shooting at night with artificial light

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by Wayne, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I need advice. I will be shooting at night on a university campus, lots of artificial lights but no daylight. I'll be shooting architectural shapes/details, trees, shadows, gardens, pools. I can't shoot test rolls because I have no darkroom with me. I will be ramed with RB67, HP5+, a spot meter, tripod, reciprocity chart and very little experience doing this type of shooting. So hopefully one of you will have some sage advice based on experience, because I can take wild guesses on my own.
     
  2. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Don't expect great shadow detail. Meter for highlights (ZS VII – VIII) and figure your exposures from there. Everything on tripod, unless you're looking for some "artistic" effects.

    Quick & Dirty: Shotgun relatively well lit scenes with 1, 2, 4 minute brackets.
     
  3. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Fortunately I wont be looking for much shadow detail-its the shadows themselves I'll mostly be wanting to get. I guess my biggest concern is getting good contrast-and being able to read my analog meter, which chose a fine time to burn out the bulb that illuminates the scale.
     
  4. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    My advice would be Fuji Acros instead of HP5 for this kind of shots. Hands down better for this in my opinion based on far superior reciprocity characteristics.

    These might give you a sense of my results for something you might be after (tech specs for development in the image titles, most taken at f/5.6 for between 3-5 minutes):

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38698047@N00/222902921

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38698047@N00/222902863

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38698047@N00/412281169

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/38698047@N00/222903028

    All taken late at night.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 7, 2012
  5. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Absolutely Acros or TMY2. The latter will be faster for any exposure shorter than a night even taking into account its slightly worse reciprocity. Both are far better than HP5 for this.

    Your meter probably won't register at all. While some APUGgers will not like to hear it, a DSLR is about the best meter you can get in this situation: put it on high ISO with a large aperture and you can take very short test shots handheld (adjust exposure and repeat a couple times according to what you find on the histogram) then compute the actual exposure you want to use on the RB given the film's ISO and your chosen aperture. Think of the DSLR as a meter with a really large silicon sensor, some better-than-average optics and a nice histogram function that your average meter just doesn't provide.

    Edit: don't believe Ilford's published reciprocity tables for HP5 or nearly anything else. The film has better reciprocity performance than that.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    +1
     
  7. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    HP5 is what i have, and its all I will have.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Depends on your spot meter - Which one do you have? Spot meters often don't handle quite as low an EV as an incident meter will, but good ones are plenty capable. I'd actually meter for your mid-tone, just as you would in daylight. Your highlights are going to blow out regardless, but you can handle that with development compensation. And totally disregard the advice to use a DSLR as a metering substitute - DSLRs A: do not have reciprocity, so beyond 1 second they won't show you proper exposure calculation, B: DSLR sensors do NOT map to ASA/ISO settings - Changing the ISO setting on a DSLR will change sensitivity up or down, along with the concurrent noise level, but they don't match film sensitivity! Try this if you don't believe me - set up a still life subject in the studio using strobes. Set your flash meter to ISO 200. Set the DSLR to ISO 200. Take a meter reading with the flash meter. Set the DSLR to that setting, and expose it. When you chimp, you'll find the image on the LCD will be off - it will depend from camera to camera which direction it's off. Try it with a different DSLR - you'll find the settings are also off, quite possibly in a different direction! Usually it's less than a full stop, but sometimes it is more. Negative films have enough latitude they can handle a one stop variation and remain printable, but to say that ISO 200 varies by up to 1.5 stops from ISO 200 means that it's not ISO 200. Remember that ISO stands for International STANDARDS Organization - it's a standard that is supposed to be absolute.

    Back to the context of the original post, when you couple the ISO of the DSLR being non-standard with the absence of reciprocity in digital photography, if you base your exposure settings on what the DSLR says, you can find yourself way off on the exposure and have really dark, contrasty negatives with no shadow and minimal mid-tone detail, or in the other direction, plenty of mid-tone detail but blown beyond compensation highlights.

    To the OP: How are you planning to develop the film? My personal approach with HP5+ would be to set the meter to ISO 200, expose for the midtones, and develop at an N- to keep the highlights under control. Meter the highlights to see how far apart they are from your midtones to know how much N- development to give. N-2 would be a good starting point if you must do it by guess.
     
  9. ROL

    ROL Member

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    The type of (monochrome negative) film is unlikely to be much of a factor. Commit to you the film you have and aim for normal development. You will almost certainly get good contrast at night, with artificial light, especially if you meter as I previously indicated, making certain you have at least 6 or 7 zones down into the shadows from the highlights. A major reason night photography is so impactful is because of all but unavoidable contrast, particularly from the difference between bright point sources and inky shadows.

    Here is an 80% crop of an 11X14 print with shotgunned exposure, with only in–ground accent garden floodlighting (135 Ilford PanF+, XTOL):

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Subscriber

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    Rich... Great shots!!!!

    Can you tell me what your aperture was for most of these???


     
  11. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Thanks Andrew. As mentioned in that post I believe most were at f/5.6.
     
  12. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Well, not like HP5+ will not work but unless you have a lot of artificial lighting illuminating the buildings and landscape your may well be at 8-10min or longer for EACH image to make up for the reciprocity failure. That can make for some LONG and boring night shooting. My strong recommendation on the Acros was due to the nice wide tonal range I get from seeingly contrasty night scenes and the much shorter exposure time needed. I also think Acros will prove much more forgiving in terms of exposure and development.
     
  13. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Subscriber

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    Doh.... Missed that!!!!! Thanks Rich.
     
  14. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I'm used to sheet film and being able to develop individually, but I didn't bring my 4x5. So I may end up shooting low contrast shots on one roll, and shots with light sources on another. I have plenty of time, so I can shoot one type of scene on a given night and another the next. Then I could N+ some and N- others. I'm thinking the shadowy scenes without light point sources would benefit from N++ at least
     
  15. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I appreciate that, but HP5 is all I will have. I have plenty of time, so long exposures are not a problem. And I'm not too concerned about wide tonal range for my subject matter, I'm more concerned about getting some snap in the more poorly lit ones.
     
  16. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    Very nice, this is roughly the effect I am looking for.