photographing light sources at night

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by jonathan, Nov 11, 2003.

  1. jonathan

    jonathan Guest

    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
     
    jonathan, Nov 11, 2003
    #1
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  2. jonathan

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    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" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > 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
     
    Tony Spadaro, Nov 11, 2003
    #2
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  3. "jonathan" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > 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
     
    Jeff Zawrotny, Nov 11, 2003
    #3
  4. On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 22:32:51 GMT, "Tony Spadaro" <> 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!!!!!!!
     
    dperez@juno_nospam.com, Nov 12, 2003
    #4
  5. jonathan

    jonathan Guest

    > 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
     
    jonathan, Nov 12, 2003
    #5
  6. jonathan

    Chris Brown Guest

    In article <>,
    jonathan <> 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.
     
    Chris Brown, Nov 12, 2003
    #6
  7. jonathan

    jonathan Guest

    dperez@juno_nospam.com wrote in message news:<>...
    > On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 22:32:51 GMT, "Tony Spadaro" <> 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/tutorials/digital-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
     
    jonathan, Nov 12, 2003
    #7
  8. jonathan

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    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" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > dperez@juno_nospam.com wrote in message

    news:<>...
    > > On Tue, 11 Nov 2003 22:32:51 GMT, "Tony Spadaro"

    <> 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/tutorials/digital-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
     
    Tony Spadaro, Nov 13, 2003
    #8
  9. >
    >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.
     
    dperez@juno_nospam.com, Nov 13, 2003
    #9
  10. jonathan

    jonathan Guest

    > 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
     
    jonathan, Nov 13, 2003
    #10
  11. jonathan

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    In Photoshop one would do best to convert to PSD (native to Photoshop) for
    complete control, smaller file size and faster opening.

    --
    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" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > > 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
     
    Tony Spadaro, Nov 13, 2003
    #11
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