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Author Topic: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography  (Read 2817 times)

ahsanford

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Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« on: September 30, 2013, 02:34:41 AM »
Hi all,

I've given some nighttime tripod work a go recently to shoot the LA skyline, which is not my normal fare.  I'm a handheld natural light guy for almost everything I shoot.

I shoot a 5D3, and I'll upload two shots I took -- one with the 24-70 F/4 IS (on the 70mm end) and the other with the 70-200 F/2.8 IS II (around 165mm).  I'll run through my method, and I welcome any and all pointers you have for taking the shot or post-processing it.  As you'll see, I'm a novice at this -- many simple pointers should immediately come to mind if you've done this before.

Starting declaration:  I'm an aperture-priority shooter 98% of the time.  I'd rather not climb 'why don't you shoot manual?' mountain in this thread unless you feel it is absolutely necessary, thanks.  :D

SHOOTING

1) Set tripod, frame shot, level the shot in viewfinder, weigh the tripod down, hook on the corded shutter release, etc.
2) Switch IS off (it was windy, but not that windy.  Was worried about the IS motor actually inducing shake.  Does that still happen, or are those lenses tripod sensing?)
3) Switch to manual focus, turn LiveView on, set ISO to 100.
4) As I was not shooting anything remotely close to me (see shots), I set aperture for the sharpness sweet spot of the lens, somewhere between F/5.6 and F/8.
5) Meter (left it on evaluative, see #7 later for my rinse and repeat method)
6) In 10x LiveView, I manually focused on a building in the skyline.  I kind of threw out the classic 'focus 1/3 of the way into the frame', hyperfocal considerations, etc. because, again, most everything would have focused out to infinity with this framing.
7) Take shot.  Due to shooting a nighttime scene in Av, it was much brighter than needed, so I used exposure comp and brought it down to something more like my native eye would see (-1EV to -2EV depending on the shot in question).  I sort threw the histogram out the window in this case, as the goal of the shot was clearly not a bell-curved histogram.
8 ) Take final shot or shots (sometimes I bracket three on +/- 1 EV just in case).  Shot in RAW.

POST-PROCESSING  (I use PS's native Adobe Camera Raw tool, which is nutty, I know.  But all the sliders are there, running -100 to +100 if you haven't used ACR before.)

1) Set WB to tungsten and that lifted the horrific Blade Runner-ian amber haze of LA at night.  We all will likely disagree on that call, but I felt it let me capture the true light were I there on the street near the larger signs.
2) Given the crazy contrast (I don't like HDR work particularly), I push shadows up somewhat (+30) and pulled back highlights immensely (-80).
3) I actually give up on avoiding black clipping and went -30 on blacks and +30 on contrast.  The goal to me is a crisp night shot, so I don't want to invest a lot of work to make a murky dark part of the skyline slightly more recognizable at the cost of a ton of noise.
4) I give a slight boost to luminance (+15) and a very small kick to saturation (+3).
5) Skipped lens correction work as this aperture wouldn't vignette, the shot was already straight/level, and chromatic aberration was already handled in camera as the 5D3 had profiles for both lenses.
6) Sharpness runs 0 to 125 in ACR I believe, and with such a low ISO, I can climb up to 75 with both lenses before I've 'overcooked' the sharpening.  (I always sharpen and do noise reduction at 100% pixel view.)
7) Didn't pursue noise reduction (again, low ISO shot, didn't want to trade sharpness for noise reduction with so little noise.).
8 ) Exported to PS.
9) Cropped to taste (prefer to do this in PS for some reason) and save as 10 quality JPG.  I only save PSD or CR2 files if I plan to take a shot to print, which is rare in my case.

OTHER STUFF

Didn't use filters or deliberately aim for a long or short shutter speed.  I left the big stopper in my bag as there were no clouds or waterfalls (lol), and no large field of traffic to blur.  This just didn't seem like the right place to use it.

Again, please see attached and help me along.

Thanks!
A


« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 02:41:47 AM by ahsanford »

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Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« on: September 30, 2013, 02:34:41 AM »

ahsanford

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2013, 02:38:39 AM »
Picture 1

Jim Saunders

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2013, 02:52:33 AM »
I can't claim any great depth of experience either, but I tried this with the cropping.  Jim
I'd probably do better to invest more time and less money.

ahsanford

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #3 on: September 30, 2013, 02:54:56 AM »

Pic 2 -- sorry for the delay, it kept choking on this one so I went to a 50% reduction.

duydaniel

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #4 on: September 30, 2013, 03:36:01 AM »
+ Live view isn't very good because it will heat up your sensor which causes more noise.
+ Don't hesitate to use iso 100+ because the longer the shutter open, the more noise you will get too.
So balance it out for the least noise possible. You wouldn't be able to see noise from iso 100-400 anyway.
+ Hyper focusing sounds good in theory but never works for me in real life so I just focus at infinity.
Objects that are in the hyper focused zone would remain reasonably sharp but not as sharp as the point you focus on.

« Last Edit: September 30, 2013, 03:44:01 AM by duydaniel »

paul13walnut5

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2013, 05:33:46 AM »
My comments:

Camera too elevated.  Lower your shooting height and your towers will stand out more.

WB needs tweaking.  Nasty sodium orange cast.

Wrong time or facing wrong direction. The sky is dead.  Night photography should rarely be taken at night, unless you are doing astro etc.  You want to be set up by the start of the magic hour, and you want to be facing west-ish.

Colour in the sky really really helps.  The buildings will silhouette against the sky, but if you time it right the buildings will start to light up and you'll have a window of where there's detail and colour in they sky and detail and colour in the buildings.

I use this app for my desktop (free) and iphone (paid) http://photoephemeris.com/

Tells you where and when the sun will be for any location.  Works for an hour before sunrise and hour after sunset.  This will help you get your camera pointing the right way at the right time.  Use it to plan your location.

Also, do switch off IS.  A polariser isn't a bad idea, as this cuts a couple of stops of light letting you stay in that sweet spot, and also helps to cut unwanted reflections from glass panelled buildings etc.

You have the right technique and the right kit. Just a bit of polishing.  I'm fairly brusque in my manner but I intend to be helpful.

Good luck.


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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2013, 05:44:44 AM »

ahsanford

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2013, 11:41:29 AM »


Thanks for the tips!  Please keep them coming.

- A

ahsanford

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2013, 12:13:07 PM »

RE: paul13walnut5's altitude comment -- this was from Griffith Park Observatory.  Changing altitude from that vista isn't really an option.  But certainly, I should be considering altitude if the location allows.  Good tip.

- A

paul13walnut5

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2013, 12:37:47 PM »
Need a better position.  Thats my advice.

J.R.

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2013, 01:37:13 PM »
I'm fairly brusque in my manner but I intend to be helpful.


That, is obvious  ;)

Great and insightful post Paulie ... as always  :) I plan to do some skylines this weekend and am most pleased to read your post, again ... as always! Thanks!

Cheers ... J.R.
Light is language!

ahsanford

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #11 on: September 30, 2013, 02:04:11 PM »

Also, can anyone comment on a better tool for HDR / bracketed shots?  I hate the look of 95% of the HDR out there, but with such DR in these scenes, I really should bracket and composite more.  What tools do folks use for these bracketed composite jobs?

Attached are two shots -- the middle exposure of a three-shot bracketing (1406R), and then the HDR that resulted from the HDR photomerge tool in PS with a lot of noodling around on the sliders (I hated all the presets).  I don't like how it came out.  Am I using the wrong camera settings?  Am I using the Photomerge sliders incorrectly?

- A

AmbientLight

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2013, 02:35:48 PM »
I use this app for my desktop (free) and iphone (paid) http://photoephemeris.com/

Tells you where and when the sun will be for any location.  Works for an hour before sunrise and hour after sunset.  This will help you get your camera pointing the right way at the right time.  Use it to plan your location.

Good luck.

As it happens I also use iEphemeris, but there's another even more powerful app called LightTrac (http://www.lighttracapp.com/), which allows you to plan for any kind of natural light condition, provided cloud cover and rain won't be an issue.

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2013, 02:35:48 PM »

paul13walnut5

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2013, 02:51:58 PM »
It's not a tool or more dynamic range you need, it's more midtone. 

You need sky detail for these shots to work well. As discussed.


Also, can anyone comment on a better tool for HDR / bracketed shots?  I hate the look of 95% of the HDR out there, but with such DR in these scenes, I really should bracket and composite more.  What tools do folks use for these bracketed composite jobs?

Attached are two shots -- the middle exposure of a three-shot bracketing (1406R), and then the HDR that resulted from the HDR photomerge tool in PS with a lot of noodling around on the sliders (I hated all the presets).  I don't like how it came out.  Am I using the wrong camera settings?  Am I using the Photomerge sliders incorrectly?

- A

Dantana

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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2013, 03:54:46 PM »

RE: paul13walnut5's altitude comment -- this was from Griffith Park Observatory.  Changing altitude from that vista isn't really an option.  But certainly, I should be considering altitude if the location allows.  Good tip.

- A

I think you could get a bit lower perspective from somewhere around the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Great view of downtown, but I don't think it's quite so high.
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Re: Tips / pointers requested for skyline photography
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2013, 03:54:46 PM »