Shooting at Night

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by RGS122, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. RGS122

    RGS122 Member

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    I am about to go camping up in the high Sierras and I wanted to do some nighttime photography while I am up there. I would like to shoot the photographs in color and black and white. What kind of films do you guys recommend to use and how long do I expose the film for?
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The best night shots are usually taken at dusk or dawn in the half light, on normal films, you need to test & allow for reciprocity failure, all the manufacturers publish figures but these are really just a guide as situations can differ widely.

    Some light meters, Luna Pro's are one, can read in very low light levels.

    Ian
     
  3. patrickjames

    patrickjames Member

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    I know there is a chart out there that can give you times. I think there is one for the IPhone too if you have one. I always just wing it and it works out fine the few times I have done it. Keep in mind that unless there is a moon, you probably won't get much if any exposure on the ground. The meter to which I think Ian is referring is the Luna Pro SBC, which I have, and I can tell you it will measure light practically down to the point where you can't see the dial to tell what the exposure is! One thing to be aware of when you do long exposures is the shutter will drain the battery while it is open on most battery powered cameras.
     
  4. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    For B&W I'd suggest either Fuji ACROS or Kodak TMX. Counter intuitive to select a slower film for night photography, I know; but both these films have very good reciprocity departure characteristics, making them faster than faster films in very low light situations. For an exposure guide, you might want to check out Fred Parker's Ultimate Exposure Guide. Don't forget to read the manufacturer's tech sheets for low light exposure compensation data.

    Fuji Acros: http://www.fujifilmusa.com/shared/bin/NeopanAcros100.pdf
    Kodak TMX: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/f4016/f4016.pdf

    For color films, I can't help you. You will get some weird color shifts with long exposures because the three different color forming layers have different reciprocity departure characteristics.
     
  5. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Take some Provia 100F colour reversal stock with you. Load up the box brownie, compose a scene to take in the north celestial pole, aim up, trip the shutter for 2 hours and sit back while thousands of stars etch their way around the frame. This technique is a fun romp that takes the mickey out of deadly serious photography for a short time. It works best with a camera fitted with an intervalometer so you can set/forget (even go to bed instead of sit around in the dark) and come back in the morning.

    Don't be concerned about reciprocity characteristics for fun things like star trails. With the Provias the characteristic manifests as magenta beyond 1 minute. With the Velvias, it runs musty greenish after 45 seconds — both effects have 'wow!' factor if you have a strong foreground (e.g. a mountain peak, trees). A millpond-still lake will reflect star trails too, so lots of opportunities!
     
  6. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    I must admit that I have not been successful with night shots on slide film so far. The latitude is way too narrow and unless you have an excellent light meter you'd have to guess the exposure within 1 stop. Since these shots take minutes or hours, bracketing is barely an option. My color negatives from previous years on the other hand came out nicely, I didn't even use a light meter.

    So my color film recommendation would be any negative film you like, and Portra 800 if you need a little more speed. Note that if you take pictures with star trails, upping exposure time does not make more stars appear. The only controls you have are aperture and film sensitivity. Given a certain lens, Porta 800 will yield more stars than any 100 or 400 film.

    One more thing: if "night shots" also includes shots of the blue hour: try some tungsten balanced film!
     
  7. RGS122

    RGS122 Member

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    Thanks for the replies, I am probably going to use the TMAX for black and white as I've used it before and I'll experiment with different exposures. I plan on buying a cable release for my camera as my Canon EOS Rebel XS can only set the exposure up to 30 sec. before it goes to BULB. @Rudeofus, I do have some tungsten film in my freezer (64T). But I'm only going to bring one camera, so I think I am going to stick with the black and white.
     
  8. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    If you do star trails, consider fuji T64.

    For longer exposure night shots, you should look up the reciprocity charts and that might guide you to some films. Reciprocity is one of the biggest considerations. This link may help. Acros would be my choice for b&w.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2010
  9. RGS122

    RGS122 Member

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    I do have one roll of that actually with me. Since I am just beginning photography of the night sky, what exactly should I aim for as a beginner? I mean, ya I will be trying to do star trails and exposure of the sky with landscape. But what should I set my camera to when I try it for the first time? What should I set my F/stop at and how long to leave the shutter open?
     
  10. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Beginners are often shocked at what they have recorded on their first star trails outing. There is no right or wrong, rules or regulations, just a few pointers.

    Remember there is insufficient light from the night sky to illuminate the landscape. Anything that is on the ground will be rendered as a silhouette e.g. a prominent mountain peak (in my sample below it is a 2-storey building, which I deliberately left black). If you want to highlight something on the ground such as a tree, boulders, building, then wander about firing a burst of flash (making sure you do not stand directly in front of the camera — to stop a shadow appearing — and cover any glowing ready/pilot lamps on the flash). This "painting with flash" technique works a treat while the camera is "stargazing", but is really only effective for objects you can actually approach e.g. a tree, boulder etc. A variation is to cover the flash head with coloured celophane. I use a 1/4 power manual flash with black tape over the red pilot/green ready lamp, dipping below the camera's viewpoint (if it is low) to avoid ghosting. For boulders, going behind and giving a monster burst of flash will give the appearance of an ethereal glow around the rim.

    For star trails, a good start for a basic set of trails is f5.6 for 1 hour, no filters on lens — and any lens can be used, but I favour ultra-wide angle. I favour bulb exposures of around 1.5 to 2 hours. The deeper the aperture, the greater the number of stars; the longer the opening, the longer the star trails — and the greater propensity for overkill of the effect. Stars will record as blue, yellow, white, pink, red and purple on colour film (especially good on reversal film). The Milky Way will be rendered as a blur over the duration of the Bulb exposure. The effectiveness of star trails is dependent on a deep, dark night sky. No moon, not even a crescent, should be there (it will turn "night into day" over a Bulb exposure).

    Wherever you are and wherever you go, make sure you are safe as you will be walking around in the pitch black of night. Carry a torch but keep any illumination away from the camera's view of the scene. In Australia, kangaroos are a major menace as they bump into the tripod during the exposure (many ruined attempts!!).

    _______________________________________________
    Sample: South Celestial Pole star trails, central Victoria, Summer 2009.
    [Provia 100F at EI125; 1.45hr f5.6 TS-E 24mm]
    Milky Way is visible as a distinct blur at left. The magenta cast is good ol' reciprocity failure made tasty! :tongue:
     
  11. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Kangaroos bumping into the tripod, haha! I've had the problem of naked undergrads almost taking my tripod out, but fortunately I was there.

    RGS, I agree with Poisson's exposure recommendations. If there is a lighted subject in your composition then you will need to take that into account, but usually, you stay away from any light sources and aim to get as many stars as possible and hence want to shoot close to wide open and for as long as you care. I've done exposures up to ~4 hrs with my rb67 on 64T, that worked well.

    If you're in the northern hemisphere then locate the north star, you will get longer trails from the stars encircling that. For that reason a longish lens may be in order.
     
  12. RGS122

    RGS122 Member

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    Keith and Poisson, thanks for your replies. I am in the northern hemisphere so I'll locate the north star. Where I am going, I don't have to worry about Kangaroos bumping into me, but I might have to worry about what ever lurks at night at 7,000 feet.
     
  13. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Ah—, Keith...parallels...
    The reason that 2-storey building is dark in my image is because the shot took place at a nudist resort. If the buffies didn't want themselves in the frame in the illuminated top storey, the lights had to go out — and stay out! Goodness knows how they whiled away time in the pitch black for nearly 2 hours (downing grog, I believe). The night before the first attempt was botched when a 'roo crashed into the tripod, bending a leg (a tripod leg I mean!). Really, 'roos are much better undressed and served up on the dinner plate — I've got a kilo here in the freezer if you'd like to drop in and have a yum-cha?

    I haven't tried tungsten balanced film for star trails; might be something I'll dabble with this Spring-Summer. The North Star is Polaris, is it? We locate the South Celestial Pole by first locating the Southern Cross, then extending the length of the cross arm 1.5 times to approximate the position of the South Celestial Pole. It's actually then 3,000th brightest star so no point in actually poking a finger at it.
     
  14. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    I *highly* recommend fuji tungsten slide film for this task. Not just for its reciprocity, but, actually the sky becomes the most gorgeous, smooth deep blue when you do long exposures. A 3 hour example from my backyard, that I call "almost north" for obvious reasons, may be found on the second page of the gallery here. There were no adjustments of colour for this; what you see is what I got. The blues are luscious, I tell you!

    The tungsten film also renders artificially illuminated buildings quite accurately, a nice bonus. I have relied on this capability many times.

    Interesting about the procedures for locating the pole Down Under. Funny, I lived for about 15 years below the equator and never once thought about the lack of a true south-polar star. When I came to the states and learned about polaris I was really amazed. But I was a kid without a camera I was more interested in whether the water spiraled the "wrong" way down the toilet :wink:
     
  15. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    I've located a roll of 64T Keith at my usual pro dealer and will take it for a spin on a remote area camp in early August and an even more remote camp in the wilds of Tasmana and the end of August. Usually employ Provia 100F but only because I'd continue shooting colour scenes with it; with 64T I can whip it in/out. I've only ever seen star trails results on the Velvia, Provia or Astia emulsions so this experiment should be interesting. Might even push it to 100.
     
  16. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Yes, the tungsten film actually pushes very well, even 2 stops. I did handheld fireworks with it once, with some success, pushed 2 stops.

    P.S. In terms of pushability, I don't think anything beats provia 400x.
     
  17. RGS122

    RGS122 Member

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    That is a really nice blue you have in that picture.