Color Night Photography
I looking into shooting my first roll of color film at night. I don't have much experience with color (our school doesn't teach it) so I need all the help I can get.
At our local minature golfing range, the design & props are very interesting. The "area" is dark but the path is lit up with brightly colored lights. It very beauthiful and I want to caputre it.
Can someone give me advice in shooting under these conditions?
I use an old manual Canon if that makes a difference...
Thanks for your help!
Good Evening, Dilbert,
My best night color shots have been made with Ektachrome 6121, a 4 x 5 sheet film meant for copying. It has an E. I. of around 8. Exposures range from 3 to 5 minutes at f16, so, obviously, a solid tripod is the prime requirement. The reason this film works so well for long night-time exposures is that it is inherently low-contrast. I know that you mentioned a 35mm camera and may think that the information above is not pertinent, but there are also 35mm color copy films available; a film similar to 6121 was, if I recall correctly, 5071. That film is probably not available new, but you might find some on E-Bay. I have some Fuji CDU copy film in the freezer; the few sheets of it I've tried seem to work well as somewhat similar exposures to the Ektachrome 6121, but with a slightly different color rendition; perhaps Fuji offers something similar in 35mm. There's also Kodak E-Dupe, but I've never used it and have no idea what results it may give. These copy films generally have quite of latitude for pictorial purposes, so good results are not too hard to get.
Don't forget that, in addition to a rock-steady tripod, you will get better results with a 35mm SLR which has mirror lock-up; a simple 35mm rangefinder might be superior for the time exposures. Lacking a mirror lock-up, you can put anything opaque in front of the lens, trip the shutter, wait 8-10 seconds for the vibrations to die down before starting the actual exposure. Most small cameras don't have a T (time) setting, so a locking cable release will probably come in handy.
Don't forget to wear a watch and carry a small flashlight!
Despite all the warnings, I've had great results with night pictures in color. Reciprocity is a real factor, and crossovers do occur, but the results are generally satisfying. Of course, there are night photos and there are night photos. Things may be different if you are going for city lights (which produce a high contrast image) vs. moonlit and starlit scenes (which are more normal in contrast). I've used Velvia (the old stuff), EPY (with 85B filter), Ektachrome G100, NPH, and 160NC all successfully. Exposure is always by guess, and a lot of bracketing is needed. About 1 in 5 turns out decent. It helps a lot (and wastes less film) to haul along someone who does that sort of thing regularly.
A Digital Camera can be your friend here...
One way to 'cheat' on long night exposures is to us a digital camera set to the same ASA as your film to get the exposure in the ballpark, then shoot the 'real' photo allowing for reciprocity.
I would recommend a either Fuji Provia F400, F100 or Velvia 100. It depends how how much light there is in the golfing range. Depending upon the lighting you may need some type of filtration. My personal choice, given what you have told us, would be Fuji Provia F100. All these films have good reciprocity characteristics.
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My night photography is nearly all handheld, so what I'm about to write may be totally irrelevant. That doesn't normally stop me, so here goes.
I used to use mostly EPJ (Ektachrome 320T) pushed one, two or three stops depending on how much light was available, and EPH (Ektachrome P1600) or E200 pushed a stop or two if the illumination was predominantly by daylight-ish fluorescent light. EPJ gives pleasing golden colours under sodium street lights. If you click the link in my signature, you should find some snaps taken in cities at night, all handheld.
Recent improvements in high speed colour neg have swayed me more towards that, and I shoot less EPJ and EPH than I used to - though I still like the look of those two films for some purposes. Kodak Portra 800 and Fuji Natura 1600 (mail order from www.unicircuits.com in Japan) are my two favourite colour neg films for night shooting. Portra 800 can be pushed two stops, but don't try to rate it at 3200, try 1600 or 2000 instead. I don't think that it is worth pushing colour neg just one stop. Neg films handle high contrast scenes much better than reversal films, of course.
Overexposing daylight-balanced colour neg when you shoot in tungsten light (for example) helps with colour balancing later. If you are going to use a tripod, you might like to try Portra 100T - which is a tungsten-balanced neg film available in 35 mm. There are faster tungsten-balanced neg films available as movie film, but there is an issue with processing because of the 'rem-jet' layer and they don't print very well (to some people's taste) via conventional analogue colour print methods.
All the posts are good ones. I've used copy film and interneg film for night shots with success. I've always wanted to try print film, but I've only seen it in 35mm and I generally don't shoot 35mm.
Shooting hand held is really tough. Good for you Helen B.
What I do...
I shoot a lot of night photos, all on tripod and all souped C41. Because I use a tripod I don't bother with faster films. I would rather have the punch and grain of slower films.
Under mixed lights that include fluorescent NPL is slightly better than 100T, otherwise I would go with 100T if you desire a more natural colour balance. If you like drama at the expense of accuracy then I would recommend Reala, followed by 100UC or 400uc.
Reala works well because it is a low contrast film that can achieve nice saturation. It doesn't block up like NPS or NPC and has very fine grain. The UC's have great grain and also don't block up on overexposure.
The trick with night photos is trying to balance a very wide contrast range and to have a neg that can be colour balanced. Manmade lights can make this very difficult. Helen B's remark that an over exposed neg is easier to print is right on the money.
Anything under a minute for 100T or NPL requires no exposure adjustments (although, I always bracket toward overexposure). I rate Reala and 100uc @ iso 50 and bracket in full stops over on anything close to 15sec. 400UC can be rated between 200 and 320 with similar exposure compensation.
How about Ektachrome 64T (EPY)?
In one of the articles on thenocturnes.com, they recommend Ektachrome 64T (EPY), but don't say anything else about it. Does anyone have experience with it and would recommend it? Looking at the Kodak data sheets, they say that 320T (EPJ) is not recommended for exposures exceeding 10 seconds, 160T (EPT) is not recommended for exposures exceeding 1 second, but that 64T only requires 1/3 stop more for 100 second exposures and doesn't specify a recommended maximum. Maybe this is one of those applications where using a slower film is faster in the long run?
Hi, hello, good evening.
I have started to do some night photography over the last few months down in the Port of Long Beach. I have addressed two issues to my satisfaction, one consent or permission to photograph and secondly, the issue of film type and calculation of exposure.
The first was easily addressed, the Port Authority really is good about supporting my efforts, all I have to do is plan ahead a little, submit a written request noting location and general timeframe that I want to photograph in and then check in with the Dispatch Officer for a signed copy of the permit to carry with me when I go out. I find that the patrols actually will check up on me to make sure that I am doing alright, opposite of what I have read here recently as far as dealing with the authorities.
On the subject of film, I shoot large format and have used both Kodak 64T (EPY) and Fuji 64T (RTP II), both at the suggestion of other posts here in that the tungsten based film does not suffer (as much) from color shift. The port shots that I have been doing have taken place under mercury vapor as well as high pressure sodium lighting. To calculate my exposures I take both my Nikon N90S and my Pentax Digital spot meter and take readings with both, with the N90S set for matrix metering. I get a general agreement using both and most of my shots have been at 2 minutes at f16.
A tripod is a necessity as well as tapping the film holders to seat the film firmly. Good advice too on the flashlight as well as a watch.
As far as color and exposure I am pleased most with the results that I get using the Fuji 64T. While both films render the color well enough (without the significant color shift that I experienced with Velvia 100F at night), the Kodak 64T seems to have a touch of aqua in the night sky and over the white areas where the Fuji 64T does not. I am set now on using the Fuji 64T for night photography and will continue to use the Kodak 64T for my orchid photography.
For shots around sunset, I still use Velvia 100F, so the comments above are truly for "night" shots.
Hope this helps.
Since this thread has come back to life, I scanned through the entries and noticed that my own (11-16) contains an error. Ektachrome 6121 should have been described as a duplicating film, not a copy film. If you can still locate any, it remains a super film for long, nighttime exposures.