Advice on outdoor lowlight/dusk photography

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by glocke12, May 9, 2010.

  1. glocke12 macrumors 6502a

    glocke12

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2008
    #1
    Last night at when it was near dusk we had some storm clouds roll through my area that produced some very interesting lighting effects. I tried capturing these with my D90 and nikkor12-24 mm lens, but failed miserably and want to find out what I did wrong.

    The first two photos were taken at opposite sides of a bridge. In the first photo, the sky was a brilliant shade of blue with some cool clouds coming through. At the time, it seemed like there was enough light to capture both the sky and the lake shore but while the sky more or less came out, the lake and lake shore were very dark.

    That image can be found here. http://gallery.me.com/glocke12#100300

    This second image was taken from the opposite side of the bridge just a few minutes after the first. It has turned out substantially better than the first, but, but the center area seems horribly out of focus.

    http://gallery.me.com/glocke12#100307

    Comments or Suggestions?
     
  2. CK Williams macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2008
    Location:
    Metro Atlanta, GA USA
    #2
    The first shot was taken into the setting sun. By properly exposing the sky, the result is that the land/water is under exposed. The only ways to overcome it is to use bracketing (a series of images with differing exposures), a ND filter for the sky & an exposure reading from the land/water, or HDR (which I don't really care for). The best choice, IMHO, is the ND filter. The second one appears to have the sun to the rear which makes for a more balanced exposure between sky and land/water.

    I like the result of the first image better than the second, although neither seems to be quite level.
     
  3. glocke12 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    glocke12

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2008
    #3
    Thanks for the reply. So would a graduated ND filter be best ?
     
  4. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2009
    Location:
    the cold dark north
    #4
    yes an ND grad would help immensly here unless the effect is what you wanted. I used and ND grad on the first image but not the second and you can tell by the foreground.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. TheSVD macrumors 6502a

    TheSVD

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Location:
    The Jolly Ol' Midlands, England
    #5
    cool, i've always wanted to know this too!

    However though, OP, i still thought your shots were really good :)
     
  6. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2009
    Location:
    the cold dark north
    #6
    Agreed the first shot has a cool feeling to it, a bit eerie and claustrophobic actually. The second one is pretty flat IMHO, there a NDGRAD would help because at the same exposure time you would get the sky more dramatic and darker.
     
  7. glocke12 thread starter macrumors 6502a

    glocke12

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2008
    #7
    Thanks! Any suggestions for a nd filter? A local shop recommended a cokin p- system. I'd be using it on a nikkor 12-24 mm lens with a 77 mm ring size.
     
  8. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2009
    Location:
    the cold dark north
    #8
    definitely cokin P. Cokin also makes a very nd grad collection which might be cheaper than individual flters. The set contains an ND 2, ND4 and ND8 graduate filter. The filter Package is called: Cokin G250 ND grad it also includes the filter holder so you just need to get the adapter ring.

    I own that set and its pretty much the filter set I use 90% of the time.

    You can use those filters to achieve very cool effects like at a lake or coastal region, add a nd8 for the sky and an nd4 for the water and expose for a few seconds. You get dramatic sky and awesome blurred water ;)
     
  9. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #9
    If you think you will get moderate use out of grad ND filters, I would go for the Z size (4"x6") instead. Even with the Z size, I can't stack filters and not get vignetting at 12mm on my Nikon 12-24. I can't imagine not getting vignetting at 12mm with the smaller P sized ones. Besides, Z size are easier to hand-hold and also will translate well to FX lenses if you ever intend to go that route. That's why I recommend to get the Z size now if you think you will be a user of grad NDs in the future. Better to buy once and buy right IMO.

    Also, personally I would not use Cokin's filters. They are not true "ND", rather just grey colored to try to reduce the light with no cast. I went for hitech filters instead which are true NDs. Someone I know used Cokin filters and we both went shooting together. My ND shots came out color neutral whereas his all had a magenta cast. He called it the "faux sunset" filters ;)

    Other brands like Lee or Singh Ray are also very good quality but more expensive. I don't really see where it is worth spending almost $100 each on a resin filter (around what Lee and SR charge), but $60 for the hitechs which do not have any color cast seems like the best option to me.

    Ruahrc
     
  10. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2009
    Location:
    the cold dark north
    #10
    Actually even hitech filter color cast and singh ray (check google, singh ray even has a support article on their website about it). This has a lot to do with other factors too. If these nd grads from cokin are so bad, why are so many people using it ? I don't get generally color cast from mine, it all depends on many other factors. Personally I think cokin are excellent for beginners and intermediates and a great way to get your feet wet with filters that are NOT screw in.
     
  11. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #11
    All I can go from is my personal experience. My hitechs did not cast even when stacked, and my cousin who used Cokin's had magenta casts when using just a single filter. I can appreciate that there may be more complicated things going on regarding spectral response particularly once you get to very high density (6+ stops) filters and stacking, but in general I have heard little to nothing about color casts on hitech/lee/SR and a lot about casts on Cokin, a finding that was entirely consistent with what I have personally observed in the field.

    Why do people use Cokin? Probably because they're cheap. I mean you could say the same of almost any photographic equipment. A lot of people are out there putting that $10 quantaray filter on top of their lens too...

    I was just trying to say that IMO it is worth the extra money (or maybe start with a set of 2 grads and not 3 to compensate) to invest in:
    a) bigger sized filters
    b) higher quality ones
    Especially if you intend to use them moderately. It's cheaper to buy the Cokins now but how much more when you end up having to eventually replace your entire filter collection because the Cokins were color casting your shots? Or that you had to go back and buy larger ones to get around vignetting problems?

    Ruahrc
     
  12. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    #12
    I've used Cokins (two-stop) and found the results to be...just fine, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn they have a slight magenta cast under some conditions, particularly when stacked. I've only heard good things about the hitech filters. What it boils down to is if you're happy with it, it's fine and if you're not, a replacement isn't too expensive.

    I do have a question, though:

    I shoot almost exclusively at f2.8-f5.6, usually at f4 and usually around 35mm, sometimes wider, sometimes more telephoto. Would I be better served by a soft grad filter or a hard grad filter? I know softness is mostly contingent on aperture size so I figure at like 50mm f2.8 (focused near infinity) it might be a real issue. I'm planning to buy a full set of filters (one to three stops) so I want to get it right the first time.
     
  13. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #13
    Actually aperture isn't as much of a concern as is focal length. If you use a longer focal length, sometimes you will need to transition to a hard stop in order to maintain a sharper gradient across the frame.

    If you're buying a set, I'd recommend to get both hard and soft varieties as you will probably find usefulness in both. I seem to use my soft grads a lot more but if you ask someone who shoots seascapes, they probably use hard edged ones a lot more often. I have a 2 and 3 stop hard and soft.

    If you handhold, you can also "feather" the filter to help blur the transition further if you wish, as demonstrated in this video by Tony Sweet:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQxdCfbE2FI

    Ruahrc
     
  14. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    #14
    Thanks! I previously assumed that was the case and then I read this terrifying article about retrofocus lenses and miscalculated circles of confusion and I just...well...got really confused...

    I'll start with a set of soft gradient filters and purchase others as I need them. I only shoot slide film so I figure the hard gradient might show up on it as it's super high contrast and I'll need the full three stop set since I can't do anything in post. Slide film basically already has a magenta cast by virtue of reciprocity failure or something else I don't understand, which is why I'm trying to be careful here.

    I can't decide if the youtube link is brilliant or crazy.
     
  15. HBOC macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2008
    Location:
    SLC
    #15
    TO answer your initial question, the first one was shot WITH the sun, and in this case, evened out the light throughout the whole scene more or less.

    The second image was shot into the sun, and that cause the camera to meter for the brightest light source (or part of the image), and that was the sky. This will happen every time when shooting "naked".

    Bracketing will help (then blending the images in PS). The use of a grad ND filter will help. In the example you posted, a hard edge would probably fit best, but a soft will suffice all the same.

    I wouldn't vote against the Cokin brand set. It is cheap and you can learn how to use the filters and techniques. I had them. If I were to buy now, i would not buy them. I want to get the Daryl Benson reverse grad, as well as the Galen Rowell grads.

    As far as what size, that all depends on your preference and habits. I used the Cokin P, and that was fine for what i shot and the lens i used (10-22mm). I suppose for a lens that has a larger filter size (or front element) the Z would be better..
     
  16. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    #16
    I bought a set of three hi-tech filters for $100 (a third the price of the Singh-Ray fitlers and a little more than Cokin) and, while they are nicely constructed filters, they do have a moderate magenta cast, similar to with Cokin filters. Not that it ruined my photos entirely, but the darkest clouds have an obvious pink cast with the three-stop ND and I'd recommend professionals spend more.

    This is on velvia 100, which pushes toward magenta in the first place and exaggerates virtually all colors in underexposed areas. On digital they're fine so far.
     

Share This Page