Best Exposure?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by f8ybethere2, Dec 7, 2014.

  1. Best exposure of night scene of small candles in cups spelling "Noel" with tripod mounted D800 with Sigma 35 f1.4 lens? I'm thinking 1/2 sec at f2 and bracket in manual mode. Attached is daylight image of scene.
  2. Andy, here is some sage advice from one who knows (not me!):
  3. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    For whatever it is worth, here is another reference point. I understand that your situation will be different; it'll be outdoors and you are much farther away from the candles.
    I captured the image below in Paris way back in 2005. The camera was a D2X, whose highest rated ISO is 800. I had a 12-24mm/f4 DX AF-S and used that wide open. With a modern DSLR, I am sure you have a lot more flexibility.
    You can also take a look at the San Francisco City Hall image I captured last week and posted to Nikon Wednesdays:
    That was with the same model Sigma 35mm/f1.4 lens you are using, and the camera there was a D750.

    There is no one "correct" exposure in these night situations. A lot of that is personal preference and taste. Ambient light is also going to make a difference. Will the people be moving and do you need not-too-slow a shutter speed to stop some action? As long as you don't blow out the highlights, there are a lot of ways to adjust things in PhotoShop or similar software.
  4. I would bracket and chimp for a standard, then set manually for that.
  5. I agree with everything on the Strobist blog. You're best time to catch them will be between sunset and an hour after sunset--i.e. astronomical twilight. Use the LCD as your exposure guide, camera in manual mode.
    Kent in SD
  6. A trick we used to take of houses lighted for Christmas for my newspaper was simple. Lock the camera open on bulb at f/11 (Tri-X at ASA 200) and walk around popping an open flash a few times, just outside the field of view. The lights would burn in and the flash would illuminate the building.
    Tri-X was considered a fast film in those days. It's the same film today, but with a more "agressive", if unrealistic speed rating. I've done the "twilight" thing, but you don't have the luxury of waiting for "the moment" with deadlines looming.
  7. Thanks all for thoughtful advice.
  8. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Andy, there are a few factors that you have not specified, and I am not sure you know everything yet. What is the timing of this photo shoot? I.e. will it be twilight or it will be completely dark in the sky with some light from the surrounding buildings and maybe street lights.
    I assume the people holding candles will be on the bleachers. In that case they will be quite far away. However, 1/2 sec still seems to be a very slow shutter speed. Will they be singing and moving? The good thing about digital is that you can immediately chimp and check for any motion blur and exposure issues.
  9. Shun, Timing: Event is a nondenominational choral event in the chapel across from parade ground which appeared in the picture with question. Will post picture taken from door of chapel to show the context. Choir will enter and exit via the candle-lit path I understand. Time of event is 7:30-8:30 EST, which means, practically speaking, well after sunset and total darkness except for candles and window lights from pictured barracks (wish they would turn on all the window lights). Also, a cold front (what's left of it once it gets to this area in SE) is passing through, resulting in showers and windy updrafts from the cloudy conditions which may dampen some of the outside show. Thanks for your thoughtful advice.
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Andy, depending on how serious you want to treat this, you can always go there beforehand a day or two earlier, around that same time of the day and experiment. Maybe use a few small flashlights to simulate the candle light, without any concerns about fire hazard. That should give you a good starting point about exposure.
    However, with instant feedback from digital and essentially no cost for lots of bracketing, you can get it right without such an extensive preparation. Please keep in mind to use the histogram to judge exposure. The brightness of the camera LCD is adjustable and not necessarily calibrated; it is only a very crude way to judge exposure.
  11. I'd reckon on as high an ISO as you can bear. Ambient, albeit provided by the candles, will be what makes the picture. Exposure duration could make it light enough technically, but I'd reckon on a lot of subject movement.
    On further thought, I suppose both would actually make different, but maybe equally attractive, images.
    For all the shots I'd use a tripod to ensure no other movement, buildings etc. Blurred walkers and candle trails with stationary candle pin-points for the NOEL message sounds pretty good.

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