Metering at night

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by CHHAHH, Feb 6, 2014.

  1. CHHAHH

    CHHAHH Member

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    I might overthink something here and you'll give yourself a face palm right now but i am stuck with metering my exposures at night scenes.
    With a DSLR i can get myself close by making test images and reviewing them on display...but now i have my first fully manual camera and a handheld lightmeter (with bulb and spotmeter).
    I would love to take my camera out for a walk at night, but i just can't figure out how to meter correctly for Tri-X...

    Any suggestions?
     
  2. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Use your spot meter on the important highlight with very good detail and place it on ZOne VII. Let the rest fall where it will. The shadows should end up near black and that is the way night is.
     
  3. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    If you get stuck with a meter that doesn't read properly in low light you can gain a few stops of use by taking a reflected reading of a piece of white paper (instead of a grey-card) then giving 2 1/2 stops more exposure than indicated. I've been using a Lunasix-3 meter which will read very low light levels, but most meters won't do that of course.

    It's useful to consider the very high contrast of many night scenes too. Any man-made light source will be extremely bright compared to unlit areas. For a realistic look the high-contrast can be maintained in the image, so perhaps meter the highlights and sacrifice the shadows. Alternatively, don't shoot in total night conditions, but use the natural 'fill-light' from a dusk or dawn sky to lower the contrast and then print the picture to look more like the range your eye sees, using the extra detail where appropriate.

    Don't forget to check the reciprocity failure of the film you are using too, and make appropriate allowance when calculating your exposure.
     
  4. CHHAHH

    CHHAHH Member

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    Thanks! I was thinking about that too! Will give it a try!
     
  5. alienmeatsack

    alienmeatsack Member

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    I've run into the same problem before when out with meterless cameras and meters that are finicky. I like the slightly overexposed stuff at night, so I end up way over exposing trying to compensate.

    I think what I've resorted to the most is using a meter app on my phone to get closer to the right place, then using the handheld meter from scene to scene based on what I know the phone told me, adjusting and going from there.

    My first response was to bring a small digital that can meter with you and aim/note the settings. But that defeats the purpose and the learning experience. I've been trying to learn to visually meter and then backup my visual guess with a hand held meter. I need to replace my meter as it's old and no longer very accurate which makes a frustrating time for sure.
     
  6. pstake

    pstake Member

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    This is the best advice. Depending on your skin tone, you can also meter off your palm and place that at zone V or VI and use that—but Jim's method is more precise.

    Do either of these things a few times and you'll get a ballpark idea where to set your shutter and aperture when photographing the areas you go to at night.

    I use Tri-X at 1600 and in street-lamp heavy areas like outdoors downtown, I am usually between F2-F4 at 1/125. I meter once or twice at the beginning of the night and then ballpark it so my other hand is free to hold a beer. Inside bars I take another reading, usually setting it around F2 or F1.5 at 1/60 unless it's one of the really seedy places. Then it's wide-open at 1/30 and hopefully a very steady hand.
     
  7. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    This has NEVER failed me even with slides.
    http://www.stacken.kth.se/~maxz/programming.html Down near the bottom
    New Jiffy Calculator

    While searching for data on exposure estimation in nighttime photography I stumbled upon a scan of the "Jiffy Calculator" by S.P. Martin. This was apparently published in a photographical magazine in the sixties. The scan wasn't too good and it was hard to get the numbers aligned. Also there were some strange numberings on the jiffy calculator. I combined this with data from the Ultimate Exposure Computer regarding EV:s.

     
  8. rbender

    rbender Subscriber

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  9. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Thank you Sirius for the link. Although I am in question as to what the tungsten speeds are for today's B&W films. I haven't seen a tungsten speed in at least 40 years listed on or in the materials packaged with film.
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I always used ASA with the Jiffy Calculator even with Type B film.
     
  11. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Member

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    just take an incident reading with a goog low-light meter such as any of the gossens.assume that to be on Zone IV and let the rest fall whereever it may.Also,I find myself trustingthe NikonDSLR lightdisplay more and more.Their matrix metering is nothing short of amazing.
     
  12. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    What's a Nikon DSLR?:whistling:
     
  13. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    It all depends upon whether you are wanting to do hand-held action shots or want to work with a tripod and achieve a full range of tones.

    The latter is my preference for night photography. For this type of work, I meter (as usual) the darkest shadow where I wish to retain detail and then place that on Zone III (this means closing the aperture by two stops from what the meter says or increasing the shutter speed by two stops from what the meter says) and then use this as my base exposure and then apply correction for reciprocity failure. With Ilford Delta 400 the following corrections work for me:

    5 seconds use 10 seconds
    10 seconds use 25 seconds
    15 seconds use 45 seconds
    20 seconds use 80 seconds
    25 seconds use 125 seconds

    I then process in a two-bath developer (stops the highlights blowing out). For me this works reliably every time, no need to bracket or play around with push processing. Here is an example:

    dsallen.jpg

    If, on the other hand, you want to shoot hand-held and capture action you will need to shoot the film at a higher ISO (accepting loss of shadow detail) and then compensate with extended processing in a suitable developer.

    Bests,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  14. Regular Rod

    Regular Rod Member

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    Use your spotmeter exactly as you would in daylight. There is no difference in principle. Place things on the Zones you want them to be and calculate your exposures accordingly.


    [​IMG]

    This was made by deciding on Zone III for the steps up to the Castle Inn.

    RR
     
  15. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I agree that metering theory doesn't change. I use an incident meter very much as I would during the day and, like you, choosing my metering point carefully.

    Visualizing this is the challenge.
     
  16. jojonas

    jojonas Member

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    good thread, this. I've got a gossen lunasix 3 that I heavily rely on but this has given me some insight that I needed.
     
  17. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Member

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    I'm afraid, reciprocity failure compensation is going to be the bigger issue.
    good luck and start with incident meteringand doublingexposure time for reciprocity failure.
     
  18. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    I was waiting for someone to mention reciprocity...

    If you have an iPhone I would suggest this app! It's amazing! And was made by one of the guys on the Large Format Forum. It's very accurate. It's been recently updated with a ton more films.

    Reciprocity Timer...

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/reciprocity-timer/id459691262?mt=8
     
  19. pstake

    pstake Member

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    Wow that's awesome. Thanks, Stone!
     
  20. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    If you're using a CDS meter for very low light, be sure to keep the cell covered when in bright areas - the CDS cell has a memory, like our eyeballs it takes some time (not as much) for it's low light sensitivity to recover.
     
  21. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    Welcome, it was just updated with a ton more films and more accurate adjustments, as well as a "pro" version that has integrated zone system recording etc. Pretty advanced stuff. But try the regular version and see how you like it.
     
  22. pstake

    pstake Member

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    Really handy tool. I've been playign with it about 10 minutes.

    I find the compensation times for Foma and Arista films pretty interesting. A 10 sec exposure compensated for reciprocity failure, jumps to 1:02 with Fomapan whereas only between 15-30 secs for all other films.

    Makes me wonder what's so different about Fomapan that reciprocity is that far off.
     
  23. StoneNYC

    StoneNYC Subscriber

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    FOMA is just bad with reciprocity, it's a very well know film for having horrible reciprocity characteristics.

    I once shot a 2 hour exposure with FOMA and got no image because apparently it should have been 6 hours... Any other film would have been over exposed at 2 hours lol
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    get yourself a exposure guide

    http://www.blackcatphotoproducts.com/guide.html

    works like a charm, every time

    then it is the internal light meter
     
  25. George Collier

    George Collier Member

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    Just saw this thread - one other reference about night exposures, per AA - if the moon is in the image, the exposure for it would be the same as sunny daylight for the given film, as this is the illumination it is getting.