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12-22-2014, 10:09 AM   #1
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Lights on the Water

Last night I took a few shots of lakeside scenes with holiday lighting. My idea was to get the Christmas lights reflected in the water and I was able to accomplish that but I'm having trouble getting the lights to render as I would like them. They appear fuzzy as if they were out of focus but they aren't. I check and double checked the focus and I can see that objects nearby are in focus but the points of light are still fuzzy and ill-defined. I know it can be done because I've seen it. Help please!

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12-22-2014, 10:14 AM   #2
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I would use a tripod and a long exposure for this.
I can't really elaborate without lens and exposure information.
12-22-2014, 10:18 AM   #3
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Beautiful shots, regardless. It looks to me like you have ripples in the water on all those shots, which are going to seriously impede the mirroring clarity of the water. Do you have fish jumping or crazy night kayakers going by? Or is it perhaps windy? If I'm mistaken, I am at a loss to explain it. I agree with use of a tripod, but I wouldn't use any longer exposure than necessary to get the shot - just increases the chance of water movement, which will blur the reflection.
12-22-2014, 11:02 AM   #4
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Firstly, because the surface of the water is a kind of moving mirror, you may be getting motion blur. Secondly, because the lower lights are reflections, they are further away, even though the water is nearer. Although I would think that you are focussed on infinity anyway.

Thirdly, now you have yet another reason to buy the 31! It probably won't help but it's nice to have. Everyone should have one, except RonHendricks1966, IMHO.

12-22-2014, 11:07 AM   #5
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I did use a tripod. There was a very light breeze and I expected the ripples on the water. The lens was my SMC FA1:4-5.6 35-80mm with the aperture at max. The lens was zoomed out to its widest setting, 35 mm for most of the shots and the iso was 6400. The shutter speed varied from 1/30 to 1/80 depending on the light. My thinking about where to go from here is to stop the lens down to sharpen it up which of course will lengthen the shutter times. I also think maybe I should limit the iso a stop or 2. I'm not worried about the motion of the water as that just adds to the effect but I do want the points of light to be sharper or even star burst thought I'm not sure I have a lens that will effectively create that effect.

---------- Post added 12-22-14 at 11:10 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Bagga_Txips Quote
Firstly, because the surface of the water is a kind of moving mirror, you may be getting motion blur. Secondly, because the lower lights are reflections, they are further away, even though the water is nearer. Although I would think that you are focussed on infinity anyway.

Thirdly, now you have yet another reason to buy the 31! It probably won't help but it's nice to have. Everyone should have one, except RonHendricks1966, IMHO.
Right... I'll run right out and buy that lottery ticket! LOL. Seriously though, I am considering a Samyang/Rikenon/etc. 14mm for landscapes and this is a type of landscape.
12-22-2014, 11:37 AM   #6
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The last photo definitely has motion blur.
The first few could be that the combination of lens in its non-optimal setting and high ISO are not rendering enough detail.
I would set the lens for best resolution, maybe f8.
Lower the ISO - 100 is ideal but you will have to balance that with tripod sturdiness and exposure times.
Its OK to go higher if needed, but if you want best IQ, 6400 is not really going to give it.

Don't buy any more lenses or equipment until you get the technique down, what you have should be fine to capture these types of shots.

Last edited by crewl1; 12-22-2014 at 11:47 AM.
12-22-2014, 11:47 AM   #7
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Given the lens and aperture you used, you might want to try your shots at something like f/8 (with at tripod). It should help sharpen everything up, increase the depth of field (if it matters), and even increase the shutter speed which might improve the reflections.

And, since you are on a tripod, you might as well drop the ISO down to 800 or lower. That should help you out. Of course, motion blur could still be an issue. If there is wind, the water will still move. If you are on a tripod, make sure to use the 2-s timer so that the mirror is already up and the shake reduction is off. You might also want to make sure your tripod isn't moving at all and that it is sufficiently weighted down.
12-22-2014, 12:05 PM   #8
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I use live view which puts the mirror up; do I also need to use the 2 second timer? I will be sure that SR is turned off.


*edit* I forgot to mention, I do use a remote release; either dslr remote for an IR wireless release or a wired release.

12-22-2014, 12:15 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by dakight Quote
I use live view which puts the mirror up; do I also need to use the 2 second timer? I will be sure that SR is turned off.


*edit* I forgot to mention, I do use a remote release; either dslr remote for an IR wireless release or a wired release.
You probably don't since you are starting from live view. I don't usually use live view, but I do like to keep from touching the camera, and the 2-second mode (or 3-sec with the IR remotes) automatically turn off the shake reduction, which I wouldn't remember to do otherwise (or remember to turn it back on once off the tripod).
12-22-2014, 12:15 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by dakight Quote
I use live view which puts the mirror up; do I also need to use the 2 second timer? I will be sure that SR is turned off.


*edit* I forgot to mention, I do use a remote release; either dslr remote for an IR wireless release or a wired release.
If you are using a remote that should be fine. Turn off auto focus and use manual focus. Use the function to allow you to zoom in while focusing to confirm.
I still think closing down the aperture some and dropping the ISO with corresponding longer exposure times will improve the shots.
Since you have a tripod, take advantage of it and use the long exposure.

The only time you want to use faster exposure and high ISO is if you have to grab a shot with no tripod, but for creative shots take your time.

Keep practicing.
12-22-2014, 12:16 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by dakight Quote
I use live view which puts the mirror up; do I also need to use the 2 second timer? I will be sure that SR is turned off.


*edit* I forgot to mention, I do use a remote release; either dslr remote for an IR wireless release or a wired release.
If I remember right, using the IR remote automatically disables shake reduction, since it assumes you're using a tripod.

Last edited by Sagitta; 12-22-2014 at 04:07 PM.
12-22-2014, 12:52 PM   #12
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Two points to add to the above: blue and red lights can easily get overexposed. The first shot is a good example of prime conditions for this. The meter sees an overall dark scene and the blue points are too small to impact the meter. So it raises exposure and the blue gets overexposed. It's hard to see this in the dark. You can check the RGB histogram to see if the blue channel is too far to the right.

Higher ISOs cost you dynamic range. There's a nice example of this in the K-3 review, where the shadows appear to get darker as ISO is raised and the overall exposure is the same. Scenes like this look better at lower ISOs, if it's OK to increase shutter speed. Each sensor is different. I think the K-5 IIs is OK at 1600 but starts to fall above that. ISO 1600 is harder to maintain if you wanted to shoot handheld - it probably means a lens capable of f2 or so.
12-22-2014, 01:47 PM   #13
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from my own experience... YMMW

Shoot always RAW
If you use AF then focus first whatever you like to have in-focus, then disable AF or you can disable from beginning AF and use back-button AF.
I usually set the F-stop to 5-6 or 8.
Use always IR or corded remote (I set them to option to press once to start the exposure and to press again to stop the exposure)
If not necessary I do not extend tripod to full length and keep the head close to tripod body.
If windy I hang camera bag onto tripod (middle post)
If I am on the docks I always try to set the tripod on stable background (concrete, big stone or flat slab of stone) and never on wooden planks. Always avoid to walk, jump or whatever movements you make. I have seen people jumping on the wooden planks next to tripod set just to get warmer and afterwards saying "what the f**k I used tripod... something must be wrong with camera or lens"
I always keep my ISO at 100 or 200 but if I have to shoot stars than max ISO 1600
Take a dark frame picture first and then stack them together in PS or LR or some free alternative like GIMP
Disable the SR *
Disable the low shutter speed SR **
and so on... Actually I disable everything and let the sensor do the magic and afterwards do some tweaks in PS (white balance mostly)
I always timed my exposures with external timer when in bulb mode to get consistent exposure if I make pano shot.

Practice, practice and learn the camera first.

I can go on with some other settings too but those a camera specific, also some above mention, marked with asterisk. Have fun!

EDIT: some samples






Last edited by RAART; 12-22-2014 at 01:57 PM.
12-22-2014, 01:53 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by dakight Quote
I use live view which puts the mirror up; do I also need to use the 2 second timer? I will be sure that SR is turned off.

*edit* I forgot to mention, I do use a remote release; either dslr remote for an IR wireless release or a wired release.
Live View does extra mirror movements on some Pentax models. Yes, the mirror is up in Live View, but pressing the shutter button then lowers the mirror and lifts it again just as the shutter fires. I turn off Live View and use the 2-second timer with a tripod. The timer also guarantees that SR is turned off.

All the original images look blurry to me. The last one is definitely camera motion. The others might be camera motion, incorrect focus, overexposure of the lights, or internal flare within the lens.

If the water has ripples or waves, short exposures can give poor reflections because the light bounces in different directions. I don't think that's your main issue though.

Things to consider: Make sure your tripod is on stable ground. Make sure the ballhead isn't letting the camera sag. Stop the lens down to f8 for sharpness and less flare. Experiment with lower ISO and slower shutter speeds. Underexpose some shots a little so the lights don't blow out, and overexpose some to see how the lights look (some lenses are more forgiving than others for night photos).

Last edited by DeadJohn; 12-22-2014 at 02:11 PM.
12-22-2014, 02:07 PM   #15
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Yeah, that's what I'm looking for. I'll get back out there tonight if I can. A few more days and people will be taking their lights down until next year. I'll use mode Av to fix the aperture, probably at f8 or f11, keep iso as low as possible and let the shutter fall where it may. Wish me luck!
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