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Old Dec 6, 2008, 4:08 AM   #11
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Lots of good thoughts here. Just one more. If you set your camera on something and go up to F16 or so you will get some nice star patterns around the lights.

Glenn
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Old Dec 6, 2008, 4:14 AM   #12
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@mtclimber
You are right about the handheld ISO800 photos, of course you can crank up ISO, even to ISO1600 or higher, and then snap away. The annoying thing - for me at least - with this tactics is the noise. Yes - I know that the noise is still "ok" for ISO800 and I know how to reduce it via postprocessing, but a low ISO night shot definitely looks better due to the higher amount of details and overall clear feeling.

In some scenery ISO800 is more than ok, but in a night shot you'll definitely see a huge difference.

That being said, it for sure depends on the style of photography (see above) - occasional snapshots of christmas lights, taken with ISO800, can result in very nice images (see your examples!). However - city skylines and other situations, where the amount of detail (i.e. architectural structures) is very high, benefit from a lower ISO.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old Dec 6, 2008, 4:17 AM   #13
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One thing I try to keep in mid is that the night scene actually is rather dark. The camera tries to compensate for this, brightening up the scene to "normal daylight". Therefore I underexpose, which of course also helps with shutter speed. Bright lights gets overexposed anyway, but that is often part of the charm with the picture, i e when you get star patterns.

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La Candelaria (Old Town) in Bogota. *istDS, DA 16-45mm @ 39 mm f4,5 1/4 sec ISO 400:
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Old Dec 6, 2008, 11:12 AM   #14
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I have noticed the over exposing myself. I tried the f1.4 last night at ISO 100-400 (the camera gets to choose), set to 1.4 with the camera choosing the shutterspeed and everything came out almost like it was daylight.

So I used exposure compensation and under exposed 1 stop and then I tried 2 stops. 1 stop I thought looked better. The good news is the camera had no trouble metering or focusing. I have the camera set to spot meter and spot focus and had it do both on a light.

I am going tonight try the hand hold but set the metering at full matrix and leave the focus at spot, under expose 1 stop and see what happens.

I didn't really like any of the shots I tried so far. They just don't look right and the lights are all blown out and so you loose the color.

----

The reason I am doing this is next Wed. I am going to the Oakland Zoo for the day and then staying for the Zoo Lights show. This is basically from 5:30pm to around 9pm, they put all of the animals to bed and then have LED light displays in the shape of the animals and I want to be able to take nice photos of the light displays.

Robert
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Old Dec 6, 2008, 11:43 AM   #15
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Kjell and Th-

Both bring up excellent point. (1) It depends on the kind/amount/or depth of darkness that you are dealing with in your photo environment. (2) If the photo environment allows a tripod set-up, you will get better photos with the lens stopped down and allowing the camera to take in sufficient light, and that may indeed require some + exposure compensation.

So the photo scene or the photo environment, whichever term you refer, will, in largemeasure, dictate the technique that is used. For example, here is a night photo of mine taken to demonstrate that cheap inexpensive digicams can take night photos. I usedthe camera on atripod and added fill flash as I want to stop the action.

So in my opinion, the photo scene combined with what the photograper desires in terms of the photo will drive the technique. Robert, best of luck to you and we will look forward to seeing your results.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 6, 2008, 7:05 PM   #16
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In shooting holiday lights last season, I went with wide aperture and high ISO and was fairly well pleased. Using a K20d and a FA*50-135, these are a couple of my shots.

85mm, f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/60 sec



50mm, 1/250 sec, ISO 1600, f/2.8



Remember that if you're shooting Christmas lights, you'll probably have to white balancefor tungsten lights since most Christmas lights are incandescent.

Paul
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Old Dec 6, 2008, 7:35 PM   #17
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Very nicely done, Paul-

That is exactly what I was discussing in my post this morning (12/06). That would be a very good technique for Robert to use at the Oakland Zoo, I believe it is this evening (12/06).

The same technique was used in this photo at Disneyland.

Sarah Joyce

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Old Dec 6, 2008, 11:46 PM   #18
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I went around my local neighborhood to see what my K20 would make of the houses that had Christmas lights out. It was an interesting exercise. I had the camera on center weighted metering and I used P mode. I occasionally set a specific aperture, but for the most part, let the camera deal with the aperture itself, assuming that it would choose something between f1.8 - f2.8 (it didn't go that high). I also had it set to auto ISO with the range going up to 1600 (it chose either 800 or 1600 for all of the pictures) along with auto white balance.

My particular K20 tends to always slightly under-expose so during the day I keep it set to an Ev +.3. After reading Robert's experience and the other comments here, I set the camera to no Ev and expected it to be slightly overexposed. Depending on the scene, I thought it was pretty much right-on, or slightly underexposed. An example, a 1600 jpg with no processing other than resizing (I think its a bit under-exposed). Also, I don't like the white balance - while the camera did a pretty good job of making the lights white, that's not how I expect these types of Christmas lights to look.



However, here I used EV -.7 for this one. I think the exposure is OK, but the DOF is too small, a disadvantage of using f2.5. I also found out that I can't reliably hand-hold a 77mm lens at 1/30 sec. or slower, even with SR. This is ISO 800 with no noise reduction.



This picture was significantly underexposed for what I wanted - the light of the ceiling through the window was barely visible. So I took the raw version and adjusted the exposure and curves to lighten the shadows. I think I did run this one through Noise Ninja's plug-in for Photoshop since I introduced a fair amount of noise with the processing. I think it came out reasonably well.



These lights are larger than regular Christmas lights and don't really offer much information, but I just like the picture. Notice how little dof you have at f2.2. I wonder if it would be similar to a 50mm at f1.4?



A more regular holiday display:



All of these pictures were taken with a 1/50 sec. shutter speed (which seemed to be my limit for hand-holding reliably, the lens was 77mm).
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Old Dec 7, 2008, 12:05 AM   #19
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Harriet-

That is a good series of photos. Please keep in mind that the various types of Christmas lights all have different color wave lengths. Therefore, getting the WB correctly is really quite difficult.

Keep in mind that night time shots must be shot as if you were on horeback, so as to speak. You quickly judge the photo environment and make a stab at it. For most photographers, it is a new and rather challenging photo environment. You did well.

Sarah Joyce
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Old Dec 7, 2008, 12:54 AM   #20
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Well, these all give me some ideas to try. I went out and bought some christmas lights for the front yard. I have done christmas lights in probably 20 years, but wanted something close and easy to play with, so I have decorations up this year. They are LED lights just like what they will be using at the zoo.

I am going to do some practicing Sunday night, if I have any revelations or good shots I will post them.

Thanks,

Robert:|
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