Night Photography - Paint with Light

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autzig
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Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby autzig » Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:47 pm

I've been doing some nighttime photography of late. Below are two images from the exact same location. Both were made a little after 10:30 (an hour and a half after sunset) when there was still a little light in the sky. (I love the long days we have in Minnesota during the summer.)

The first image is a straight up shot with a 20 second exposure with a focal length of 24mm.

Image

In the second shot, everything was exactly the same except that I used the "Paint with Light" technique. I used a powerful LED flashlight to light up the rocks in the foreground. Because the light from the flashlight has the appearance of daylight and the ambient light is blue, I used Photoshop and added a blue photo filter to the foreground to make it appear more natural.

Image

The first photo is pretty boring but I think the second looks pretty good, with the lighted foreground, the orange color in the sky (courtesy of the big fires in the west) and a few stars in the sky.

I've gotten hooked on nighttime photography and thought I would share it here with my friends at SOV and I'd appreciate any comments.

PS: I really don't like the quality of these photos after uploading. They look much better in higher resolution.

Thanks

Al


abby
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby abby » Tue Jul 17, 2012 11:25 am

I like the second image very much Al. I think you lightened up the rocks nicely with the flashlight and it makes for a very pleasing image.
I was supposed to attend a light painting/star trails workshop in Sugar Hill NH last month with my camera club, but sigh, I did not make it due to my father being hospitalized. I was very disappointed that I could not attend. I am very interested in learning about this. Thanks for sharing.
Carol

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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby Andy » Tue Jul 17, 2012 12:00 pm

Cool image, Al. I guess I should read your comments literally and not ask this stupid question, but here goes :mrgreen: : Was the second shot also 20 seconds? How do you know how long to "paint" with the light? Did you move the light around, or was it stationary?
Andy

If it sounds too good to be true, its probably . . . .

autzig
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby autzig » Tue Jul 17, 2012 3:56 pm

Both shots were exactly the same exposure - 20 seconds, f-8, ISO 1600. I experimented with the "Paint with Light" technique. Mostly though, I tried to keep the light even, going back and forth. I started near the water's edge and gradually moved out farther.

I posted both photos as an illustration of what can be accomplished with artificial light at night...kind of a before and after.

I also learned a lot about shooting star trails. It never occurred to me that you can blow out highlights in the sky when the only source of light is starlight. I've developed some recommended settings for photographing star trails. These settings assume a dark sky and an ISO setting of 200. To get long enough star trails, you really need an exposure of 60 minutes or more. At 60 minutes, use f-8, 80 minutes f-9, 100 minutes, f-10, 120 minutes, f-11, 140 minutes, f-13, 160 minutes, f-14 and 180 minutes f-16. Note that at from 60 - 120 minutes the amount of light increased by one stop, so you need to change the aperture by one stop. At 180 minutes, there is a 2 stop increase in light so you decrease the aperture by 2 stops.

Interesting, the things that can happen in the sky in the middle of the night. I was standing in a state park on the shore of Lake Mille Lacs. (That's a very large lake, 23 miles across at its widest point.) I was by myself in total darkness making a one hour star trail exposure. During that time I saw a meteor, an airplane that thankfully didn't pass through my photo and I was scared half to death by an insect.

Here's what happened. I was walking back and forth along the water's edge as I waited for my one hour shot. As I looked down the shore, I saw a light flash on and off. It looked to be 100 yards off or so and was approaching rapidly. I thought someone was holding a light and running along the shore. Suddenly the light appeared right in front of me. It turned out to be a firefly. In the dark, I misinterpreted the distance because of the small light. As I watched, I thought the firefly would light up right in front of my lens, ruining my photo. Thankfully it didn't.

I am in the final stages of editing my book. I have a chapter in it on nighttime photography and I wanted to do more research. I had read a lot, people had given me tips but I had only done a little night photography myself. I spent two nights in the dark with my camera. The first night I tried the stuff I had read about and thought I knew. The next day, I reviewed the results and did the calculations. The next night, I tested my calculations and, fortunately, they worked.

Next week I am taking one of my grandsons camping along the Missouri River in South Dakota. I will do some more nighttime photography to retest my calculations. If my updated research doesn't require any significant changes to that chapter, I will complete the final edit and should have it on the shelves of e-book stores no later than mid-August.

Al

deaner1971
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby deaner1971 » Wed Jul 18, 2012 7:29 am

Al,

Very cool! If I buy an e-first edition can I get it e-autographed?

If you want to go with a non-e ebook...err, a "book" book...you know what I mean, check out Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. For $99, you can have Print-on-Demand availability so that people can order physical copies.

Here is the link to their Print on Demand service: http://www.northshire.com/printondemand/

Just a though and I look forward to e-reading it!

autzig
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby autzig » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:29 am

I' had the good fortune to be able to do some night photography along the Oregon coast last week. Here is a link to my favorite shot. If only the eye could capture 20 seconds of light at one time. I hope this image encourages the photographers here to try some night shots.


http://goldimagesphoto.com/new/000000xhaystackmilkyway.html

Here's another.

http://goldimagesphoto.com/new/000000zrockmilkyway.html

Al

mmvt
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby mmvt » Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:25 am

Very Cool shots Al!! thanks for sharing them!!
I hope to do some nighttime photography while I'm in VT this year....will be there for the full moon (occurs the first weekend we're there) and then will have the waning moon for the next week so i hope we'll have some good nights to 'play' with nighttime photos.

abby
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby abby » Mon Sep 17, 2012 6:40 pm

Hi Al,
Wonderful pictures!!!! Can I pick your brain for a moment? I have a few questions.
1. If shooting star trails up in the NEK when the full moon is out, would you change any of the recommended settings that you have written above? If so, what would you recommend?
2. On the 2 recent images you just posted, did you do any light painting on the rock or was that natural light?
3. Would you recommend a more intimate view when shooting star trails, rather than say a long view from a mountain/hilltop?
4. I am taking my camera club on an NEK weekend photography tour. You are a little familiar with the area near my house in Barton.......just wondering, is there anywhere near me that you can think of that would be a good place for this type of photography?
5. Will you come with us please? :wink:
Carol

autzig
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby autzig » Mon Sep 17, 2012 8:29 pm

Carol, I'm glad you liked my photos. Here are my responses to your questions:

1. If shooting star trails up in the NEK when the full moon is out, would you change any of the recommended settings that you have written above? If so, what would you recommend?


Below is a chart from my book about shooting star trails. It assumes a dark moonless sky. If you are making a 60 minute exposure you should set your aperture to f-8 and your ISO to 200.

Recommended Camera Settings for Photographing Star Trails

Exposure in Minutes 60 80 100 120 140 160 180
Aperture f-8 f-9 f-10 f-11 f-13 f-14 f-16


But that is with a dark sky. Shooting star trails with a full moon is a difficult task. First a full moon lights up the sky so much that it obscures the stars. Not only that, but your long exposure will increase the amount of light you capture and the sky will get blown out. If you try to shoot star trails I would suggest that you adjust your exposure by at least two stops so you would shoot at f-16 and ISO 200 for an hour. Remember, even though you are shooting in the dark, there is still a lot of light in the sky and with the shutter open for an hour or more you must use low ISO settings and small apertures. By the way, use Daylight or Auto White Balance.

With a full moon, I would be more inclined to shoot "after dark" landscapes using relatively short shutter speeds of 10 - 20 seconds. At that shutter speed, you can make lots of test photos until you get the right exposure. Remember the "Rule of 600" which holds that for your images to have sharp stars and not tiny star trails, the focal length of the lens multiplied by the shutter speed must not exceed 600. So, if you are using a 50mm lens, your shutter speed should not exceed 12 seconds. That's why you should use a wide angle lens. With a 24mm lens, you can make a 24 second exposure. To capture a star filled sky, you will need to set your ISO fairly high, 1600 or better; whatever your camera will allow before introducing unacceptable noise levels. You will also want to set your aperture to nearly wide open. With an f-2.8 lens, I'd shoot at f-4. Make a bunch of test photos and see what you like. Of course it goes without saying that you should use a tripod and shutter release cable. You should also use the mirror lock-up feature of your camera to avoid shutter vibrations. Alternatively, use the "live view" feature of your camera. During the "live view" your mirror is locked up, so vibration isn't an issue, although it does use a lot of your battery power, so have backup batteries.

2. On the 2 recent images you just posted, did you do any light painting on the rock or was that natural light?


I did not use any light painting on those photos although the light wasn't all natural. There was a dumb street light a couple hundred yards away but it added undesired light. Oh, how I wanted that light gone!

3. Would you recommend a more intimate view when shooting star trails, rather than say a long view from a mountain/hilltop?


If you look in my "After Dark" portfolio, you will see a star trail photo I made with trees in the foreground. While I think they give some perspective to the photo and the photo is better than a photo of the sky alone. Also remember that when shooting star trails, your shutter will be open for a long time. If you have any breeze, the foreground will be blurry as it is in my star trail photo. That problem is minimized when shooting star trails from the long view. Of course, if you can find a nice rock formation, the wind is a non-issue. One other thing, notice how the star trails in my Cannon Beach photo lead the eye right to Haystack Rock. You can use the trails to direct the viewer's eye to your subject. I wasn't trying to do that in that shot, but I learned something for future use.

4. I am taking my camera club on an NEK weekend photography tour. You are a little familiar with the area near my house in Barton.......just wondering, is there anywhere near me that you can think of that would be a good place for this type of photography?


If you have a calm night with no wind, I'd shoot from one of those ponds. You will get star trail reflections in the water and that is pretty cool. The big problem is light. If you are close to the road, car lights will ruin your star trail photo. When I was trying to make a star trail photo at Cannon Beach, I had a cop drive out on the beach. He was probably looking for drunk kids or something but he ruined my shot. The headlights were bright and the red taillights were worse. So find a place where you won't have any headlights, where nobody is going to turn on a yard light or some other such light source. The best recommendation I can give is to find a place that will be dark and you won't have any risk of stray light ruining your photo. As much as I love Vermont, I have yet to find a place that is in the middle of nowhere. That's where you need be to shoot star trails.

5. Will you come with us please?


I would love to come but it just won't work for me.

To find areas free from light pollution, visit the website: http://www.jshine.net/astronomy/dark_sky/ or http://www.darksky.org/DSDestinations. These sites use Google maps and visually display the extent of light pollution anywhere. Unfortunately, Vermont doesn't have any area free of light pollution.

How about bringing your camera club to Minnesota and I'll show you where we can photograph the night sky along Lake Superior? We can find really dark skies there.

I hope my comments have been helpful to you. If you have more questions, please let me know, and please share your final results with me.

Al

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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby abby » Fri Sep 21, 2012 1:41 pm

You sure you can't come with us Al? :wink:
Thanks so much for all of the help. It's great information. I have another thought. Seeing as though it is going to be the full moon, I am now thinking about a possible moonbow shot at a waterfall. Hmmmmmm.....Any thoughts on that?
Carol

autzig
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby autzig » Mon Sep 24, 2012 11:33 am

I have another thought. Seeing as though it is going to be the full moon, I am now thinking about a possible moonbow shot at a waterfall. Hmmmmmm.....Any thoughts on that?


By all means, you should try to photograph a moonbow. Remember though, that you need a waterfall will a lot of mist. If you haven't had a lot of rain lately that could be a problem. You also need a waterfall that is facing the right direction. To photograph a moonbow reasonably early at night you should have a south facing waterfall. The moonlight from the east will create a moonbow in the right place on with a south facing waterfall. If your waterfall is facing west, it may not get good moonlight until early morning and who wants to be up at 4:00? The key though is lots of spray from the waterfall.

If you have some waterfall ideas, use the Photographer's Ephemeris to find the direction of the moon light and the time the light will hit the waterfall. If you haven't downloaded the Photographer's Ephemeris yet, now is the time to do so.

Can't wait to see your photos.

Al

abby
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Re: Night Photography - Paint with Light

Postby abby » Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:02 pm

Don't get too exited Al. I will hate to disappoint you. :wink: I don't think I have a waterfall nearby that I could do a moonbow now that I think of it. I do have some ideas for the full moon that I am planning on trying (trying being the key word but even if it's not successful I know it will be a fun learning experience) I'll give it my best shot (pun intended). :lol:
Thanks so much for the help and encouragement.
Carol



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