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The Top Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions
10: What kind of camera should I use for night photography?

A: Above all, a manual camera. You need to be able to control every aspect of your exposure, mainly for two reasons. First, if you were to use your camera on an automatic setting, you would likely have under-exposed film because a.) meters don't account for the reciprocity failure of film during long exposures, and b.) most light meters are not sensitive enough to take an accurate reading at night. Most in camera meters are sensitive to about 1 EV, where as the light of the full moon is about -7 EV. The other reason for using a camera with manual settings is so that you will learn how to accurately estimate night-time exposures in different lighting situations.

9: Shouldn't I use the fastest film I can find?

A: Not necessarily. Film choice at night depends on subject matter and desired effect, just as it does during daylight exposures. For example, if you intend to photograph people in a street scene at night, then you might use a 400 or 800 speed film, so that you could record the people before they moved so much that they wouldn't register on the film. On the other hand, if you intend to use a flashlight to "paint with light," you'll likely want to choose a medium speed film, ie:100 or 200 asa so that your exposure will be long enough to do your "painting," but the film will still be sensitive enough to record the flashlight efficiently. A reason to choose an even slower film would be if you wanted to have a particularly long exposure in order to enhance the surreal quality of many night photographs. (Also see #7 below)

8: I need help with the fireworks display - THIS weekend!

A: To photograph a fireworks display, use a 400 speed film and expose the film for three or four bursts of fireworks at f5.6 or 8, however long that takes. If you try to capture more than about four bursts on the same frame, the effect is not as good. Fireworks photos often work well if you include some spectators in the foreground. The people will be somewhat lit by the fireworks display. If you use a fill flash, set it to under expose by 1 to 1 1/2 stops. Make sure to set all of the settings manually!

7: Would you please tell me what the f/no. for the night scenes like those where car lights are rendered like a line.

A: The f-stop is not the important factor in this situation, if I understand your email correctly - it's the length of exposure, which has to be 1/4 or 1/2 second or longer for the car lights (assuming moving traffic) to register as a line. So, then the f-stop would depend mostly on your film speed. One solution is to simply meter some car lights (standing still) and apply that to the situation (so that if you meter the light on pavement as 1/15 second at f5.6 you would adjust your camera to 1 or 2 seconds at f16 or 22). Therefore, as you can see, it's a good idea to stick with slower films (ASA 64 or ASA 100) - NOT 400 or 800!

6: What is the significance of the naming of the full moons? Are they just from the Farmer's Almanac or do they have roots of a more important nature.

A: True, they're from the Almanac, but they have their roots in native American and pre-recorded history. Many of the names gathered from the Farmer's Almanac are attributed to Eastern (US) tribes who kept track of the season by giving each of the months a distinctive name. CLICK HERE for a PDF with a full month-by-month description of the names. Some, like the HARVEST Moon are well known by name and the meaning behind them. Others are not so well known. BTW, we've located a listing of names used by other Native Americans - Tlingit, Omaha, Ojibwa, and Tewa - many in the form of descriptive phrases, not just a single word; and will be posting this info to the site soon with some history of their origin and usage.

5: I live in Tokyo, Japan. Can the full moon dates given be applied regardless of your location on the globe? Will I be able to see a full moon on January 31 if the skies are clear?

A: Certainly the moon you see on January 31 is going to be very full, and would suffice for any night photography you might be doing - however, to determine the time/date of the 'true' full moon, the times posted are Eastern Standard Time (United States) - as you move west you add time (Time Zones) such that the time of full moon is APPROXIMATELY 3 hrs later in San Francisco. In theory, you just keep adding time zones as you move westward to arrive at the time you would need for Japan, EXCEPT THAT the "International Dateline" comes in to play, so I'm not sure how that would affect it. In your specific instance I would think that the Full Moon would occur on the following day - Feb 1 - but again I'm not completely sure.

You might check some of the sites below for info or email them - good luck! Please let know what you find out - our global community appreciates it.

Pres-Future Moons - Lunar Outreach Services
FAQs - US Naval Observatory
Earth and Moon Viewer
Time and Moon Phase from the U.S. Naval Observatory
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific - ASPSKY

4: Can I print out and use some of your images, for a rave I'm involved with this month?

A: Please see - Copyright Information. Every item on this site is copyright ©1996-2003 Pacific Media Arts, Inc., San Francisco, CA. The information and imagery presented here may not, under any circumstances, be resold or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from Pacific Media Arts, Inc., The Nocturnes, Tim Baskerville, Lance Keimig, or any other of the artists represented (whether visual, performing, written word, etc)., The Nocturnes Web Site, are copyright Pacific Media Arts,Inc. All rights reserved. If you have any questions about these terms, or would like information about licensing materials or purchasing prints from please contact us via email:

3: Could you e-mail me some basic beginning night photography information.

A: Basically, anything that we would email you is (or will soon be) on the Web Site. Read the INTERVIEWS, look over the ARTICLES section and the TIPS pages (more to come soon!), as well as the FAQs page. Feel free to print them out for your personal reference. Also, check out The Nocturnes' "O. Winston Links" page and visit Troy Paiva's FAQs and David Baldwin's "Notes for beginners". And of course, we offer intensive 3-night Workshops in Night Photography around the Full Moon every month at RayKo South Photo Center in San Francisco, CA. CLICK! on for detailed information (and a form you can print out to register for classes).

2: Could you tell me the exact date of the full moon phase for May and June 2002? How about for an historic date in the past? Thank you.

A: That information is available at: There is form or table you work with online to gather the info. Glad to help out.

And . . . the #1 Frequently Asked Question is . . .
Q: How can you take a photo out there at night? There's no light - it's . . . so DARK!

A: Relatively, yes, but making the exposure is a cumulative process - it's light over time - whether that time interval is relatively short (say 1/500th of a second) or long (like 3 hours) - it's the same thing.