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Old Feb 8, 2012, 7:24 AM   #1
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Default Need help focusing in the hours of darkness

Lately I've been either heading out to try photos after 10pm or around 4:30am in hopes of finding some new colors that I wouldn't have otherwise noticed. While I'm seeing things in an entirely new perspective, I'm still having issues with getting a good focus. Here's what I've done so far...

1) Set the focus to ∞ (infinity) and start shooting away. Yeah, everything is fuzzy.

2) Using my extremely powerful handheld spotlight, allow my lens to autofocus and then start shooting away. Yeah, everything is fuzzy.

3) Click to live view, bring in the LCD's field of view 10x, then using the handheld spotlight I'll adjust the focus manually and start shooting away. Yeah, everything is fuzzy.

4) Using calculations I've found online, I try to set my lens for the hyperfocal point (?) and start shooting away. Yeah....everything is still very fuzzy.

Of the 3 methods, the third seems to net me the best chances of a fairly clear photo, but nothing like the ones I've been seeing by everyone else on here. Am I missing out on a key step somewhere? Please understand that I'm fairly new to using an SLR (less than a year) so my learning curve is still quite near the bottom.

For added info, I am using my cable release, bulb setting in manual, focal length around 15mm-18mm, my f stop is usually around f/18-f/22, and I vary the ISO between 200 and 400. All the photos are taken with my T3i and usually with my new 15-85 lens and once in a great while with my 50/1.4 lens. I don't think these settings are critically affecting the photo as I'm "generally" happy with the final photos - albeit the lack of focus.

Help!!!!????
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Old Feb 8, 2012, 7:43 AM   #2
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My guess is that it's not out of focus but that in the dark at ISO 200-400 the shutter speed is way too long and you're getting motion-blur. Try using the same methods but with a tripod and see if it solves your problem or raise the ISO.
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Old Feb 8, 2012, 9:47 AM   #3
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I forget to mention that I was using a tripod, so I'll try upping the ISO next time. Thanks!
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Old Feb 8, 2012, 11:35 AM   #4
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Have you turned off your image stabilisation? In the low light it might be having a bit of a fit and blurring the image.
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Old Feb 8, 2012, 1:46 PM   #5
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Yes, under recommendations from here, I always turn the IS off when using my tripod.
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Old Feb 8, 2012, 4:01 PM   #6
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seems to me you're in auto-focus mode. maybe your tripod is not steady enough. and why bulb? how about trying this a step at a time?
1. manual focus
2. manual mode
3. set aperture: f8
4. set iso: 400
5: set shutter speed 1/10 second

use that 10x live view to focus. use your self-timer to fire. take a pic. if too dark for you, adjust shutter speed to 1/5. again. then 1/2 then 1 then 2 then...etc.

these should all be sharp and one of them will be exposed the way you like. once you get repeatable good results, play with the settings to get the effect you want.

how about that?
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Old Feb 9, 2012, 2:12 AM   #7
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I think we also need to see a couple of examples to help further...
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Old Feb 18, 2012, 10:24 AM   #8
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From what I have seen, your camera has excellent high ISO abilities, so I would probably up the sensitivity to about 1600, and use manual focus just short of infinity (or hyperfocal setting), and use Av mode with the aperture set to about f/5.6 or f/8.

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Old Feb 19, 2012, 8:04 AM   #9
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we may have lost the OP already, but perhaps he's been setting the lens to the infinity mark. or turning the focus ring all the way. depending on the lens, this may or may not be correct. i suspect usually not. on my not-cheap tokina 11-16, the lens distance markings are way off. completely unusable. for dark shoots, i point it at a distant object, not where the markings line up and change to manual. then i just keep an eye on the focus rng that it doesn't move.
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Old Feb 19, 2012, 8:34 AM   #10
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Nope, still here. I've been reading all the input and trying to use all the advice while checking for improvement. I indeed was setting for infinity based upon the emblem on my focus ring - maybe that was my problem?

The past week or so has been hectic with family in town, but I think this next week will afford me some chances to try out all the new recommendations.
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