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11-20-2011, 10:13 AM   #1
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Long exposure night photography

Hi guys, I just got my first camera yesterday the White K-r with 18-55, 55-300 kit lens. I'm really new to the photography scene and I'm kinda interested in night time long exposure shots like this one
. Any tips? what extra gear do I need? I know I would be needing a tripod and some other stuff, please enlighten me (: thanks!

11-20-2011, 10:45 AM   #2
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All you really need is a tripod and a lot of patience to get the exposure exactly as you want it- I'd go out there are try experimenting a bit (the 18-55 will probably be more useful than the 55-300 for shots like these).

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11-20-2011, 10:54 AM   #3
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Thanks! It'll be awesome if you can make a semi tutorial/full tutorial for this (: it would be much appreciated.
11-20-2011, 11:08 AM   #4
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If you are doing long exposures at night and on or near large bodies of water ensure you get a/the correct tripod - in short, make sure that the tripod has a somewhat good design that provides some vibration dampening.

In short, the very basic starting point is this:

1. Stop down your aperture all the way
2. Ensure you use the "2sec timer" also known as the "Beginners Mirror Up Function"
3. Shoot the scene

While in "AV" mode, your camera's LCD information will blink if the camera's internal thinks you have an improper exposure (ignore it) - also, the max exposure time you will get with the above is 30sec, just starting out this is fine.

If you only want a 15sec exposure, open up your aperture a little or up your ISO - I personally shoot at the lowest ISO possible when shooting night time long exposures, that is however only a preference of mine and you can go with whatever ISO setting you seem fit.

Good luck and share some of the pictures with us



Last edited by joe.penn; 11-20-2011 at 11:19 AM.
11-20-2011, 11:10 AM   #5
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Thanks for the tip joe (: do you have a specific kind in mind? a link to it would be awesome

Last edited by kaiserz; 11-20-2011 at 11:37 AM.
11-20-2011, 11:17 AM   #6
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I added to my post (above) kaiserz to give you a starting point.

As for tripods, I have and excellent cheap one (that isn't the greatest for long exposures) and a pretty expensive one - maybe some others will chime in to this thread with some tripod recommendations for you...

Again, good luck...

11-20-2011, 11:23 AM   #7
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A cable release would also be a good idea depending on how well lit your scene is. I have recently been doing some pictures of the stars so using a bulb exposure and a cable release that can lock, I can press it, lock it and walk away then come back 10 minutes later to see what I've got. Depending on what you want to do, a tripod and a release will pretty much cover it. Lots of trial and error though, cant imagine doing it with film.
11-20-2011, 11:42 AM   #8
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No cable release on the k-x. The alternative is the ir remote. 2 sec delay also works but the remote is better.

On tripods there are probably thousands to choose from $29 to $1,000's. For your current gear you do not need a really sturdy one so if you are not sure what to get just get a reasonably priced one you like. If you stick with this hobby you will learn what you need and can make a better decision. Remember the head is just as important as the legs, some models are integrated more expensive models will have separate heads and legs. I currently have 4, only two of which get used. A huge aluminum antique that weighs about 12 pounds that I use in the studio and a lighter one I use when hiking. Vibration is your enemy with this type of shot so do everything you can to minimize it. Add weight to the tripod by hanging your bag under it, don't extend it any further than you have to, use 2 sec delay or remote to trigger the shutter, shelter form the wind if you can, don't set up on a dock or other structure that will move or transmit vibration.

I might also suggest you get a book called "Understanding Exposure" by Brian Peterson. It will save you a lot of misery by explaining how photographic exposure works.

Here is a long exposure shot taken with almost no light, no stars, no moon.

11-20-2011, 11:57 AM   #9
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Z-Basics of nighttime shooting:

1: Plant the tripod
2: Open the shutter
3: Close it later

All the rest is elaboration.

So I'll elaborate: Much good info above. Depending on conditions (winds, stability of platform, etc) even a sturdy tripod may be insufficient; the support must be rock-solid for l-o-n-g exposures. I'll sometimes set the camera atop a wall or rock, sometimes sandbagged. Sometimes with a long lens on a tripod, I'll sandbag the lens. My heavier 'pod has a hook; I'll hang my camera bag from it to provide stability and motion damping, or even run a tight line to stakes in the ground.

After a long exposure, the camera will force a Dark Frame Subtraction noise-reduction -- however long your exposure was, the camera will take another exposure the same length, then subtract B from A. So if you take a 15 minute shot, it'll be a half-hour total before you can shoot again. Check your manual under Noise Reduction for more info.

DON'T just put the camera on a tripod and push the shutter, not unless you have SR switched off. All the timer and remote drive modes switch off SR automatically. For exposures up to the limit of your Kr's timer (which I think is 30 secs), set the drive mode to 2-second delay. Going over that limit is tricky, as the Kr won't accommodate a wired remote, and holding a finger on a wireless remote or shutter for 15 minutes is rather a pain. I'm sure other Kr owners here have tricks for long exposures.

Yes, use the lowest ISO possible -- unless your scene is SO dark, and it MUST be shot within the Kr's time limit, and you'd rather have a noisy shot than none at all. Noise can be fixed in PP but severe underexposure can't. So boost the ISO as high as necessary.

Yes, for thick DOF, stop-down the aperture as tight as possible. If you're at lowest ISO, don't go tighter than f/12-f/14 or you'll see diffraction softness. At highest+noisiest ISO, diffraction hardly matters, so stop down as far as you want. If thick DOF isn't needed (like all your subjects are at effective infinity) then setting the DA18-55 to f/5.6-f/8 should be sharp enough. The 18-55's sweet range is 24mm-50mm, f/8-f/11.

Search the web or a public library and you'll find lots of material on nighttime shooting. Have fun!

Last edited by RioRico; 11-20-2011 at 02:09 PM.
11-20-2011, 12:51 PM   #10
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For your first attempts, a full moon is nice because you'll have a little light to work with, just a bit easier. Fully charged batteries are necessary. I forget which battery has the best temperature performance, but look into that if you're shooting in the cold.

The video talks about exposure time, but then leaves you completely on your own. Most of the time it is either too dark for the camera's meter to measure anything (blinking display). Since you have to wait for the dark frame subtraction mentioned above, some shortcuts to guessing exposure time are handy.

I take a test shot in M mode, 30 seconds exposure, with aperture and ISO settings depending on how dark it is. The idea is to get a shot that shows a histogram on the camera's display, quality is unimportant here. If you're doing this in the full moon, keep the aperture at f11 or whatever you want to shoot at, it'll save calculations and remembering to reset it later. Take a guess at ISO, why not 800 because it's in the middle somewhere. So the settings are 30 sec., f11, ISO 800. Take a shot. If the shot is completely dark, nothing on the histogram except some bars way on the left, raise ISO several steps, like ISO 6400 or more, and see if you can get a reasonable hump in the center, like the histogram from a daytime shot. If you max out ISO, you'll have to open the aperture. Keep taking test shots at

With this probably very noisy shot, you can calculate how to get a better shot. The ISO number is like all the other exposure settings: doubling the number doubles the amount of light that reaches the sensor. The exposure time works the same. So if you get a reasonable exposure at 30 seconds, f11 and ISO 6400, and you want to shoot at ISO 100, leave the shutter open for 32 minutes. How I got those numbers:
6400 30 sec.
3200 1 min.
1600 2 min.
800 4 min.
400 8 min.
200 16 min.
100 32 min.

That's a lot better than taking a shot for 16 minutes + 16 minutes dark frame, then deciding it's too dim and you need another hour.
11-20-2011, 02:00 PM   #11
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Here are a couple more ideas. Get the time of moon rise and setting (along with its direction). You can do some work before the moon rises, and also as the moon rises, various landmarks become illuminated.If you are going to have lights behind you - cars on the road, etc. the viewfinder cap is useful to prevent light coming in through the viewfinder - or just a dark cloth also works.

You can count to yourself so that you have some idea as to how long the shutter has been opened. Or you can get a fancy shutter remote with a timer built in (less than $20). Also Pentax uses the same remote plug as Canon EOS bodies. Sorry, I just re-read the post and see that you have a Kr - so you are going to be limited by the IR remote release. Set up your camera to open the shutter on one push, and close it on the second push. That way you will not have to hold down the button for the entire duration of the image.

This also takes much longer - but you can also do bracketing. Then use some HDR utilities to combine. But the multiple exposures along with multiple DFS, really burns up the time....

Last edited by interested_observer; 11-20-2011 at 02:05 PM.
11-20-2011, 08:06 PM   #12
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Thanks guys! I'm gonna be messing around with my cam tonight ^-^

And jatrax Understanding Exposure was the 1st thing I ordered before the camera hehehe they say it's a must.
11-22-2011, 06:41 PM   #13
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A good torch is very useful when out at night... I use mine to both focus and 'paint'... and smaller torches with coloured gels taped to them can give interesting results...

You can get a wireless shutter release off ebay from china for peanuts too... gives you longer than 30 secs to mess around...

I find Tv mode a good place to start at night...Once you know a shortish exposure (say 15 secs at f4) you can stick it in manual and calculate a longer one fairly easily (30 secs at f5.6 - 1 min at f8 - 2 mins at f11... etc)
11-23-2011, 06:06 AM   #14
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Depending on what you are shooting at night, you might even want an ND filter. Industrial sites with lots of lighting can disappointingly bright at night.

Below was F16 with ND8 @30s

I drank a cup of coffee while doing a number of shots there.
11-23-2011, 08:00 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattt Quote
you might even want an ND filter
I find a good CPL filter to work quite well with long exposures at night...


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