Night photography

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Roxy d'Urban, May 10, 2005.

  1. Roxy d'Urban

    Roxy d'Urban Guest

    I have always been interested in this field but know nothing about making
    it come out right. During my brief partnership with the Leica M6 I shot a
    roll to see just how badly out the meter is (pretty bad, I'm afraid and
    the camera has gone back to the owner for him to have repaired). The film
    was Kodak T-CN400 and IIRC the lens I used here was either the 35mm
    Summicron or the 50mm Summicron.

    The first couple of exposures I took with the M6 at night, using my
    Minolta Flashmeter IV came out okay (density on the negs doesn't seem to
    indicate any over or under exp.) These were low res scans from the Konica
    digital Minilab.
    This was from my front door, exposure of 15 seconds at f/8.
    This shot was a five minute exposure and I decided to mess around a bit so
    I walked up and down the driveway with my pocket flashlight. What fun!

    What intrigues me is that I just guessed the 5 minute exposure and I got a
    useable negative. With the 15 second exposure I also got a usable neg and
    yet the lighting is more or less the same. In the first shot you can see a
    bit of flare in the upper left quadrant from a bulkhead just out of the

    How do you usually expose for a night scene? Just up the road from me is a
    magnificent vantage point of the city skyline that I would like to capture
    at night.
    Roxy d'Urban, May 10, 2005
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  2. Roxy d'Urban

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Yes, there's probably considerable reciprocity failure at such long
    exposure times.
    Bracket a lot.
    Paul Rubin, May 10, 2005
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  3. Roxy d'Urban

    pickle Guest

    Paul's right. Reciprocity will have reduced the amount of difference
    you see between the two exposures, from just over 4 stops in terms of
    time, to perhaps about 2 stops-worth of recorded light. The second
    picture shows mostly a darker place than the first. If you look in the
    distance of the second shot to where the first one was taken, then
    you'll see that area is indeed a little over-exposed. I know you said
    what film you used, but your message doesn't show in my edit box here
    so I don't know what you said, BUT if it was print film, then there is
    also a few stops of latitude there.

    For a well-lit city night scene and ISO 100 film, 15s at f/5.6 won't be
    far out! Good luck.
    pickle, May 10, 2005
  4. Roxy d'Urban

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Your hand held meter will often be better than the in camera meter. An
    exception to this is the Nikon FE, which has a flaw in the meter design. The
    "flaw" allows the meter to continue to keep the shutter open for a very long
    time (I have gone up to 42 minutes so far, though usually my exposures are
    under 10 minutes).
    There is more room for "error" in exposure at night than with daytime. One
    factor is reciprocity of the film, though you need to test to find out the
    settings. Another factor is that there is so little light, that the range of
    exposures that gives usable images is somewhat wide. So it is not really
    "error", but a wider choice depending upon the effect you want to achieve.
    You need to practice a bit to get an image like you might see with your eyes,
    or imagine. The other thing that helps is to shoot when the sun has just set,
    and the sky is still a little blue. That can give a better night look than
    when it is very dark outside. Of course, you could always bracket your
    Gordon Moat, May 10, 2005
  5. Roxy d'Urban

    Bandicoot Guest

    For a night city-lights scene I usually wait till the sky reads about 8s at
    f4 (ISO100) and start shooting till it's at about a stop less, and then go
    home for tea. That gets me some light still in the sky, which is _much_
    more interesting than spots of light against a pitch black 'void' which is
    what happens later on.

    Alternatively, Pentax LX, intelligent use of compensation, and sit back with
    tea in a Thermos while it accurately exposes over several minutes :)

    Either way, bracket. Not so much to get the 'right' exposure, since a stop
    each way (on slide film) around my suggested exposure will still give you
    three exposures that are all entirely usable, but because it is all about
    the effect you want to achieve. A stop under may be more 'accurate', but
    not necessarily so interesting, a stop over may be more dramatic, but may
    also have blown highlights - which one you prefer is going to be a very
    personal thing, and will also depend on end usage.

    Experiment with Tungsten film or an 80A filter and you'll get the tungsten
    lit buildings without the yellow, and a very cold looking blue sky - Sodium
    vapour and other odd lights will still be off-colour, but then that's part
    of the point of a night scene. A mildish magenta - say a CC15M - can also
    make for interesting shots at night, and will take some of the green out of
    flourescents, but not so much as to render the colours bland. Just have

    Bandicoot, May 10, 2005
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