It’s Always Sunny (F16) in New Zealand

Going home to New Zealand means that in addition to enjoying the glorious countryside that draws people from all corners of the earth and eating pie, I also get to wander down memory lane.

Last year’s trip down memory lane found my uncle’s Pentax Spotmatic still in good condition, but too old to find batteries for the light meter. I shot some rolls of film “blind” using the sunny F16 rule and it worked for the most part.

For the 2015 escape to New Zealand, a trip to my local camera shop in New York produced an “old but new to me” 35mm F3.5 Pentax lens, a few rolls of Kodak Portra and Ilford XP2, and a Sekonic L308S light meter.

For the last ten years, my choice of film has been black and white, so the shift to colour Kodak Portra brought unexpected pleasure. The Portra (ISO 400) rendered colours in a way that seemed to hint at cinematic film and nostalgic summer snaps. Overall, having the light meter made a difference to my confidence—a guess at the appropriate exposure was usually confirmed by the meter. The only issue came with the black and white XP2—the correct exposure from the light meter often seemed to be one stop over: something to remember for next time.

I used the light meter almost incessantly and learned that to my surprise, the light does not change nearly as much as I thought. Note to self: next time measure once, keep an eye on the shadows (if the edges soften, it is time for the light meter again) and keep on shooting.

The photos that I’ve selected are from the North and South Islands taken in summer sun and rain. Some of the photos have been cropped in Photoshop, but otherwise remain unretouched. My uncle’s camera, plus 35mm lens, remains in New Zealand as my summer holiday treat.

Postscript: On our first weekend home in New York, a trip to our local charity shop produced a 24mm and a 135mm lens and another Spotmatic body which will go to New Zealand to join the rest of the Spotmatic family.

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