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  1. #1

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    Need advice on Aurora Borealis and color film

    Hi, I'm going to visit Norway next month to shoot some Northern Lights, if I get lucky.

    I've read all info I could get on the Internet, but those tips were meant for digital shooters.
    Some of them are good for film, too, like keep the exposure below 30s, bring fast lens, etc.

    However, I'm taking with me my trusty Mamiya 645 gear only, so I'm looking for advice regarding
    which film is the best for the job, and how should I meter and expose it.

    Right now in my freezer I have Velvia RVP50, E100G, E100VS, Provia 100F, Provia 400X, Portra 400, and Ektar 100.

    My favourite film is E100G, but I've never shoot it at night (I've read about weird color shift when exposition time is longer than 10 seconds).

    I appreciate any advice.

    JaZ

  2. #2
    adelorenzo's Avatar
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    You don't meter. Just set your focus on infinity, shoot wide open (F2.8 - F4.0), squeeze the shutter and count your seconds. Try bracketing some shots at 15, 20, 30, 40 seconds to see what gives you the best results.

    I've had pretty good results with Provia 400X on my Pentax 645NII. These shots are from a not a very bright display, exposed for about about 40s and not pushed at all. I would probably recommend pushing a stop to 800.


    Fish Lake Aurora by Anthony DeLorenzo, on Flickr


    Fish Lake Aurora by Anthony DeLorenzo, on Flickr

  3. #3

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    I was actually quite lucky with color negative, I used Fuji Superia 800 and my exposures were up to 1 or 1.5 minutes. The high sensitivity of the film helped reveal the faint lights in less-than-ideal setting with way too much light pollution and my aperture was f4 or f5.6 with a super-wide angle. I' m sure if you manage to find a really dark place, ISO 200 or 400 will work nicely.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 24.jpg  

  4. #4

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    Thank you very much, @adelorenzo and mauro35, for samples.

  5. #5

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    Very limited experience, but for what it's worth: I've only seen the aurora once and used Provia 400x (with a full moon my best exposure was around 20 seconds at f4) with good results. I generally like the palette of Velvia 50, but for night work I find it too slow with too much reciprocity failure, so if I had the opportunity to experiment I'd try Velvia 100, which I like for moonlight. The aurora I saw faded pretty quickly though and I'm glad I had 400 speed to make a few different exposures before it vanished.

  6. #6
    adelorenzo's Avatar
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    When I shot digital it was always ISO 100 for the northern lights to keep the noise down and I was still able to use 10-15 second exposures. The digital sensors seem to capture a lot more than the naked eye can see. Although someone like my friend David Cartier is shooting 800-1600 and his photos are incredible. I mean seriously incredible, if you want to see some of the best aurora photography anywhere go check out his Flickr stream.

    I am not sure you could do it with 100 film although to be honest I have never tried. Even though a film Provia 100 has no reciprocity issues up to 1 minute exposures I am just not sure if it would be sensitive enough. It's worth trying but I would definitely plan on shooting some faster film as well. As you know once the exposures get too long the aurora can get kind of blurry. If I go out again I'll try pushing film to 800 and see how it goes.

    All this technical info aside, the biggest reason my aurora photos are few and not the greatest is because it takes a lot of willingness to go out in the cold and stay up late and hope for the best and too often my warm bed tends to win out. If you are serious about the aurora take an afternoon nap, dress very warmly and get out away from the light pollution on any clear night and I'm sure you'll get some good stuff.

    Also please let us know how it goes for you on your trip!



 

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