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  #1  
Old 15th April 2014, 04:03 PM
hastingsb hastingsb is offline
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Default Photographing at night

Hello all, recently I bought Brassai's Paris by Night book and was really inspired by the pictures in there. There are some beautiful examples- especially considering they were all shot at night on film nearly 70 years ago!

I thought I'd quite like to give that sort of style a try but I'm not sure how to expose the film. I want to have a go at photographing scenes lit by street-lights. Would a meter be able to make an accurate reading? Or would it be a case of a few minutes of exposure should do the job? I know reciprocity failure will be a factor too. Does anybody have any experience?

Cheers, Ben
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  #2  
Old 15th April 2014, 04:50 PM
Michael Michael is offline
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Night photography by Andrew Sanderson (who's a Friend here) would be a good starting point - and might well give you all you need.
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Old 15th April 2014, 05:46 PM
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Argentum Argentum is offline
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people get hung up on reciprocity, especially those obeying the laws of the zone system.

The trick is to use the zone system and a spot meter and not an incident meter. Then you break the law of expose for the shadows and replace it with expose for a highlight of zone 7 or 8 and sod the shadows. It works and the shadows never turn out as dark as you think they will.
Fact is that when you meter a highlight it often won't be into reciprocity or not as much as a shadow may be. So which is right? Well the answer is always the highlight metered value.
Just don't meter the actual lights, meter something you want to place on a zone 7 or 8 and you'll be close.

Night scenes with lighting are very high contrast but instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, just concentrate on the central range of the subject (7 or 8 stops) as thats all you can get on paper anyway without destroying the night time effect.

You can't see it in following print scan but the unlit background trees are well defined in this shot where I metered the church spire and placed on zone 6 or 7 if memory serves me. I corrected for reciprocity based on that (HP5) and not on any shadow metering. If I had metered shadows, reciprocity correction would have been much greater and would have overexposed the mid to high values which are the most important in night time images (and day time images). If you save the image from screen and play with levels you will see lots of tree details. It is night time after all.
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Last edited by Argentum; 15th April 2014 at 05:49 PM.
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Old 15th April 2014, 07:10 PM
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cliveh cliveh is offline
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Brassai would time his night photographs by how long it took him to smoke a cigarette. A Gauloise for a certain light, a Bayard if it was darker. Seems better than the zone system to me.
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Old 15th April 2014, 07:21 PM
Mike O'Pray Mike O'Pray is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliveh View Post
Brassai would time his night photographs by how long it took him to smoke a cigarette. A Gauloise for a certain light, a Bayard if it was darker. Seems better than the zone system to me.
Yes and in those days we didn't have to worry about a pensions crisis caused by people living too long

Mike
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Old 15th April 2014, 07:35 PM
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richardw richardw is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Argentum View Post
people get hung up on reciprocity, especially those obeying the laws of the zone system.

The trick is to use the zone system and a spot meter and not an incident meter. Then you break the law of expose for the shadows and replace it with expose for a highlight of zone 7 or 8 and sod the shadows. It works and the shadows never turn out as dark as you think they will.
Fact is that when you meter a highlight it often won't be into reciprocity or not as much as a shadow may be. So which is right? Well the answer is always the highlight metered value.
Just don't meter the actual lights, meter something you want to place on a zone 7 or 8 and you'll be close.

Night scenes with lighting are very high contrast but instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, just concentrate on the central range of the subject (7 or 8 stops) as thats all you can get on paper anyway without destroying the night time effect.

You can't see it in following print scan but the unlit background trees are well defined in this shot where I metered the church spire and placed on zone 6 or 7 if memory serves me. I corrected for reciprocity based on that (HP5) and not on any shadow metering. If I had metered shadows, reciprocity correction would have been much greater and would have overexposed the mid to high values which are the most important in night time images (and day time images). If you save the image from screen and play with levels you will see lots of tree details. It is night time after all.
Attachment 2091
You give very good advice here.

I do it a little differently though and it works too. Zone on a 7 like you and also Zone on a 3 (or a 4 if too dark to read a 3) check the differences and note what the N is likely to be. Using a compensating developer gives even more tolerance...



RR
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Old 15th April 2014, 07:52 PM
alexmuir alexmuir is offline
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That is a nice shot, Argentum, and a good explanation of your technique. I enjoy night photography, and will use your system next time I'm out. My previous 'successes' have been more to do with luck than any defined system of analysing exposure.
Alex.
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Old 15th April 2014, 09:20 PM
hastingsb hastingsb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richardw View Post
You give very good advice here.

I do it a little differently though and it works too. Zone on a 7 like you and also Zone on a 3 (or a 4 if too dark to read a 3) check the differences and note what the N is likely to be. Using a compensating developer gives even more tolerance...


RR
Thank you for all the advice. What do you mean by 'N' Richard? This may be a stupid question, but is there anything you can do without a spotmeter?

Ben
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Old 15th April 2014, 10:47 PM
alexmuir alexmuir is offline
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Ben, if you have a camera with aperture priority auto you can set it up on a tripod, choose a suitable aperture and let the camera set the shutter speed. Exposures will normally be several seconds so a cable release is useful as is mirror lock up. I have done this often, and you get usable results. A proper systematic approach is obviously better, but this would get you started. Fuji Acros 100 film is said to have no reciprocity failure in exposures of several seconds, so might be a good choice. The other approach you could try is the tables of suggested settings you find in books about night photography. They tend to give some good starting points. I have a few such books. I'm not at home so cannot check authors/titles, but could let you know after Saturday if you're interested.
Alex
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Old 15th April 2014, 11:37 PM
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Originally Posted by hastingsb View Post
Thank you for all the advice. What do you mean by 'N' Richard? This may be a stupid question, but is there anything you can do without a spotmeter?

Ben
In the Zone System "N" is normal development, "N+1, N+2, N-1, N-2" are adjustments made (usually to the development time or to the agitation/dilution) to either increase or decrease the density of the highlights on the negative. It is worth wading through the original book on this subject even if you do not go to all the trouble of the tests just to get the idea behind this method. Understanding it is a great help to the photographer who wants to control what the final image is going to look like and sets out to make that image from the planning of the exposure and development of the negative. The book is called "The Negative" and it was written by Ansel Adams. It is cheap enough to buy on www.abebooks.co.uk and fascinating in its own right to read. Studying it and working out how to use the method is not easy. Well it wasn't easy for me...

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/Se...n=The+Negative

I used to use a Weston but now I use a Spotmeter, which is far superior. The key to this method is that you measure the light values of the subject, not the light values of the light landing on it (incident readings). You will find a Spotmeter a great help. I use old Pentax Spotmeters they are not expensive if you are happy to use one that is not mint condition.

richard

Last edited by richardw; 15th April 2014 at 11:42 PM.
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