Old 03-19-2013, 07:59 PM   #1
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Default Questions/advice on night photography

Anyone experienced with this niche? I've been poking around with it lately. I used the NKP heritage unit as seen here for practice. I did varying exposures from 8-20 seconds.

This shot was 13 seconds and it was deemed "underexposed", but my 20 second shot looked like a nuke went off. Also tried varying ISO levels. Seems the more ISO i used, the grainier the final result is.

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Old 03-19-2013, 08:17 PM   #2
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Hi....(wish I knew your first name)

I don't have a histogram on this computer, but the shot is definitely underexposed on the sides of the locomotive. On the other hand, the number boards are completely blown out. The dynamic range is too large for you to capture this scene using only a timed exposure. Other folks have described similar problems shooting images of this class of locomotive.

There are probably two GOOD ways to do this:

1. Use HDR. Shoot a frame exposed for the number boards to avoid blowing them out. Then, shoot a frame properly exposed for the rest of the locomotive and merge the two. Some pro cameras can do this in-camera.

2. Use flash to light the sides of the engine and an exposure that will properly expose the number boards.

Those would be my suggestions.

My RP stuff is here.

Link to my Flickr Albums. Albums from Steam Railroads all over the US.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:06 PM   #3
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The LED number boards are the absolute devil for us night timers.

Working with the 'light' is more important when shooting in the darkness, than it is in daylight in my humble nocturnal opinion. In this scene (which is already RP ruined by the pile of rail blocking the engine), your light was heavy on the opposite side of the engines, and lacking everywhere else. This type of situation would dictate the use of additional 'fill' lighting provided by flash, latern, laser, etc. to even out the exposure. Kevin's suggestion to expose a shot for the number boards, and then expose one for the rest of the scene is also spot on. I didn't use to care about blown out number boards, but the LED's can create a giant nasty blob of junk quickly.

For night shooting in general, I'd suggest keeping as low an iso as possible, usually. I used to swear by iso 100 for everything. As I get older and less patient, I'm game to fire at any iso level between 100 and 3200. As long as you nail the exposure, and do not fiddle with brightening the shot in post process, high iso shots can be done well, even for print sizes (and easily for web sized photos).

Loyd L.
Those who seek glory, must also seek infamy.

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Old 03-19-2013, 09:30 PM   #4
Holloran Grade
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Talking Night shots.

A few things:

(1) You need to shoot RAW if you can.

That way you can adjust the white balance to get that yellow cast out of the image due to the sodium vapor lights in the yard.

WB adjusted to get rid of the yellow cast of the lights.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 349161
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

(2) Next, you need a camera that allows you a manual shutter control option (on many labeled "bulb") and a remote shutter release cable.


With the manual shutter, you can change the shutter length at will because you hold the button down and time it.

5 second exposure.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 299490
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

248 second exposure.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 362384
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

5 minute exposure with a full moon

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 422888
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

10 minute exposure with no moon and city lights.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 418673
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

(3) Use the ISO at 200 or less so that you don't get too much noise in the image.

Sometimes that happens anyway due to other factors.

USCGC Dorado (WPB-87306) by El Roco Photography, on Flickr

(4) And you need a good tripod that doesn't move - even slightly (inexpensive plastic mount ones do this).

The LED number board lights pose a problem in that they are so much brighter than anything else.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 426541
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

You can either HDR, or take two exposures and cut the number boards out of the less exposed one and over lay them into the properly exposed picture.

I have done this before, but don't remember where.

(I have yet to either add the moon, move the position of the moon, or otherwise alter the moon in any of my shots - others have.)

Personally, I like night shots with no head lights.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 428927
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

Or in a way that you can limit their affect.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 420839
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

Sometimes you can get away with propping the camera against something (a fence, shooting through the wire) and adjusting the setting for a short exposure.

Image © EL ROCO Photography
PhotoID: 348769
Photograph © EL ROCO Photography

Last edited by Holloran Grade; 03-19-2013 at 09:50 PM.
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:29 PM   #5
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If you're new to night time photography, keep it simple to start with. Folks will have you buying lighting gear and multiple flashes and you still won't be certain to get a good shot. First, I'd advise people not to jump into niht time photography before they are ready. Do you have a decent camera tht you know how to use? And, yes, that's two questions. If so, find some nice scenes with good natural lighting. Use a cable release or remote or set your camera on a delay so there will be no camera shake. On stationary subjects, take losts of shots using lots of different settings. But I'd suggest the lowest ISO possible to sstill get the shot. And watch that focus. Your shot looks a little soft. Could be camera shake or lack of focus.

Main thing is to be patient, have fun and practice a lot!
Joseph C. Hinson Photography
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Old 03-20-2013, 07:21 AM   #6
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To answer some questions...
-My name is Kris Rumbut.
-Yes I use a tripod. Its a Targus Black label. It hasn't let me down even though its inexpensive.
-Camera: Nikon D3200. A) Yes to .RAW B) No to built in HDR. C) I am not 100% familiar with as I have only had it for a month.

I am not exactly new to night shots, but I want to take it more seriously.
This is my third year shooting, but my first year working on getting good quality shots vs. the average-fair shots I have had in the past. Here is a night shot I took last year. http://upcoaltrain.rrpicturearchives...spx?id=2947388

I will work on NKP shot some more. I do have better exposed shots on the other side, but there is a road sign in front of the engine.
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Old 03-23-2013, 08:36 PM   #7
Mark T
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I have to say, I recently traded in a standard "cheap" (about 50 dollar) tripod for one that cost about 150 dollars (a velbron luxi L) and have noticed a great improvement in sharpness and have had a few trips to "play around" with the settings and ideas etc.

I'd suggest places with some form of background interest and additional light sources (roads, cities, stations etc), shoot in raw and also using a remote control shutter release of some form to further reduce the camera shake.

I put together a little set of my trials on flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/youthwi...7631874388108/

Feel free to ask any questions.
My Railpictures.net

My flickr
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Old 03-24-2013, 11:44 AM   #8
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Best to overexpose ( to a point ) a shot and pull it down then underexpose and try push light into it.
Richard Scott Marsh I go by Scott long story

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