Night shots with long-exposures, advice

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Nicodemus, Jan 28, 2005.

  1. Nicodemus

    Nicodemus TPF Noob!

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    Hello. I want to start taking some long-exposures at night, generally of dark landscapes, but perhaps later trying some star and moon shots, etc. I'm very much a photography beginner in general, and was wondering if anybody had any advice on some general guidelines for the sorts of exposure times required for different situations, f/stop to be used, etc. Is a light-meter necessary for that sort of thing? Or does that not apply once you're attempting exposures that are minutes or hours long? Thanks!
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    I've experimented a bit with long exposure photography but there are a few members here who are very good at it...hopfully they will show up to offer advice.

    Obviously, a tripod or suitable support is a necessity. What camera do you have? It probably has a built in light meter but when doing long exposure you run into reciprocity failure of the film, so the metered values may not be very accurate. I don't think a hand held meter would be any better. They say that slow film, ISO 100 or lower performs better for long exposures so that's probably your best bet.

    As for exposure times and aperture values...that really depends on a lot of factors. Film, available light & what results you are looking for. I think the best thing to do is to take a light reading with the camera to get a starting point and then bracket your shots from there. Take a note book and record your settings for each shot...this way you will learn what works and what does not.

    The best advice is to experiment and have fun. Don't forget to share you results with the forum.
     
  3. rmphoto

    rmphoto TPF Noob!

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    hello,

    hope this helps as a begining to night photos. To continue what ^ that guy said, yes a tripod and cable release are neccesary to keep the camera still. Shoot with 100 iso or slower. Your light meter is not really needed at night. Leave your lense at f8 at all times and play around with exposure times. Start with maybe a 30 second at 100iso and see what you get. It depends alot on the scene.
    If your are shooting with negative print film, your are going to be pretty safe, negative film is VERY forgiving, you can have up to a 10 second exposure mistake at night, and this will be corrected at the processers without you even knowing about it. Example, you shot one photo for 20 seconds, the next, same scene, for 30 seconds... they will look identical!

    theres so much more i could say as night photos are pretty much all i do, but anyways i hope this helps get you started.
     
  4. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Even much larger segments of time can seem like the same exposure when you look at the negs. Depending on the scene 1 min, 2.5 min, and 5 min can come out almost identical. Definitely experiment, and keep notes. If you are using film visit the manufacturer's website for the information on their recommendations when using their film for long exposures; it'll give you somewhere to start.

    Also, somewhere out there on the web is a site with a "common exposures" chart that gives recommendations for all sorts of scenes including night scenes. I can't remember what it's called, but it's somebody's ultimate exposure guide of something like that. Maybe someone else can remember?
     
  5. Nicodemus

    Nicodemus TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the advice, guys. This gives a lot to go off of. I definitely will do some experimenting and post some results. Keeping a notebook of settings is a great idea, too. In answer to Big Mike: I have Minolta 7000 Maxxum, and it does have a light meter. I have a tripod, but I need to get a cable. I thought it had one with it (I got it used), but what I thought was a cable doesn't seem to attach to the camera anywhere. I'll post some pictures of it, and maybe somebody can tell me what the hell it is! :lol:

    Is this the page you were talking about, ksmattfish? http://www.fredparker.com/ultexp1.htm
    It seems pretty useful.
     
  6. airgunr

    airgunr TPF Noob!

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    Good advice from everybody. Just to add, if you are considering photos of the moon you should start with the "Sunny 16 Rule" for exposure.

    The reason for this is the moon is actually very bright and if you meter off the camera it will be over exposed. The Sunny 16 Rule is, set your apeture at f16 and your shutter speed to the same as your film speed. That means that if you are shooting ISO 100 film set your film speed to 125 or the closest your camera comes to 100. If your ISO is 200 then a shutter speed of 200 (or as close to that as you can get) is called for. Then bracket your shots 1 stop over and 1 stop under the suggested settings and you should come out with a decent shot.

    This is for a full moon, if you are trying a half or quarter moon you would have to adjust accordingly.

    For star trails I've found I need at least an exposure of 10 minutes to get much of a trail. I prefer 20 minutes or more. HTH. Good luck and post some of your results!
     
  7. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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  8. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    There's quite a number of posts here with good advice, so I'll just give one tip which may or may not be of help to you.

    When shooting with an SLR with a standard f1.2 or f1.4 prime lens at night, I find that you'll get the best results at about f5.6. Anything over f8 will probably produce star-burst flare on any light sources. Anything under f2.8 will probably have depth-of-field fuzziness.

    One more tip as well, if it's going to be dark and you're using manual focus at infinity, remember that your lens mark for infinity is slightly out-of-focus. I would recommend focussing at infinity during the day and noting the small difference between the actual focal point and the end stop to give that extra crispness.
     
  9. Dweller

    Dweller Inconspicuous Supporter

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    I used this technique for the first time tonight with great results.

    I used between 10 and 30 second exposures for most of them.

    I will try that next time. I was using f8 and liked the starburst look but I would like to try it at a smaller aperture next time and compare results.
     
  10. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    You'll get bored of the star-burst thing quite quickly, but get the lens wide open to f22 or whatever, stick it on a tripod and point at a night scene with streetlights.

    Rob's London at night gallery!
     
  11. Shinnentai

    Shinnentai TPF Noob!

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    I keep returning to night photography. I don't get to do it as much as I'd like, but I just love the way things look at night.

    In the past I'd usually stop the lense out to it's widest aparture (shooting landscapes at the infinity focusing level, so I'm not too concerned about DOF), although I've read recently that many lenses are sharpest at around 3 stops below maximum aparture. Anybody know if this is true?

    I don't meter at all. In the beginning I went looking for a meter that would work in extreme low light conditions, but couldn't find anything affordable. I bracket upward from one second in powers of two. I use Fuji Provia 100 slide mostly, and this method has served me very well, with no mucking about with reciprocity failure conversions.

    One thing I've noticed is that the color content in the developed exposure is much more comprehensive than what you see on location with your eyes (more similar to daylight colors). In retrospect, this makes perfect sense thinking about the biology of the eye (cone cells vs. rod cells). I'm starting to experiment with blue filters in attempt to reproduce the way the eye sees things at night.

    I use one of those $40.00 aluminum tripods from circuit city. I've been told I need a "real" tripod for such work, but I've never had a problem with the one I have yet. I've done four minute exposures off the top of Palomar mountain without showing any discernable camera shake in the developed images. Go figure.
     
  12. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    The only thing I can add is that if you don't have a cable release, use your self timer. Use mirror lockup also if you have it.
     

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