How to expose for sunset and sunrise?

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by mingaun, Jun 1, 2011.

  1. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Hello everybody,

    As some of you know i am a newbie in film. Never had problem with exposure in digital because i just look at the LCD screen and if it is not good i just change the exposure.

    I am using a Leica M3 and just bought a Gossen Digisix that has both reflective and incident reading. My question is how to expose the meter for sunset and sunrise. For reflective metering where do i point the meter and for incident reading how am i suppose to use it.

    Please help.
     
  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Sunset and Sunrises are extreme conditions that there is just no way to cover the enroumous brightness range in the scene. I'll probably set my light meter to the reflective mode, then point to a shadow area where I want details to show, then place that in appropriate zone. Even then, I'll probably bracket the heck out of it, say +3, +1.5, 0, -1.5, and -3.0 to be safe.
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I agree. Bracket is the key.

    Jeff
     
  4. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    It is very hard to expose 'wrong' for sunsets. Large changes in exposure don't necessarily ruin the photo, they just change the mood and interpretation of the sunset photo. Exposing for sunsets has more to do with what you want than with what is 'correct', so just bracket and remember. Luckily the sun has not changed brightness in several eons so it is easy to retain the exposure settings you used for another day.
     
  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    My father used to aim his lightmeter straight up (vertically) to meter for sunsets. It seems to have worked as all of his old sunset shots on Kodachrome will testify.


    Steve.
     
  6. debanddg

    debanddg Member

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    I try to decide that based on how saturated I want the sun or the sky / clouds to be depending on the mood I want to convey and the composition I have in mind. Accordingly I choose the neutral points, meter and shoot.
     
  7. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Well now, that's interesting. Have you yourself tried this method? I've never heard of it, but it sounds like it could be a good rule of thumb type of thing.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    This would give you a reading that places the sky away from the horizon at the equivalent of 18% grey. That might be a useful starting point. Good suggestion.
     
  9. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I tried it once with one of those alternative technology cameras but I don't remember what the outcome was.

    As has been stated earlier, the brightness range of a scene at sunset or sunrise is very wide, especially if you are including the sun or even clouds lit by the sun behind them and as such, there is not one correct exposure, but a range of exposures based on what you want to achieve.

    If you have some foreground interest such as some trees which you want to appear in silhouette then metering from the sky away from the sun (or possibly straight up!) will give you this. If you want some more detail in the shadows then you will need to expose a bit more but it will be at the expense of some of the brighter parts of the scene.


    Steve.
     
  10. Buje

    Buje Subscriber

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    Usually the sky and clouds are the subjects of sunrise and sunset pictures. Using transparency film, I metered the sky 60 to 90 degrees from the sun, closed down two f-stops from the meter reading and shot away. Result was beautiful, saturated sunsets. Sunrise was usually too early for me. :laugh:

    Buje
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I usually spot meter the part of the sky where I want to see color, meter the shadow where I'd like to see detail, and meter the brightest part of the sky other than the sun itself, and decide what I'm willing to sacrifice. The part of the sky where I want to see some color has to be close to the middle, and then if I'm shooting slide film, there can be a half stop either way that is potentially a "correct" exposure, but might change the emphasis. So I use all that information to decide where and how to bracket. If the horizon and lens I'm using might lend itself to using an ND grad, I add that possibility to the mix.
     
  12. naeroscatu

    naeroscatu Subscriber

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    I took this picture last month at a sunrise photography outing. I measured the shadows on the rocks and place them on zone 3 (closed aperture 2 stops from what the meter indicated). I also measured the area above the sun that I need to be on zone 7 and figured there was a 4 stop difference. It means my highlights will go on zone 8 if I don't cut the developing time.
    Conclusion is that I have to develop my film for N-1 (about 30% less than manufacturer time going by my personal exposure index). I know this sounds technical for the first time but I recommend that you read about the zone system and how to determine your personal exposure index + developing time for the equipment and film combo that you use most. The more you work the more you will understand.
     

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  13. SMBooth

    SMBooth Member

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    I tend to meter just of to the left or right of the sun.
     
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  15. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thank you all for the quick reply. Firstly spot metering is out because i dont have a spot meter. I think at this point in time i like the quick point straight up method and hopefully that would be about 18% grey and at the same time bracket my shots and see how it goes.

    One more question that keeps bugging me is when i use reflective metering, when should i compensate? I know for very dark or bright scenes i compensate but how dark is dark and how bright is bright. Take for example if my kids are playing in a beach and sun is going down, obviously they will all be quite dark looking because of the shadows etc. Now if i point the meter at them do i need to underexpose my shot or else they would be overexpose? Because as i understand the meter will average an 18% grey which means they will look brighter than they should therefore i should compensate. Am i correct? Or is this particular scene example not dark enough?
     
  16. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    If the sun is not in the frame and you want to catch the beauty of the sky at sunset you just meter the scene directly and the scene will be rendered correctly. That means that everything which is not the sky will be rendered as a silhouette and you can exploit this if the shape is recognisable (a tree, a cactus, a windmill etc).

    An example by yours truly, metering the sky "as-is":

    http://fineartamerica.com/featured/twilight-behind-the-vatican-fabrizio-ruggeri.html

    You should first ask us where the sun is in relation to your kids. If the sun is behind them, as it seems as you mean your kids would be "dark looking", well, you should move the sun in front of the kids* for decent results unless you are thinking about special effect (sun behind making the hair "glow" but then you should probably "fill" with flash etc.).

    If for any reason (such as strong sun and you don't want them to "squint") you wanted to take a picture of the kids with the sun behind them, then you could do the following:

    - "Tabular exposure": with 100 ISO shade is EV 12. You cannot go much wrong if the sun is still around 20° above the horizon;

    - Use of reflected light meter: meter the palm of your hand in the same shade of your kids' face, and open 1 stop.

    - (best) Measure of incident light. You don't need to go near your children, there are no trees on a beach, you just turn yourself and measure incident light at your kids' face height (to keep account of light reflected by the sand) and that's the measure.

    The ordinary considerations apply regarding negative film to be so forgiving that tabular exposure would most probably work very well.

    * It is probably easier if you rotate the kids and place yourself between kids and sun.
     
  17. carlosmccosta

    carlosmccosta Member

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    Measure the area below the sun.
    Use a flash on the kids.
     
  18. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thanks Fabrizio,

    And that was a nice sunset shot.

    Metering from the palm seems like a good method. All i need to do is just point the reflected meter on my palm and make sure no shadow falls on it. I am a fair Chinese man and does that mean i still need to open 1 stop?
     
  19. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Yes. The colour of our skin doesn't make much difference as our palms are all similarly reflective. Weston meters have a pointer (marked 'C' I think) specifically for palm measurements.


    Steve.
     
  20. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thanks Steve.

    I like this method. Will definitely try it out.

    I actually miss a little of the good digital days where i can have instant feedback from the LCD screen. Ooops...i said the forbidden word.

    I am going in a short beach trip tomorrow and i am only bringing my film camera. This is the first time going on a holiday with no digital camera. I want to use this as a stepping stone to see if i can survive with film in my more important Canada trip this August. I cant tell you how stress i am. My family members expect me to still take those nice family shots of the kids etc. At this point in time i cant even manual focus on the kids. They are almost impossible to take!! And now suddenly i worry about exposure which never cross my mind before.

    Sorry for the rant .... but all these for the love of film.
     
  21. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Great picture. Really like it. If i gather correctly the only way i can meter your method is with a spot meter which at the moment i dont have. But thanks for the advice.
     
  22. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    Well, you meter your palm making sure it is in the same light condition as, let's say, the face of your children. So if the scene is backlit, and you are going to take a picture of the "shaded" face of your kids, equally your palm must be backlit and in shade. You will then open 1 stop more.

    You should use the light meter in reflected mode near enough to your hand so that it only reads your hand. Your Gossen light meter should have written on it the angle of view it measures (It's a small "V" with a number such as 20°near it). If you don't find it, look in the instruction manual to see which is the measuring angle in reflected light mode.

    Generally speaking when using a light meter one should be careful not to project a shadow (with the hand, or with the body) on the thing measured. In this case we assume the sun is somehow in front of you so there is not this particular risk.

    If you don't want to disappoint your family, I'd avoid backlit situation. "Put the sun" at your shoulder, you'll have much more light and you'll be able to use a much closer aperture so as to be sure to have running children in focus.

    If the sand is bright and the sun is high you can probably use, with ISO 100, 1/125@16 or even 1/250@16. That should be enough to "zone focus" and only concentrate on the subject.

    Beware of the sand and of salted water, that's VERY bad for any equipment. The seaside is exactly the place where I would bring a disposable camera and be relaxed.
     
  23. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Thanks Fabrizio. You have given me a lot of food for thought. Appreciate all your help.

    Will keep in mind the sand and salt water.... something new to worry.
     
  24. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Keep in mind that your meter interprets everything it sees as 18% grey. So, if you point it to something that you'd like to have at about that value, be it the sky, your palm, the sand, some rocks, you'll be close to what you need. Bracket a stop or two from there, and see what you like when you get the film back.
    Since you're in a learning mode, keep things simple while you're shooting.
     
  25. mingaun

    mingaun Member

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    Good advice bdial. I will try to keep things as simple as i can.
     
  26. naeroscatu

    naeroscatu Subscriber

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    Thanks Minguan; If you don't have a spot meter then you should follow the advice of measuring reflctive light of your palm or even the ground and close one or two stops from there. I think you will get a fair image of sunset or sunrise.