Exposure for night photography (from a noob)

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Danilo, Feb 20, 2006.

  1. Danilo

    Danilo Member

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    Hi all,

    I would like to capture atmosphere of very dark corners of the streets of my town at night.

    I want to exclude direct street light as a light source. I want to catch diffuse reflected light from windows, far lamps and sky.

    My problem is that I have very little experience with it.

    Can somebody tell me what exposure, blende and film I should use. If you can provide a link or give me some start position for it.
    Should I have to keep exposure 1 sec, 1 min or 1 hour?

    Thanks
     
  2. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Color or B&W ?
    Handheld or tripod ?
    Lee Frost did a really good book on Night and lowlight photography that will guide you a long way into it.
    I used to use slow slidefilm ISO 100 and tripod. I measured the light at fastest f-stop and counted dovn from that since the Olympus OM-1 I had then couldn't do it otherwise. I bracketed my shots on the + side because of the Schwarzschild effect (reciprocity failure) and found that it is difficult to overexpose night shots.
    Cheers Søren
     
  3. Danilo

    Danilo Member

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    Huh, I didnt knew that I dont know soo much.

    Ok... I will use tripod, and wish to try B&W and Color too. Prints do with machine at some photo shop.
    I have handheld light meter, but it works only at day. I have pretty old Canon with 50mm lens.

    About your folowing text I didnt understand a thing, maybe because Im using very old equipment.

    I was thinking to buy one slidefilm 100 ASA and experiment with exposure, but I wish to learn as much as I can this way.

    Thanks for the book, will try to find it
     
  4. Marc Leest

    Marc Leest Member

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    Very quick rule:

    Use slowfilm
    Overexpose 1.5 stops + Schwarzschild
    Underdevelop 40%

    M.
     
  5. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I would say use HP5+, stop down to around f/16 or f/22, and expose for between 90 and 180 seconds depending on which type of street lightning you have (the longer time I use for the yellow sodium lighting, the shorter time for white lighting). Use a tripod and cable release. When developing use either stand or semi-stand developing. (That's where you do not agitate the dev tank, so the dev expires on the highlights and allows detail to develop in the shadows).

    I have links posted in this thread to examples of photographs I made using this technique.

    A very good book on the topic is Night Photography by Andrew Sanderson.
     
  6. André E.C.

    André E.C. Member

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    Yes, Andrew Sandersons book is excellent, for sure a great investment for someone interested on the subject.

    Cheers

    André
     
  7. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    I suppose your canon has a centerweight meter and you see a metering needle in your viewfinder. Your shutterspeedrange in manual may go till 1 sec open up to f/1.8 or 1.4 or whats the widest F-stop you have got and see if you get a reading. If you do it may read 1sec at f/1.4 if not change the ISO on your camera untill you get a reading.

    e.g. film ISO = 100
    reading ISO needed = 400
    reading @f/1.4 = 1 sec
    counting from ISO 400 to ISO 100 two stops from 1sec (1stop)2sec-
    (1stop)4sec
    (remember one stop double exposuretime)
    So if shooting at f 1.4 your exposuretime is 4sec
    (reciprocity not taken into acount)

    You don't want to shoot wide open but at e.g. f/8
    from f/1.4 to f/8 = 4stops
    counting from 4secs at f/1.4 = 8 - 16 - 32 - 64sec
    So at f/8 your exposuretime is 64sec
    (reciprocity not taken into acount)

    Now the rule of reciprocity don't aply at long exposuretimes. the film seems to be slower the longer time you need to expose so to overcome this you look at the film datasheet and find the curve telling you how much you need to extent you exposure or you simply bracket your shots 2 or 3 stops or maybe even more.

    So your first shot is 64sec at f/8 second 128sec(2min), third 254 sec (4.15min).
    The correct thing exposurevise would be to change your f-stop but since that change your image I never touch that when it's been set.
    In normal light I bracket in 1/3 - 1/2 stops but that is not necessary at night.

    Remember this is a fictive example.

    By all means when shooting color use slidefilm, the lab will probably ruin it all when printing.
    Does anyone understand this post ? :smile:

    Cheers Søren
     
  8. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    I've had decent luck with color slide film at night. The Fuji 64t (tungsten balanced) is a good choice for night pictures, because it sees light differently than a daylight film. Use f11 and a tripod. Bracket your shots from 15 seconds (lots of light) out to 2 minutes (not much light) and take notes on the first roll, so you have a point of reference. You will get a feel for what works best if you will look at the slides and at your notes to decide what worked best. This will allow you to build on your experience as you go into more difficult lighting. There are a couple of night shots with this film in my gallery if you want to look. Not exactly the type of subject matter you mentioned, but the film is good for night lighting. Good luck, tim
     
  9. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    It took a little digging around to find it, but you may find this table useful. Other than that, I'd suggest you experiment, bracket like crazy, keep notes (so you know what you did when it does/doesn't work) and have lots of fun!

    One other thing - If you're having neg film processed at a lab, bear in mind that the automatic printer may adjust your shots to make them look the way it thinks they should. As it's generally set up for holiday snaps, night shots may confuse it and result in over/under exposed prints. To avoid this "help" it would probably be worth having a word with the operator and seeing if he can turn off its automatic exposure compensation.

    All the best,

    Frank
     
  10. Poco

    Poco Member

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    One other suggestion is that you start with a night scene close to home and very familiar to you ...or at least include one such scene in your first roll. That will allow you to make easy comparison of the results with the actual scene and also keep a well known reference scene in mind when shooting other locations.

    I have one location I use for testing any new film. I know the scene well, I know that HP5 requires 3 minutes @ f16 to get adequate shadow detail and since I have a good image of it in my mind, I can go to other places and fairly accurately judge, this is brighter, this is dimmer, etc...
     
  11. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Morning, Danilo,

    This topic has appeared in a number of past discussions. If you do a Forum search, you'll find a great deal of information.

    Konical
     
  12. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Perhaps you should buy a lightmeter that will meter very dark scenes as well, like a Gossen Lunasix 3s or a Profisix - these can be had for $100 on the used market, sometimes less. Walk around with this at night in the streets where you want to take a shot to get the hang of metering with these things.
    We've got good results with this + Kodak Portra T film for color shots or Fuji Acros 100 ASA for B&W. We don't develop at home but at a simple lab, which doesn't do over- or underdeveloping - and we still end up with okay results.
    When the scene is very dark, we sometimes have to expose for longer than 10 minutes! I have yet to get away with 3 minutes with no street lights on a 100ASA film.

    As an afterthought, is there a booster available for your camera? We have one for our Canon F1, but don't know anything about Olympus gear.
     
  13. Danilo

    Danilo Member

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    Soeren: Thanks for the deep explanation but I dont have light meter installed on my canon, I have only old external light meter, witch works only at day.
    noseoil: Thanks, I will try t64 and 15sec - 2min exposure. I looked at your gallery, but images are closed for non APUG subscriber.
    Andy K: Thanks for the book, will try to find it.
    Frank B: Hey, I find this table very useful!
    Poco: This is nice idea... Im trying to record every scene that I shooted, and compare with new ones.
    Konical: Yes, you are probably right. I did some search first but I didnt find a thing, next time I will try better...
    medform-norm: You are probably right, but I dont want to spend much money in the beginning. No I dont have a booster. It is realy simple thing.

    Thanks again for your help. I did some experiments, and now Im waiting to develop. Will show finals when get to it :smile:
     
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  15. Mike Kennedy

    Mike Kennedy Member

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    I use a Black Cat Exposure Guide. You can get one on ebay for a few $$. Which ever method you employ don't forget the old photographers axiom:

    "NOTATION,NOTATION,NOTATION"

    Bring along a small note pad,pen and flashlight.

    Mike
     
  16. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    BTW I wrote 4 stops from f/1.4 to f/8. That should offcource be five stops :smile:
    Cheers Søren
     
  17. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Danilo, you also may want to try films who have a good resistance to reciprocity failure: TMX 100, Fuji Acros in B&W, and Fuji Provia 100 in colour slide can be exposed for a LONG time (think minutes) before you even have to compensate by a stop. Check the data sheets of these films on Kodak and Fuji's websites, or PM me and I'll email you the PDFs.

    And don't forget to come back and show us your progress!
     
  18. Martin Liew

    Martin Liew Member

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    Hello Danilo, it seems you got lotsa of technical advises here. :smile:

    I do night photography too and I do also strongly recommend Andrew Sanderson's book, Night Photography. which you can purchase it easily over at Amazon.com.

    Personally I shoot in B&W with my old Seagull-4 TLR using Kodak Tmax400 which is a pretty forgiving and versatile film for night shooting. After a few trials & errors, and based on Andrew's long exposure timing chart, I have came up with a fixed camera setting at f/16 & expose for 3min40s.

    Below is one of the many night shots I did titled Lurking..., for yr reference and viewing pleasure:
    [​IMG]
    Lurking...

    A kind little advise: If you dun succeed in yr first few shots, go back on other nights to the same places and shoot again.

    Have fun! Cheers mate! :smile:
     
  19. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Have you printed the table Frank linked to ? If not do it and use it.
    In an old issue of Black & White Photography magazine there was an article about night photography also featuring an exposure table. Maybe some with that issue ( Ailsa :smile: ) and a scanner could print that one out too.
    Regards Søren
     
  20. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    There are various tables in Andrew Sanderson's book, but I am reluctant to scan and post them in case it infringes copyright.
     
  21. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Andy, again I'm in agreement with you (sigh) as I don't think the copying of intellectual property is a good idea in general.

    Martin, nice example of a night shot in your posted image. One thing I've noticed in my night scenes is that a tighter aperture seems to give those hot light sources a bit more definition. I've done similar exposures with a light source in the frame and the best results seem to come from a small aperture. There is less "bleeding" of the light into other parts of the shot. This could be a function of the film I used and not the aperture, but I don't know. I do like the textures and composition in your shot. Very well done. tim
     
  22. Lachlan Young

    Lachlan Young Member

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    It all depends on your lens how sharply the light sources are defined and how good the flare control is - for example the Noct-Nikkor's aspherical front element was designed to reduce flare from light sources. Strangely my £70 secondhand Zuiko 50mm f1.4 lens seems to a better job of controlling flare wide open than all the pictures I have seen that were taken with a Noct Nikkor... :D

    Hope this helps,

    Lachlan
     
  23. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Thats why I put in the (Ailsa ? :smile: )

    But if you put something on the Web you must realize that it may be downloaded and printed for private use. :smile:
    Cheers Søren
     
  24. Martin Liew

    Martin Liew Member

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    Thanks noseoil. Glad you like that monograph. :smile:

    Not only exposing at the smallest aperture will yield well-defined light source like a street lamp post resulting in star-burst efx, it gives more sharpness to yr image. Not to forget abt hyperfocal distance. As we know, it's pretty tough to focus in the night so exposing at smallest aperture is the safest play. Shadow details are more defined with slight over-exposed on highlights which in turn can be corrected in the wet darkroom, by burning. Or alternatively, you can expose in shorter timing with the help of flashlight flashing onto the shadow areas. If you like to have more star-burst efx, you can always fix on a Cross-Star filter lens. HOYA has 3 types i.e. Cross-Star (4 pointed flares), Star-Six (6 pointed) & Star-Eight (8 pointed).

    The main reason why I shoot my night images in B&W becuz color films cannot bring out such shadow details. Besides, the colors in the night are somehow "flushed out' and depends on the areas where there are strong light sources like tungsten street light or flood light which tends to cast a super warm yellow/orange color on the night scenery. Exposing in color under such lighting conditions is not ideal after all.

    Practically speaking, very slow films like ISO 50 or 100 should be avoided for night photography. With slower film speed, you are require to expose for super long timing and it can take more than 1 or 2 hours (in tern of using smallest aperture of f/16 or f/22). With too high film speed, heavy film grains resulted. Therefore ISO400 is the most appropriate film speed for general use.
     
  25. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Martin
    I must disagree on the filmspeed issue. I find ISO 50 - 100 very usefull for urban shots at night, especially ISO 100 slidefilm. there is plenty of light to make everybody happy :smile:
    A friend of mine uses Pan F at night, He don't like Efke 25 because it's to fast (Reciprocity failure issue)
    Astrophotographers like very slow film to catch startrails (the very long exposures you mention).
    Cheers Søren
     
  26. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I am also in the faster film camp. I use HP5+ for night shots. Wht expose a night time street scene for 15 minutes with slow film, when you can expose for between 90 seconds to 3 minutes with faster film?