Metering low-light cityscapes.

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by baachitraka, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    I am quite interested to photography monuments that are lit by artificial light.

    What meter do you guys for this scenario?

    One thing is for sure, that built-in meters are either insensitive or gives wrong exposure values or I cannot able to see the meter needle at all.
     
  2. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    Assuming your'e standing a long ways away from the monument, your in-camera meter will indeed be mostly useless because the well lit areas are so small compared to the overall darkness of the scene at that distance.

    This is where a spot meter comes in handy. Or, you could go up close and meter a swath of light with your in-camera meter (filling the whole viewfinder) and then step back to your preferred viewpoint and apply that setting; keeping in mind where you want the area that you metered to fall on your film's scale of greys.

    As for viewing in-camera meters in low light, usually match needles, many cameras have a exposure lock button that will hold the needle in place, and then you can adjust your viewfinder so that you can see the value against a well lit area.

    Alternatively, the exposures needed at night aren't apt to change that significantly within a given scenario and you might be able to find a good exposure and stick with it, adjusting when your judgment/experience tells you to.
     
  3. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Look up 'The Ultimate Exposure Guide' by Fred Parker, I recall, on the web. A bit long winded, but the tables at the end are worth thier weight in gold in these situations.

    I have copied the info into Excel, and print them out to stick on the back of every camera I use that has no meter, and keep extras in the metered cameras kits for just this sort of situation.
     
  4. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    This is where the Black Cat Exposure Guide really comes in handy. This is ideal for selecting scenes under various lighting conditions. You should, of course, bracket, but with the Black Cat, if you judge your scene correctly, you will get a printable negative.
     
  5. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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  6. jcoldslabs

    jcoldslabs Member

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    I've done some night shooting recently and had much success taking a reading using a hand-held incident meter while standing under a representative street light near my house. I use that as a baseline (it metered at roughly 4 sec. @ f/4.5 using EI 100). If I'm shooting a cityscape and want the street light illumination to be properly exposed, I go with that exposure (plus some for reciprocity). If I want to open up the shadows between or beyond the street lights, I extend my exposure time, if I want darker shadows....etc.

    Not all street lights are the same intensity, but I'm not worried about being too exacting under these conditions. If I were shooting a parking lot with lots of mercury vapor lamps I might meter that scene specifically.

    Jonathan
     
  7. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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  8. Alan Klein

    Alan Klein Member

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    Would it be heresy to suggest a small belt worn digital camera as you light meter to give you start reading and then be able to preview the shot and adjust the film cameras settings accordingly in manual mode?
     
  9. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    Do I need to have a permission to use this exposure calculator?
     
  10. stavrosk

    stavrosk Member

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    The thing is the person who will scan the film, if that is not you, may have the autocorrection on and this will think that the image is underexposed and maybe try to “save” it by turning the brightness up and introducing grey-blacks and a lot of grain and noise.
     
  11. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    Nice pics from India, I have a plan to fly on first week of FEB mostly to South-India.

    Photography is still a hobby for me, so I prefer to print rather scanning it.
     
  12. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    How you meter it will depend on what you want your interpretation of the image to look like in the end and the scene. If it's low-key lighting at night and you want to print with texture in the whites still, expose off the brightest spot and increase the exposure 2 stops -you probably don't want to meter off a light source, but something that you want to be bright white, but still with texture. Bracket above and below the exposure (1-2 stops) when you find a composition you're intrigued with. One of the 3 will come out printable. You just need to make sure the film is developed properly and that should work for you. If it's a scene with a balance of lights, a spot meter of 5-15 degrees that reads 18% grey on the scene should give you a decent approximation of where to start bracketing.
     
  13. baachitraka

    baachitraka Subscriber

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    Now I understand little bit how spot-meters are so helpful to dramatise the exposure. Sure incident meters and exposure calculators can give best approximation but it may not be the exposure you want.

    Indeed, it requires an enormous training and an artistic eye to use spot meter. May be I will start saving for (incident/spot combo).
     
  14. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I found the first version in a 1963 copy on Modern Photography magazine. Since then I has seen several variants, some by the original author, some not but all free. There are some that are plastic and are for sale on the internet.

    Short answer: I do not think so.