Photography Equipment and Darkroom Techniques
By Steve Harper, Darkroom Photography Magazine, Nov. 1987
"A few pieces of equipment are essential to doing night photography expeditiously. Of course, one needs a tripod. If the camera doesn't have a time-exposure setting (T), but has a bulb setting (B) instead, a locking cable release is necessary I suggest to my students that they buy a short one, as long ones sometimes catch the wind during exposures and vibrate the camera. It is also wise to get one in a light color, (white or yellow) as they are the easiest piece of equipment to lose, and the lighter color makes finding them easier in the dark. A flashlight helps determine the edges of your scene while composing, and is often useful as a light source on foreground subjects. Flashlights are sometimes essential just to see where you're going. A medium-size photo flash unit is an essential piece of equipment for accenting your subject and using as a fill-in light where there is little or no ambient fill. A pen light serves several purposes: You can place it at the intended focusing plane, and focus the camera on it; you can use it for time exposure light drawing; and it is excellent for checking your timepiece without spreading light across the foreground."
"I advise students to keep complete records of each exposure. Pertinent information includes the date, aperture used, length of time of the exposure, atmospheric conditions (clear, cloudy, intermittent clouds, high mist or fog, ground fog, etc.), the position of the moon, whether or not the light of the moon was a factor, and the type and amount of lighting, if any, added to the existing light."
Chosing the Right Darkroom Chemistry for Night Photography
"I think that it is perhaps a natural response when one is faced with a time exposure to choose a fast film. That premise worked for me in black-and-white, but not in color. I had done black-and-white work prior to teaching, and had found that any ISO 400 film was satisfactory for what I expected of night photography. It had the advantage of usually being fast enough to stop cloud motion before the cloud images mutated into an overall visual mist. And if one wished that a person be in the picture, the exposure was short to have the model hold steady for the length of the exposure It was also fast enough that one could choose preferred apertures without the undue penalty of prolonged waiting. I photographed primarily in areas where there was sufficient ambient light (particularly the industrial areas of San Francisco and Oakland) so that I could expect the full range of tonality necessary to rich black-and-white photography, and yet maintain the atmosphere and mood of the night."
"I experimented with several developers, including Acufine, Edwal FG-7, Microdol, Perceptol, Kodak D-76, D-76 with Crone:C additive, and Rodinal; all worked to one degree or another. I finally settled on Rodinal, diluted 1:50 with water, used at 68 degrees F for 12 minutes, because it seemed to lessen the contrast of the exposure while retaining acutance."
"Because I normally develop film in large amounts, and consequently use large tank, I presoak the film for 30seconds and agitate it in the Rodinal for the first 30 seconds. Then I agitate it for 10 seconds at each additional minute. To enhance development of the middle gray tones, I place the film in a water bath at 68'F for five minutes without agitation. I should stress that in looking for night photographs, I always seek situations that offer reasonably even lighting, but if there is an irresistible situation where the lighting contrast is fierce, and I cannot even it out by adding light, I use a formula I adapted from an Ansel Adams discovery in The Negative, which somewhat moderates the contrast. It requires two tanks and should be done at 70 degrees, F. Presoak the film for 30 seconds. Place it in the Rodinal (or other developer) for 45 seconds agitating constantly. Then place the film in a water bath at 70 degrees F and let it sit absolutely still for two minutes. Repeat the Rodinal and water bath steps four more times each."