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Night Photography From Light Aircraft  
User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Posted (6 years 10 months 2 weeks 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 6938 times:

I guess it's one of the biggest challenges out there: bouncing around in a small aircraft (at the controls), and trying to take pictures of far objects on the ground in the dark. The biggest challenge I have had was to take a focused picture of runway lights in pitch black on final.

Last Sunday, me and my gf were flying at dusk (around end of twilight, after sunset), when the memory card in my gf's camera, which I considered one of the slowest and laggiest point&shoot I ever saw, became full. At that point we switched to my pricier and far more precious in my opinion Sony DSC-W5, which is also a point&shoot 5Mp from 3 years back.

Well surprise surprise, my camera performed far worse than my gf's casio and couldn't handle [censored], eventhough I didn't have the time to try it myself whcih I'm sure would have been more fair. Both cameras are in the same family, although mine is slightly pricier. Here's a difference:


My gf's casio:
http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y267/tonikaram/CIMG0263-sm.jpg?t=1190221238

Around the same time, switching cameras, my sony, with its typical less lively and "colder" colours:
http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y267/tonikaram/DSC02794-sm.jpg?t=1190222062

The difference in pictures may not be obvious but I have a dozen like the first above and a dozen like the second and the difference is striking.
I loved my camera till now, and found it awesome. Here's what it can do at night with the right settings (still pictures though):
http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y267/tonikaram/DSC02633.jpg?t=1190221743

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y267/tonikaram/DSC02636.jpg?t=1190221744


However, when I ask for photography from an aircraft in the dark, my question is, am I in SLR territory? Is it over, I need to buy a Canon 350 (or Nikon's equivalent), or is there a more compact alternative?

With all the gear one needs to carry to fly, the last thing one needs is to worry about precious photographic equipment. I love the fact that I never really cared for my Sony, it's rugged and old, and has seemlessly taken the most amazing pictures till now.


Kay

9 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinePhotopilot From Canada, joined Jul 2002, 2719 posts, RR: 18
Reply 1, posted (6 years 10 months 2 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 6882 times:

Quoting Kay (Thread starter):
I guess it's one of the biggest challenges out there: bouncing around in a small aircraft (at the controls), and trying to take pictures of far objects on the ground in the dark. The biggest challenge I have had was to take a focused picture of runway lights in pitch black on final.

I'm sorry, but the scenario you describe, especially taking photos yourself while on FINAL in the DARK is without doubt a sign of very poor Airmanship and judgement. Your responsibility is to fly the aircraft, not dicker around with camera equipment.

It doesn't really matter what camera you use. If you keep this up, your flying and photography career will very quickly become self-limiting against an imoveable object.


User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 2, posted (6 years 10 months 2 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 6873 times:

Quoting Photopilot (Reply 1):
I'm sorry, but the scenario you describe, especially taking photos yourself while on FINAL in the DARK is without doubt a sign of very poor Airmanship and judgement

Thanks. Actually you are right, and it's a poorly written post in reality. In the last 10 or 15 hours of flying my g/f who has a thing for photography made all the pictures that made my flights so memorable today.
I have so many pictures of flying taken by my g/f that I forgot that my hands are tied and haven't taken a single click for years in an airplane! I couldn't manage to even hold the camera since my eyes are going to stay where they should be, and that's between outside and the cockpit.
Don't even know why I wrote it like that really. I did let go of the controls on final and grab a camera once, but that was during my night training and with my instructor who took over. In reality such a scenario isn't even possible. With 90 hours of flying I couldn't let go of the controls on final even during the day, or anytime in a flight for more than 2 seconds. When I picture that night scene in my mind, I do imagine it the way I described it. Except for the bloody instructor.

So again, apologies and you are right to react like that. As I said in that same first post, couldn't try my own camera myself on this flight exactly for this reason.


Now, that being said, did you have a thought on the question at hand, or?

Kay


User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 3, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 6760 times:

Can anyone help?  Smile

Is there an SLR that is more suited to night photography (in a bumpy plane) than another? For example, I suspect both the Canon EOS 400D and the Nikon D80 are perfectly capable of handling this task, equally?

Thanks
Kay


User currently offlineOly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6688 posts, RR: 11
Reply 4, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 6737 times:

Quoting Kay (Reply 3):
Is there an SLR that is more suited to night photography (in a bumpy plane) than another? For example, I suspect both the Canon EOS 400D and the Nikon D80 are perfectly capable of handling this task, equally?

At night/low light you'll have problems whatever the camera if you're expecting to get any good photos of the landscape. Any aerial night photos on this site focus on a part of the aircraft (wing, cockpit) and let the outside world be blurred/streaked.


View Large View Medium
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Photo © Florian Trojer - AirTeamImages




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Photo © Joe Corrigan




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Photo © Javier Guerrero - AirTeamImages




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Photo © Javier Guerrero - AirTeamImages




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Photo © Adam Wright




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Photo © Óscar Laborda Sánchez - Iberian Spotters



A DSLR is probably better than any point and shoot because of the better options for setting the exposure as well as the better optics and bigger CCD.

For long exposures I'm not sure that image stabilisers are any use - or even work. Those with such lenses could comment.



wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 6724 times:

Quoting Oly720man (Reply 4):
At night/low light you'll have problems whatever the camera if you're expecting to get any good photos of the landscape.

Thanks for this insight! Does that mean one can't take aerial pictures of landscape at night? I would have never guessed.

Quoting Oly720man (Reply 4):
A DSLR is probably better than any point and shoot because of the better options for setting the exposure as well as the better optics and bigger CCD.
For long exposures I'm not sure that image stabilisers are any use - or even work. Those with such lenses could comment.

Yes but there isn't much use to long exposure when you're passing over a landscape, it has to be a quick snot, at shutter speeds of daylight.

Is the same true for non digital cameras? Using films that are ISO 1600 for example?

Kay


User currently offlineOly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6688 posts, RR: 11
Reply 6, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 6717 times:

Quoting Kay (Reply 5):
Does that mean one can't take aerial pictures of landscape at night?

Yes, but the exposure will depend on available light and if the only illumination is street and building lights then the available light is low and exposures need to be long.

For short exposures (if possible) you'll need a high ISO. The first photo in my previous post was at 2500ISO and all the lights are streaked. The exposure was at least a couple of seconds.

Unfortunately cameras are not like eyes (where perception of the amount of light can be deceptive) so what you see can't be saved to camera in a short exposure.

3 minutes for this one.


View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Fabio Laranjeira - Contato Radar




wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently offlineKay From France, joined Mar 2002, 1884 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 6679 times:

Quoting Oly720man (Reply 6):
if the only illumination is street and building lights then the available light is low and exposures need to be long.
For short exposures (if possible) you'll need a high ISO. The first photo in my previous post was at 2500ISO and all the lights are streaked. The exposure was at least a couple of seconds.

Oly720man, here are some aerial night pics I found on the internet:

http://www.mccullagh.org/db9/1ds-3/baltimore-inner-harbor-night.jpg
http://www.mccullagh.org/db9/1ds-3/bwi-airport-night.jpg
For the two above pictures:
Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds
Lens: Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM
Source: http://www.mccullagh.org/photo/1ds-3/baltimore-inner-harbor-night


Notes from photographer for above picture: Finally I was able to shoot a reasonable picture of a city at night from the airplane. I used a very fast fixed 50mm 1.7F lens and put the camera sensitivity at 3200 ISO. The shutterspeed under these conditions was only 1/30 sec so I still needed to keep the camera very still. Result is good but the original 6 megapixel file contains a lot of noise caused by the 3200 ISO setting. This 460 pixel image looks good though.
Source: http://windowseat.nl/?p=30


Above picture: professional company, uses a vibration reduction lens and an externally mounted KS-8 Gyro Stabilizer.
Source: http://www.aerialexposures.com/

And other pictures:



I'm glad to see that the Canon 1Ds is capable of taking such beautiful photographs (first two above).
Looks like the Canon EOS 400D can't handle a higher ISO than 1600, whereas the Nikon D80 can (with "boost" whatever that is).

Therefore, my conclusion is that, with the right equipment, it may be possible..! (although I see only fixed 50mm lens here, probably to get the gigantic aperture).


Kay


User currently offlineOly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6688 posts, RR: 11
Reply 8, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 9 hours ago) and read 6661 times:

Quoting Kay (Reply 7):
Therefore, my conclusion is that, with the right equipment, it may be possible..!

Yep, wide aperture and high ISO... and enough light sources. On the airport photo the high intensity lights give enough light for a short exposure, but the rest of the airport is dark.



wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently offlineTRVYYZ From Canada, joined Oct 2004, 1369 posts, RR: 10
Reply 9, posted (6 years 10 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 6640 times:

It seems kodak is still working on it.
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_zdext/is_200706/ai_n19425625

I am quite sure that you wont get a still shot from a moving aircraft at night with the usual "A.netter's" cameras like 350/400D etc. Unless you are ok a with a grainy picture at ISO1600 and also a low F number lens would help. You can get a decent thumbnail or 500x300 but I highly doubt a decent full size, even with neat image.
It is not impossible as seen from your samples above.


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