Sodium Lighting

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Andy, Oct 11, 2003.

  1. Andy

    Andy Guest

    Looking for some tips to get the best results from under sodium lighting.
    Andy, Oct 11, 2003
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  2. Andy

    RSD99 Guest

    HeHeHeHeHe ...

    You can't.

    It is a very narrow "single frequency" light source, and has *only* the putrid
    yellow-orange wavelength. Very similar to florescent, but actually much worse for

    HeHeHeHeHe ...
    RSD99, Oct 11, 2003
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  3. Andy

    rtmarsters Guest

    I haven't any experience in this, but it occurs to me that B&W film might
    be the best alternative. Also, I searched the subject on google and some
    results which came back that might be of use are:

    Most of the results were astronomy based, but you might have more luck
    searching it yourself as you'd know best what to enter.
    rtmarsters, Oct 11, 2003
  4. Andy

    Norman Worth Guest

    There are two kinds of sodium lamps. In both the orange sodium D lines
    predominate, making them essentially monochromatic. The high pressure
    sodium lamps used in most street lighting have a somewhat broader spectrum
    and add some mercury lines as well. Kodak recommends using CC70B plus
    CC50C filtration over the lens and three stops additional exposure for
    color negative films (80B + 20C for Ektachrome) with high pressure sodium
    lamps. The low pressure lamps are strictly monochromatic. You will
    certainly need to experiment. Black and white film will work, but the
    scene will only reflect the colors in the light, so the rendering will not
    be natural.
    Norman Worth, Oct 11, 2003
  5. Others have given the technical answers, and very interesting too!

    Coincidentally, I was out and about on Saturday evening taking pictures
    under a variety of streetlights. I was using standard Fuji film, no special
    filters, no special processing. I wasn't expecting miracles, and so was
    pleasantly surprised with _some_ of the pictures. (Nothing good enough for
    me to want to share here - the pictures were functionally acceptable
    illustrations, mostly what I was wanting, but well short of being good

    Firstly, your biggest enemy is likely not to be the colour, but a far more
    basic problem of just not enough light. Yellow sodium lighting is one of
    the most efficient ways of turning electricity into light, although the
    quality of the light produced is far from perfect. If costs have been pared
    back that far, the streetlighting isn't going to be brighter than it really
    has to be - and that's marginal for photography. More expensive lighting
    installations tend to be both brighter and whiter, but the overall
    brightness still won't be any more than twilight levels. Use the fastest
    lens you can get your hands on, combined with the fastest film that you can
    get off with: I used a 55mm 1:1.2 prime lens, with 800 and 1600 film. Many
    of the pictures were acceptably exposed, but enough were still blurred that
    I found myself dreaming for another couple of stops to play with! (I was
    very limited with what I could do at the weekend - tripod and flash were
    completely out of the question, so it all had to be handheld.)

    Next, try find views with an even spread of light across ground and
    buildings. A problem to be avoided at all costs is the meter fixing on the
    unlit blackness of the sky - followed closely by the meter trying to pull
    the exposure back so as to not overexpose any streetlights that just happen
    to land in the picture. My best pictures had little or no sky in the
    picture, the worst were mainly sky with the streetlighting both burned out
    and blurred. I also got an impression that some surfaces are better at
    reflecting than others: Buildings of light coloured Portland stone and
    clean new concrete pavement slabs would seem to be the best combination -
    reflecting plenty of light around, and also helping to dampen out the worst
    of any colour cast. But you don't always get to choose where to take the

    And as for that colour cast, you can either accept it, or you can fight it.
    I found that as I travelled around the city, I usually wasn't aware of what
    kind of lighting I had - my eyes adapted to the changing colours quickly
    enough that I didn't really notice. Worst by far is low pressure yellow
    sodium, which puts a deep red cast onto the picture. Mercury strip lighting
    is the other way, with a faint green tinge. Best of the lot is high
    pressure sodium, and preferably as new as possible. If you're going to be
    taking a lot of photos in the same place over a period of time, then look
    closely at what the lights are - run a test films, and use filters to
    compensate for the 'problem' as you see it. But if you're taking pictures
    whenever pictures appear for you, then just ignore it and sort it out on the

    It wouldn't harm to use colour elsewhere in the picture: A large splash of a
    known greenth, like a roadsign on a primary route, can provide an anchor for
    the viewer to compensate for the colour cast elsewhere in the picture. The
    red disk of a No-entry or Congestion Charging sign, or a blue flag sign
    pointing onto a motorway, could all have the same effect. I got one
    sequence of pictures with the same dayglo orange Dyno-rod van providing
    colour continuity as it drove through bands of very different lighting.

    If in doubt, go for it! If you don't use the camera, you'll never get the
    picture. If you do push the boundaries of what you can do, you might get
    something really worthwhile. A year ago, I'd never have imagined that
    photography at night was possible.

    David D Miller
    David D Miller, Oct 17, 2003
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