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05-11-2009, 09:42 AM   #1
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Night shots - what can I do better?

On the way home from X-Men: Wolverine last night I noted that the moon was large and bright, and some clouds were rolling in. Into the house to grab the camera and tripod, then out of town a few miles to get a clear shot.

I'm generally pleased with the results, as I had only made passing attempts with a P&S before, but I'm sure there are things I could have done better.

Setup: K200D, FA 50 1.4, tripod, SR off, Manual focus, manual exposure, WB set to daylight, ISO 200 or 400. Exposures were between 1 second and 2 seconds. Triggered by wireless remote.

Here is one that I liked a fair bit. EXIF shows 1.3 seconds, ISO 200, F2.0.




I can't help thinking that the detail in the woods below the moon just isn't there... I was shooting at F2 focused to infinity, so perhaps I should have stopped it down a bit?

Any night shooters care to comment?

05-11-2009, 10:37 AM   #2
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I think you are up against the dynamic range ability of the sensor in the camera. Our eyes adjust so quickly to a wide range of brightness that we forget the camera is limited. One way to handle this is to set the camera to bracket as widely as possible, and then use a program such as Photomatix to assemble it into a high dynamic range (HDR) image.
05-11-2009, 10:46 AM   #3
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Not just thr dynamic range of the sensor, but also the dynamic range of our monitors and of a printing technology is *far* exceeded in shots like this. The moon is *many* times brigher than those trees - the difference is *far* greater than the difference between pure white and pure black on a computer monitor or on a print. So aside from using "HDR" techniques to artificially manipulate the scene into one that has detail in both areas, there is simply no way to capture that in any way we can view. And if you use HDR techniques in a scene like this, the results look almost laughably "fake", because our eyes know that the real world has more dynamic range than what our monitors or prints can represent. HDR techniques works best in scenes that only "slightly" exceed what our cameras/monitors/printers can reproduce.
05-11-2009, 11:02 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Not just thr dynamic range of the sensor, but also the dynamic range of our monitors and of a printing technology is *far* exceeded in shots like this. The moon is *many* times brigher than those trees - the difference is *far* greater than the difference between pure white and pure black on a computer monitor or on a print.
That is essentially what I learned - I saw this great scene, moon partially obscured, with dimly lit prairie in front. My images are either dimly lit prairie and clouds with blown out moon or nicely detailed moon and clouds with black all around.

I did pull out the M100 2.8 for some moon-only shots, but it still wasn't quite long enough to pull much detail out of the moon.

I had a lot of fun, and feel that the tripod and remote gave great results on those long exposures, so I have something to work from going forward.

05-11-2009, 04:35 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by grainbelt Quote
Setup: K200D, FA 50 1.4, tripod, SR off, Manual focus, manual exposure, WB set to daylight, ISO 200 or 400. Exposures were between 1 second and 2 seconds.
You've got a tripod so why not ISO 100?
05-11-2009, 04:54 PM   #6
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just curious, would it be smart to stop it down to a more closed aperture for more detail or is this obsolete as the focus point is at infinity?
05-11-2009, 06:06 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by esman7 Quote
just curious, would it be smart to stop it down to a more closed aperture for more detail or is this obsolete as the focus point is at infinity?
In general, yes, stop down, so that you are using the lens at its best. A good start might be f/8 or f/11.
05-11-2009, 10:56 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
You've got a tripod so why not ISO 100?
Good question. 100, 200, not much difference.

In retrospect, stopping it down further would likely have helped the most.

05-12-2009, 04:02 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by grainbelt Quote
Good question. 100, 200, not much difference.
True, but you said you took some at 400 as well. Two stops gained at ISO100 means you can stop down the aperture an equal amount and still have the same shutter speed. That will prevent extra blur due to wind, traffic, or simply the Earth spinning away on its axis.

Just adding this in for others who may be reading the thread for useful info. When I'm on a tripod I'm always at ISO100 wishing for 50! (Except, actually, for some events where I need to freeze action.)
05-12-2009, 09:26 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by grainbelt Quote
Any night shooters care to comment?
You don't need HDR. You can cheat by shooting with different exposures but combining the photos by cutting and pasting and fix the rest with dodging and burning. Starry sky shooters cheat by copying and pasting starry skies (shot with the camera following the stars) with the foreground shot in the usual way.
05-12-2009, 10:53 AM   #11
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HDR can work (sometimes)

Sometimes extreme HDR compression can give you a rather pleasing Art Deco look. Not realistic, but pleasing nonetheless.

I'm probably in the minority here, though...
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