Night photography with model...

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Ara Ghajanian, May 23, 2005.

  1. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    (This one's for the real experts)

    Here is my concept: I want to photograph a nude model standing in front of an abandoned industrial building at night. I've experimented a bit with night photography, mostly because my Nikon F3 is capable of extremely long exposures in aperture priority mode, and the results were satisfactory. In all of my experiments the scenes were very static, now with a model... well, no one can stand perfectly still for 15 minutes. I was considering using a flash to light the model and then let the background burn in for however long it takes. I'll have the model stand still for as long as it takes, but I'm assuming if I give it an initial flash that the little bit of blurring from her motion will not affect sharpness too much, plus the effect may be cool.

    My question really has to do with exposure calculation. My thought is that if a scene meters for say f5.6 at 15 minutes, if I set the flash to expose correctly at f5.6 and let the rest of the scene burn in for 15 minutes, then I should be all set. Obviously, reciprocity comes into play (I'll be using either APX100 or Tri-X at 400), so any opinions on that would be helpful. I'm going to do some tests with her in the next few weeks, but I wanted to get everyone's opinion on my technique first. Also, does anyone have any other method of calculating exposures for night photography? I really don't want to rely on the F3's AP mode all the time, I'd rather figure out another more concrete method of determining exposure at night.

    Thanks in advance,
    Ara
     
  2. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I've done a limited amount of this. It's called "dragging the shutter", the way we did it.

    The subject is metered with a flashmeter and exposed doing what the meter says. Try to get the flash in a flattering manner not on camera. The building is left to burn itself on the film for what a meter says of that also.

    The model should be able to walk out after the flash has dispersed.

    I used Hasselblad (leaf shutter,) set to B or shutter held open. Set the exposure for what the flashmeter said for the model then left the camera sitting until the meter said the building was exposed. Exposed a roll using variations and picked the best one.

    Another way is to expose the model and then walk through the scene with a portable flash and paint the building with the light. The long exposure should exclude you and model movement from the scene.

    I used Hasselblad with a polaroid back and did a number of tests.

    I think you could do this as a double exposure as well.


    Hope this helps.

    Michael
     
  3. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    I have done it just as Michael says. If the model leaves the frame after the flash (recommended) make sure that she was not covering any bright spots. Things such as windows reflecting street lamps or street lamps can burn 'through her' after she has left the frame. On the flip side this can also be cool (especially tail light trails) and can be controlled a bit if she isn't buck naked (where's the fun in that), but wearing dark clothing.

    Other cool techniques are having the model slowly move to position, flash, and move out of the frame. If it is windy you can paint with a light or freeze with the flash items that are swaying in the wind, Plants mostly.

    You can also create some cool shadows by pointing car head lights at the building. If the scene is lit from one side by street lamps shine car lights from the other side for a portion of the exposure. If the scene is evenly lit and you have a couple cars strategically place them and turn them on for appropriate amounts of time.

    I have only done it with colour film which is much more forgiving than B&W.

    Why do we always put buck naked women in these shots. Wouldn't a fat hairy guy be more appropriate or if dichotomy is your goal wouldn't a child be better?
     
  4. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Thinking more about this, I would probably get the model or just a friend to go with you wearing skin colored clothing. Try a few things making careful notes on exposure etc then proof it all. It may take a couple of attempts to get it close.

    Then with a bit of experience behind you, take the model, and do some creative nude stuff with her (or him,--- pervert) having more confidence in your outcome.

    It may still take a few attempts even with the model to get what you are satisfied with but at least with a test subject (friend) you are not pressuring yourself and are able to take your time and experiment.

    Michael
     
  5. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    Thanks for both your responses. I feel like I'm on the right path, but it's good to hear what others have to say from their own experiences.

    Michael,
    I didn't know the model could walk away after the flash. That's a good thing considering I was weary about having her stand there for a long exposure and possibly risk being seen by a passing motorist or worse.

    Mrcallow,
    Good point about the bright spots, I wouldn't have though of that until after a mistake. I'm going to take both your advices and do some serious testing before any final shots are done. The model I'm working with is very cool about doing tests ahead of time, etc. It helps to have someone cooperative.

    The only other problem I have is I did a test last night with my flash meter and it can't meter at long exposures for some reason (Sekonic L328). Can anyone recommend a meter that will?
    Ara
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    Luna pro (oldstyle or F) will meter down beyond any meter I know of.

    I have used a rule of thumb that works like this using iso 100 film: 5-7 seconds within 10-15' feet of a street lamp or well lit storefront (basically under the lamp or infront of the store), use the inverse rule as you move away. Bracket in full stops over and be familiar with the reciprocity of your film. With colour film I will often double the rules time and go from there if the light source(s) is not as interesting as the objects being illuminated (such as street lamps, but not storefronts).
     
  7. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Ara once you start to play with this time exposure stuff, you'll find some interesting things about walking in and out of frame. On a different thread I wrote about doing time exposures of progress pictures in a hospital being built. In it's early stages I did exposures and had workmen walking through the shot and rarely did they show up on the film. Sometimes they would be a slight ghosting blurr.

    As for setting the camera, flashing the model and then having an assistant, walk through the shot flashing off a 283 or small flash and painting the building and adding highlights that is something that could be very cool.

    Another possiblity is moving the model and flashing her again giving the illusion of two models.

    Another thing along this line is have the model topless with black pants in the first flash and bottomless with a black top in the second flash and location. (she'd need a black turtleneck that could cover her face)

    Interesting stuff to think about

    Let us know the results.

    Michael
     
  8. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    Cool Idea.

    I have done multi-exposures using black velvet to partially cover the subject wit interesting effect.
     
  9. david b

    david b Member

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    I just finished a class that was entirely about this.

    We used Norman portable strobes and flashlights to light models in darkness.
     
  10. John Cook

    John Cook Member

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    I did an advertising campaign in LA in the 1960's which featured a profile waist shot of a woman in a white blouse at a dining table, holding a glass of wine, with lighted high-rise buildings behind her. We shot it from an apartment building rooftop.

    First, the exposure for the city lights: You need to run tests over the years and keep a notebook, so you don't have to re-invent the wheel for each assignment. Go shoot a bracket of likely backgrounds and note the exposures. A streetlight will always be exactly as bright as it is tonight. Same with the intensity of the lights on the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge. No need to meter each time. Just check your notes.

    The flash level on the girl was adjusted with polaroid, but a flash meter would work just as well. Pre-test it. Don't assume it is accurate.

    Since the city skyline was behind the model, she had to freeze her position during the burn exposure for the background. Had she not "masked it off" the lights would have shown through her image, creating an obvious double exposure.

    Even with a trained Hollywood print model, there was a slight (quarter-inch) front-back movement in her body, creating a black "holding line" around her head.

    On another note, in art school we once shot a very long time-exposed figure study illuminated only by the light of the full moon. Had to go all the way to Pismo beach to get away from the glow of the city lights, which overpowered and washed out the moonlight completely.

    The model reclined in the beach sand to make it easier to hold still. And the Santa Monica night was warm enough she didn't shiver.

    I don't know if one can still do this kind of a picture any more, with law enforcement so jittery about terrorism. Real hard to explain to a non-artist what in the world we were trying to do out there.

    And then there is the danger of running into a board meeting of the local Hispanic controlled substance distribution society.

    I think I wouldn't venture out to some of these places with a cute little nude model unless I had a couple of beefy assistants whose knuckles drag. Perhaps a recruitment visit to your local bodybuilding gymn is in order?
     
  11. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    John,
    Hahaha. I think we're on the same page as far as this issue. I'll probably carry a can of pepper spray just in case; my Jeet Kune Do is a little rusty lately. Actually, my model is 6 feet tall and can probably overpower me (sounds like fun, huh?).

    Thanks for all the advice so far. All of the suggestions sound great. I think the first thing to do is get a Luna Pro F so that I can get some starting points as far as exposure. Looks like a great little meter. Anyone have any opinions on it? After I get the meter, I'll start doing test rolls with my F3. After I'm happy with the results, I'll break out the Blad.
    Ara
     
  12. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I didn't realize you had a Hasselblad. I think you may find it easier with a leaf shutter that can sync at any speed etc than with the F3.

    Probably what I would try is if you don't have one, rent a polaroid back. It will probably save in the long run because you have pretty instant results and can adjust right away instead of going back repeatedly with the 35mm.

    You can also easily mark the ground glass, for where the model is and moved to if doing multiple flashes.

    Good luck

    PS.. I trained JKD with Danny Inosanto in LA for a few years.

    Michael
     
  13. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

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    I have three Luna pro f's. it is great for flash, incident and good for reflective. In flash mode it will give the aperture on multi pops by simply keeping the button pressed while firing the flash, will read light down to next to nothing and is very easy on batteries. It is also built like a brick.