Night photography tips

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by thisispants, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. thisispants

    thisispants Member

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    I need some. I've never done it and dont know anything about how to meter accurately for it. I'm assuming my om1 meter wont be able to do it accurately for long exposures...

    any help would be grand.
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    A good tripod and cable release. The OM-1 has a very good meter. Experiment and bracket. You'll learn by doing where to expose. Down the road you may think about getting a spotmeter.

    A meter compares everything to 18% gray, so you have to think about what is in your scene that you want to be your middle value.
     
  3. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    The OM-1 is ideal for night photography as it has mirror lock up.

    For more on night photography a great book is Andrew Sanderson's Night Photography. ISBN 1 902538 12 9
     
  4. Lightproof

    Lightproof Member

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    You are right, the meter will try to expose as if it would see a daylight scene. At the end your photo will be overexposed.
    The best thing for night scenes is a spot meter and some knowledge about the so-called schwarzschild effect (and how to compensate for it).
    Try to learn about how to decrease the contrast of the film you are going to use. It will help you to get more overal detail when light sources are visible.

    If you concentrate on non-luminescent objects with no visible light sources in your photo, your cameras meter and a grey card will do it perfectly for B&W. But in this case you will have trouble to transport the typical *night* feeling into your photo.


    It will cost you some practice; yesterday I took a walk at night, shot ONE photo and made "everything" wrong :D
    My only concrete tip for you is: start with B&W!
     
  5. Vincent Brady

    Vincent Brady Subscriber

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    I would agree with Andy's choice of book , its ideal for someone starting out in the dark.

    Cheers
    TEX
     
  6. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    I don't think that having mirror lock up is important at all when exposures get to be longer than 1 second or so.
    The time the camera might shake due to the moving mirror is very short in proportion to the duration of the exposure.


    The OM 1 would not be my first choice, unless you have a good sensitive meter. The one in the OM 1 isn't that good when light levels drop.
    The OM 2, however, is great. Even though it will not show how long an exposure will be in the viewfinder, it will keep the shutter open, meassuring as it goes along.

    It is, of course, correct that a meter will give a reading that when used produces a scene that looks like it is day.
    But meters do not know about the Schwarzschild effect, and following what they say usually produces the desired result.
     
  7. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    People keep talking about metering. I don't use a meter at all for night photography. There is no point even considering how good a camera meter is at night unless you're going to use flash, and in my opinion, night shots where flash was used lose any natural look. All my shots are exposures of well over thirty seconds, using HP5+ film and an aperture of F11 to F16.

    And yes QG, mirror lock up does make a difference, especially when there are light sources in the frame and you are using 35mm. When I make night photographs I rarely use 35mm, and if I do I use a rangefinder or my OM-1. Mostly I use an old 6x6 folding camera, an Agfa Isolette I. It is a nice simple camera and is ideal for the kind of night shots I like to do. I could use my Bronica, but it is too much camera for long exposure night shots.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2009
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I do not use a meter either. I have had exceeding good night photography results using "The New Jiffy Calculator".

    Here are three links:
    Link 1) http://www.stacken.kth.se/~maxz/files/jiffy.pdf
    Link 2) http://klep.name/programming/expocalc/
    Link 3) http://www.scribd.com/doc/2604955/jiffy

    Steve
     
  9. Solarize

    Solarize Member

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    For night work I do not bother with a meter. I would suggest you pick an aperture (say 5.6 to 8) and bracket with differing shutter speeds until you have established some fairly repeatable ballparl exposures. I suggest varying shuuter speeds rather that f. stops as beyond the density/contrast of the negative, longer and shorter shutter openings will allow you to explore cloud movement in the sky.

    I tend to pull my standard development by 15/20% to manage the highlights, or more frequently now, use semi-stand development. Many people get great night results with Pyro.

    I would also read Andrew Sanderson's book - it is excellent!

    Ciaran
     
  10. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Okay but some of us shoot colour film at night, slide even! :wink: I use a handheld meter and reciprocity chart when shooting slide (preferably T64).

    ~~~

    Also, one must bear in mind the skill level of the person who is asking the question. For a newcomer to night photography (and daytime too, for that matter), nothing is learned by winging it without a meter. For the rest of us, yeah fine, we can pretty much guesstimate the exposure, but I assume this question was asked because the O.P. isn't yet a guesstimator!

    ~~~

    Many of the night scenes I like have huge amounts of range because you have point-like light sources and deep shadows. For this reason, I recently started experimenting with POTA developer, with very satisfying initial results. POTA is a superduper-compensating developer; it is a bit of a pain because it is one shot and has a short life span (only an hour or so!) but there are plenty of other easier ways to get some compensation from other developers.

    ~~~

    Regarding MLU (here we go yet again).... sure it matters, in some situations. If the exposure is very long then MLU won't matter one iota. Likewise if the exposure is very short. But for everything in between, it definitely matters. I mean, the assertion that it doesn't matter is tantamount to saying that some MLU myth was created by the camera companies... competing camera companies. Anyway, how much MLU matters depends very much on a host of other things, beside shutter speed: (1) the damping mechanism in the camera (I believe that my F100's damping is superb, really superb, but because it has no MLU I can't really say whether it'd be better with MLU at 1/30 etc.); (2) the mass of the camera, and (2b) the coupling between camera and tripod which also affects the effective mass of the coupled system. If the coupling isn't good then (depending somewhat on the orientation of the camera) you can have an oscillator and the image quality will definitely suffer. Anyway let's not let this [frequently recurring] MLU thing derail a thread.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I gotta add MLU to my LOAA! :surprised:

    Steve
     
  12. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    That's the thing.

    When long becomes "very long" is meassured against the duration of the shake a mirror would induce. And that is about 30 ms - 50 ms.

    Which, set against exposures of seconds, or minutes, is nothing at all.

    Agreed.
    But it has come up, and should be dealt with adequately.
     
  13. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Agreed :wink:
     
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  15. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I do not meter either, most of my night exposures are in the range of two to twenty minutes, so I don't worry about mirror shake, or much of anything more than having a very stout tripod. I am working on a new formula for developing, but what I have done in the past was using Tmax 100 and very dilute D76. (I seem to remember 1:4, but it has been a long time) Basically I just had a list of exposures, and a development scheme that involved a great deal of pulling, and went for it. The exposures are long enough that the shadows get exposed and the highlights don't blow out as bad.

    The trick with Tmax is that the reciprocity characteristics are so much better than traditional films, it can save you at least a stop or two on very long exposures. I am going to work on Acros since it apparently has a little better reciprocity to see how it works as well.

    Here are a couple of examples, excuse the cheesy scanning, that is not one of my strong points:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  16. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I meter. I generally take 2 -3 frames of a subject and all are generally very printable. I test film so I can understand when it will begin to suffer reciprocity failure and how fast it will fail. I use apertures and camera's that I like in general. Although some lenses may be better at night most cameras will be fine and the aperture is subject dependent not time of day. I rely upon a hand held meter sensitive enough for low light for exposure info. I use a Luna Pro SBC (but a sensitive spot meter would be better) and try to place what I'd like to be in the shot within a 5 stop range. I may be as capable as some posting here, but I cannot imagine having any real success without metering. Some of my night shots can be viewed in the APUG gallery if you would like any evidence of the success or failure of my system.
     
  17. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I guess I can't imagine doing color without metering either, but this system has worked so well for B&W that I have never wanted to meter with that. I can really see, however, that some of the types of things that tend to cause me trouble, scenes with just moon lighting, neon, especially dark scenes, would be easier to manage with metering. For a more "normal" street light lit city scene, the variations are surprisingly little. The issue for me is that it would open a film testing can of worms that I am not in the mood to open right now.

    I certainly can vouch for the amazing work you do, however, since I have a couple here in my house! :smile:
     
  18. Solarize

    Solarize Member

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    I should have clarified, that for black and white work I do not find that I need a meter. If I was shooting colour, and especially transparencies, then I would certainly meter.
     
  19. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Even with transparencies one does not need a meter. See my earlier post discussing the Jiffy Calculator. I took many transparencies with it and rarely needed to bracket the photograph. Why make life hard and spend money on an expensive light meter for night photography when the Jiffy Calculator will provide the proper exposure or very close to it?

    Try it; it will not cost much to print it out and you will be pleased with it. Take this post siriusly!

    Steve
     
  20. Louis Nargi

    Louis Nargi Member

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    Interesting post as I also do some night photography.
     
  21. Wade D

    Wade D Member

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    Call me old fashioned but I use a slide rule guide that I found in Popular Photography in the early 70's. It lists a bunch of lighting conditions as well as ASA (now ISO) film speeds and recommends shutter speeds and F stops. Good starting points and with bracketing it works well. Oops now I've given away my age LOL.
     
  22. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    That is the same one I use and I posted earlier. You are obviously a wise skilled photographer with very good taste and experience.

    Steve
     
  23. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    To the OP: IMO, you will do well with an exposure chart, bracketing, a film with good reciprocity maintenance, and plenty of trial and error.

    I might start with T-Max 100 or Neopan 100 for black and white. For color, I'd start with Fuji T64 half or quarter rated and pulled one or two stops to match, or Provia 100F or Astia 100F, similarly rated and developed. You can also cross process the transparency films if you want. (Try them processed -1/2, or -1 if you don't mind a little wonkiness of color.) These films are all excellent in the reciprocity department. T64 will probably give the most "normal" color.

    If you feel like tracking down discontinued films, look for Fuji NPL and/or Portra 100T.

    You can get night photography exposure charts from various sources, like old photography pocket guides and student textbooks.
     
  24. Steve Roberts

    Steve Roberts Member

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    "Low Light and Night Photography" by Roger Hicks is well worth getting hold of.
    Roger used to post on APUG regularly and often came up with good information and contributions to discussions but I've not seen anything from him for a year or more.
    Is he/are you still out there?

    Steve
     
  25. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Yes Roger is working on his own projects and has not been on APUG for quite a while for various reasons.

    Steve
     
  26. Shan Ren

    Shan Ren Member

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    A lot of good advice so far, but may I add, take a torch, a book, insect repellent, and even, if it's not to far or hard to carry, a folding chair. An acquaintance of mine who does a lot of night photography claims these are necessaries, not luxuries.

    The torch is very handy for checking settings and reading the book. I would also add a lens hood to help control flare, unless that is something you are looking for and a back lit timer for long bulb settings if your watch is hard to read or you don't want to use the torch near your camera. Another thing that might help is hanging a heavy weight from the center of your tripod (I use a water bladder, which is easy to fill and empty, on a short rope, others large rocks, or a bag they can add dirt to) to help stabilise the tripod. Also, remember food and drink, you may be out there for a while.