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03-17-2010, 07:31 PM   #1
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High noise in night photography with K20D

Looking around this forum I've seen a lot of beautiful night shots that people have taken so I thought that I would take a try at it. This morning I tried to take some shots of the plant where I work, however, when I was processing the RAW pictures (just with the Pentax Photo Laboratory), I found that they had a very high amount of noise in the shots. Here are a few examples of some of the shots I took.





The first shot was taken at:

ISO 200
f/5.6
1/10 s

and the second was shot at:

ISO 200
f/5.6
1.5s

Hopefully you guys can give me some helpful advice on how to improve these photos. I drive by this image every morning and I think that the flames from the by-products plant really needs to be captured...I think that it looks even better in the dawn sun though.

03-17-2010, 09:56 PM   #2
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I assume these are not samples of the noise problem since I don't see it. I have not had a noise problem with my night shots but never tried shooting a giant flame and resulting glare and contrast.
03-17-2010, 10:48 PM   #3
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You're shots look fine for the conditions. With that super bright flame, there's not much more you can do in that light except shoot a couple of exposures and blend them.

You're right about dawn. Actually, you probably want to be there at least a half hour before actual sunrise. A lot of so called "night" shots are actually taken at early dawn and late dusk. The sky is still noticeably dark but there's more illumination on the ground.

I peeked at your EXIF data and it looks like you shot this on program mode. For night photography you will be better off working in manual or bulb mode. No camera program mode really does a good job reading night exposures.

Your second shot shows a 1.6 second exposure at f 5.6. I typically shoot at 5.6 or 8 for my aperture. That's fine, as is your photo. I think it's effective as is. To capture more of the dark areas you need to take a longer exposure, at least 1 EV, possibly up to 3, depending on the effect you want. A lot of night photography is a matter of personal style.

As for noise, I don't see any. At 200 ISO, I don't expect to. I use the same camera and get good night shots with little or no noise at that setting. Since you obviously used a tripod or other solid foundation for your camera, you already know that high ISO isn't the main ingredient in this type of shot. It's long exposures.

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My Port Townsend – A City in Photographs – 365
03-17-2010, 11:15 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Simian Summit Quote
Looking around this forum I've seen a lot of beautiful night shots that people have taken so I thought that I would take a try at it. This morning I tried to take some shots of the plant where I work, however, when I was processing the RAW pictures (just with the Pentax Photo Laboratory), I found that they had a very high amount of noise in the shots. Here are a few examples of some of the shots I took.





The first shot was taken at:

ISO 200
f/5.6
1/10 s

and the second was shot at:

ISO 200
f/5.6
1.5s

Hopefully you guys can give me some helpful advice on how to improve these photos. I drive by this image every morning and I think that the flames from the by-products plant really needs to be captured...I think that it looks even better in the dawn sun though.
Are these hand held? I see a lack of bitting sharpness but not noise?
I also see dust on your sensor, so it needs to be cleaned, however thats nothing to do with your post... I just don't see noise. I see glare, and a bit of softness.

03-18-2010, 12:00 AM   #5
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I too, like to shoot at dusk and into the evening - well with working all day, that is the only time I really have. I somewhat found out by accident, that for about an hour after sunset, you can capture a great blue in the sky until it goes dark. I have also done that in the early morning. I see absolutely no noise in your shots. If they are not from a tripod, what ever you are doing - you are doing very well. No camera shake at all! The images are sharp especially given the lighting conditions.

I usually use f5.6 or f8 since that is the sharpest for my lenses - you might also try stopping it down a bit more and see how that turns out. I also keep ISO200 fixed, then take a shot in program mode to give me a hint at an initial shutter speed. I then vary the shutter speed taking a look at the rear screen, zooming in on various features details, until I find the shutter speed that does best - pretty unscientific but it has worked for me pretty well (and the digital film is pretty free).

As was indicated earlier, I would try bracketing - either a 3 or 5 shot set, and see how that turns out. Use the free HDR software utilities downloaded from the web to get started.

03-18-2010, 07:47 PM   #6
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Thanks for the great advice everyone. I guess that I was too picky about what I thought was noise on my shots. When I zoomed up on my RAW files I saw some superfluous colours that I think is noise, but maybe imtheguy pointed out, with the dynamic range that I'm asking for this may be par for the course. As for the softeness, it doesn't surprise me, I took top picture with my Vivitar 28-210 which took a dunk when my father when to Quebec and now has a bit of fungus.

As for how I shot these, yes you're right I did use a tripod and stood around during my exposures in the dark. I would have shot till dawn but as I said before I had to pack up and make my boss some money. As for bracketing, most of the pictures I took I either took multiple pictures with manual exposure (the top picture) or I took them on program mode with +1 EV and 5 brackets spaced 1 EV apart (the bottom picture). Unfortunately I just took the pictures that I thought was good and blew away most of the rest, as I don't have anything as fancy as Photoshop. But I plan to go out and try my luck again on Saturday and I'll definitely try some of your tips and see what's downloadable as far as HDR software. Thanks again!
03-19-2010, 01:51 PM   #7
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Agreed your shots look fine given the subject's extremes in contrast. Do you have any primes? Something like an FA-35 or similar set to 5.6 will give you all the sharpness one could wish for, plus IMO primes are just a neater solution to night photography. Question though, if you're bothering to shoot on a tripod why not use the lowest ISO possible? Especially if you're worried about noise, I'd be shooting at ISO 100.
03-19-2010, 06:57 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
I somewhat found out by accident, that for about an hour after sunset, you can capture a great blue in the sky until it goes dark.
I found out the same thing. 10th post in the thread below. Shows the same scene shot at 7:29pm & 7:43pm.
PentaxForums.com - How about a Kangaroo Point shoot before Christmas?

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03-19-2010, 07:18 PM   #9
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Although not evident so much in these examples, the K20D is known for its weaker noise control in long exposures, especially with so much shadow detail in night photography. This seems to be the double-edged sword of the K20D's ability to go up to ISO 6400 vs the K10D's 1600 maximum.

Hence I always go to my K10D for long exposures.
03-20-2010, 07:31 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by NeverSatisfied Quote
Agreed your shots look fine given the subject's extremes in contrast. Do you have any primes? Something like an FA-35 or similar set to 5.6 will give you all the sharpness one could wish for, plus IMO primes are just a neater solution to night photography. Question though, if you're bothering to shoot on a tripod why not use the lowest ISO possible? Especially if you're worried about noise, I'd be shooting at ISO 100.
What are IMO primes?

BTW I took some more shots this morning at ISO100, and I think that I got much better results.






I also have other shots I did just before dawn but the contrast between the giant flame and the sky is lower, so I thought that these were more interesting.

Thanks for everyone's help, now I just have to clean my sensor and learn to focus .
03-20-2010, 10:58 PM   #11
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Hey Simian, you ARE a noob to the forums aren't you? Sorry, I couldn't resist! You gotta learn some of these abbreviations, "IMO" means "In My Opinion", FWIW = "For What It's Worth", etc. Anyway, two of my favorites for night photography were the FA 35, and FA 50 primes, "in my opinion."

I'm not so keen on the second shot, but I really like the way the top one turned out. Happy shooting!
03-20-2010, 11:54 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Simian Summit Quote
What are IMO primes?

BTW I took some more shots this morning at ISO100, and I think that I got much better results.



Not as sharp as your high ISO shot. Look at the truck & signs. I'd do this at F8 with a prime lens (F11-F13 if DOF is an issue - diffraction will take its toll, but it's better than OOF) and 2-3s delay to get around shutter & tripod vibration. Was it windy? That can shake your tripod. SR should be off.

Dan.

Last edited by dosdan; 03-21-2010 at 02:23 AM.
03-21-2010, 02:14 AM   #13
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Great potential there

OT but just looking at the shots, no noise apparent to me, but the slow shutter and the fast moving smoke/steam is making some really nice results.
I am trying to get this effect with clouds in some nightshots but getting the right cloud cover and wind is proving elusive for me so far.
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