maybe I do need one.” Eventually, I went to get my very first light meter, and it turned out that the meter I selected is an antique that has an even older history than my camera…

這台Mighty Star測光錶推算是1959年推出,是二戰後日本經濟開始復甦時由一家不見經傳名為Walz的公司生產。不管怎樣,那時對光線理論沒有概念的我以為擁有一台測光錶便能安然解決所有問題,後來才發現測光只能從錯誤中學習。我的底片相機的內置測光有對光線過於敏感的毛病,這台測光錶則是過於遲鈍,處於光線稍弱的地方如室內環境,指針常常會會指向無光狀態的「零」。

My rough estimation is that this Mighty Star light meter was launched in 1959. It was produced in Japan by a little-known company called Walz during the recovery period after World War II. I didn’t know much about lighting when I first purchased it, but I was sure that having a light meter would easily solve all my lighting problems. Of course, I was wrong. I discovered that “learning from mistakes” is the only way to get the correct light reading. While the built-in light meter of my film camera is way too light-sensitive, this Mighty Star meter is the exact opposite; in darker places such as indoor environments, the pointer of the Mighty Star meter often points to “zero” which means no light detected.

不知道這算不算是老器材的智慧。當對焦和測光電子自動化後,除了是攝影器材的一場重大革命,人的拍照行為也徹底改變。我當然也受著不用思考便能拍照的恩惠,但反過來說,有缺陷的不準繩測光錶也使我習慣用眼睛去彌補它的不足,好好用肉眼觀察事物,慢慢開拓一個「光的強度」的數據庫。也是這個原因,我一直使用著這個測光錶,它失靈的話通常是意味光線過弱,起碼我知道「有點暗」這個訊息,便得加倍小心應付。

I wonder whether this is what people consider “the wisdom of old equipment.” When auto-focus and auto exposure metering came into play as a major advancement in photography equipment, they completely transformed photography and changed how we photograph. Of course, I am one of those who benefited from being able to take pictures without doing much thinking or calculating. But on the other hand, the inaccurate light metering also forced me to begin using my own eyes as a light meter; I looked around and I observed. Eventually, I started to build up my own internal database about lighting and exposure. It is for that same reason I insist on using the Mighty Star light meter; if it fails to read, it usually means the environment is too dark. Such information is enough of an alert to remind me to make exposure adjustments accordingly.

六十年代中以後,像Mighty Star這種測光錶漸漸因其受人詬病的問題而被取代。不能應付弱光以外,整台機器唯一產生能源的物質——硒據說有老化的問題,導致有使用年限。此缺點也是我愛不釋手的優點,硒是一種遇光便產生電流的物質,好像光合作用一樣,不需電池,像指南針般,單靠物理便能運作的物件,總是既神奇又叫人安心,不會落入電池耗盡的愚蠢窘境。

After the mid-sixties, the much-criticized light meters from Mighty Star were gradually replaced because of their poor sensitivity to weak lighting, as well as the power-generating component in the meters, selenium, having a limited life span. Interestingly, this shortcoming of selenium is also the reason why I fell in love with my light meter: Selenium is a substance that generates electricity when exposed to light. It is very similar to photosynthesis. It does not require batteries. It also works like a compass as they are both solely run on physics. Selenium is such a magical substance, and its use is reassuring because it will not drag you into the disrupting dilemma of running out of batteries.

光,不是空氣一般嗎?虛無得一時無法證明,近於不存在。把測光錶拿出來,向著空中某處,指針動的話,那是光。

Light is like air, right? We can hardly prove their existence, or we can say, they are close to non-existent. If you point a light meter somewhere in the air and the pointer moves, it is light.