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Thread: Tips for composing in low light?

  1. #1

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    Tips for composing in low light?

    Having recently returned from a road trip along the central coast of California (PCH), one thing that I found difficult was seeing my compositions in the ground glass in dim or low lighting, i.e. very foggy/overcast days, dusk, etc.

    I can't blame the camera (4x5 Arca Swiss), nor the glass (Rodenstock lenses all f4.5 or 5.6), and have transitioned from an old black t-shirt to a proper dark cloth (Harrison).

    I still find that composing, i.e. placing elements on the glass the way I see them with my eyes can be very difficult, especially out towards the edges of the glass, which often serve as reference points for where I want things to be (what I want in/out of frame). What I ended up doing in many cases was using the loupe to focus on different elements and guesstimate where they should fall on the GG based on what I was seeing, which seemed to work ok for most of the shots, but not all of them.

    Maybe it's just me, maybe I need more time acclimating to this way of shooting. I can't recall this being an issue with 6x6, even with a waist level finder. Or maybe it was just quite dark late afternoon along the coast and there's not much else I can do.

    I did end up with a few nice images from the trip, so I'm thankful for that. This was the thing that stuck out in my mind as being the biggest challenge.

    Figured the fine, experienced folks here might offer some ideas and suggestions.

  2. #2

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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    one thing that helps for me is more distance from the ground glass.

  3. #3

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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    What is helpful in lower light is one of those viewfinders that slip on to a camera cold shoe... Not expensive for a import model...

    And you can try a brighter screen to replace your GG... Some are a dramatically different brightness level...

    Steve K

  4. #4
    Peter De Smidt's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    Do you use a Fresnel with the ground glass? They can really help out with evening out the brightness of the ground glass, but the effect varies with focal length.

    I have a Maxwell bright screen on my 4x5, and it's a really good screen, as it should be for it's cost.
    “You often feel tired, not because you've done too much, but because you've done too little of what sparks a light in you.”
    ― Alexander Den Heijer, Nothing You Don't Already Know

  5. #5
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    If one keeps their eye along the path of light coming from the back of the lens, the image on the GG will be the brightest. This means moving one's head around more while under the darkcloth.

    I use some f11 lenses under the redwoods in 8x10 and 11x14, it can be challenging.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

  6. #6
    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    I have walked around in the area near the amera to familiarize myself with the space near the set up, noting specific rocks twigs, trees etc. Then returning to the
    GG and look for those specific items. Placing a white card ort plastic flag tape in the composition near the camera to help visualize what is in and what is out. Remember to take them out before tripping the shutter!.

    Others have written in other threads that they use laser pointers to help out in low light.
    Drew Bedo
    www.quietlightphoto.com
    http://www.artsyhome.com/author/drew-bedo




    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

  7. #7

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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    There are some really good ideas in this 2006 thread, Focusing, pre-dawn

    Andrew O'Neill's simple solution in post #2 - set up the camera in advance, when there's more light - also solves the problem of making photographs in low light at night. With some markers for your tripod legs and some camera measurements, you don't even have to leave the camera in place.

  8. #8

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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    Follow Vaughn's advice. It works well. I too have lenses which only open t f-18 and had little trouble with them in the redwoods where light levels are like a heavily clouded day.
    If yo still have trouble, I suggest you see your ophthalmologist. You could have cataracts and I know from experience how they limit visible light. Getting old ain't easy, and takes a lot of alteration of lifestyle.

  9. #9

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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?

    To add to my previous, standing further back helps when viewing the edges. This may require a larger dark cloth than most use. My small one is 4x6feet, for the larger cameras I have one 5x8 feet.

  10. #10

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    Re: Tips for composing in low light?


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