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photographing light sources at night

 
 
jonathan
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      11-11-2003
ok, I've got a relatively puzzling question, and I was wondering if
anyone would have an idea as to the answer.

I've been trying to photograph night lights such as street lamps,
traffic lights, car tail-lights etc, and have been running into
problems. No matter what shutter speed, ISO, f-stop setting, and level
of zoom, the part of the photo that registers the traffic light seems
to get 'flooded' with light.

When you look at - say a traffic light - through either the viewfinder
or by naked eye, you see an array of points of light which make up
that traffic light. When you take a picture of that same traffic
light, all that detail goes away and you get an undifferentiated blob.

Anyways, I was wondering if this effect was inherent in the fact I was
using a CMOS camera (I have a canon 10d), and whether or not a given
filter could give me better results - or perhaps another technique
that I'm not aware of.

This is rather frustrating. With detail, night photos in the city
would be rather cool.. without it, everything looks muddled.

thanks much,

jon
 
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Tony Spadaro
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      11-11-2003
Night is a problen in contrast range. Any picture exposed properly for the
bright lights will show only the bright lights. You can combine pictures to
get around the problem. There are a couple articles on doing night
photography here:
A Noctonaut Primer and Shooting the Long Good Night
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/mani/techs/mmtechs.html
There are night shots in many other parts of the web site but these two
chapters are all night shots.
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/noct/nn0000.html
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/gallery2/long/long01.html
--
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com
home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
The Improved Links Pages are at
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/links/mlinks00.html
A sample chapter from my novel "Haight-Ashbury" is at
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/writ/hait/hatitl.html
"jonathan" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) om...
> ok, I've got a relatively puzzling question, and I was wondering if
> anyone would have an idea as to the answer.
>
> I've been trying to photograph night lights such as street lamps,
> traffic lights, car tail-lights etc, and have been running into
> problems. No matter what shutter speed, ISO, f-stop setting, and level
> of zoom, the part of the photo that registers the traffic light seems
> to get 'flooded' with light.
>
> When you look at - say a traffic light - through either the viewfinder
> or by naked eye, you see an array of points of light which make up
> that traffic light. When you take a picture of that same traffic
> light, all that detail goes away and you get an undifferentiated blob.
>
> Anyways, I was wondering if this effect was inherent in the fact I was
> using a CMOS camera (I have a canon 10d), and whether or not a given
> filter could give me better results - or perhaps another technique
> that I'm not aware of.
>
> This is rather frustrating. With detail, night photos in the city
> would be rather cool.. without it, everything looks muddled.
>
> thanks much,
>
> jon



 
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Jeff Zawrotny
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-11-2003

"jonathan" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) om...
> ok, I've got a relatively puzzling question, and I was wondering if
> anyone would have an idea as to the answer.
>
> I've been trying to photograph night lights such as street lamps,
> traffic lights, car tail-lights etc, and have been running into
> problems. No matter what shutter speed, ISO, f-stop setting, and level
> of zoom, the part of the photo that registers the traffic light seems
> to get 'flooded' with light.
>
> When you look at - say a traffic light - through either the viewfinder
> or by naked eye, you see an array of points of light which make up
> that traffic light. When you take a picture of that same traffic
> light, all that detail goes away and you get an undifferentiated blob.
>
> Anyways, I was wondering if this effect was inherent in the fact I was
> using a CMOS camera (I have a canon 10d), and whether or not a given
> filter could give me better results - or perhaps another technique
> that I'm not aware of.
>
> This is rather frustrating. With detail, night photos in the city
> would be rather cool.. without it, everything looks muddled.
>
> thanks much,
>
> jon


Because so much of the scene you are shooting is dark, the metering system
in your camera compensates by adding lots of exposure. This extra exposure
is blowing out all the details in your traffic lights.

You have a few options:

1. Force your camera to record less exposure by either setting the exposure
compensation to -2 stops or by going to full manual mode and experimenting
with higher f-stops and faster shutter speeds. Unfortunately, this will
underexpose the rest of your picture.

2. Put your camera on a tripod and record two exposures. One dead on, and
one 4 stops under. In Photoshop, replace the 'blown-out' light sources in
the correct exposure with the light sources in the image with less exposure.

2. Use a flash to illuminate whatever subject you have, using manual f-stop
and shutter speed to correctly expose the light source.

None of these are a great option, and you'll probably learn to ok with some
blown-out highlights in low-light photography.

- jz


 
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dperez@juno_nospam.com
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-12-2003
On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 22:32:51 GMT, "Tony Spadaro" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:

>Night is a problen in contrast range. Any picture exposed properly for the
>bright lights will show only the bright lights. You can combine pictures to
>get around the problem. There are a couple articles on doing night
>photography here:
>A Noctonaut Primer and Shooting the Long Good Night
>http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/mani/techs/mmtechs.html
> There are night shots in many other parts of the web site but these two
>chapters are all night shots.
>http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/noct/nn0000.html
>http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/gallery2/long/long01.html



Really good explanation Tony! The link has some good info...

Jonathon, the next time you're out shooting at night, pick something you like -
such as the traffic light you were speaking of. IGNORE what your meter says -
EXCEPT AS A STARTING POINT... Make an exposure where it says. Then underexpose
by a half stop (increase shutter speed or stop down the lens, it won't
matter)... Continue doing this, going down a half stop at a time until you've
got exposures from where the meter started you all the way down to 4 or 5 FULL
STOPS underexposed... Look at them in your favorite editor and you'll HOPEFULLY
find that as you get further underexposed you'll eventually get detail in the
individual traffic light elements... Of course, you'll ALSO LOSE everything
else in the frame...

I love to shoot things at night, BUT what I've learned is to BRACKET, BRACKET,
BRACKET!!!!!!!
 
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jonathan
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      11-12-2003
> Because so much of the scene you are shooting is dark, the metering system
> in your camera compensates by adding lots of exposure. This extra exposure
> is blowing out all the details in your traffic lights.
>
> You have a few options:
>
> 1. Force your camera to record less exposure by either setting the exposure
> compensation to -2 stops or by going to full manual mode and experimenting
> with higher f-stops and faster shutter speeds. Unfortunately, this will
> underexpose the rest of your picture.
>
> 2. Put your camera on a tripod and record two exposures. One dead on, and
> one 4 stops under. In Photoshop, replace the 'blown-out' light sources in
> the correct exposure with the light sources in the image with less exposure.
>
> 3. Use a flash to illuminate whatever subject you have, using manual f-stop
> and shutter speed to correctly expose the light source.
>
> None of these are a great option, and you'll probably learn to ok with some
> blown-out highlights in low-light photography.


Well, ok, but what's odd is that I would assume that your lens (ie:
your eyes) would suffer from the same effects. Ie: you could either
see the detail in the lights or the detail in the background, not
both. Compared to the camera, your eye does a hell of a job then, with
any given scene. I'm wondering if this is something inherent in
CMOS-style receptors, whether film cameras have the same problems, or
if it is something else.

#2 sounds like the best option of the three you posted though... How
exactly do you do it? (asides from cutting and pasting parts of your
picture on top of the other picture) Are there plugins that allow for
multiple photos to be intelligently merged together? I know about
'neat image'; I'd assume there would be equivalent plugins to do
something like this..

jon
 
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Chris Brown
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-12-2003
In article <(E-Mail Removed)> ,
jonathan <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>Well, ok, but what's odd is that I would assume that your lens (ie:
>your eyes) would suffer from the same effects. Ie: you could either
>see the detail in the lights or the detail in the background, not
>both. Compared to the camera, your eye does a hell of a job then, with
>any given scene. I'm wondering if this is something inherent in
>CMOS-style receptors, whether film cameras have the same problems, or
>if it is something else.


It's something else. The visual processing in the brain uses information
taken over a relatively long timeframe to produce what you "see". The image
of the world you percieve is actually rather a lot cleaner and better than
what your eyes are seeing at any given point.

Perhaps the nearest equivalent in photography would be combinations of
multiple exposures, taken to resolve both highlights and shadows, in a piece
of software such as Photoshop.

You get a similar thing with depth of field, btw - you may think you're
seeing the whole of a particular scene, consisting of nearby objects and
distant objects, in focus, but in reality the focus is simply adjusted when
you switch concentration to another object, and the bits of the scene you're
not really paying attention to have their detail guessed/interpolated.

You can try a fun experiment - look straight ahead, and then without moving
or refocusing your eyes (this may take some concentration) try to work out
what an object in your peripheral vision is (you have to try to override the
near-reflex of actually *looking* at it). If you already know what the
object is, then that's what you'll probably see it as. If you don't, then
the chances are that you'll know that there's "something" there, but you
won't be able to see work out colour it is, or even what it is.
 
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jonathan
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-12-2003
dperez@juno_nospam.com wrote in message news:<(E-Mail Removed)>. ..
> On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 22:32:51 GMT, "Tony Spadaro" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
> >Night is a problen in contrast range. Any picture exposed properly for the
> >bright lights will show only the bright lights. You can combine pictures to
> >get around the problem. There are a couple articles on doing night
> >photography here:
> >A Noctonaut Primer and Shooting the Long Good Night
> >http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/mani/techs/mmtechs.html
> > There are night shots in many other parts of the web site but these two
> >chapters are all night shots.
> >http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/noct/nn0000.html
> >http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/gallery2/long/long01.html

>
>
> Really good explanation Tony! The link has some good info...
>
> Jonathon, the next time you're out shooting at night, pick something you like -
> such as the traffic light you were speaking of. IGNORE what your meter says -
> EXCEPT AS A STARTING POINT... Make an exposure where it says. Then underexpose
> by a half stop (increase shutter speed or stop down the lens, it won't
> matter)... Continue doing this, going down a half stop at a time until you've
> got exposures from where the meter started you all the way down to 4 or 5 FULL
> STOPS underexposed... Look at them in your favorite editor and you'll HOPEFULLY
> find that as you get further underexposed you'll eventually get detail in the
> individual traffic light elements... Of course, you'll ALSO LOSE everything
> else in the frame...
>
> I love to shoot things at night, BUT what I've learned is to BRACKET, BRACKET,
> BRACKET!!!!!!!


Ok, I did a bit more research on bracketing, and the technique is
called 'blended exposure' and it supposedly works wonders. I'm going
to try it, at least as described in:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...blending.shtml

However, I did have a couple questions:

1) is there a tool for digitally blending RAW files as opposed to
JPEG? If not, what's the best way to keep most or all of the original
detail?
2) is there a camera that does bracketing in automatic fashion (ie:
you snap the shutter once and three exposures are taken in a
continuous interval, rather than three shutter clicks)
3) is there a utility/photoshop plugin that allows you to
automatically blend exposures?

I think #1 would be essential to not lose detail whilst doing the
merge, that #2 would be the best way to guarantee that your bracketed
exposures mesh well together (as well as a method of getting rid of
unwanted noise at high ISO), and that #3 would make the whole thing a
lot less time consuming.

jon
 
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Tony Spadaro
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-13-2003
For a quick look at combining -- using the simplest method -- selecting and
darkening an are - ie "burning in" -- take a look at this page
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/mani/digi/mcompres.html

Ian Lyons had a couple articles on the subject that were better written and
more logical than the landscaper's.
http://come.to/computerdarkroom

--
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com
home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
The Improved Links Pages are at
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/links/mlinks00.html
A sample chapter from my novel "Haight-Ashbury" is at
http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/writ/hait/hatitl.html
"jonathan" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in message
news:(E-Mail Removed) om...
> dperez@juno_nospam.com wrote in message

news:<(E-Mail Removed)>. ..
> > On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 22:32:51 GMT, "Tony Spadaro"

<(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> >
> > >Night is a problen in contrast range. Any picture exposed properly for

the
> > >bright lights will show only the bright lights. You can combine

pictures to
> > >get around the problem. There are a couple articles on doing night
> > >photography here:
> > >A Noctonaut Primer and Shooting the Long Good Night
> > >http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/mani/techs/mmtechs.html
> > > There are night shots in many other parts of the web site but these

two
> > >chapters are all night shots.
> > >http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/noct/nn0000.html
> > >http://www.chapelhillnoir.com/gallery2/long/long01.html

> >
> >
> > Really good explanation Tony! The link has some good info...
> >
> > Jonathon, the next time you're out shooting at night, pick something you

like -
> > such as the traffic light you were speaking of. IGNORE what your meter

says -
> > EXCEPT AS A STARTING POINT... Make an exposure where it says. Then

underexpose
> > by a half stop (increase shutter speed or stop down the lens, it won't
> > matter)... Continue doing this, going down a half stop at a time until

you've
> > got exposures from where the meter started you all the way down to 4 or

5 FULL
> > STOPS underexposed... Look at them in your favorite editor and you'll

HOPEFULLY
> > find that as you get further underexposed you'll eventually get detail

in the
> > individual traffic light elements... Of course, you'll ALSO LOSE

everything
> > else in the frame...
> >
> > I love to shoot things at night, BUT what I've learned is to BRACKET,

BRACKET,
> > BRACKET!!!!!!!

>
> Ok, I did a bit more research on bracketing, and the technique is
> called 'blended exposure' and it supposedly works wonders. I'm going
> to try it, at least as described in:
>
> http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...blending.shtml
>
> However, I did have a couple questions:
>
> 1) is there a tool for digitally blending RAW files as opposed to
> JPEG? If not, what's the best way to keep most or all of the original
> detail?
> 2) is there a camera that does bracketing in automatic fashion (ie:
> you snap the shutter once and three exposures are taken in a
> continuous interval, rather than three shutter clicks)
> 3) is there a utility/photoshop plugin that allows you to
> automatically blend exposures?
>
> I think #1 would be essential to not lose detail whilst doing the
> merge, that #2 would be the best way to guarantee that your bracketed
> exposures mesh well together (as well as a method of getting rid of
> unwanted noise at high ISO), and that #3 would make the whole thing a
> lot less time consuming.
>
> jon



 
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dperez@juno_nospam.com
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      11-13-2003
>
>However, I did have a couple questions:
>
>1) is there a tool for digitally blending RAW files as opposed to
>JPEG? If not, what's the best way to keep most or all of the original
>detail?


If you're shooting RAW just run them thru the converter and then do the blending
from the TIF files... I don't know of anything that'll blend RAW files. The
nice thing about going to TIF is there's no detail loss... If, you MUST, you
can go to jpeg BUT make sure you use the minimum compression to preserve as much
detail as possible.

>2) is there a camera that does bracketing in automatic fashion (ie:
>you snap the shutter once and three exposures are taken in a
>continuous interval, rather than three shutter clicks)


There are probably lots... I know the Fuji S2 has an auto-bracket feature
that'll let you specify 2 or 3 bracket shots, and the amount by which to
bracket. I presume Nikon and Canon have something similar.


 
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jonathan
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Posts: n/a
 
      11-13-2003
> If you're shooting RAW just run them thru the converter and then do the blending
> from the TIF files... I don't know of anything that'll blend RAW files. The
> nice thing about going to TIF is there's no detail loss... If, you MUST, you
> can go to jpeg BUT make sure you use the minimum compression to preserve as much
> detail as possible.


Perhaps a photoshop plugin that would read different RAW formats into
Photoshop as a RAW tiff file?

> >2) is there a camera that does bracketing in automatic fashion (ie:
> >you snap the shutter once and three exposures are taken in a
> >continuous interval, rather than three shutter clicks)

>
> There are probably lots... I know the Fuji S2 has an auto-bracket feature
> that'll let you specify 2 or 3 bracket shots, and the amount by which to
> bracket. I presume Nikon and Canon have something similar.


well, I must be doing something wrong then. I specify 'auto bracket'
for my canon 10D, shoot the picture, and I only end up with one
exposure as a JPEG, and nothing that I do seems to fix this. Do you
need to shoot RAW in order to use bracketing? I wouldn't think so..
Maybe the camera is doing the combining?

jon
 
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