Author Topic: Analogue question - aurora  (Read 1761 times)

MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Analogue question - aurora
« on: February 09, 2018, 10:04:34 pm »
I'm going on a 'Northern Lights' cruise shortly (Mrs M's bucket list) and will be taking one or more of my analogue 35mm film cameras - probably a bridge camera, possibly my Olympus AZ300 or Chinon Genesis (but there's lots of other options).
As I'm a snapper, not a photographer I'd like some advice on how best to capture the auroras (assuming we actually see anything)
I'll be using ISO200 bog standard colour film. What f stop and length of exposure would the gallery suggest? And if it's otherwise pitch black does the exposure time really matter?
(Please don't say 'digital' - that's not the question!)

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hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2018, 11:26:54 pm »
I should imagine you'll want to minimise exposure time if you're on a moving boat.

nicknack

  • Fledgling Swampy
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2018, 10:01:32 am »
Never done it myself but this site recommends this:

Set your ISO between 800 and 3200, your aperture between f/2.8 and f/5.6, and your shutter speed at between 15 seconds and 30 seconds. Note that shutter speeds of above 15 seconds will result in slight star movement. You’re ready. Lock you mirror up, compose, and shoot. If you end up with a slightly overexposed or underexposed image, play with a combinations of these settings until you get the exposure to where you want it.

This is aimed at digital users but the principles are the same. So at 200ASA you're going to need the lens set at max aperture with suitably long exposures. Bracket if you can afford the film.

This place seems quite comprehensive.
There's no vibrations, but wait.

Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2018, 11:00:37 am »
The main thing you will need is a tripod and if possible a remote shutter release of some kind as your going to be taking exposures multiple seconds long and you cant hand hold steady for that long.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2018, 01:14:46 pm »
Thanks all - that's the sort of info I wanted :thumbsup:
I've read (somewhere) that bracing the camera against the hardware of the ship (handrail / bulkhead) is more effective than using a tripod - there was a comment that this can result in a more stable camera as the tripod has potential to slip. I have however ordered a tripod.
I'm still debating with myself which camera to take, and this info hasn't helped! My instinct is to take the most modern camera in my collection, but the info given makes me wonder whether one of my proven 1960s German lumps. I'm torn between my Praktica MTL5 (which is untested, and scares me) and the Olympus IS200 (which I know works, has a very adjustable shutter speed, but when using the manual shutter speed locks to f8)
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Zipperhead

  • The cyclist formerly known as Big Helga
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2018, 04:11:43 pm »
I know you said not to say digital, but, wait a sec.....

If you have a digital camera and took it with you then you could take some pictures with it to establish whether the exposure settings that you're going to use are in the right ballpark. The either use those settings with some confidence that you are going to get something usable or make some adjustments to suit.
Our son does know who Boz Scaggs is, we've done ok as parents.

MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2018, 04:54:10 pm »
I know you said not to say digital, but, wait a sec.....

If you have a digital camera and took it with you then you could take some pictures with it to establish whether the exposure settings that you're going to use are in the right ballpark. The either use those settings with some confidence that you are going to get something usable or make some adjustments to suit.
Hmmm Good point!  :thumbsup:   The only digital camera I've got is an Aldi / Medion camera with a screen rather than a viewfinder - this will indeed serve the purpose that you describe. I can set the ISO & the f stop on the digital (I've ordered some ISO800 film based on the advice above) and get a 'good clue' as to where I'm heading. In effect using it as a sort-of-kind-of-lightmeter-thingy.
Thanks
Too many angry people - breathe & relax.

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2018, 06:40:54 pm »
I am no photographer!

I can't see how you can get a sharp image from a LONG exposure on a boat, whether you use a tripod or brace the camera onto fixtures and fittings.

Maybe I'm just a (seasick) pessimist!

LEE

  • "Shut Up Jens" - Legs.
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2018, 11:03:21 pm »
Why bother?

Seriously.

Why not just enjoy the Aurora?  You won't do it justice on film.  We all basically know what it looks like, so why not just enjoy the experience?

My Wife was in Finland for the biggest Solar-Flare Aurora in decades but her photos, by her own admission, don't do it justice. 

Don't bother (unless you can convince me of a reason to take substandard photos of something you really won't do justice to).

It will be much better in your memory and nobody really wants to see your photos of it (because we know what photos of it look like).

Too brutal?*


* I just don't see the point in competing with the professionals on this.  It's just soooooo specialised.   What are you hoping to achieve?  You'll miss the moment messing with camera settings.
Some people say I'm self-obsessed but that's enough about them.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2018, 11:28:57 pm »
Lots of people do lots of things that professionals do better.
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

LEE

  • "Shut Up Jens" - Legs.
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2018, 12:10:13 am »
Lots of people do lots of things that professionals do better.

True but many of those things I'd probably rather have done by a professional*

* Heart Transplant.  Aeroplane wing rivets..etc.

I'm just wondering why there's a need for more sub-standard** photos of the Northern Lights.  Why not just experience the majesty of them without the distraction of faffing with a camera?

** You really won't do them justice



Some people say I'm self-obsessed but that's enough about them.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2018, 01:26:20 am »
So, once a great photo of the Aurora has been taken, everyone else go home without taking a photo. For ever?
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 08:43:51 am »
LEE poses an interesting and valid question, not unlike one I've asked myself on occasions. You only need to look at any TdF stage and you'll see a mass of phones (and a few cameras) but very few faces!How much of the race do they see or experience? The snaps they will get (and I've had) are rubbish. There is a modern school of thought that seems to say 'if it's not on my phone it didn't happen'.
So why do I want to try to photograph the Northern Lights on this holiday?
It's the same reason we photograph anything - a record of our passing through time, trying to preserve a memory, and man vs machine.
Since I've started collecting cheap film cameras I've always tried to use them - as with bikes - I don't one that doesn't work! Apart from the oddness of attempting to control the light reaching the emulsion, there's a sense of not knowing what memories the camera had captured in the past - what weddings and holidays it had been to.
So while I still maintain I'm not a photographer, I have an interest in the process and the challenge of making an acceptable image with limited (& maybe challenging) resources - this trip to Norway is a once in a lifetime opportunity to try a different challenge, with a different type of light and environment.
I do hope I will also stand back and wonder too.

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hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 01:36:27 pm »
I have consulted my resident astrophotographer.
He agrees film is not sensitive enough.

You either need a tripod on terra firma or digital.

Sorry!

I fully understand your need for an 'I was there' photo you take yourself but boats and long exposures don't make a sharp or stable image.

[ETA] We had similar discussions around the 2006 Solar Eclipse, when some friends were observing from cruise ships. This eclipse was fairly close to midday and so short exposures were possible, but boats rock...

MikeFromLFE

  • Previously known as Millimole
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2018, 03:01:11 pm »
Thanks Helly - we have a couple of nightime trips where we will be on solid earth, so I'll reserve my follies for those trips.
(I've found an archived web site which gives advice on film photography of auroras in Alaska using iso800 film:  the link is on the computer at home)

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Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2018, 03:03:15 pm »
Cruise ship would seem better suited to timelapse photography than long exposures.  I suppose that means digital, unless you're going full hipster 8mm.

As for taking photos of things that other people with far more skill and better cameras have done already:  To have a go and maybe learn something from the challenge; to make a personal record of an experience; to illustrate your writings or social media ramblings with authenticity and avoiding copyright issues; because you happen to like playing with photography toys.  Probably plenty of other reasons I haven't thought of.  It's like climbing a mountain, writing a cryptography library, building a model railway or peering through a telescope.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2018, 08:29:55 am »
I know you said not to say digital, but, wait a sec.....

If you have a digital camera and took it with you then you could take some pictures with it to establish whether the exposure settings that you're going to use are in the right ballpark. The either use those settings with some confidence that you are going to get something usable or make some adjustments to suit.
Hmmm Good point!  :thumbsup:   The only digital camera I've got is an Aldi / Medion camera with a screen rather than a viewfinder - this will indeed serve the purpose that you describe. I can set the ISO & the f stop on the digital (I've ordered some ISO800 film based on the advice above) and get a 'good clue' as to where I'm heading. In effect using it as a sort-of-kind-of-lightmeter-thingy.
Thanks

you can get quite good lightmeter apps for a smartphone - I use mylightmeterpro, its four quid.

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2018, 12:51:31 pm »
Cousin and family are at Tromsø and just posted this on Facebook...


I think photo was taken by Mrs Cousin.
Mr Cousin is Photography graduate from London College of Printing.

LEE

  • "Shut Up Jens" - Legs.
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2018, 08:20:15 pm »
So, once a great photo of the Aurora has been taken, everyone else go home without taking a photo. For ever?

No, but don't miss the actual experience by messing with tripods and camera dials.

I have some photos of Marcel Kittel crossing the line in a frantic Tour de France sprint last year but I actually didn't witness it.  I saw an interrupted version of it as my camera mirror flipped out of the way.

Admittedly the Kittel moment lasted about a tenth of a second and, if you're lucky, you get hours of Aurora.  Just make sure you take the photos of it AFTER you've had enough of actually staring in awe at it.
Some people say I'm self-obsessed but that's enough about them.

hellymedic

  • Just do it!
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2018, 09:19:06 pm »
Having said that, the photographer for the shot above posted that the photo was more impressive than the sight.

I suppose that's the effect of a long exposure.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #20 on: February 13, 2018, 09:24:14 pm »
Having said that, the photographer for the shot above posted that the photo was more impressive than the sight.

I suppose that's the effect of a long exposure.

Ah yes.  I'll add "allowing you to appreciate details you wouldn't have at the time".  Usually that's just because a photograph freezes a moment in time, but sometimes the camera is actually better than the eye.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #21 on: February 13, 2018, 09:27:44 pm »
As above, on land, with a tripod and cable release. Also use the widest lens you've got, manual focus on infinity. Using a digital to take some tests and get the exposure right is a good idea as a light meter will be a poor guide in these conditions. In the film days people used to swap the camera back for a polaroid back.

With a wider lens you will get away with a longer exposure, something like 18mm on 35mm film would be fine at 30s; if you've only got a 50mm lens hopefully it goes to f/1.4 or so as you'll need less than 10s exposure to avoid blurring the stars.

Oh, and like Helly's cousin's photo, make sure you have some land in shot for scale.
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that's not science, it's semantics.

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #22 on: February 13, 2018, 09:30:58 pm »
Having said that, the photographer for the shot above posted that the photo was more impressive than the sight.

I suppose that's the effect of a long exposure.

Ah yes.  I'll add "allowing you to appreciate details you wouldn't have at the time".  Usually that's just because a photograph freezes a moment in time, but sometimes the camera is actually better than the eye.

Hmm. Mebbee.
I've been to Iceland a couple of times, and seen the real thing and appreciated it.

I think most Aurora photos you see on the Internet are photoshopped to hell.

I agree with the general point that sometimes you need to focus on the event, and not the fiddling about recording of it with devices.

Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #23 on: February 14, 2018, 09:48:27 am »
Take photos of people taking photos of the Aurora (don't use flash). Sit back and enjoy the Aurora.
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Wombat

  • Is it supposed to hurt this much?
Re: Analogue question - aurora
« Reply #24 on: March 16, 2018, 05:45:48 pm »
I think I'm with Lee on this one.  There are a few special life experiences, that a DIY recording of just can't do justice, so just rely on the wonderful memory.  For me, it was hearing the organ played at St Sulpice in Paris, my Tascam recorder and Sony or Rode mics couldn't have done justice to the sound and feel of that organ, and the atmosphere of the cathedral, so I just treasure the memory instead.  Unless you have the skill and equipment to reliably get top quality photos or video of the aurora, I think I'd just concentrate on enjoying the experience.

Each to their own, however!
Wombat