Old 04-25-2007, 02:59 AM   #1
bbrant
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Default Night Photography Tips??

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I was wondering if anyone could offer tips on night photography. The shot I would like to get is of some signals with their reflections off the rail heads. I have a Canon Digital EOS Rebel XTi that I'm trying to get the hang of (as far as night shots go) and am not certain what would be the correct settings.

The area is pitch dark and I did try this shot before but the results were less than pleasing. The signals themselves looked like bright blobs and you couldn't even make out the poles/framing of the signal stand. The reflection on the track wasn't horrible but not what I wanted. Here's a link to the shot.

http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/sho...aspx?id=725352

I tried several different settings and this one seems to be my "best". It was shot at a 45 second exposure at 400 ISO. With my 35mm film camera, I was able to hold the shutter open as long as I wanted/needed but on the XTi I only seem to be able to get a max of 45 seconds for the exposure. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong or what.

Any advice, tips or suggestions are greatly appreciated!!

Thanks,
Brian
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Old 04-25-2007, 07:12 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbrant
I tried several different settings and this one seems to be my "best". It was shot at a 45 second exposure at 400 ISO. With my 35mm film camera, I was able to hold the shutter open as long as I wanted/needed but on the XTi I only seem to be able to get a max of 45 seconds for the exposure. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong or what.
There is a shutter speed setting called "bulb", or simply "B". Set it on B and you can leave the shutter open for as long as you want. I highly recommend a shutter release cable for doing time exposure shots like this as you don't want to risk any camera shake from touching the shutter release button. A cable for the Rebel is about $25 and well worth it. Also, when doing time exposure shots at night, you want the lowest ISO possible. Any more than the lowest and you risk introducing unwanted noise (grain) into the image. 100 is the lowest (slowest) on an XT, not sure about the XTi though.
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Old 04-25-2007, 08:56 AM   #3
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Take your time out there too. If one setting doesn't work, keep resetting and keep doing it. I've often spent one hour working on one shot. Even if one exposure looks fine on the back of the camera, do I do more as sometimes the thumbnail on the back of the camera and the full sized version of the same shot on the computer look really diffferent.

If you can't gt this shot down, try another scene. Get that scene right, then go back. These signals probably aren't going anywhere, but you may want to reconsider the focal distance of the signals.


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Old 04-25-2007, 04:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe the Photog
Take your time out there too. If one setting doesn't work, keep resetting and keep doing it. I've often spent one hour working on one shot. Even if one exposure looks fine on the back of the camera, do I do more as sometimes the thumbnail on the back of the camera and the full sized version of the same shot on the computer look really diffferent.

If you can't gt this shot down, try another scene. Get that scene right, then go back. These signals probably aren't going anywhere, but you may want to reconsider the focal distance of the signals.


Joe
I'll second the taking your time. I don't take too many night shots since I have a P&S which doesn't work well for nights, but when I had a 35mm SLR, I would vary the exposure a lot over shots to see how they came out. Many came out surprisingly well! The more you vary it, the greater chance you have of getting it right!
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Old 04-25-2007, 06:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bbrant
I tried several different settings and this one seems to be my "best". It was shot at a 45 second exposure at 400 ISO. With my 35mm film camera, I was able to hold the shutter open as long as I wanted/needed but on the XTi I only seem to be able to get a max of 45 seconds for the exposure. I don't know if I'm doing something wrong or what.

To learn night photography, my recommendation is, lower the ISO (as mentioned above) & shoot in Shutter Priority mode until you start to get the feel of what different shutter speeds do to different scene. Longer shutter lets in more light, slower is less. I believe you already know that.
Once you get the hang of that, switch to Aperture Priority mode...from this you'll learn the relation between the shutter speeds & the aperture, which will give you better control over the light.

Best advice is practice practice & practice some more. It doesn't even have to be a train...go out in your yard & shoot the street light down the street...or a candle in a dark room in your house. Eventually it will become clear as day.

As for the Bulb mode you speak of, I'm not familiar with the XTI...but on Canon cameras it's in the (M) manual mode...at the high end of the shutter speeds.

Good luck...

Last edited by Bill; 04-25-2007 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 04-26-2007, 11:47 AM   #6
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I just wanted to say thank you for your posts and suggestions. As soon as I get the time I plan on trying to get that shot again. Until then I'll practice in a dark room around the house.

Thanks again for the tips and suggestions!!

Brian
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Old 04-26-2007, 01:32 PM   #7
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I used to practice night time shots by just going out in the yard after dark and shooting the house we lived in. Or the cars. The cat never would stay still long enough.


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Old 04-30-2007, 03:42 AM   #8
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I think you're limited with what you can do based on the fact that those signals are the ONLY source of light there, as you said in the pitch black comment. I've found, for shots like that, you usually need another light source...something shining on the sides of the rails or the like. The reflection off the rails from the signals just can't compete with the amount of light coming off the signals themselves, thus they'll look like big blobs while there's virtually nothing on the rails themselves. The thing I love about night photography is using multiple light sources of different colors to come up with some different shots that the sun alone doesn't allow for. Photographically-speaking, shooting at night is like shooting a whole 'nother world. Hope this helps a bit...
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:31 AM   #9
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Don't forget, if you're in one of those spots that gets little to no ambient light, there is ONE source you can count on for a few days every month. Or should I say nights?

The moon for about 5 to 6 days provides plenty of light for an extended exposure photo, and makes for most majestic photos when done correctly.

1) Darkened "Backbone" Signal on the former Chesapeake and Ohio near Covington, VA.

http://www.hoydie17.com/gallery/disp...album=7&pos=16

2) Red board at Shenandoah Junction, WV with the moon in the photo.

http://www.hoydie17.com/gallery/disp...lbum=15&pos=15

3) A pair of Buckingham Branch GP16's basking in the "pale moonlight" in Doswell, VA.

http://www.hoydie17.com/gallery/disp...lbum=15&pos=16


Just food for thought. . .

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Old 05-02-2007, 11:58 AM   #10
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I think this shot would be best taken at dusk when there is still a little bit of light around to lessen the impact of the bright red lights and help the camera to pick out other details.
The red lights have also reflected in your lens and have formed an unsightly blob on the right hand side of the picture. This is one of the hazards of night photography and can be down to lens quality or even just the angle that you are standing to the main light source. I am surprised nobody else seems to have noticed this, as these types of reflections can ruin a night shot.
If you try this shot again, have a good look at the image on the back of your camera, and if you get these blobs again, try standing at a slightly different angle to the light source.
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Old 05-07-2007, 09:48 AM   #11
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Thanks again for the tips. My daughter and I went out past couple of nights. I must say that after reading the tips, I've been able to make some nice improvements.

Here's one of the shots I got last night. Still not good enough for on here. Any other tips or suggestions are appreciated!

http://www.railpictures.net/viewreje...&key=623736405

If nothing else, I at least got some quality time with my daughter and I think I'm even striking the urge for her to take some photos.

Brian
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Old 05-07-2007, 08:30 PM   #12
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Brian,

On a shot like your recent rejection linked above, I would open the shutter just as the loco goes past you (but before it enters the frame, giving it time to light the signal bridge), and leave it open as the train (as much of it as you want) passes through the frame. I might also find a way to eliminate the pole from the shot.

Glad you're enjoying yourself. I find night-time rail photography outings to be some of the more personally rewarding railfan/photo experiences.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:56 AM   #13
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Ok, I have (yet) another question.

Here's a shot I took of Amtrak going by. http://www.rrpicturearchives.net/sho...aspx?id=740224

What is or what causes the 3 green streaks that start about the center of the photo and then "streak" to the left of the shot?

What are they and how can these streaks be avoided?
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Old 05-08-2007, 11:14 PM   #14
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Those are flare artifacts produced by the train's headlights; note how they are inverted.

It might be caused by using a filter on the front of the lens (or a gel filter).
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