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  1. #1
    CHHAHH's Avatar
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    Metering at night

    I might overthink something here and you'll give yourself a face palm right now but i am stuck with metering my exposures at night scenes.
    With a DSLR i can get myself close by making test images and reviewing them on display...but now i have my first fully manual camera and a handheld lightmeter (with bulb and spotmeter).
    I would love to take my camera out for a walk at night, but i just can't figure out how to meter correctly for Tri-X...

    Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Jim Noel's Avatar
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    Use your spot meter on the important highlight with very good detail and place it on ZOne VII. Let the rest fall where it will. The shadows should end up near black and that is the way night is.
    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]Films NOT Dead - Just getting fixed![/FONT]

  3. #3

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    If you get stuck with a meter that doesn't read properly in low light you can gain a few stops of use by taking a reflected reading of a piece of white paper (instead of a grey-card) then giving 2 1/2 stops more exposure than indicated. I've been using a Lunasix-3 meter which will read very low light levels, but most meters won't do that of course.

    It's useful to consider the very high contrast of many night scenes too. Any man-made light source will be extremely bright compared to unlit areas. For a realistic look the high-contrast can be maintained in the image, so perhaps meter the highlights and sacrifice the shadows. Alternatively, don't shoot in total night conditions, but use the natural 'fill-light' from a dusk or dawn sky to lower the contrast and then print the picture to look more like the range your eye sees, using the extra detail where appropriate.

    Don't forget to check the reciprocity failure of the film you are using too, and make appropriate allowance when calculating your exposure.

  4. #4
    CHHAHH's Avatar
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    Thanks! I was thinking about that too! Will give it a try!

  5. #5
    alienmeatsack's Avatar
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    I've run into the same problem before when out with meterless cameras and meters that are finicky. I like the slightly overexposed stuff at night, so I end up way over exposing trying to compensate.

    I think what I've resorted to the most is using a meter app on my phone to get closer to the right place, then using the handheld meter from scene to scene based on what I know the phone told me, adjusting and going from there.

    My first response was to bring a small digital that can meter with you and aim/note the settings. But that defeats the purpose and the learning experience. I've been trying to learn to visually meter and then backup my visual guess with a hand held meter. I need to replace my meter as it's old and no longer very accurate which makes a frustrating time for sure.

  6. #6
    pstake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Noel View Post
    Use your spot meter on the important highlight with very good detail and place it on ZOne VII. Let the rest fall where it will. The shadows should end up near black and that is the way night is.
    This is the best advice. Depending on your skin tone, you can also meter off your palm and place that at zone V or VI and use that—but Jim's method is more precise.

    Do either of these things a few times and you'll get a ballpark idea where to set your shutter and aperture when photographing the areas you go to at night.

    I use Tri-X at 1600 and in street-lamp heavy areas like outdoors downtown, I am usually between F2-F4 at 1/125. I meter once or twice at the beginning of the night and then ballpark it so my other hand is free to hold a beer. Inside bars I take another reading, usually setting it around F2 or F1.5 at 1/60 unless it's one of the really seedy places. Then it's wide-open at 1/30 and hopefully a very steady hand.

  7. #7
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    This has NEVER failed me even with slides.
    http://www.stacken.kth.se/~maxz/programming.html Down near the bottom
    New Jiffy Calculator

    While searching for data on exposure estimation in nighttime photography I stumbled upon a scan of the "Jiffy Calculator" by S.P. Martin. This was apparently published in a photographical magazine in the sixties. The scan wasn't too good and it was hard to get the numbers aligned. Also there were some strange numberings on the jiffy calculator. I combined this with data from the Ultimate Exposure Computer regarding EV:s.

    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  8. #8

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    I use this with good success http://www.blackcatphotoproducts.com/guide.html and my Luna Pro. Always bracket and keep notes for the future.

  9. #9

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    Thank you Sirius for the link. Although I am in question as to what the tungsten speeds are for today's B&W films. I haven't seen a tungsten speed in at least 40 years listed on or in the materials packaged with film.

  10. #10
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom1956 View Post
    Thank you Sirius for the link. Although I am in question as to what the tungsten speeds are for today's B&W films. I haven't seen a tungsten speed in at least 40 years listed on or in the materials packaged with film.
    I always used ASA with the Jiffy Calculator even with Type B film.
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

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