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  1. #1
    kodachrome64's Avatar
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    Best exposure techniques for (night) landscape lighting?

    I've been trying to figure out the best approach to take for some shots I will be doing this weekend of landscape lighting for a friend's business. I want to try B&W and color. What is the best way to get the most dynamic range? Here are my ideas:

    • Shoot at dusk instead of in complete darkness
    • Expose the house without lighting and then turn on the lights briefly
    • Do one exposure for shadows and one for highlights and combine (printing or digitally)
    • Use B&W filim and stand develop


    Obviously it will be difficult to get a good exposure of the house/property without blowing out the highlights (lighting fixtures and the light they cast on the house). I have had some success in doing a long exposure on my own house with the lighting off and then flicking the lights on for a brief second, but I don't know if I'll be able to do that on these houses. I'm going to do some tests but I'd like to get some keepers the first time around.

    Can this be done with color film or is it best to stick with B&W for best results? Is this something best controlled during exposure/developing or during printing?

    The films I was planning to use are TMY-2 and Ektar 100. I remember a couple of years ago learning on APUG that TMY-2 was a great film for long exposures. I also have the new Portra 400 but I don't think that would be of much help here. For gear I will be using my RZ67, 50mm lens, and a sturdy Manfrotto tripod. Any experience on the matter would be greatly appreciated!
    Kodachrome
    They give us those nice bright colors
    They give us the greens of summers
    Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah.
    -Paul Simon

  2. #2

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    Years ago I got a good looking shot of a friends cabin. Set up before dusk, turn on the lights, meter inside the house (or lit landscape) for exposure, then you've got a couple of choices,,, I just waited till it looked good and bracketed a couple.

    I think you'd be better off just metering the siding of the house (some part of the landscape that's just natural light), somewhere,,, and take a shot every 1/2 or 1 f stop of change till it looks a bit darker than you want. (leave the camera set to properly expose the interior of the house(lit landscape)). (I was shooting chrome of some sort back then). That will give you a well exposed interior without having to squint test the flicking light switches. I did try the paint with light thing as a young person,,, never did get it really well.

    I'll try to explain again if I totally confused the issue with the house interior/exterior example. I know that works.

  3. #3

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    I would expose twice onto the same piece of film, using two different exposures. Use one for the ambient light, with the lamps off. Then turn the lamps on and do an exposure for them. A spot meter would help you immensely.

    The other trick would be to ND gel all the practicals, and/or replace their lamps with dimmer ones. It is more work, but it will do the trick.

    The less dark it is when you shoot the house/yard, the easier things will be.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  4. #4
    Mainecoonmaniac's Avatar
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    I'm a fan of Andrew Sanderson's site The Web Darkroom. There's a tutorial on night photography.

    http://www.thewebdarkroom.com/?cat=70

  5. #5
    jp498's Avatar
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    I'd probably setup late in the afternoon (since i'm not a morning person), and get a few shots at intervals as the outdoor light decreased. Then you'll get the right balance without lots of work. A color negative film rather than a slide film will get a bigger dynamic range. Then once that balance of light is gone, try the stuff other people have mentioned while you are there.

  6. #6
    kodachrome64's Avatar
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    Great suggestions everyone! I'm going to try starting in the evening well before dark, and watch until I get the balance of light I want.

    Please keep posting if you have any ideas! Any special development (for B&W) that would help with this type of scene?
    Kodachrome
    They give us those nice bright colors
    They give us the greens of summers
    Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah.
    -Paul Simon

  7. #7
    Diapositivo's Avatar
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    I myself when I am confronted with this kind of situations in night shots do the following:

    with a reflected light spot lightmeter take a measure of the highest light zone that I want to have detail in the picture. That means all light sources, which will be brighter than my last highlight of interest, will be left to go white, and I will concentrate on surfaces which I want to appear "almost white" on the picture, which in your case is the brightest part of the house which is lighted by the light source. Ideally you should have only the light source to go burned.

    Take a measure there, i.e. on the brightest part of the wall, which we call exposure R, and open another 2.3 EV, which we call exposure C. Actually, you could try several "R" points and should retain the brightest and calculate C after it.

    That should put the measured spot near the bright end of the linear curve of the (positive) film, just before the "shoulder" (or the "foot" depending how you trace the characteristic curve of a slide film).

    Check with the spot light meter which are the shadows that are still legible, i.e. that do not close completely, i.e. scan with the lightmeter to check various zones which should be let's say no more than 2.7 EV below your calculated exposition, a point that we will call F, below which level of brightness the "foot" begins and details become to be lost.

    After doing this, "visualize" your picture, imagining how the highlights and the shadow will fall on the negative, and zones where the highlights will be burned and the lowlights will be blocked.

    Adjust composition if you have an excess of blocked lowlights. Close exposure a bit if you see no problem with lowlights. Adjust composition if light sources create flare which you can detect, or try to place flare into uniformly dark areas so that you will be more easily able to correct them afterword.

    If the highlights are of interest to your composition (and are not only let's say street lamp light source) then I would anticipate shooting at dusk, when the intensity of external light is more or less equal (probably an EV less, so that you can put dusk light on middle gray and inner lights one EV above) than the artificial highlights you are interested in.

    In this case I would also bracket in time (shooting with several degrees of dusk, at let's say 10 minutes intervals).

    Sometimes, or oftentimes, the contrast of illumination is too strong for any material, so you have either to accept that you will have some degree of burned highlights and blocked lowlights (and try to "place" those in the less harmful way to the image) or try some composed capture such as the one suggested by 2F/2F. In this case I think it is better to use the same aperture for the two shots, and only change exposure time.

    Colour material might give you problems of colour shifts due to the defect of reciprocity, you will also have weird colour balances anyway when you mix the sky light with artificial sources of light. Fujifilm Astia is very good as far as reciprocity is concerned.

    This is an example taken with this tecnique, with Astia slide film:
    http://fineartamerica.com/featured/t...o-ruggeri.html
    (scanning exaggerates contrast further).

    As you can see, inevitably the highest highlights are burned and the lowest lowlights are blocked. The overall effect is, I think, pleasant. If I had tried to salvage more highlights or more lowlights, the picture would have been entirely different. The carpet is short and one has to place it carefully. I don't have experience with negative, but trying to exploit all its latitude I suppose might generate an image a bit too flat, lacking contrast. Contrast in these pictures can be nicer than detail everywhere. It's your aesthetic choice anyway...

    I did not bracket this exposure, just followed said calculation.

    Another thing you could do is to visualize where you want your "middle grey" to fall. Measure on that spot. The exposure read, R, will be the one you use for the shot, C. Scan the image with your lightmeter to check, again, which highlight go burned and which lowlights block.

    It is likely that your lowlights, during "scanning", will fall below the minimum light value that your light meter can measure. Just concentrate on control of highlights and let the shadows "fall where they may".

    Fabrizio

    PS Black and white for this kind of shots is easier because you have to fight less with weird colour balances and because B&W films maintain "reciprocity" for longer exposure.
    Last edited by Diapositivo; 11-27-2010 at 07:23 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #8
    jp498's Avatar
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    For B&W, some film with low reciprocity like Tmax 400 would be good. Develop it in a pyro developer like PMK to get a big dynamic range handled well. You could shoot some duplicates and develop them differently for additional flexibility.

  9. #9
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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    This movie trailer for "Visual Accoustics" tells how Schulman did it...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUQErQtVI04
    Randy S.

    In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

    -----

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randystankey/

  10. #10

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    While I now use digital entirely, I began my work with landscape lighting photography with a medium format Mamiya. As background, for the last 9 years I've worked for a landscape lighting manufacturer (www.cast-lighting.com). During that time I traveled the country, shooting landscape lighting projects of about a hundred of the best landscape lighting designers. I have about 400 of these images posted in our online photo gallery. I also teach this type of photography in hands-on seminars.

    Here's a couple articles I wrote on the subject (although many of the tips are for digital cameras) Landscape Lighting Photography - Advanced Tips; Landscape Lighting Photography: The Day/Night & Before-and-After Shots.

    My memories of shooting these images with film are largely painful. The main problem being that very long exposures were required - between 1 and 2 minutes. Given that the best time to shoot was at dusk, I only had about a 15 minute window to get the best shots. With a 2-minute exposure, that doesn't give a lot of time for bracketing. Also, reciprocity failure was a big issue and getting the right exposure was a lot of trial and error.

    Another problem was the expense. To get high quality digital scans was about $90 per negative.

    Anyway, good luck. I found that the best exposure was measured by putting my grey card directly in the beam of one of the landscape lights (at an angle that mimicked target architectural surfaces. I started at that exposure and bracketed up in 2 stop increments.

    Here's one of my early film shots:
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails mw-cover-photo-h.jpg  

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