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Author Topic: Advice for night skyline photography  (Read 3229 times)

ahsanford

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Advice for night skyline photography
« on: October 26, 2012, 03:35:09 PM »
Hey gang,

I wasn't sure what forum to put this in, as it's more than just a body topic.

I just had my first go at nighttime city skyline photography. 

Gear I used last night:
   5D3
   Tripod -- Carbon fiber, smaller travel one.  Decently stiff but not heavy.  Weighed down with my bag, perhaps 10 pounds or so
   Arca head + wimberley plate
   24-70 F/2.8L I
   70-200 F/2.8L IS II
   UV filter (B+W, as a lens protector only)
   Didn't use a hood
   Corded shutter release

Shot RAW for everything.  As the camera was hunting a bit for focus, I switched to live view and did a manual focus at 10x view.

As for the glass, I do have primes, but they aren't long enough.  The city was quite far away.  The 70-200 got the lion's share of use last night.

No sunset or sky behind the shots, just a very dark brownish haze of city lighting behind the buildings in question.

My questions are myriad (as usual :P)...

1) See gear and method discussed above.  Pointers / comments welcomed.

2) Does long exposure noise reduction apply to RAW files, or just JPEGs?  If it applies to RAW, how long of an exposure warrants using it?

3) Live view locks up the mirror, right?  I should be fine for managing vibrations with that method, right?

4) What is the appropriate exposure for a far off late night city skyline?  I presume (unless I go the HDR route) that to get the building silhouettes in view on a dark sky, I will blow out the lighting.  But how do I know what to look for in my histograms? 

5) I know that darker scenes merit lower exposures, but am I throwing detail away in that process?  Is there some mad tribal wisdom in not underexposing to get more detail, then adjusting exposure down in RAW processing afterwards?

6) How on earth do I manage windy conditions with long exposures?  Last night, the wind was such that I was stuck with non-ideal settings (1/3 to 1/5 second exposures, ISO 1600, F/7.1, etc,) when I'd ideally like multi-second exposures at a lower ISO.  Is there a tip or trick other than tripod positioning and using my body as a windshield?  (Use smaller lenses?  :D)

As always, your expert guidance is appreciated.

- A
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 03:57:15 PM by ahsanford »

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Advice for night skyline photography
« on: October 26, 2012, 03:35:09 PM »

ahsanford

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2012, 03:47:27 PM »

Sample from last night.  50% reduction to get it on this forum. 

Ew

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2012, 05:22:00 PM »

Sample from last night.  50% reduction to get it on this forum.

Its always fun when you see an image and say I've been almost exactly there....  although only with a 50 1.4, no tripod (holding camera against a rock) and kids screaming in the car... not ideal - but an image ... need to get back in the canyons next time I'm back.

If I recall - Mulholland between Laurel and Cahuenga ?
« Last Edit: October 26, 2012, 05:26:57 PM by Ew »
5D3 | 600D | EOSm | Samyang 8mm 3.8T | Samyang 14 2.8 | 17-40 | 28 1.8 | Sig 35 1.4 | 40 | 50 1.4 | 100 2.0 | 135 L | 70-200 4L IS + x1.4mk2 | Nippon Kogaku 50 1.4 (1965) | Nikkor 43-86 (mid 1970s) | M: 22

ahsanford

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2012, 06:19:48 PM »

I've taken similar shots from the hills above the Hollywood Bowl.... but mine were handheld, ISO 4 million, F/1.4. :P

ahsanford

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2012, 06:22:30 PM »

I noticed 20s in that shot's caption.  Can you comment to my prior question about long exposure noise reduction?

Thx

dr croubie

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2012, 12:16:04 AM »

2) Does long exposure noise reduction apply to RAW files, or just JPEGs?  If it applies to RAW, how long of an exposure warrants using it?

The Long Exposure Noise Reduction applies to both RAW and JPG, basically the camera takes a second shot with the shutter closed (to see where the noise is) and 'subtracts' it from the shot. I've just got mine set to 'auto', i think it turns on above 1-second exposures or something (should say in the manual).

3) Live view locks up the mirror, right?  I should be fine for managing vibrations with that method, right?

yep. (as long as you us MF or contrast-AF (Not 'Quick AF')).

4) What is the appropriate exposure for a far off late night city skyline?  I presume (unless I go the HDR route) that to get the building silhouettes in view on a dark sky, I will blow out the lighting.  But how do I know what to look for in my histograms?

Histograms won't give you too much, it's going to be all at the black end and a tiny spike at the white end. Playback-zoom in to 10x and have a look. If in doubt, just bracket some +-3EV or so, when you get home and process them you can see what works best (and come back the next night).

5) I know that darker scenes merit lower exposures, but am I throwing detail away in that process?  Is there some mad tribal wisdom in not underexposing to get more detail, then adjusting exposure down in RAW processing afterwards?

Personally, i've never gotten the whole deal with "shadow detail" as bandied around by 5D3/D800 users and complainers. Throw away the blacks, push the black point up, get some contrast. Or maybe that's just me.

6) How on earth do I manage windy conditions with long exposures?  Last night, the wind was such that I was stuck with non-ideal settings (1/3 to 1/5 second exposures, ISO 1600, F/7.1, etc,) when I'd ideally like multi-second exposures at a lower ISO.  Is there a tip or trick other than tripod positioning and using my body as a windshield?  (Use smaller lenses?  :D)

Bigger and better tripod is all I can suggest. When in doubt, set one in concrete :P . Barring that, some (most?) decent tripods you can hook a counterweight to the column, or add a rock-bag around the legs to lower the centre of gravity (my Vanguard 283ct came with a rock-bag and has a hook on the column too). Keep the legs as short as possible, on multi-angle legs tilt them out. Basically, the lower to the ground the better (as long as you can still get the shot).
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ahsanford

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 12:56:18 PM »
@dr croubie -- great stuff, thanks.

Yes, my gitzo has a hook, but I only had about 10 pounds to hang on it.  I will consider dedicated weights in the future.

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 12:56:18 PM »

bycostello

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2012, 08:17:15 AM »
tripod the main bit of kit.. i also hang my kit bag from it to keep it steady..

Quasimodo

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2012, 11:42:02 AM »
6) How on earth do I manage windy conditions with long exposures?  Last night, the wind was such that I was stuck with non-ideal settings (1/3 to 1/5 second exposures, ISO 1600, F/7.1, etc,) when I'd ideally like multi-second exposures at a lower ISO.  Is there a tip or trick other than tripod positioning and using my body as a windshield?  (Use smaller lenses?  :D)

Bigger and better tripod is all I can suggest. When in doubt, set one in concrete :P . Barring that, some (most?) decent tripods you can hook a counterweight to the column, or add a rock-bag around the legs to lower the centre of gravity (my Vanguard 283ct came with a rock-bag and has a hook on the column too). Keep the legs as short as possible, on multi-angle legs tilt them out. Basically, the lower to the ground the better (as long as you can still get the shot).

I was shooting in the night last weekend, and I had brought a very sturdy tripod. In my case I was using a 800 F5.6L plus 2xIII teleconvertor (I was there to shoot the moon which was almost full, and ended up shooting city elements, before the dammned moon showed up through the skies (three hours freezing in the wind and below 0 degrees celsius)). What I experienced is that no matter how sturdy a tripod you have, you will get shake due to the wind and the lenght of the lens. I saw this because I was shooting at x 10 in liveview. My buddy and I ended up with our parkas jackets held out to the side to cover the lens, while at the same time using 10 sec. delay to get the shot.

Even then it did not get perfect... I will enclose one of them (as you see I have not done any pp to it yet, not sure if I will bother either). The night was a success for my part, since the damned moon showed up, and I got the shot I wanted @ 1600mm. I will enclose this also.

G.
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Quasimodo

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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 11:43:25 AM »
here is the moon shot.
1Dx, (7D II) 5x600 EX RT, ST-E3Canon:16-35L II,  24-105L , 70-200L IS II, 135L, 100L, 2x III TC, EF 25II, 40 F2.8 STM, Sigma 35 F1.4 Art, Sigma 50 F1.4 Art, Sigma 85 F1.4, Sigma 150-500.
Canon A-1, 199A, FD: 24/2.8, 35/2.0, 100/2.8, Vivitar 400/5.6
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Re: Advice for night skyline photography
« Reply #9 on: November 02, 2012, 11:43:25 AM »