A flashlight was used to light paint the operating room inside the hospital at Alcatraz prison. All of the lighting was done with a Streamlight Stinger flashlight from a 60 degree angle to the left of the camera position. I lit the back wall at a hard angle, skimmed the floor to throw 3/4 backlight on the table, and lit the operating lamp on the ceiling. The exposure time was 36 seconds at f/8, ISO 200 using an Olympus OM 18mm lens on a Canon 5D Mark II. The room was completely dark — the exposure time reflects how long it took to open the shutter, walk to the back left corner and do the lighting, and then return to the camera to close the shutter. Thanks to Amy Heiden and Janet Blake for allowing me a few minutes of yerba mate fueled light painting antics during our limited time at this great location.
The moonrise over Bodie ghost town image was photographed on the night of the June full moon. The streak of light you see beginning over the horizon is the moon! I opened the shutter just as the moon cleared the hills behind town. There was still a very faint amount of twilight left to help light the foreground. Light painting from various photographers is visible in the foreground.
The exposure time was about 50 minutes at f/16 with Kodak E100VS film using a Mamiya 7II camera with a 43mm f/4.5 wide angle lens. I often get asked what kind of film works well for night photography, and I highly recommend E100VS for moonlit landscapes. For shooting street scenes in urban areas with mixed lighting, Fuji RTP (64T) is an excellent choice.
My typical full moon night exposure with E100VS is 45 minutes at f/11. I stopped down to f/16 due to the remaining light of the blue hour, and because I was shooting into the moon. I wasn’t sure if shooting directly into the moon would work without flare, and I’m happy with the results. I may experiment with using a polarizer or ND filter to extend exposure times at f/11 or f/16 into the 2+ hour range for a longer moon trail. The 43mm lens stops down to f/22, but the sharpness is not optimal due to diffraction.
Do you have experience with hours long exposures shooting into the moon, or know of any night photos with long moon trails?
The 1927 Dodge truck and gravity gas pumps are a popular subject for photography at Bodie ghost town. This 24 minute night photograph was taken during the 2011 Mono Lake Night Photography Festival.
Wide angle lens for night photography
I shot the entire night at Bodie with a Canon 5D Mark II and an Olympus OM 18mm f/3.5 lens. The Olympus OM system lens can be used on the 5D II with an OM-EOS adapter. The Olympus lens is small, light, and easy to zone focus at night. At an aperture of f/8 or f/11 the lens is quite sharp across the frame, and offers better edge performance than Canon zooms. The Olympus lenses also have a different signature look than other wide angle lens choices. The 18mm is hard to find and can be expensive. The Olympus 21mm f/3.5 is a more readily available, reasonably priced alternative. The 24mm f/2.8 is also quite good. If you prefer a standard wide angle to a super wide lens, the Olympus 28mm f/3.5 is a stellar performer at f/8, and can often be purchased for less than $50. My adapter for the 28mm cost more than the lens!
Image stacking and long exposure noise reduction
Four exposures of 6 minutes at f/8 ISO 200 were combined for the final 24 minute image. There were about 25 night photographers shooting at Bodie — exposure stacking was very useful for removing people and light painting from the foreground. Using this stacking technique also meant that I did not have to run long exposure noise reduction (LENR) in the camera. This helps productivity and battery life.
5D Mark II Auto setting for long exposure noise reduction (LENR)
Photography instructor Scott Martin let me know about his experiments with the Auto setting for long exposure noise reduction (LENR) on the Canon 5D Mark II. Normally I do not recommend letting the camera decide what to do, but Scott’s LENR experiments may prove otherwise. There are 3 settings for LENR:
- Off — long exposure noise reduction does not run on any shot.
- On — long exposure noise reduction runs for the same amount of time as your exposure. A 10 minute shot with LENR set to On will run noise reduction for 10 minutes after the exposure ends.
- Auto — long exposure noise reduction will run if the camera determines it’s necessary, for the amount of time necessary to optimize the image.
Here’s the really interesting part — noise reduction won’t necessarily run for the same amount of time as the exposure. Auto LENR runs for as long as necessary to reduce noise — this could be shorter or longer than the original exposure time.
I’d like to thank Scott for sharing his Auto LENR research, and I look forward to my own testing. If you have experience with the Auto LENR setting I’d love to hear how exposure time and temperature correlate to when noise reduction kicks in, and how long Auto LENR tends to run.