Old 10-19-2007, 12:37 AM   #1
Jon Wisnieski
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Default Long Exposures with Rebel XT?

I have seen some pretty cool pictures of exposures of trains passing on this site. I was wondering if anybody could give a detailed description of how to shoot long night exposures if using a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT. I would really like to learn how and hopefully post some night exposure shots on RP.net. Anything advice is helpful. Thanks
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Old 10-19-2007, 01:03 AM   #2
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If your Rebel is like the 300D, which I have, you can go up to 30 second exposures manually on your camera. Look in the manual on how to set the timer when feasible so you cn press the shutter, move your finger and let the camera then take the picture. (It saves on camera shake.)

You can also do what I did and buy a cable remote that will let you operate the shutter manualy with a cable. (Don't do like me and lose it though.) I believe you can also get a release that will plug into the side of the camera which is different than the remote which does not plug. Both of these will allow you to decide how long to leave the shutter open.

30 seconds can get you some cool looking stuff too though.


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Old 10-19-2007, 01:52 AM   #3
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Here are a few tips I can offer:

The exposure is probably the most important aspect of night photography. This will determine the amount of light and how much motion is visible in the shot. Most night shots are done using the manual exposure setting (it appears as the 'M' on the wheel). Check out these examples:

This shot was done with a 10 second exposure. You can also use the Shutter Priority setting ('Tv') to set the shutter to 10 seconds and the camera will automatically meter and select an aperture:

Image © Brian Beisser
PhotoID: 170450
Photograph © Brian Beisser


This shot was a 30 second exposure. At this speed, the moving train appears blurred:

Image © Matt Beisser
PhotoID: 202208
Photograph © Matt Beisser


Here's where the real fun of night photography begins. My brother used a 10 minute exposure on his Rebel to capture a good deal of motion in the photograph. This is done using the bulb timer under the manual setting. Scroll the wheel all the way left until bulb appears as the timer. This will keep the shutter open for as long as you hold the button:

Image © Brian Beisser
PhotoID: 200652
Photograph © Brian Beisser


Focus can be tricky at night, as there often isn't enough light for the auto focus on the camera. I typically set the focus to manual, then use the camera flash, flashlights, headlights (whatever is available) to light the subject so I can focus clearly.

Having the right equipment is also important. If you are really interested in night photography, get a sturdy tripod and possibly a remote control for your camera. This lets you fire the shutter without bumping the camera. Check around on Amazon or such places, I believe mine was about $20.

One last note. The Rebels tend to show a lot of grain in long night exposures (see the bridge shot). Make sure the camera's ISO is set to 100 to minimize the grain.

My best advice is simply to experiment. Just keep shooting. Some things you try will work wonderfully, others won't. This is just an overview, so if you have any specific questions, donít hesitate to ask.

Good Luck!
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Old 10-19-2007, 01:55 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Wisnieski
I have seen some pretty cool pictures of exposures of trains passing on this site. I was wondering if anybody could give a detailed description of how to shoot long night exposures if using a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT. I would really like to learn how and hopefully post some night exposure shots on RP.net. Anything advice is helpful. Thanks
The following is not intended to be critical; I actually think it is quite helpful. Jon, you have one picture accepted at RP. You have made statements in this forum leading me to believe you are new to this. You are a beginner. There is a lot that can be learned about photography, including plenty at a basic level. Long exposure night photography is not basic.

I suggest you work on getting some basic, simple composition, wedgie, well lit daytime shots in to RP, then think about trying lots of other stuff, including night shots. This hobby is not easy and there will be setbacks, get up to speed more and then go for the fancier stuff.
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Old 10-19-2007, 03:20 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JRMDC
The following is not intended to be critical; I actually think it is quite helpful. Jon, you have one picture accepted at RP. You have made statements in this forum leading me to believe you are new to this. You are a beginner. There is a lot that can be learned about photography, including plenty at a basic level. Long exposure night photography is not basic.
I understand what you mean with this, and I understand that it is no easy task. I am somewhat a beginner to rail photography, but not to railfanning itself. I do have some experience in general photography though, so I could use this information for other uses than trains.

I usually get to watch/photograph trains once or twice a month, and I am going to focus on getting day shots first, then work my way up. I posted this thread just for general information, as I haven't taken any rail photos at night, and don't plan to any time soon. Again, I just wanted to see how to take exposures. Thanks.
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Old 10-19-2007, 05:04 AM   #6
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If you think you'll be using the bulb setting, a remote's probably a good investment. Otherwise, I've had good luck without one - just be really gentle, or, if you've got time, use the timer, which will give your tripod plenty of time to work out all of the jiggles.

I've ruined very few shots on account of camera shake, most of my trouble came from focusing, which is really damn hard when you have to focus using a screen - luckily I would imagine it's much easier with an SLR.

If you're not using the bulb setting, it's important to pay attention to how long it takes for things like crossing gates to go up and down, etc. In my experience it takes about 8 seconds for the arms to go down. If you do anything at a grade crossing, keep an eye on any auto traffic - it can screw things up.

Another thing to keep in mind is the source of your lighting - keep this in mind if you're doing test exposures before a train shows up... the train might end up blocking a lot of the light.

Shadows can also be really tricky at night. Diffuse light coming through trees, for example, doesn't cast a shadow that you can see, but after you take a 30" exposure on a parked locomotive, it'll be really noticeable, and, this is something you'll realize moments before the train starts moving.

Cloud cover can have a big impact too. If it's too cloudy, and there's a lot of light pollution, your sky will look like a big, ugly pile of brown gunk (at least it does here in Oklahoma). On the other hand, on a clear night, when stars are visible, it can have a very nice effect. If there's fast moving patchy cloud cover, that can also look pretty cool. This has enough of an impact for me, however, that I generally will not shoot at night if it's cloudy.

The flip side of the cloud cover, is, rain can make a lot of surface nice looking with regards to reflections, etc. If it's misting, or has just rained, I'm willing to deal with cloud cover.

Good luck - night photography's a lot of fun, it's one of my favorite things to do anyways.

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


Some other night shots I really like, and, didn't take...

Image © Jaanfo
PhotoID: 134511
Photograph © Jaanfo


Image © Eu-Jin Ooi
PhotoID: 170501
Photograph © Eu-Jin Ooi


Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


Image © Aaron Florin
PhotoID: 127826
Photograph © Aaron Florin
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Old 10-19-2007, 06:02 AM   #7
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Okay, here are some of my photo-accompanied night shot pointers. Mind you, all these were taken with a K-1000 (ca. 1980) so they're a little different...the basics are still the same, however.
Clouds (and light pollution) in the background:

Facing the other way, where there is no city for light pollution: (Used 12 flashbulbs for this one, but forgot to focus it first! >.<)

This is one of my favorites. It was totally by accident, I was just taking a random night shot for panoramic photo purposes, and one of the 7 shots turned out really awesome! This was on a partly cloudy night with moon illuminating the clouds.
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Old 10-19-2007, 02:03 PM   #8
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Only commenting here because I have a Rebel XT...
1. Have a good steady tripod.
2. Experiment with shutter speeds on the manual setting
3. Get a remote shutter release

As for train photos at night...
1. Beware of station lighting, it can appear orange
2. If you have access to a safe and legal location where trains re-crew after dark, you can get some cool shots.
3. Steam looks great in night and twilight shots

Image © Charlie O
PhotoID: 82070
Photograph © Charlie O
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Old 10-19-2007, 02:59 PM   #9
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Nick gave you some great advice. The only thing I'd dffer on is that, at least for me, focusing with my 300D can be a pain in the ass in the dark. I try to shine my bright headlights on the subject, get a focus, put the lens on MF and turn the lights off and take a shot. Like this --

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


I don't take notes, but I think I may have left the car lights on for a few seconds of the exposure to light the pilot just a hair. In other shots, the train just did not stand out against the background.

The lighting here was easy enough to auto focus, but then I had to make sure it was focusing on the train and not the sign. All the while, the loco was occupied and they were making switching moves so I did not knowhow long the train would be placed here.

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


I love the lighting in this one and obviously had nothing to do with it. Sometimes a good night time shot can depend on where the subject is. Since trains are moved and moving all the time, if a crew leaves it here one night but ten feet back the next, that ten feet can mean a lot of difference.

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


And don't forget to play around with the blur too!

Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©


Image ©
PhotoID:
Photograph ©



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Old 10-19-2007, 02:59 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CUDA7185
My best advice is simply to experiment. Just keep shooting. Some things you try will work wonderfully, others won't. This is just an overview, so if you have any specific questions, donít hesitate to ask.
That's the best advice. Since you're shooting digital, it's easy to experiment and adjust in the field. Just get a remote shutter release and a sturdy tripod (don't cheap out and get a $40 Wal-Mart one, spend a decent amount of money on a good brand - like Bogen/Manfrotto or Gitzo), put your camera in bulb mode, and go wild.

Here's a few of mine from the past few years.

Ambient light:
Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 118465
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 167053
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 167640
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 167642
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 167643
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 168462
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Flash:
Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 143090
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 156659
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 190051
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


Image © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com
PhotoID: 200083
Photograph © Thomas J. Nanos - www.nanosphoto.com


All shot with a Canon 20D and various lenses (Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX Fisheye, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, Canon 70-200mm f/4L) on a Manfrotto tripod.
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Old 10-19-2007, 04:36 PM   #11
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Tripods are a must for exposure shooting, but name brands are not. If it's sturdy, it's god. You probably won't be doingany panning shots yet anyway.


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Old 10-19-2007, 06:16 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe the Photog
Tripods are a must for exposure shooting, but name brands are not. If it's sturdy, it's god. You probably won't be doingany panning shots yet anyway.
I agree with Joe - all of my night shots were taken using a cheap $30 tripod I got from a camera shop several years ago, and, from what I've seen, low end tripods have gotten much better recently.

I'm sure there's a point you get to where it's handy to have a higher end tripod... but I haven't run into a need for one yet.
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Old 10-19-2007, 07:21 PM   #13
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Hey, it's just a suggestion from my experience over the years. To each their own - if you're satisfied with what you're getting out of the $40 jobbie, then that's great! And you saved some money to boot. I've had 2 tripods since I started shooting in the early 80's. A SLIK (purchased about 1985) and a Manfrotto (purchased just over a year ago). The only reason why I got the Manfrotto is because the SLIK finally gave out and the camera mount on the head broke. 20 years for a tripod isn't too bad...

Again, do what's right for you. I'm just relaying what I've experienced and is only a suggestion.
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Old 10-19-2007, 09:05 PM   #14
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What are the advantages of a high dollar tripod? There must be some...
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