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Old Jul 8, 2006, 4:10 AM   #1
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I just recently returned home from spending a couple of hours at Niagara Falls, tonight. I took the E-500, outfitted with the 14-45mm lens and supported with a tripod for some shots. It turned out (with the camera's setting positioned in the "Scene/Night" mode) that the unit refused to even take a picture, 95% of the time. The few that did take were horrendous.....I mean, not one of them was even remotely usable.

I know that I have much too learn, about this type of photography, and maybe I should just put this camera down until after I have taken the course that I previously mentioned (but I know that this would be impossible to do :-)).

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Nathan
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Old Jul 9, 2006, 9:06 AM   #2
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OK, so you have learned that the night scene mode does not perform magic but chooses some optimal settings for average motives.

My guesses: It will slow down the shutter speed and choose the ISO as high as possible. The exposure will be totally automatic. As far as I can see, you can't change the +/-, it always use ESP metering and will always autofocus. WB is set to 5300K. RGB seems changed too.

I have never tried this mode. I generally prefer to take photos handheld and will happily use 800 and 1600 ISO, so shutter speed priority is my favourite. I hasten to say, that unless you are as lazy as I, a tripod should always be used and will allow you to use aperture priority (and you will end up with far more usable night photos than I .

If the camera didn't take a picture, it is probably due to the autofocus not finding anything to focus on. Olympus' autofocus is not the best around in poor light (but never seems to fail in good light!). You either have to set focussing to manual (impossible in the scene mode on an e-300) or find something to focus on at the distance similar to what you want to focus on and reframe.

The night schene mode is too restricted for my taste. I have nothing against the modes in general and use the macro, portrait and landscape mode often as they do what I want to do anyway.

To give you some inspiration for handheld night photo at high ISO: http://blog.livedoor.jp/tknt/ (note that he uses a Canon 350 [the EXIF info on all his pictures are wrong]).

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Old Jul 9, 2006, 12:34 PM   #3
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First off, never put the camera down...you might find by playing with it that you might find a magic combination of settings.

If I knew I was going to shoot Niagara at night I would have bought a waterfountain that had little lights, and I would have practiced with that in a dark room, trying different settings, and seen the results of those settings.

Rather than waiting for a course to come along, try visiting the library, they should have MANY books on photography including night photography...it doesn't have to be on digital photography as most of the information in film based books will also be valid for digital SLRs. Maybe the library even has videos or CDROMs on photography.
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Old Jul 9, 2006, 1:02 PM   #4
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First, I'm going to agree with Jorgen about the focus being the likely cause of the camera's failure to take pictures. If the E-500 focus doesn't lock on a subject, it won't take a picture. I have very limited experience with the night scene modes and I have to say I managed to get myself pretty frustrated until I came to realize that the main culprit was the focus lock.

I'm posting aTHROW AWAY picture I took solely to TEST the night scene mode. Actually, it seems to prove to me that the night scene mode functions well once you figure it out.

Here's the story. I was trying to take a picture of an oject in my back yard one night. Well, I was having no luck. I suspected that the focus lock might be my problem. I don't know if I figured that out on my own or if I reviewed the manual. Nevertheless, I figure the best way to test my theory was to swing the camera around and point to an area of high contrast with trees, fence, wires and a street lamp.

So I simply panned the camera 180 degrees and tried again. With focus lock, everything functioned fine. Although the "subject matter" is crap (this was never supposed to be a real picture), it's techically a very good photo...decent detail and very minimal noise.

The nice thing about digital photos is that they are free (except of the $1500.00 worth of equipment!) so practice is cheap. But I reiterrate that you must continue to TEST before you commit to any serious picture taking. As I've said before, start off in the bright contrasty light to make sure the camera functions 100% and then work your self to the more difficult lighting situations.





I'm not thrilled with the system that absolutely requires focus lock. It's designed as safety feature but, in an attempt to make the system idiot proof (no focus, no picture) they've made things rather difficult. Review the manual for ideas on getting focus lock on a more contrasty subject and then recomposing for your desired subject. It's a sucky way to do things but it does work.

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Old Jul 9, 2006, 1:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
I'm not thrilled with the system that absolutely requires focus lock. It's designed as safety feature but, in an attempt to make the system idiot proof (no focus, no picture) they've made things rather difficult. Review the manual for ideas on getting focus lock on a more contrasty subject and then recomposing for your desired subject. It's a sucky way to do things but it does work.
You can actually disable this "feature" going through Setup Menu 1...look for "Release Priority S" and turn it on...that will allow you to take a picture in any of the "S" focusing modes even if you DON'T have a focus lock.

Note that if you fully-press without pausing at the half-press point the camera will take a picture without focusing, so it's important to pause at the half-press point and give the camera time to focus.

Personally I have my focus set to S-AF+MF so that if it doesn't lock the focus with a half-press I can then manually focus.
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Old Jul 9, 2006, 6:35 PM   #6
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I really don't know what the culprit was, but there were a few times when I had composed shots in a well lighted night setting - and the unit still wouldn't shoot. In all fairness to the camera, I must consider the possibility of my having played around with/and changed some of the settings.

There is always great information that I gain from you all, and each one of you (by virtue of your genuine willingness to share) are going to be instrumental in my becoming a great photographer - one day :-) (I smiled with that, but I mean it). I can't thank you all enough.

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Nathan
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Old Jul 9, 2006, 7:18 PM   #7
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This thread has convinced me to go out (maybe tonight) and try some more night photography.

I would suggest that "well lighted" may still be insufficient because, as I read an explantion of the autofocus system, it will look for lines of contrast. When I was trying to take the picture of the object in my back yard, it was really quite well lit...just a few feet from the light over the back door. However, it is a smooth, indistinct shape. The three autfocus points probably just saw a "blob".

I had an earlier problem with night photography which I have come to believe was probably a result of the same issue. I was taking pictures of some well lighted hangars at the airport. I was some distance away and I also had a hard time getting the camera to take photos. In my defence, this was my first nightime outing with the camera and I had decided to just go for a quick walk without reading the manual.

Even though the hangars were well lighted and would even have appeared quite bright, I composed the image with those hangars well below the center line of the frame. As a result, the autofocus points were positioned into a dark, featurless sky.

So, even though I saw bright, contrasty hangars, the autofocus saw nothing.

I think I'm getting a handle on the problem and I'm going to take some time to do some testing.

And thanks to Mikefellh for pointing out that bit about disabling the focus lock requirement. I hadn't noticed that in my first reading of the manual (well, I probably read it and failed to correctly understand it).
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Old Jul 10, 2006, 12:52 AM   #8
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Don't be a slave of autofocus and try manual focus. I admit that the focusing screen is not as good as the one on the OM-cameras, but it works. You will probably have to find a streetlight at the right distance to focus on. In most nightphoto, focusing speed is not an issue.

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Old Jul 10, 2006, 1:24 AM   #9
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I did a little experimenting and failure to confirm focus was, without exception, the cause of the camera not taking a picture. In a shot like the one below, I had to make sure that the autofocus points were in an area of contrast...such as the point where the treeline meets the sky...in order to get focus confirmation.


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Old Jul 10, 2006, 3:36 AM   #10
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Thanks Brent.

I revisited the 'Falls, earlier (and before reading your recent post), to try my hand at some more shooting - but this time in a more 'manual' setup. I experienced no problems with the camera shooting, this time, and thought that I had done pretty well (according to the camera screen's revelation) until I returned home and pulled the shots into the computer. There were fireworks being shot off there, and I did use the "Scene/Fireworks" mode for them. Two of those shots (both of which will be uploaded to the "Critiques & Techniques" area, as soon as I finish this) proved to be the best of any night shots that I had taken.

But all other photos had been shot in manual mode, and the following photo is representative of how the remainder turned out. Despite being in manual mode, and stabilizing the camera with a tripod, I found that I didn't shoot nearly as well as I thought I'd done. I don't know if I somehow caused camera shake (despite the tripod), or if the shot was beyond the capability of my lens (40-150mm). It could be, too, that I just didn't have the right settings.

Please (Brent, and all others) share your thoughts & recommendations.

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Blessings,

Nathan


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