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  1. #1

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    Night sky shooting info, overwhelm!

    Going to Lost Dutchman State park later this week, and suddenly got the concept of shooting the night sky, in b&w. I can use Arista EDU Ultra 400 (Foma 400) sheet film, or medium format TriX 400.

    Never having done this before I Goggled, and there is a wealth of information on the net, but most of what I checked seems to concern itself with digital and color. Its just overwhelming all the info. Can't go through all of it.

    Can anyone point me to a more specific site, that better suits the need simply, with perhaps information on these two particular b&w films in doing long exposures, and what to be aware of and watch out for.

    Having not shot much of the Ultra (Foma) film, I have learned, that it's best to shoot it at 200. Its the fastest sheet film I have right now, and realize for this endevour, one usually uses much faster film or pushes the film in use.

    This is more of an experiment in learning, to see if I want to get into this type of shooting in for the future and what it may entail.
    Thanks for any tips or hints.

  2. #2
    Kevin Caulfield's Avatar
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    You don't really need a fast film for night sky photography. Usually the exposure times are quite long anyway, often several hours or so. You will get much nicer detail in star trails from a slower, finer grained film.

  3. #3

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    Agree with the advice to use slower film if it's star trails you're after.

  4. #4
    eddie's Avatar
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    APUG has an expert. Brian Kosoff (Early Riser) does amazing night work:
    http://www.kosoff.com/Artist.asp?Art...&Akey=C782FMS2APUG has an expert.

  5. #5
    Poisson Du Jour's Avatar
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    And a lot of information on Google is hearsay!

    I wouldn't really bother with B&W film for star trails/night sky photography. It may look just a vast mass of twinkling stars, but if you do the task in colour you will see stars of many different colours from orange, to red, blue, white, yellow and the occasional green, and maybe even satellites. The Milky Way is also quite colourful; all this would be lost on B&W.

    Any film can be used. 50, 64, 100. Certainly not 400 unless you want a short exposure of around 45 seconds (no star trails). Tungsten film can be used too for a striking blue rendition (my own choice is Provia 100F).

    Short "morse code" star trails result from an exposure of 1 hour at shallow aperatures (e.g. f4.5-f5.6). Longer trails will be obtained over 2 hours or more at aperatures of f8 while the most star trails, and greatest depth will be obtained over long exposures of say 6 hours, no greater than f8. Use a camera that is all manual/mechanical. No metering necessary. Just wait until it's dark, aim to the north celestial pole (that's for northern hemisphere folks; the photo below is aimed at the south celestial pole.).

    New Moon nights are best, but you can also get quite good images with a light crescent moon (but not in the frame as it will record as a blur). A sliver of crescent moon will cast a glow over the landscape which can be quite other-worldly.

    A strong foreground or mid-range feature is usually essential for star trails to add interest and scale. Trees, rocks, buildings, waterfalls (these will record as a solid silvery blur) etc can all be silhouetted against the night sky and enlivened by judicious use of a spot-light torch (the photo below has been illuminated inside with lanterans, and outside by car headlights for 30 seconds toward the end of the exposure), etc. Only your imagination limits you.

    A few cameras can be fitted with a data back that allows intervalometric photography*: you program in the self timer delay, the exposure in hours/minutes/seconds, number of frames and whether the sequence is repeated after a 2 hour break (by which time stars will be in a different position). Even double exposures can be quite striking and are well worth experimenting with.

    It's best to camp out rather than hang around and get impatient for a trip back home in the dark. I always make a good night of it, keeping busy until it's too dark to see.

    And finally, keep notes of what you are doing so you can refer to these when you get the results back.


    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	1-old hotel on Silverton outskirts.jpg 
Views:	140 
Size:	180.1 KB 
ID:	67967
    Outback night skies,
    Silverton, New South Wales,
    Australia.


    __________________________________________________ _
    * I have such a back fitted to my EOS 1N; I find a position in the bush nearby where I am camping, out of the range of campfire and torchlight,
    set up the exposure and head back to camp. In the morning everything is done and dusted.
    Last edited by Poisson Du Jour; 04-28-2013 at 11:43 PM. Click to view previous post history.


  6. #6

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    If you have the choice of those two films/formats then pick 120 Tri-X. The reciprocity problems are much less with Tri-X and with rollfilm you can more easily make multiple variations of exposure, field-of-view and so on. It is also possible to light the foreground with a flash or torch to give a mixed lighting effect, similar to what P-de-J did above around the building.

    The tiny dots of the stars are visibly elongated after only a short time - the Earth is rotating at one degree every four minutes after all. Most likely you would be looking for a more dramatic effect of course, so a much longer exposure would be better. The stars are bright, so any long exposure will effectively be over exposure, but that doesn't matter as (with a normal lens) they are far too small on the film to show any surface details anyway. If the ground is completely dark and there is minimal town-glare then choose the exposure based on how long you want your star-trails to appear.

    The moon is a sunlit landscape, so will be overexposed very easily if you have it in shot. In general, it might be good to be generous with the exposure and reduce development in order to try to keep the neg more printable, regarding the contrast, especially if you have any ground or horizon detail in the shot.

  7. #7
    Arcturus's Avatar
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    There is a forum over at Cloudynights for film astrophotography, you may find some info there.
    http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthrea...t/0/Board/Film

  8. #8

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    Oh my... thank you all... this is just the info I was hoping for, and becoming quite excited.

    Of note: Have three formats.. 35mm Nikon, RB67 medium format, and 3x4 Speed... all classic manual cameras, and going to use all three. ;-) Why not! Got two tripods, and will have to dig out the thing a jig, were ever it may be, that you can attach to something and holds the camera. Just loaded one of the backs of the RB with Provia 100f yesterday.. (the other back has the TRiX), so will give that a go. Got Velvia 50 in one of Nikon backs, and Protra in the udder. Can shoot 25 or 100, rather than the 400 in the Speed. And,,, were camping at a very, desert, picturesque place, that is to the east of Phoenix Az. So should have clear skies to east and north, with the glow of Phoenix acting like a 'new moon' ... or more, to the west where that source usually first rises, but alas will be missing in action as we are camping out for three nights starting this coming Thursday.
    WOW!!! Its gonna be a new photographic experience.

  9. #9
    Klainmeister's Avatar
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    PDJ: that shot is incredible. Wowzers. This is a great thread. I've been wanting to experiment with similar things. Thanks for the info
    K.S. Klain

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Poisson Du Jour View Post
    I wouldn't really bother with B&W film for star trails/night sky photography. It may look just a vast mass of twinkling stars, but if you do the task in colour you will see stars of many different colours from orange, to red, blue, white, yellow and the occasional green, and maybe even satellites. The Milky Way is also quite colourful; all this would be lost on B&W.
    PDJ, the original poster, Peter K, specifically stated he had a concept of shooting the night sky in B&W. Instead of assisting him with that you dismiss his request and impose your own views on color versus B&W photography. Night photography in B&W is just as valid as it's color version. It 's just that it is far more reliant on having interesting subject matter, lighting and composition and not just relying on pretty colors for it's visual interest. Michael Kenna and APUG's Bill Schwab are clear examples of the merits of B&W at night.


    Peter, you're better off using Fuji Acros 100 as it has almost no reciprocity failure. The 400 speed films usually end up losing a great deal of their sensitivity due to reciprocity failure so you end up with an ISO 100 film or slower anyway but also lower resolution and larger grain. As you have the option to shoot MF or LF, I'd start with MF as it easier to work with at night and gain experience.

    Shooting during a new moon will give you the best star quality but little in the way of available light to distinguish the scenery. You can sometimes use supplemental lighting if your subject is accessible but unless you know something about lighting I find that in most cases the type of lighting used looks theatrical and very unnatural.

    Shooting during a fullish moon will give you low contrast in the sky and will make the scene look like daylight. I find I get the best compromise around quarter moons. They can provide light that gives the landscape a natural yet night time look, while providing detail. There are also two of those a month versus only one full or new Moon. I also use a very powerful hand held flash light to light paint, but be aware of your position when doing that. You do not want to do that from the camera position as it tends to flare the light around the camera if there are any particles in the air and looks flat as well. I will walk several hundred feet away from the camera and light paint the scene from the direction of the moon, or add some fill from the other direction.

    You have to be very aware of city lights, car headlights and other forms of available light in your scenes. Altitude has a great effect, the higher you are the clearer the skies. Shooting east means the sky will be darker sooner in the early evening, shooting west means you'll have to wait until the sky darkens more.

    Also it helps if you are aware of the star locations and movements when you compose. In the northern hemisphere facing north, the stars rotate counter clockwise and you will see the center point of them. As you go east, stars rise, or west, stars set, the star trails get longer and appear less spherical compared to those closer to the north, they meet the horizon almost vertically at the due east and due west points depending on your latitude. When facing south, you will not see the epicenter of the stars as the Earth's horizon blocks it, so the stars will form an arc over the southern sky. There is cell phone and tablet software, such as SKyWalk for iPad that makes this far easier to predict.

    You will also need a sturdy tripod, I weigh mine down with sandbags so that any breezes do not shake the camera. Depending on how bright the sky is, amount of moon, a good staring point on exposure with Acros 100 is f8 at about 15- 20 minutes. Darker skies means you can go longer without fading the stars into a lighter background, brighter skies means you need a shorter exposure. The aperture is what matters most for the actual exposure of the stars.

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