Shooting at Night
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?
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.
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.
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/bi...anAcros100.pdf
Kodak TMX: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/profe...4016/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.
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!
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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!
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.
If you do star trails, consider fuji T64.
Originally Posted by RGS122
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 keithwms; 07-05-2010 at 10:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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?
Originally Posted by keithwms
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!