Exposures over a second - timing?

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Newbie question: if I want a 3 second exposure but my shutter only has a maximum controlled speed of 1 second (with bulb as the next setting), how do I accurately time the exposure? The difference between 1 and 2 seconds is obviously a lot bigger in percentage terms than the difference between 14 and 15 seconds, so this is accuracy is more relevant at faster speeds, so how do you go about getting an accurate 2 or 3 second exposure?

-- Gavin Walker (gavin.walker@japan.bnpparibas.com), September 04, 2001


Put it on bulb and use your shutter release to open it for 3 seconds and then release the shutter, or use the one second and cock it three times. Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), September 04, 2001.

You learn to count seconds. Or, use a watch with a second hand. It isn't that critical to be accurate to a thousandth of a second on this stuff as long as you are pretty consistent in how you time the exposures.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), September 04, 2001.

Click - one elephant, two elephant, three elephant. - click.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), September 04, 2001.


I use 'T' with a good cable release and a stop watch. (During a long day of shooting I get watch crazy trying to remember the point I started at when I use my sweep second hand).

I also have a Prontor Timer cable release which has a clockwork timer from 1 second to 32 seconds. A rare bird but worth its weight in gold on a big shoot.


-- Walter Glover (walterg@netaus.net.au), September 04, 2001.

Living here in the dark north, most of my exposures bumps into the painful range between one to five seconds. Though I've been practicing elephants and many other mammals all my life, I still make huge errors. And using a clock is really difficult, I can't take the picture without looking at the object during the exposure. So a timer cable release would be a gift from heaven. Any idea are they still made by someone, and if, is there possibly some place in Europa where such thing can be find? Thanks in forward, Jan, Finland.

-- Jan Eerala (Jan Eerala@itameri.net), September 04, 2001.

OK then, how about an electronic metronome, set to 60 beats per second. I really don't see what the big problem is here.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), September 04, 2001.

Related to your question is the issue reciprocity departure. If your meter indicates that a 2 or 3 sec. exposure is necessary, don't forget that more time must be added to compensate for the film's gradual reduction in sensitivity beyond a 1 sec. exposure. There are tables for different types of film and in the case of color, recommended filters for compensating for color shift. As far as timing goes, I just count one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, etc. Works fine. For anything real long like 20 sec. to a minute or two, I use my watch's sweep hand.

-- Robert A. Zeichner (info@razeichner.com), September 04, 2001.

For most modern color films the reciprocity factor will be only about 50 percent or less with a 2 second exposure. I hope it would be more, because, with longer exposure the latitude would be wider.

And Pete, why didn't you suggest me to hire an inuit mumbling; one icebear, two icebears...

-- Jan (jan.eerala@itameri.net), September 04, 2001.

Gavin: I have seen timers which screw directly into the cable release socket which work well with longer exposures. I don't know if they are still being made, but I have seen them at used camera trade shows. I agree about increasing the time with long exposures. There are tables available which gives you the additional time. It increases a lot beyond one second. I use the counting out loud method and have little trouble.



-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), September 04, 2001.

It seems like I almost never make exposures in the 1-4 second range, due to reciprocity. (i.e. if it meters 1/2 sec., the shutter handles it. If it meters 2 sec., I'll give it 5 or so for reciprocity.) That doesn't solve your 3 sec. problem if that's the actual exposure, of course, but I'm just saying not to forget about reciprocity. And don't worry about getting exactly 3 sec. - just count it out and you'll be fine. If you're concerned, practice a bit first with your watch - you'll be plenty close enough.

Don't worry, be happy, make picture!

-- Mark Parsons (Polar@thegrid.net), September 04, 2001.

I will offer 4 technical solutions: (1) Take a second mortgage and buy the Linhof Prontor Professional timer #022502 ($640 at B&H). (2) Find an old, used Autoknips timer 1/2-30 seconds mechanical shutter release. I found one for $30 on ebay. (Previous poster alluded to this device. Beautiful little German-crafted gizmos.) (3) Digital countdown timer from Radio Shack ($20). They are also sold in kitchen supply retailers. (4) "One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi", ...

-- Steve Baggett (sbaggett@midsouth.rr..com), September 04, 2001.

This question keeps poping up...and all of us are looking for an inexpensive solution for long exposure. I agree that a simple count will get you close enough, but it sure would be nice to have a simple timer similar to the prontor but not be worth more than our cameras. A great solution, which I never took the time to build, is to have a Canon EOS remote control with timer and battery self contained which would control a solenoid working the cable release. It would cost under $100 and would be ideal for even longer exposures, I think up to 5 + minutes. If someone goes through the trouble of locating the right solenoid and perfects this, maybe they will be kind enough to share it with the list....

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), September 04, 2001.


Any of the above will work. If you opt for counting the seconds donít use the old one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi. Youíll get much better photos by counting one-Ansel Adams, two-Ansel Adams.......

Joe Dickers

-- Joseph A. Dickerson (jadphoto@aol.com), September 04, 2001.

Note to Joe: One Ansel Adams...two Ansel Adams...works better with the old thick emulsion films. You get better results with modern films by using one John Sexton...two John Sexton...


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), September 04, 2001.

Or, for automatic reciprocity compensation:
One elephant, two big elephants, 3 giant elephants, 4 enormous elephants, 5 extremely big elephants, 6 extremely giant ..... etc.

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), September 05, 2001.

i don't believe how unsophisticated you guys are. jeez. counting "one elephant..." could result in gross errors. don't you know that the right way to do it is count "one one-thousand, two one-thousand, etc....???"


~chris jordan (Seattle)

-- chris jordan (cjordan@yarmuth.com), September 05, 2001.

Here in Utah we count "first wife, second wife, third wife..."

The seconds work fine this way and are a lot easier to deal with than all these women in a state where marrying your first cousin, as well as girls at 14, is legal.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), September 05, 2001.

Using a cheap quartz metronome set to 120 (2 beats per second--then subdivide to 4 or more beats per second in your head) for exposures in this range can be quite accurate. Musicians require precision on the order of thousandths of a second.

Ansel Adams used a metronome in the darkroom to time dodging and burning exposures before they were commonly built into enlarging timers.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), September 05, 2001.

Pete Andrews' method of "One elephant, two big elephants, 3 giant elephants, etc." has the advantage that it takes care of reciprosity at the same time that it takes care of exposure. Very nice.

-- neil poulsen (neil.fg@att.net), September 06, 2001.

Set the shutter for one second and make three exposures. Tell everyone not to move. Seriously, with the failure of the law of reciprocity, if my meter indicated 3 seconds, I would give it about 10 seconds for black and white film. At these exposure times, being off a bie isn't going to hurt, it may even help.

-- Jim Dainis (dainisjg@centennialpr.net), September 06, 2001.

Doug Paramore - Very good (!) inside joke.

-- Walt Cleveland (wcleve1@msn.com), September 10, 2001.

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