QUESTION: Small vs wide aperture shots in low light

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by BD, Dec 10, 2005.

  1. BD

    BD Guest

    Hi, all.

    I'm headed to Carlsbad, New Mexico next weekend, to wander through the
    Caverns for a couple of days. I have been there once before. The light
    in there was pretty low, overall. I'd compare the lighting with a
    sporadically lit street in the middle of the night: there are
    spotlights illuminating the attractions, and a lot of darker areas

    When I went last year, I had a Nikon Coolpix 4500 with the stock
    speedlight. Results were pretty marginal overall. That camera did not
    write in RAW either, which in hindsight cost me quite a bit in the
    ability to post-process.

    Now I'm going with a 6MP Canon Rebel, a 17-85IS, a 75-300IS, a 50mm
    f/1.4, and a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro, which I will be getting my hands
    on when I get into the State. I also have a Canon EX550 flash. I feel
    fairly well-armed for the trip. No L lenses, but what can I say.

    I'm expecting that with the better low-light behavior of the Rebel, and
    with the maximum aperture of the 50mm and 150mm lenses, I should be
    able to capture some excellent low-light shots.

    I intend to try some shots at the maximum aperture of my two prime
    lenses, and also some tighter aperture settings, with a flash if
    required. I really don't want to go past ISO100, because I want the
    richest possible results.

    Aside from the depth-of-field differences, what other kinds of
    differences should I expect between wide-open shots and shots of, say,
    f/16 or higher? Is the clarity necessarily better?

    BTW - I will be armed with a tripod and a remote.

    Any general technique-related suggestions for a shot in a lower-light
    environment? All suggestions I can glean before I go would be greatly
    appreciated. - Oh - I will be shooting everything in RAW.

    I guess I should figure out how to use the mirror delay in my camera,
    for one thing. ;-)


    BD, Dec 10, 2005
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  2. BD

    UC Guest

    Why digital?

    Digital sensors don't accummulate light like film....
    UC, Dec 10, 2005
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  3. BD

    Scott W Guest

    f/16 will likely not be the sharpest setting, more likely around f/8,
    this depends on the lens.
    I have not used the 50mm 1.4 lens but I know the 50mm 1.8 gets way
    sharper if you can shoot at f 2.8.
    Don't know about the Rebal but the mirror delay on the 20D is a snap to
    use and for long exposures can make a big differance.

    So go in a dark room in your house and try all this out now while it
    does not matter, you will find out what works and what does not.

    Scott W, Dec 10, 2005
  4. BD

    Scott W Guest

    Which is why most of us no longer use film.

    Scott W, Dec 10, 2005
  5. BD

    Jim Townsend Guest

    OBVIOUSLY you've never used a digital SLR :)
    Jim Townsend, Dec 10, 2005
  6. BD

    BD Guest

    So go in a dark room in your house and try all this out now while it
    Makes sense. Emulate the conditions and experiment.

    If I only had a room in my house the size of 2 football fields, I'd be
    able to approximate even better! ;)
    BD, Dec 10, 2005
  7. BD

    ASAAR Guest

    It's been a long time since I've seen any reminders of that
    useless troll. Better to starve the beast than feed him with your
    attention, his favorite meal. :)
    ASAAR, Dec 10, 2005
  8. I was just there with my 350d back in September. I was armed with my 50mm
    1.4, the 18-55 kit lens, and my 28-300mm tamron. I really wanted to use the
    50, but after a few shots it was very obvious that I needed a wider angle.
    I ended up using the kit lens for most of my shots. Most of them were in
    the 2-3sec range. I only had a monopod with me so I would hold it braced
    against the railing. I was suprised that any of them turned out. I have a
    few posted on my web page if you want to get some ideas of the conditions.
    I definatley made good use of the wired remote. It was hard enough not
    moving the camera. Occasionally someone down the path would bump the
    railing and I would have to start over. You should be better off with the
    tripod, but the wife and I were on our motorcycle and I was cramped for
    space. I think someone else mentioned to stay in the middle of your f range
    and I'll tell you now that the caverns will simple laugh at your flash. I
    have the sigma ef500 flash and it was pretty useless. You best bet is to go
    with the longer exposures on the tripod.

    Good luck and enjoy the trip. We did!

    PS: if you get a chance, go on over west to white sands. That was the
    photo-highlight of our trip!

    Michael Hampton
    Michael Hampton, Dec 10, 2005
  9. BD

    Joan Guest

    What stunning photos!
    Joan, Dec 10, 2005
  10. BD

    Scott W Guest

    Hey neat photos. We were there in 1998, at that time I had 0.3 MP
    camera. One of your photos is just about the same as mine, but yours
    has a LOT more detail

    It is clear this thing is not growing very fast at all.

    Scott W, Dec 10, 2005
  11. BD

    Mark² Guest

    Foget the flash in the caves. It will only flatten the scene and wash out
    the details.
    You're better off using available light.
    Tripod, ISO 100, and 30 seconds to a minute, depending on aperture.
    Shoot RAW, and you'll be MUCH more able to effectively deal with the weird
    mixture of lighting types they have in there.

    Here's a shot I took there last year:

    Mark², Dec 10, 2005
  12. BD

    Sarah Brown Guest

    Quite so - accumulation of light on film is plagued by reciprocity failure.
    It's simply not an issue with digital though. 1 hour exposures with no
    adjustments needed for reciprocity failure - nice.

    I can take star trail pics with a DSLR using settings that leave a sheet of
    film pretty much completely black.
    Sarah Brown, Dec 10, 2005
  13. BD

    dadiOH Guest

    Unless, of course, you leave the camera on tripod, shutter open, and
    walk around here and there popping a flash to create depth and
    dimension. Oh yeah, I forgot...that requires a flash that isn't built
    in and people seem to have forgotten that such exist let alone how to
    use one.


    dadiOH's dandies v3.06...
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    Get it at
    dadiOH, Dec 10, 2005
  14. BD

    BD Guest

    Tripod, ISO 100, and 30 seconds to a minute, depending on aperture.

    I guess that would work.

    My main concern about long exposures is the 'big room' at carlsbad -
    you know, the one that's 2 football fields long. If I go for several
    seconds in there, I'll have people milling about in the distance during
    the exposure. It could make for some labor-intensive cleanup after the

    But if you feel that the results would benefit, I'll certainly give it
    a go.

    I agree with shooting RAW. That's the plan.

    Thanks for the tip on the long exposures; I honestly hadn't expected to
    do that, but had planned to rely on wide apertures.
    BD, Dec 10, 2005
  15. BD

    BD Guest

    Unless, of course, you leave the camera on tripod, shutter open, and
    Can you clarify this for me?

    Are you saying that I should (for example) set up a long exposure, take
    my external flash in hand and just fire off the flash manually in the
    scene during exposure, pointing it where I like? I've never heard of
    that. Sounds interesting, though. Maybe I should bring a patch of white
    fabric to act as a diffuser for the flash as well...?
    BD, Dec 10, 2005
  16. BD

    Cynicor Guest

    If you leave the shutter open for several seconds, the people milling
    about will blur out. If not, they could add perspective to the size of
    the room.
    Cynicor, Dec 10, 2005
  17. BD

    BD Guest

    If you leave the shutter open for several seconds, the people milling
    True. I like the idea of adding richness with the long exposure, but
    don't want all the smears of passersby. I'll probably do a
    long-exposure shot, a quick wide-aperture shot, and then do some
    creative cloning in PS afterwards to erase the pedestrians or leave a
    few in to illustrate scale.
    BD, Dec 10, 2005
  18. BD

    Frank ess Guest

    I was about to suggest that. Try to stay out of the picture (behind
    the film plane); if you can't, wherever you go, there you are...
    Frank ess, Dec 10, 2005
  19. BD

    Mark² Guest

    If you shoot with large apertures, most of your image will be out of focus.
    Small apertures and longer exposures is really the only way--if you want to
    capture such deep scenes.
    Mark², Dec 10, 2005
  20. BD

    UC Guest

    Somehow I doubt that any interesting photos wil come from this effort,
    no matter how it is approached. Big empty spaces are just not
    UC, Dec 10, 2005
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