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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2013

    Shooting at night

    Hi, I would like to take a few shots at night - namely fireflies in woods (there are hundreds of them) and lake & moon. Maybe lake in the twilight. There will be no lamps, cars.... Just moon (if I´m lucky).
    I will be using old Smena 8M and tripod.
    What film, aperture and exposure time should I use?
    Thanx a lot.

  2. #2
    Worker 11811's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Pennsylvania, USA
    Multi Format
    Shot this with a Rolleiflex, not a Smena but, since both cameras are totally manual, it's something you can use as a starting point:

    It was about 10:00 PM. Somewhat foggy. No light but street light.
    Didn't use a meter or anything. Just used Kentucky windage.
    There was a cement top bench right there at the edge of the waterfront. I put the camera down on the bench, aimed it where I thought it should go and pressed down on the top of the camera to keep some weight on it so it wouldn't move.
    Opened the aperture all the way. Just put the shutter on "B". Pressed it in and counted "Twenty Mississippi."
    Film was Tri-X Pan. Developed in D-76 1:1 for the normal time.
    I did have to tweak the print a little to get it to print well but it came out all right.

    For you, your aperture goes to ƒ-4, I think. You do have a "B" setting.
    Just put the camera on a tripod or, somehow, buckle it down really well. Use a cable release.
    From there, just click the shutter open and count to "Forty Mississippi."

    Remember, with fireflies, you're going to get little zigzags in the air, not discrete dots.

    Try different timings: 30 Missisippi. 60 missippi. Etc.
    Experiment a little bit. Have some fun with it. You'll figure it out as you go.
    It is kind of a hit-or-miss proposition. I was kind of lucky to get the shot you see above. I have done it before and they usually came out "okay." The luck was just hitting the sweet spot.

    Other than that, all I can say is to go out and burn a roll of film and see what you get.
    Last edited by Worker 11811; 06-16-2013 at 11:19 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Randy S.

    In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.



  3. #3
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Washington DC
    Large Format
    Blog Entries
    Meters, especially spot meters if you have one, will work quite well for night exposures. Find something in the scene that you want to render medium gray - a wall, pavement, etc, and meter off that. That will give you your exposure. If you can't find something you know you want to render middle gray, take a meter reading off a light source like the street lamps in Worker's photo above, and add five stops exposure.

    I know this example is a color shot. Color film is a little different in that it generally doesn't require compensation for reciprocity until you hit say 30 seconds metered exposure. With black and white, you need to compensate for anything past 1 second metered exposure. The required compensation will vary from film to film, so check with the manufacturer for reciprocity charts, or look it up online. This one was shot on Fuji 800Z, and probably 1/2 second @ f2.8 if memory serves. I would have metered off the stone of the building, and then opened up to make sure the white stone rendered white.

    Here's what can happen when you play around with long exposures (this was something on the order three exposures combined to a total of 1 minute 30 seconds:

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Medium Format
    If you're only using moonlight, i would go with maybe 5 minutes to start off on... even in full moon... i expect this means no 'city lights' or 'light pollution'... while shorter exposures work for the above examples, one must keep in mind, that these us artificial light, which are many times brighter than natural light at night (for the most part)

    If you are trying to capture fireflies, i would also do as suggested above, but again as a start a 5 minute exposure if not 10 minutes. I would use acros, as they say it has low reciprocity failure, but you have to experiment, as i have found, that with just after sunset, and very little artificial light, and just a the last bit of 'sunset glow' i end up doing about 2 minute exposures, or up to 4 (of course these are very specific for my case)...

    Also, i would experiment before i go, especially if it's going to be a trip...

    keep in mind, that a full moon might give extra contrast, but would light up the lake seen plenty nice, i think.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    You're not going to have much luck with fireflies. Long exposures require still subjects. Otherwise you get a ghost image or nothing at all (depending on how fast the subject was moving relative to the shutter speed). You can easily push Provia 400 to 1600 with great results and it would be worthwhile to try to push it to 3200.

  6. #6
    cliveh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    35mm RF
    If you smoke, you could use the Brassai method – “To gauge my shutter time, I would smoke cigarettes – a Gauloise for a certain light, a Boyard if it was darker.”

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  7. #7
    David Lyga's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Philadelphia, PA USA
    It becomes essential to determine, beforehand, what you want as far as rendition is concerned.

    Do you wish a nighttime rendition or a daylight rendition? That determines the level of exposure needed and there are many stops difference in exposure. Both renditions can be interesting. - David Lyga

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Multi Format
    I have limited experience at night shooting, but when I have I was more interested in the highlights than the deep shadows, so I exposed it like slide film. It was all large format B&W, I metered the highlights and the midtone, set my exposure and planned development, let the shadows land wherever they did. The results were satisfying and easy to print.



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