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Old Sep 15, 2004, 7:01 PM   #1
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I love taking phots as I just got my first digi camera. HP! Wow! Anyway, I was wondering what the best option to use for night photography? Example, stars? I know there are a few points. Such as, too much city light extra. Any suggestion? Thanks.



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Old Sep 15, 2004, 11:44 PM   #2
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Hello Black Velvet;

I have to say that night time/low light shots are my favorite. I can't say why, but that's that. Night photography poses some special challenges, though. Of course you'll have to use a tripod... a good one, and it's probably a good idea to have a remote shutter release. I don't, so I often use the timed release to avoid shaking the camera. Generally shutter speeds will have to be quite long, unless you're trying to get detail in a cityscape or a full moon. The moon can often be captured between 1/350 - 1/125 sec. Bracket your exposures over a wide range.

Capturing stars can be difficult, as longer exposures may actually catch the stars' movement, especially at a high zoom setting. I prefer to go as wide as possible; this seems to minimize movement. It's also a good idea to try to keep some land-based features in sky shots so that they seem to have some frame of reference. A trick I picked up (somewhere, I forget where, and I would definitely give credit if I could) is to use a flashlight to "paint" light on nearby features... trees, landmarks, etc.

Many people prefer dusk or dawn shots. The light is far more dramatic than mid-day. I'm always too busy to stop in the morning. I kick myself every time I let an opportunity slip by. Just this morning on the way to work, the sun was still not up, and a little way across a small, misty river, about 8-10 white egrets (?) sleeping in a willow. Tomorrow I'm bringing my camera.

If you like dramatic light, check out factories, refineries, mine-heads - at night. You might get chased away, though. I try to ask permission if there is a security guard present. Watch out, Mercury vapour lights can wash out a nice shot. You can get a lot more lens flare than you'd think.

If you're using a higher ISO... 400 or higher (or even lower) you will probably have a lot of noise. ISOs on CCDs is very similar to film speeds. A higher ISO is more sensitive, so the CCD picks up random noise. Use a filter program like Neat Image or Noise Ninja; the results are quite good.

I guess that's it for now. I enjoy night photography a great deal. It does take a little bit of planning so you're not losing lens caps or worse, but being organized never hurt a good shot.

All the best,

Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada
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Old Sep 15, 2004, 11:45 PM   #3
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Another shot.
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Old Sep 15, 2004, 11:48 PM   #4
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... and another.
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Old Sep 16, 2004, 12:39 PM   #5
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Well Tom. Facinating photos. I live in Winnipeg and sometimes Winnipeg has amazing night shots. I have an HP-R707. Its a great little camera. I have been thinking of attaching it to my hip. lol Oh well. We'll see. May I ask. Why use a tripod for night photos?



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Old Sep 16, 2004, 1:56 PM   #6
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Hi there;

Living in Winnipeg, you would have some excellent opportunities for night shots. When I lived in northern Ontario, we would get some spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis. Since I've moved to the sunny south, I've only seen them once. You have some nice landmarks there too.

You should use a tripod for any shot where the shutterspeed is too slow for hand holding, which basically means all night shots. This includes shots with a long zoom which will be blurry in good light at even moderately slow shutter speeds. There is a formula which says that your minimum hand-held shutter speed is 1/your focal length. (more experienced users can correct my terminology and my math) This is in part because longer zooms exaggerate any movement.

One benifit of using a tripod is that you can spend some time composing a shot and then take several "bracketing" shots at higher or lower exposure settings. In this way you may have two or three shots which are over or under exposed, but you can usually get one that is usable. If you are experienced with photoshop, you can blend the different exposures to incorporate the best aspects of two or more exposures.

Regards,

Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada
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Old Sep 16, 2004, 5:13 PM   #7
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Thanks Tom. Does hp sell tripods? What kind of tripod would I have to look for? If I want to consider this as hobbie I don't want to waste money on cheap ones. I tried taking photos of the big dipper the other night. It was crystal clear even in the city. What other sugjestions would you have for taking night shots? Yes you are correct. Winnipeg has amazing landmarks for some great photos. I have lived in the country and seen some amazing Northren Lights. One time they were so vibrant I could see reds and yellows and orange. Damn wish I had digital back than... But since moving to the city I have only seen them on a rare occation. Only because the sunspot are so vigerous this year. Are there any books I can buy that would help a newbie like me?



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Old Sep 16, 2004, 6:39 PM   #8
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Greetings;

Here is "the book". I found this link through some of the other helpful people on this forum. http://209.196.177.41/

As regards tripods, you'll have to get out to a reputable camera store and try some out. I've heard it said, here and elsewhere, that a good tripod is more valuable to your photography than your lens. Hyperbole to be sure, but it does stress the point. I was looking for a compact tripod I could use while biking or hiking. I found one, but it was so flimsy, my pulse would make the camera shake when I touched the shutter release. I didn't buy it.

Oh, yes... night shots. Use looong exposures. My camera (a Kodak DX6490) has a maximum shutter speed of 16 sec. If I'm trying to shoot stars, I'll use every second of it. Experiment... make mistakes. Learn from them. (teach me)

I really must say how helpful everyone here has been. If you need to know something, somebody here knows it -or knows how to find it.

Regards,

Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada

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Old Sep 17, 2004, 5:49 PM   #9
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I've done some astrophotography using a telescope, so I can give you some pointers from my point of view.

To do anything night related, a tripod would be handy. For a regular tripod I use the Velbon CX-540. They make great tripods. For my telescope, I use an equatorial mount which is kind of mandatory =)

Before getting started, it's handy to have weather information on hand. Check out Clear Sky Clocks website and search for your city. It will tell you whether or not you'll have a good night for "seeing". It might also be worth while to check out the light pollution in your area. If you're like me and you live in the center of the white blotch, it would be advisable to move away from all that. If you use a telescope, it won't be all that bad since your view angle is reduced considerably and you're focusing on a single object. Sky shooting on the other hand will absorb to much light and kill your photo within 20 seconds. Just remember it gets worse the closer you aim to the horizon and it gets better the closer you aim straight up.

Second important thing is planning for exposure. I'm not sure what your camera is capable of, but for shooting the sky, a good setting would be anywhere from 10 seconds to 45 minutes. The later is only useful if you live out in the bush (away from light & civilization) and want the Milky-Way and a lot of other crazy detail to show up in your shots. Between 10 and 180 seconds you can capture some star clusters and possibly make out the andromeda galaxy rim. The longer you have your shutter open, the brighter faint objects become, BUT the closer stars will eat out your photo. Make sure to always take several shots. 1 long shot to get faint detail, another shot to get medium detail, and another to get very close detail. Combine them later in a single image to have a well lit scene, rather than some stars giving off a crazy amount of glow (especially if you have Venus in the image).

This comes into the software section. There are several pieces of free software you will benefit from.
1) Registax
- This program will take several versions of the same image (or movie) and combine them together to form a brighter, more correct version of what you intended for. The interface is sub par, but it gets the job done very well.
2) RegiStar
- This program will take several images taken from various sectors of space and group them together into one image. Sort of like merging together a panoramic view.

Another thing you might want to check out is Cloudy Night's Website. They have a ton of articles and people devoted to astrology and photography. You can get a lot of equipment tips and techniques from these pros. Some of them are a bit heavy on the hobby and have spent tens of thousands of dollars on equipment. Just ignore those people =P The best thing to do is look for people that have your level of equipment and see their results. It'll help give you a level of expectation with your setup.

Jumping into night city photography, your best and only required friend will be a standard camera tripod. As with exposure and the stars, always take several versions of the city and group them together if you want to get a "flat" lighting scheme. Use a single high exposure if you want to let the light "take over" your image and give it a sort of emersion; much like Tom's 3rd shot.

To check out some of the amateurish things I've done, here are my astrophotos.

Most of all, never forget to have fun! Comets can leave amazing trails to pick up or meteor showers can leave a cool hard-rain effect with long exposures. Never miss out on those events =)
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Old Sep 17, 2004, 8:46 PM   #10
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Greeitngs, Ghost;

I like your moon shots. Good magnification and detail. Do you mind my asking what your settings were for some of these shots. I gather you are using a telescope... are you using a tracking drive? (or whatever it's called - forgive my ignorance)

My maximum zoom, using a telephoto converter, but not the digital zoom is 17x. My digital zoom would increase that by 3x, but I really don't like to use it. I've checked out some scopes and attachments, but right now I find the overall cost to be too much for my budget. A local optics store offered me an "entry level" Kowa scope and lens, for about $1200 CDN. The adaptor to merge this setup to my camera would be an extra $150. Way out of my league for the time being.

Apart from the scale of the shots, though, I find the biggest difference between your shots and mine is the colour tone. Yours are a delicate silver, while mine (often)have more of a yellow tinge. Do you suppose this is a product of the white balance?

Thanks for responding to this thread.

Regards,

Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada
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