One of the most frustrating aspects of jumping into night photography was the exposure metering. Forget your handy-dandy in-camera meters, mine will only meter to 30sec and I expect thats pretty much standard.
So how do you work out your exposures? Hand held light meter? I don’t think so…
Most hand-held light meters are only sensitive to about -2ev, so thats not going to help you work out your exposures.
Trial and Error – Yup, that works… but here’s a way to get close to the right exposure out of the gate.
I came across an interesting article by Fred Parker called “The Ultimate Exposure Computer”. If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth a read. Fred has published some exposure tables that allows you to calculate exposures under any lighting conditions, using any combination of shutter speed, ISO and Aperture.
What I have done is to distill the relevant information into a handy pocket card that allows you to get a pretty good starting point for your exposures. This is what it looks like.
You will see that it “hard-coded” to 200 ISO (because thats what the speed that I’m going to shoot all my night work) and the aperture ranges from f4 to f16 (because I’m unlikely to shoot outside that range).
So just look at what sort of moon you have, and then read off how many minutes you need to expose for at the various f-stops.
If anybody wants this chart in PDF format, just drop me an email, otherwise you can just print this article and cut it out.