35mm ISO for nighttime street/city photography?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Don Simon, Aug 24, 2005.

  1. Don Simon

    Don Simon TPF Noob!

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    Eh sorry for sticking two new threads here in such short succession; I'm not attempting a hostile takeover of the forum or anything :D

    Again I come before you with a newbie question, as I've never really tried to 'do' nighttime photography with 35mm before. Sure, the occasional shot at a party or on holiday using flash, but I don't really count that since the photos never turn out all that well.

    What I'm looking for is a colour film with which I can take nighttime photographs in the street without flash, without having to use a very slow shutter speed, as these scenes are almost certain to include people. I also hope to be taking nighttime 'landscapes' of towns and cities, viewed from the surrounding countrside using tripod and cable release, and therefore I would like the film to show a reasonable amount of detail (although I won't be making huge enlargements or anything).

    I'm hoping not to spend an enormous amount of cash on the film. I'd go for Fuji if possible, would also go for other brands but would hope to avoid Kodak. Suggestions for a specific film would be great, but if not just an ISO would be helpful. Would 1600 be most suitable, or could I get away with a lower ISO?

    Thanks in advance for suggestions :) :hail:
     
  2. lazarus219

    lazarus219 TPF Noob!

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    If you want to have people, without flash, your going to have huge problems, i'd be suggesting AT LEAST iso800, and a FAST lens (DOF will be a problem though)

    To do night shots though (long exposures) Use ISO100, keeps them sharp, and dosent have grain, unless you want grain (tmax 3200 has a good rep for grain)
     
  3. Don Simon

    Don Simon TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Lazarus, I'll probably be using a 50mm f1.7 lens. I have to admit I'm surprised that photographing people without flash would be that difficult; after all there will be illumination since the shots will mostly be in well-lit city streets, and even my camera-phone can manage that (but only with an image the size of a postage stamp!)

    I'll definitely be taking your advice on using lower ISO speeds for long exposures, but will be using ISO200 instead of 100. ISO200 seems to get a bashing on photography forums for supposedly being as slow as 100 with the quality of 400, but I saw 20 rolls for a really great price and couldn't turn it down.

    I've also ordered a few rolls Fuji Superia (or Press) 800, Fuji NPZ 800 and what may be either Superia 1600 or Super G Plus 1600. 7dayshop.com is pretty useless at describing items, so they sell "Fuji Superia/Press 800" (well which is it then!?), and list "Fuji Super G Plus 1600" with a photo of Superia 1600 and a description of Superia 1600. I'm hoping for the Press rather than the Superia and the Superia rather than the Super G Plus respectively, but at the price I'm paying I don't really mind as long as it turns up in the next couple of weeks. Hope to be able to post some good nighttime shots here in a couple of weeks. Thanks again for the advice!
     
  4. montresor

    montresor TPF Noob!

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    I've done nighttime neon with color 800 with some success, but other subjects require 1600 for color, and even then, the results are not exactly optimal. For me, fast ISO speeds have not been a foolproof low-light solution; the suggestion to go with ISO100 and a tripod where possible is a good one. Classic photogs who have had success with non-flash night shots are Brassai, Bill Brandt -- look at their stuff and see how they combine night conditions with strong light sources, often out-of-frame. But their subjects were almost always posed (people) or static (streetscapes). B&W is easier to work with at night too, because color can interact strangely with the sodium vapor streetlights so prevalent today.
     
  5. selmerdave

    selmerdave TPF Noob!

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    If you can adjust the ISO setting on your camera, set it to 3200 and then go out in the conditions you're looking to and check your readings. I did that with a 50mm lens at 1.7 and was still getting readings of 1/30 or 1/15 for street-lit night shots. Still a bit too slow for decent hand-held shots and I wouldn't want to shoot at 1.7 too much, but I'm going to try it anyway with a roll of T3200. I don't think 800 would do it at all and 1600 would be pretty iffy. But check it out, maybe your street lights are really bright.

    Dave
     
  6. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    I'd suggest stopping your flash right down and using that to freeze the action, when done well you won't know it's flash. I've tried this kind of thing before and I think 800+ ISO colour film sucks. I love 3200 B&W and it's really good for people - you can shoot in candle light with my Contax and f1.7 50mm :)

    Or, just use a 100 ISO film and a tripod and have the people blurred and hit them with your flash hand-held from an angle at about 20ft away - that's pretty cool. Or don't use the flash at all and have cool blurry ghosts.

    Rob
     
  7. montresor

    montresor TPF Noob!

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    Dug out my Bill Brandt book and found that he used a similar technique, threw his Rollei on a tripod, threw open the shutter on T, fired a flash and then closed the shutter.

    I think you should try out everyone's suggestions and see which one you like best. It certainly will be a fun project! :D
     
  8. Don Simon

    Don Simon TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone for all the suggestions - I'll be trying almost everything that's been suggested here; and I particularly like the idea of low ISO long-exposure shooting. My reasons for not particularly wanting to use flash are that I'm not particularly experienced at it, but also because I'm not particularly well-equipped (careful now) in the flash department. My Minolta Dynax won't be any good because not only the built-in flash but also the hotshoe refuses to work. For the Pentax I have old auto flashes by Cobra and Vivitar, both pretty cheap and I can only stick them on the hotshoe, so I'm not sure if they'd be any good.

    By the way, I just noticed this, dealing with reciprocity failure, on the 'basic concepts' thread... I'll just quote the more relevant points... "at shutter speeds longer than 1 second Tmax 100 is faster than Tmax 400".
    (http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=3028&page=1)
    This confuses me, because if that is the case then how do you meter for it? Just to give an example, my handheld meter tells me than in certain light conditions I'll need 8 seconds at F/16 with ISO100, or around 2 seconds at the same aperture with ISO400. In other words it operates on the basis that whatever the shutter speed ISO400 is faster than ISO100. At what point should I stop believing my meter?

    Actually, a better question would be how do you meter at night at all? The meter in my flashy Minolta panics if I try any aperture above F2.8 for some scenes (because it's longest shutter speed is 30 seconds) and even my handheld lightmeter requires a certain amount of light before the dial will swing at all. Is there some kind of rule or general good practice for working out the exposure yourself in these situations?

    Thanks again!
     

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