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  1. #1
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Outdoor night photography and tripod

    I came out from a pub quiz at my kids school tonight and discovered we'd had the first snow of this winter...Wanted to document it for my friends at N&W , so I thought this would be the time to dust off my tripod that I haven't used in 7 years and trotted down to the local park at midnight...I got scared off by a circling van with loud music blaring out, so in the end, I just took a few shots right outside my front door! There was a bit of street lighting (to the right of the photo) but not much and there's a huge, completely dark cemetory right behind the house in the photo and a big park behind my house, so not much city light in the near vicinity.

    The data for the photo: ISO 800 (auto), aperture priority: f13 at 30sec, focal length 17mm, white balance on auto.
    I've only resized the photo, nothing else (it's become somewhat softer in resizing).

    I guess the clouds are orange due to the ambient city lights of Copenhagen? The right tree looks a bit greenish, would that be the street light? Should I have done something with the white balance?

    And then there's that funny light thing in the right tree that trails down towards the centre, sorry I don't know what you call it, I'm sure it has a name! Would that also be the street light, shining into the lens or what? Can I do anything to help it in the future, like put a lens hood on? And can I remove it from the present photo, which I kind of like Was aperture priority f13 a reasonable choice? Or should I have picked an even larger f-stop? I just let the camera choose the ISO, is that reasonable or should I choose manually - in which case, any good suggestions?

    Sorry, if all these questions are a bit dumb :blush2: but this my first attempt at night photography and long exposures. I'll be most grateful for any help and advice

    Mette
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Outdoor night photography and tripod-scary-house2.jpg  
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  2. #2
    Senior Shooter Greg McCary's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    I think you should have posted this in critiques maybe the Mod can move it? But the image looks a little soft. Maybe the tripod moved slightly on the long exposure. Also the WB looks as though it might be slightly off. Adjust it to get rid of the yellow/orange tint.
    I am like Barney Fife, I have a gun but Andy makes me keep the bullet in my pocket..

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  3. #3
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    That’s a lot of questions you are asking! I’ll try to answer them all, if I miss some – please let me know.

    I also like to do long night exposures.

    #1. The tree is greenish because the wrong white balance was set. I checked the EXIF – it was set to auto. I personally try to avoid auto WB (or anything auto, for that matter) and instead go with the default pre-sets or a custom. Custom WB will give you the best possible color. About the sky, I think it's normal.

    #2. Aperture/shutter-speed/ISO, here are a few suggestions:

    ~Aperture: f13 sounds pretty good to me. My camera only stops down to f8.0, which is what I most often use for this type of photography. Anything smaller than f5.6 I’d recommend.

    ~Shutter-speed: 30 seconds is fine. 8, 15, 60 or anything which the light conditions call for. Keep in mind that the slower the shutter speed, the more careful you have to be to avoid “camera-shake” . A good, solid tripod is a must. Very slow speeds can capture stunning “light trails” from car lights, and unfortunately, cause blown-out areas if say, a street lamp is in the frame for the entire exposure.

    ~ISO: I’d rather stay away from auto. (Personal opinion, of course). Reason is, the camera will more often than not, select a very high ISO number which will degrade image quality due to "noise". In your case, the camera selected ISO 800. There is no need to increase ISO when doing long exposures, I would recommend manually setting it as low as possible to maximize image quality.

    #3. Your “funny light thing” is actually called flare. It occurs when light is reflected back through a lens element(s). Flare is even more likely to occur when using filters, because there are two extra surfaces. Lens hoods can supposedly help in preventing this problem – but I find little or no difference.

    #4. Yes, it is very possible to make flare in photos “disappear” after the shot is taken, usually it is hard to do, but with this image it should be possible with patience. Also, the greenish color on the tree trunk can be corrected somewhat. Both of the previous can be done in an image editing program (e.g. Photoshop, Paint Shop, GIMP, etc.).

    Lastly, the most important thing is practice, practice, practice...

  4. #4
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Thanks for your comments, Greg. I did consider posting it in critique, but decided against it, as it is some general advice on night photography that I am looking for, specifically in city conditions, not so much specific critique on this photo which is why I posted it completely unedited. Also unsharpened. The original is a lot less soft, but I'm just at a very early learning stage with PP and only just got GIMP (thanks, Alex) yesterday, and Photoshop today and resizing has been giving me trouble in terms of loosing sharpness (but I'm working on it!)

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  5. #5
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Just saw your reply, Alex! Thank you It's 4am so I'll digest all your help in the morning...
    The snow has just started hammering on my window, but I'm NOT going down again - that tripod was freezing!!! And I'm pretty tired! But thanks again, I really appreciate you taking the time to help me

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  6. #6
    Senior Member Jimmy B's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Mette, take off any filters you have on your lens for any night shots.That is what has caused the flair on the tree. For your white ballance shoot RAW and change it if you can in your RAW converter. I don't know much about your sony, so I am not sure what kind of software it came with.Depending on what you want your shots to look like I will suggest as low as a ISO as you can. I am going to look at the specs for your camera and see if I can come up with any more insite for you.
    Jimmy B

  7. #7
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    what kind of lens did you have on?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Lens is Sigma 17-35mm f2.8 Ex for the Minolta.

    Tripod is a Velbon PX 701F, and to me it seems incredibly heavy - I didn't put the strap on, and I struggled getting back up to the 5th floor ...

    I have a UV-filter on the lens, I shall have to play around with trying on with the lens hood and removing the filter. That's the good thing about the house across the street (apart from being right opposite my front door!), it's been there the last 100+ years and it's likely to be there many years to come, let alone nights , so I have plenty of opportunity to play around and try out different things.

    Alex, thanks again for your efforts to help me, I'm sure it's paying off, surely but slowly

    I'm a little confused as to what you meant regarding the aperture, did you mean larger aperture is better or? I thought small was good, to get DOF, but I'm not sure if there is a "maximum" desirable shutterspeed for long exposures (actually, in the freezing cold, 30 sec's seemed plenty long... as I discovered the camera also takes forever to process).

    As for the ISO and WB, I now played around with these buttons for the first time today :blush2: - thank you, Alex - the lowest ISO I can choose is 100, which I guess is the one I shall be using when I have enough light from now on...Interesting with the white balance, might explain some of my flash troubles...Would street lights be tungsten? Anyway, I shall have to play around with it during my "daytime photography" as well.

    Lens flare, yes, I knew it had a name! I think I've experienced it a couple of times with sunsets, I'll try the different options and see what works best. But I'll leave the PP on this photo until I'm a little more experienced! Apart from sharpening, which I have kind of figured out....but need to practice! Remember the grey heron? Again, the original is a lot better, but in this case I wanted do as little PP as possible, so that the experts better could analyse the conditions of camera and locality.



    But I'm not going down tonight! I was out this afternoon and my hands have only just regained a normal body temperature! I think I shall check out Alex's gallery in the comfort of a warm apartment and a cuppa

    Thank you all, I'm sure I'll get there, I've definitely got the bit between my teeth now :thumbsup:

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  9. #9
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    What I meant about the aperture is that slightly smaller is normally better. Anything around f5.6, but not all the way to the smallest, such as f22 on a D-SLR lens.

    ~"Smaller aperture" means a larger f-number. "Larger aperture" means a smaller f-number. Think of it as fractions: 1/16 is a smaller area than 1/8, thus f16 and f8.
    -------------------------------------------
    I’m not sure what white balance will work best, toggle between the pre-sets until the color looks good. The A700 might also have a “color tweaking” scale, in which the red/blue/green/magenta can be adjusted manually. My FZ7K allows manual tweaking of red/blue only. Again, Custom WB will give the best possible results, but pre-sets usually work fine.

    Practice and find out what settings work best, and explore the different effects that occur by changing them. After all, digital involves no per-shot cost, unlike film.

    Also, I don’t need to be thanked 3 times in one thread… ..I’m just glad I can help.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    The last "thank you" you have to share with the others who have posted! The other two, well I think you've deserved them! I've learnt a lot today! Just wish I had done some of the legwork that I now need to do a couple of months ago when I got the camera, but I guess I was busy with some of the more basic features then...I'm just not patient enough to wait until spring and warmer weather, so cold fingers, here I come ...

    Yes, got the aperture comment now, re-reading it. It was as I first thought, I'd just somehow managed to get myself confused...I still need to keep my tongue straight with expressions like stopping up and down!!! So you can't get f11, f16, f22 etc on your camera??

    Thanks again

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  11. #11
    project forum co-moderator Frog's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    I've been reading this thread since the beginning and you've had some good advice.
    A couple of things I will add.
    Are you shooting in raw format. If so, it is quite easy to change the white balance in photoshop. I always use auto and then change it if it doesn't look right in post processing.

    Another thing is compositional. If and when you take this shot again, try not to chop off the bottom of the house. I think it and the street its on are probably much more interesting than the sky.
    Keep Shooting!

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  12. #12
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Thanks, Frog

    Yes, I forgot to mention about the format - until now I've been shooting in Extra Fine jpeg, about 10 Mb a pop. I haven't really dared venture into RAW yet, as I'm a total newbie as far as PP is concerned, and until the last couple of days, I don't think I've had the appropriate software either. Only got photoshop yesterday...

    The composition :blush2: , that's a slightly embarrasing story - I didn't have any choice! When I came from the pub quiz and several glasses of wine last night and decided I wanted to go photograph the new snow with the tripod, I hadn't used in 7 years, I'd forgotten about the 2 screwdriver-like gadgets that adjust the head of the tripod....Once, I was downstairs and all set up, I did sense something was missing as I couldn't fix the camera in the vertical plane, i.e. I only had one direction, upwards! So, I went looking in the bottom of my cupboard this morning (I had also missed not having the strap, as it's really heavy) and found all the missing bits!!! So, I'm just happy that it wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but one that will be there every night, just 95 steps on the staircase away

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  13. #13
    Senior Member freygr's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Quote Originally Posted by Pink Dragonfly
    Lens is Sigma 17-35mm f2.8 Ex for the Minolta.

    Tripod is a Velbon PX 701F, and to me it seems incredibly heavy - I didn't put the strap on, and I struggled getting back up to the 5th floor ...

    I have a UV-filter on the lens, I shall have to play around with trying on with the lens hood and removing the filter. That's the good thing about the house across the street (apart from being right opposite my front door!), it's been there the last 100+ years and it's likely to be there many years to come, let alone nights , so I have plenty of opportunity to play around and try out different things.

    Alex, thanks again for your efforts to help me, I'm sure it's paying off, surely but slowly

    I'm a little confused as to what you meant regarding the aperture, did you mean larger aperture is better or? I thought small was good, to get DOF, but I'm not sure if there is a "maximum" desirable shutterspeed for long exposures (actually, in the freezing cold, 30 sec's seemed plenty long... as I discovered the camera also takes forever to process).

    As for the ISO and WB, I now played around with these buttons for the first time today :blush2: - thank you, Alex - the lowest ISO I can choose is 100, which I guess is the one I shall be using when I have enough light from now on...Interesting with the white balance, might explain some of my flash troubles...Would street lights be tungsten? Anyway, I shall have to play around with it during my "daytime photography" as well.

    Lens flare, yes, I knew it had a name! I think I've experienced it a couple of times with sunsets, I'll try the different options and see what works best. But I'll leave the PP on this photo until I'm a little more experienced! Apart from sharpening, which I have kind of figured out....but need to practice! Remember the grey heron? Again, the original is a lot better, but in this case I wanted do as little PP as possible, so that the experts better could analyse the conditions of camera and locality.



    But I'm not going down tonight! I was out this afternoon and my hands have only just regained a normal body temperature! I think I shall check out Alex's gallery in the comfort of a warm apartment and a cuppa

    Thank you all, I'm sure I'll get there, I've definitely got the bit between my teeth now :thumbsup:

    Mette
    Well the smaller the f-stop numbers the larger the iris opening is, formula is: focal length divided by iris opening (f/o).

    With my old Olympus C-3030 it was set on auto and granted the fastest F stop on that camera is only F3.5 for night shots the lens was always wide open with exposure in the two to five minute range and that old camera always gave good results. There are on the web Depth Of Field calculators. But to get good results 1) shoot in raw format 2) use an F number between wide open and F5.6 (note the short lenses will have larger DOF at wide open than the longer lenses) 3) use the highest noise free ISO on your camera to shorten the exposure time. 4) Remember the longer the exposure, trees will move with the wind, so your object is to minimize the exposure times .

    Fare can be a problem, so use a lens hood, and make sure you don't have bright lights at the edge of your frame, as that is where flare can be a problem, but that DOES very from lens to lens.
    GRF

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  14. #14
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Quote Originally Posted by freygr
    Well the smaller the f-stop numbers the larger the iris opening is, formula is: focal length divided by iris opening (f/o).

    With my old Olympus C-3030 it was set on auto and granted the fastest F stop on that camera is only F3.5 for night shots the lens was always wide open with exposure in the two to five minute range and that old camera always gave good results. There are on the web Depth Of Field calculators. But to get good results 1) shoot in raw format 2) use an F number between wide open and F5.6 (note the short lenses will have larger DOF at wide open than the longer lenses) 3) use the highest noise free ISO on your camera to shorten the exposure time. 4) Remember the longer the exposure, trees will move with the wind, so your object is to minimize the exposure times .

    Fare can be a problem, so use a lens hood, and make sure you don't have bright lights at the edge of your frame, as that is where flare can be a problem, but that DOES very from lens to lens.
    Good points here by freygr!:thumbsup:

    However, having a lens wide open at its maximum aperture bears some disadvantages: Loss of sharpness, vignetting issues, loss of depth-of-field.

    Apertures 1½ - 2 full f-stops down from the maximum are usually considered “optimum” for any given lens, with the smallest/largest apertures creating minor problems.

    If you are photographing in very dark areas, in cold weather, or on a windy day, then yes – using the lens’s largest aperture, and as a last resort – increasing the ISO will have to be done in order to “get the shot”. In not-so-dark conditions, stop down the lens a bit and use the lowest or a medium ISO number to ensure best possible image quality.

    And feel free to vary all the settings (not stick to a single one) in order to achieve a certain effect you want, such as “light trail” effects which are the result of very slow shutter-speeds.

    BOTTOM LINE: My prefered settings I already mentioned in my previous posts here in this thread, and freygr obviously prefers the exact opposite of what I do. Point is, none of us will agree exactly - you have to go out and shoot, then slowly you'll start to find your own setting combination "sweet-spot".

  15. #15
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Thank you, Alex and freygr!

    Huh, yes, I was definitely starting to get confused regarding apertures again, thanks for your "bottom line", Alex!

    By a fast f-stop is meant a large aperture = small f-stop?

    And stopping up means increasing f-stop, thus decreasing the aperture? And stopping down the opposite?

    Does that mean the optimum aperture for my f2.8 lens would be f4?

    What kind of shutter speeds am I looking at for traffic light trails? I suppose that depends on how long the road is amongst other things...and if there's bicycles (of which there's A LOT in Copenhagen!)...

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  16. #16
    Senior Member Dylan8i's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    usually they say the optimum sharpness for a lens is around f8-f10.

    the lower number (f2.8) is faster than a higher f number (f10). it (f2.8) has a larger apature opening, thus letting in more light.


    as for tail lights to blurr it depends on how fast cars are going, how long you want them to be, how many cars are driving past to look good. it takes alot of experimentation.
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  17. #17
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Quote Originally Posted by Dylan8i
    usually they say the optimum sharpness for a lens is around f8-f10.
    http://www.subclub.org/field/fstop.htm

    Optimum sharpness is about 1 or 2 full stops down from the maximum of the particular lens.
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Here is an example of one of my "light trail shots":

    Aperture: f5
    Shutter-speed: 8 seconds
    ISO: 100
    -----------------------------------------------------
    This photo is NOT royalty-free and is copyrighted property of A.M.D.A.. All rights reserved. Please do NOT download, copy, use or modify in any way and in any form without the owner's prior written permission.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Thanks, Dylan and Alex

    Fun photo, Alex, I looked at it in your gallery last night (I wish you'd upload some more of your night shots there )

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

  19. #19
    Senior Member freygr's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Quote Originally Posted by A.M.D.A.
    Good points here by freygr!:thumbsup:

    However, having a lens wide open at its maximum aperture bears some disadvantages: Loss of sharpness, vignetting issues, loss of depth-of-field.

    Apertures 1½ - 2 full f-stops down from the maximum are usually considered “optimum” for any given lens, with the smallest/largest apertures creating minor problems.

    If you are photographing in very dark areas, in cold weather, or on a windy day, then yes – using the lens’s largest aperture, and as a last resort – increasing the ISO will have to be done in order to “get the shot”. In not-so-dark conditions, stop down the lens a bit and use the lowest or a medium ISO number to ensure best possible image quality.

    And feel free to vary all the settings (not stick to a single one) in order to achieve a certain effect you want, such as “light trail” effects which are the result of very slow shutter-speeds.

    BOTTOM LINE: My prefered settings I already mentioned in my previous posts here in this thread, and freygr obviously prefers the exact opposite of what I do. Point is, none of us will agree exactly - you have to go out and shoot, then slowly you'll start to find your own setting combination "sweet-spot".
    Loss of sharpness at wide open..... With digital unless you have a poor lens. You have to focus and just stop down to get the DOF correct for the shot. If you do not have anything in the foreground wide open with night shoots is not a problem. Just remember the long the exposure the more electronic noise there will be, and that will degrade sharpness more than opening the lens up.
    GRF

    Panorama Madness:

    Nikon D800, 50mm F1.4D AF, 16-35mm, 28-200mm & 70-300mm

  20. #20
    Senior Member Pink Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Re: Outdoor night photography and tripod

    Thanks, freygr! I guess I shall just have to keep experimenting with different settings and find out what works for different types of shots, and then I'll have a good gut feeling when the once-in-a-lifetime shot comes my way And as I get more familiar/accomplished with PS, I'm sure that'll help too....

    Mette
    My Sony Alpha 700 and I have been joined by a Tamron 200-500mm

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