Night/extreme lowlight Photography (C & C and hints?)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by flosseR, Jan 16, 2010.

  1. flosseR macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #1
    Hello everyone.
    I have really gotten into lowlight and night photography lately and I am rally enjoying it. I posted a pic on POTD and have taken several others since.

    My problem is however that i sometimes can't focus correctly or that i just lack the feedback to see if the techniques are wrong. So I attached a few images here to get a) some feedback and b) maybe some help to achieve better images? One burning question is about the matchstick man picture. How to people get really good looking, inline and proportional light drawings? I mean its virtually impossible to visualize at night an invisible matchstick man and correctly draw him?

    Any help is really appreciated.
    PS, I usually shoot at least f8,25sec and ISO 50 or 100 to get the combination right and the darkness reflected...
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Matthew Yohe macrumors 68020

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    #2
    Often people will outline a real person. Just don't point the light at the person and they wont show up.
     
  3. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #3
    I can see why you are really into it... your photos are stunning... at least to me!

    How about sharing some tips?! :p
     
  4. SnowLeopard2008 macrumors 604

    SnowLeopard2008

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    #4
    Yea, please share some tips. I would love to know how to do light painting (I think it's called).
     
  5. flosseR thread starter macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #5
    Well I am not really good at it but this is what I follow as a general rule for night photography:
    1. dial down the ISO to the lowest that your camera can do (50 or 100) and bring up the Aperture. I shoot at f8 or higher sometimes even f16.
    2.Bring the shutter time up to its maximum to give you work time OR use bulb mode for star trails. At first I didn't have a remote release so I used 2 rubberbands over the side of the camera and slipped a AA battery underneath. It held the button down :)
    3. Always use a wide angle of view in order to focus into infinity and get lots of stuff into the picture.
    4. look for a location that is suitable for this stuff. For example the shot of the lake with the trails I had envisioned before I went. But then again the bridge with the match stick man was spontaneous while I drove home from the underlit tree shot.
    5. try and try and try. Once you start shooting you will see how the aperture, ISO and shutterspeed give you lighter or darker images do it so that you have a dark image if you want to paint with light.
    6. if you have 30seconds exposure make a small pen light, go to your chosen spot and draw something TOWARDS the camera. So you stand facing the camera and the penlight also then you draw whatever you want to but make sure you ALWAY move and when done run out of the frame.


    Thats the basics really but I am not very good so anyone else who has tips, please share...
     
  6. svndmvn Guest

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    Italy
    #6
    do you shoot mirror locked up? Not sure if it would avoid any shaking causing some defocusing..
    Have you also tried, if possible, longer exposures with a smaller aperture?
    Are you satisfied with everything but the focused areas? I can see at least some parts of the pictures well in focus, like the trees in a couple of them. Also, are you happy with the white balance?
     
  7. Doylem macrumors 68040

    Doylem

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    #7
    'Night' photography, for me, is more usually 'twilight' photography... using the wonderful light you get after the sun has gone down, but there is still light in the sky. Juggling the two light sources - ambient and man-made (street light, car headlights, etc) - can create stronger images I think, with more depth of colour. Once the sky has gone black (or, in cities, orange...), I don't find the pix work so well...
     
  8. flosseR thread starter macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #8
    Well, I like the fact that there is sometimes the cloudy sky that reflects street lights, especially when you live closer to villages where it becomes spotty (see the 2nd picture) and it gives texture to the sky. Dark and black I only like in conjunction with star trails.

    Twilight shooting here only works in the summer when we have nearly no night at all, otherwise the sun drops extremely fast and in the winter the colors really do not work 99% of the time.
     
  9. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #9
    One tip I'd give you is to not focus at infinity.

    You should be using manual focus obviously, because your autofocus isn't going to work in this low light (and you have no subject to focus on). If you're setting the aperture to f/16 on a wide angle lens you end up with a large depth of field behind and in front of your focus point. If you focus at infinity though, you're not making full use of this extra depth of field.

    As an example, I have the Canon 24 f2.8 in front of me. It has markings showing me how depth of field expands as aperture increases. At f/11 I could focus at infinity and get everything from 1.8m to infinity in good focus - but that would be incorrect, as I wouldn't be making any use of the DOF 'beyond infinity'. The correct thing for me to do would be to focus at 1.8m and therefore get 0.8 to 1.8m and 1.8m to infinity in focus. You may find a scale on your lens which shows you the same effect.

    The only other comment I would make is to only take these depth of field measures as a guideline. In the example above, I'd shoot at maybe f/16 if I was using the f/11 guidelines - just to make sure I get better sharpness.
     
  10. epicwelshman macrumors 6502a

    epicwelshman

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    #10
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't digital SLR's tend to reach their peak sharpness at about f11? After that you tend to run into diffraction issues, regardless of the glass you're using.
     
  11. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #11
    It depends on the lens.

    Photozone.de is a great resource - for the lens I'm using in this example, somewhere between f5.6 and f8 is the sweet spot.

    At the end of the day, diffraction does limit the maximum resolution, but DOF may be an even greater limitation. There's certainly a case for much higher aperture values, particularly in macro applications where DOF is often a problem.
     
  12. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #12
    I have to disagree with this one. Getting "lots of stuff into the picture" usually means your subject is too small and that there are many distractions in the frame. For example in your photos, the stick figure is tiny and could have much greater presence in the frame. In the others, the "subject" isn't clear at all, and there is no real point of resolution where the eye knows it should rest.

    Just get the focus right and choose the best focal length for a nicely contained composition. You'll have to focus manually, probably, but if you're using a small aperture (say f/11), you should have enough depth of field to get things right. I've posted a number of night shots recently, and the focal lengths on them have ranged from 38mm to 100mm, all on a 1.6x sensor--so not wide by any means.

    I have to agree with Doylem about shooting at twilight. It makes for much richer photos. The sun sets quickly everywhere in the world. You'll have a very short window of time in which to work no matter where you live. Get to your location early and figure out your composition. Know which lights will come on when or look for lights that are already on. Then wait for the sun to set and for the sky to deepen in color. You may only have about a 10-minute window in which to work.

    A tip: if you face west, you'll get a better glow and more color in the sky after the sun has set.
     
  13. flosseR thread starter macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #13

    You know this does imply that you actually GET colors in the sky. over here we have had no sun since november, just cloud cover :) plus our "sun" sets at 14:00-15:30 during the winter which makes is VERY difficult to get out when you want to get out since i am at work. I'd love to shoot more twilight but I have to make do with what I have :)

    Just FYI, I am in the upper regions of Finland.

    About the focus, the stick figure CAN be cropped but to get moody pictures and light trails etc. should your angle be wide?

    Thanks for all the input so far btw, I really do appreciate it and will try these out as soon as we get decent temperatures.
    //F
     
  14. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #14
    You didn't use the phrase "hyperfocal distance", but that's what you were describing. We just had a discussion about that on this forum a few days ago.

    For the type of shots being displayed here, this is EXACTLY what you want to do.

    Depends on the sensor's pixel size. For very high-density sensors (12MP on DX, 24MP on FX) you're about right. For lower-density sensors (like my D700, which has 12MP on a FX sensor), it's probably closer to f/16.

    It does also get complicated by the fact that many (most?) lenses start to lose sharpness above f/8 or f/11.

    If you focus hyperfocally, even at f/11 you're going to have almost everything in good focus with a wide-angle lens. You can see that other thread for specifics, but shooting at 20mm focal length the hyperfocal distance is about 1.5 meters, which means everything from 0.75m to infinity will be in focus.

    As others have mentioned, using mirror lockup (if you have it) and a good tripod will help you achieve optimal sharpness.

    BTW I really like the composition and color of the picture to the lower left - the tree-lined street (?) with the snow in the foreground!
     
  15. toxic macrumors 68000

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    #15
    mirror lockup is only useful for exposured around 1/30 to something around 2 seconds, I don't quite remember.

    this actually brings up an interesting point: if you want to be able to balance sodium vapor lights (or whatever they use in street lights), you will need a cooling filter since the temperature is too warm and monochromatic for digital correction.
     
  16. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #16
    Well, OK, so keep it all in mind for those days when there is less cloud cover. We have that same problem often in Slovenia in the winter, so whenever there's a day with blue skies in the forecast, I start planning.

    As for your question about light trails: why would you need wide angle? Shutter speed is all that matters for the light trails. For example, in both this picture and this picture, I was using a 100mm prime lens, and both have light trails.

    It's a bit vague to say "the type of shots being displayed here." There is only a necessity to use the hyperfocal distance when you want to get as much as possible in focus, but night shots needn't be wide-angle shots with everything in focus. You can of course also do very interesting things at night with shallow depth of field, just as you can during the day.
     
  17. firestarter macrumors 603

    firestarter

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    #17
    Thanks - you're correct. I know the term but haven't used it for years... and was too lazy to look it up. :)

    Kind of odd that the OP is still focussing at infinity then...
     
  18. flosseR thread starter macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #18
    believe me i am writing this stuff all down religiously.

    I do think starting march or april when the days get better and especially in the summer when the sun does not go down and we get great colors at night I will generate much different images. Here is one I took last midsummer at 1am. This was the darkest it got :) And I know I could just the colors even more but this is straight from the camera.
     

    Attached Files:

  19. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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  20. glowfly macrumors member

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    #20
    you've got some talent their man , think big ... go for an exhibition or something ... great work... thumbs up !
     
  21. flosseR thread starter macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #21
    haha.. thanks..but.. no, its just goofing around shooting in the dark.

    thanks for the encouragement though.. highly appreciated :D
     
  22. Ryan1524 macrumors 68000

    Ryan1524

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  23. TheSVD macrumors 6502a

    TheSVD

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    #23
    bloody hell :O see, i dont get shots like this. how are they so crisp and perfect? is it the aperture and exposure time, what?
     
  24. finnschi macrumors 6502

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    #24

    how is this picture Crisp and perfect? it looks like High ISO + Large Aperture...


    If you want crisp and "perfect" pictures at night :

    1. !!!tripod!!! 2. Low ISO (less noise) 3.Small Aperture(F 8-11 for more sharpness ) 4. Long exposure .. 20s or more(depends on how much light is available ) 5. Remote shutter Release so you don't accidentally move the camera while you press the shutter. (shoot in M mode obvioulsy)

    Should do it :cool:
     
  25. flosseR thread starter macrumors 6502a

    flosseR

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    #25
    agreed.. this is just post processed like crazy.. i am guessing diffuse glow etc.? Unless the effect was created by fogging up the lens :)... while i dont think i take good photos, that one i didnt like very much.. i don't see the subject.. a dark car under a streetlamp? Then again whats the point in mine?:)

    //f
     

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