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Best Settings For Night Shooting  
User currently offlineevall95 From Australia, joined Aug 2011, 306 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 5802 times:

Hi all. I will be going out tonight on an approach spot and I was wondering what settings I should be using to shoot at night? Thanks  

16 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlinedazbo5 From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 2877 posts, RR: 2
Reply 1, posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 5760 times:

That's impossible to answer reallt as it depends how much (or little) light is available at the time. If aircraft are moving, you'll have to increase the ISO and/or open the aperture to get an acceptable shutter speed, but it's still going to be a slow one so panning technique will need to be spot on. If aircraft are static, a tripod is the way to go.

Darren



Equipment: 2x Canon EOS 50D; Sigma 10-20 EX DC HSM, 50-500 EX APO DG, Canon 24-105 f/4 L, Speedlite 430EX
User currently offlineCaptainKramer From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2012, 225 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 5 months 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 5729 times:

Hi evall95,

Shooting in daylight can be a challenge at the best of times, night shooting is a whole new ball game. I have shot all day and transitioned through dusk into night with largely dissapointing results for the night shots with my first attempts at hand held, so a tripod is a must if you dont already have one. A big piece of quality glass on the front with a low fstop number will also help, along with a steady hand and a bit of luck.

As dazbo said, in the end it's becomes a balancing act. As it gets darker you will notice your shots become softer or blurred, so increase the ASA rating which will help reduce these artifacts, down side this will increase the noise in the shot, so editing the photos in post will also need to be factored in for decent results. ASA settings at dusk can range from 400 up to 6400 depending on the cameras capabilities and the amount of available light, the higher the number the noisier the shot.

Having said that I remember seeing a night shot, taken from a Jetstar A330, showing a view of the wing and above it the Milky Way Galaxy in all it's glory. If I recall correctly the ASA was set at 6400 with a time exposure of 5 seconds I don't know if any post editing was required, but it was the most breathtaking aviation night shot I have ever seen, period.

Also experiment with your settings on your camera to see what works best for you. When I shot at night I used aperture priority to begin with, setting the fstop to wide open, which allowed me to shoot at a lower ASA. Took some shots checked the results. Of course shooting wide open will show up any short comings in your lens optical performance so beware, but the dark is also good at largely hiding those impefections. If blur or focus is still an issue increase your ASA to a point where blur is virtually eliminated, at this point you can rely on editing in post to sharpen and reduce noise.

Night shots of aircraft involve high contrast situations, i.e. bright landing lights and dark aircraft. Shooting at dusk with a hint of dull blue light still in the sky, will help reveal the aircraft in silouette, preventing the shot from being nothing more than bright lights hanging in a black sky. Shoot the aircraft from three quarter front or side, both will work, especially if the aircrafts tail logo is lit up.

There are other things you can do to help increase your chances of success. Shoooting on a clear night or with a few clouds and a full moon helps provide some extra light. Even shooting in overcast weather can provide you with some added fill light as often the city or street lights bounce of the clouds. The lower the clouds the better, which can also provide you with some dramatic shafts of light as the landing lights pierce the clouds, UFO style, or if your lucky you can get a strobe flash which helps light the clouds as well, but with this timing is everything.

I have not attempted night time panning shots of aircraft at takeoff or landing so others may be of assistance.

The other fun thing to attempt is long time exposures which give you streaks of light in the night sky and this will definitely require a tripod although I have used a sturdy tree or a lamp post in the right spot and rested my camera and lens against it. With a wide angle attached, set your camera to shutter priority of 12 seconds or so, you can go longer just experiment and an ASA of 100 will be more than enough. As the aircraft is about to enter shot hit the shutter, but dont hold it as the shutter will stay open on it's own. Also if you can try and frame a street with traffic as this will help create streaks of light in the horizontal in addition to the plane lights streaking diagonally. Done right the results can be very satisfying.

Lastly, I recommend if you use a UV filter to protect the lens, that you remove it for night shoots as I have found from certain angles strange green lens flares shooting out of the navigation and landing lights that can ruin the shot.

In the end a bit of luck and some preperation will go along way to getting that one shot, where you are able to think that was worth all the effort. Good luck.

regards CaptainKramer

[Edited 2012-02-22 04:12:27]

[Edited 2012-02-22 04:13:36]

User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9763 posts, RR: 27
Reply 3, posted (2 years 5 months 19 hours ago) and read 5668 times:
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Quoting evall95 (Thread starter):

Not too much to add to what was said, but be very aware of underexposing at night. With a dark shot at a high ISO, if you have to brighten it in post, it can/will be incredibly noisy.

It took me quite awhile to pick up on the fact that I had to bump the ISO, open the aperture, and/or decrease the shutter speed LONG before I had been.

Quoting CaptainKramer (Reply 2):
Having said that I remember seeing a night shot, taken from a Jetstar A330, showing a view of the wing and above it the Milky Way Galaxy in all it's glory. If I recall correctly the ASA was set at 6400 with a time exposure of 5 seconds I don't know if any post editing was required, but it was the most breathtaking aviation night shot I have ever seen, period.

That one is worth another look!


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Photo © Kavin Kowsari - AirTeamImages




"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineCaptainKramer From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2012, 225 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (2 years 5 months 18 hours ago) and read 5655 times:

Thanks vikkyvik for tracking that photo down, a picture is still worth a thousand words! No need to be an astronaut and wow 12000 plus ASA/ISO setting and look at the results.

I just want to add for time lapse shots I recommend using manual focus as this will prevent the focus servo from searching back and forth as different objects pass in front of the lens, especially foreground road traffic on the ground if it is in the frame or high intensity light. The servo judder will guarantee a blurred shot.

Also when I tried to shoot time lapse shots towards the twilight after the sun had set I found that in shutter priority the camera would stop down i.e. use a higher fstop number which would then reveal all the nasty dust particles taking up residence on my CMOS sensor. So a sensor clean is in order for these type of shots.

For longer lens shots also set the focus to manual as well, by using your eye to judge sharpness of focus.

I have had some servo focus issues with both my wide angle 17-85mm F4 lens which I used for time lapse shots and my zoom lens while shooting both day and dusk, so maybe a good service is in order.

Regards CaptainKramer

[Edited 2012-02-22 12:10:44]

User currently offlinestevemchey From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 365 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (2 years 5 months 18 hours ago) and read 5642 times:

Quoting CaptainKramer (Reply 4):
Also when I tried to shoot time lapse shots towards the twilight after the sun had set I found that in shutter priority the camera would stop down i.e. use a higher fstop number which would then reveal all the nasty dust particles taking up residence on my CMOS sensor. So a sensor clean is in order for these type of shots.

Hmm, that's very interesting and I have a hard time understanding your camera's behavior. When you shoot in shutter priority, the darker it gets, the further the camera opens the aperture to compensate for the light loss. And the larger the aperture (i.e. lower f-stop number), the less likely you are to see dust spots.


User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9763 posts, RR: 27
Reply 6, posted (2 years 5 months 18 hours ago) and read 5641 times:
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Quoting CaptainKramer (Reply 4):
I just want to add for time lapse shots I recommend using manual focus as this will prevent the focus servo from searching back and forth as different objects pass in front of the lens, especially foreground road traffic on the ground if it is in the frame or high intensity light. The servo judder will guarantee a blurred shot.

I've never had that issue - my impression was that the focus remains constant during an exposure. I've certainly never heard/saw the camera/lens trying to focus during an exposure.

Quoting CaptainKramer (Reply 4):

Also when I tried to shoot time lapse shots towards the twilight after the sun had set I found that in shutter priority the camera would stop down i.e. use a higher fstop number which would then reveal all the nasty dust particles taking up residence on my CMOS sensor. So a sensor clean is in order for these type of shots.

Although I don't use shutter priority, I've generally found that toward dusk, full manual mode becomes a necessity. Set on aperture priority, my camera will consistently underexpose by quite a bit as it gets darker out. So I keep having to bump exposure compensation, and may as well shoot manual.

Then again, I've recently started using manual mode at all times anyway.

To the OP: some more info about what kind of shots you're after would be helpful (maybe use examples from the database to illustrate).



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlinestevemchey From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 365 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (2 years 5 months 18 hours ago) and read 5634 times:

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 6):
I've never had that issue - my impression was that the focus remains constant during an exposure. I've certainly never heard/saw the camera/lens trying to focus during an exposure.

Vik, you are absolutely right, the focus does remain constant during an exposure. I think what Frank was referring to was a multi-exposure time-lapse that can be stacked to a single image later on or used in a time-lapse video. In that case, you could have varying focus between exposures, which ruins any stacking later.


User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9763 posts, RR: 27
Reply 8, posted (2 years 5 months 17 hours ago) and read 5630 times:
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Quoting stevemchey (Reply 7):
Vik, you are absolutely right, the focus does remain constant during an exposure. I think what Frank was referring to was a multi-exposure time-lapse that can be stacked to a single image later on or used in a time-lapse video. In that case, you could have varying focus between exposures, which ruins any stacking later.

Ah, gotcha. I do use manual focus for multiple-exposure time lapses for precisely that reason.

Actually, to be specific, what I usually do is press the shutter button halfway while in AF, to focus on whatever I want to focus on, and then while holding the button, switch it to manual focus.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineCaptainKramer From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2012, 225 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (2 years 5 months 15 hours ago) and read 5604 times:

Hi stevemchey,

This was my experience with my Canon 60D and Canon EFS 17-85mm lens. I had just bought a new tripod so I was keen to take some night shots. I had been shooting at Heathrow all day, first at Runway 27R then 27L after 3pm. My original intention was to wait till it was completley dark before shooting my time lapse shots.

After the sun had set a beautiful cobalt blue sky was left behind with wispy clouds and it then occurred to me, why not try get the navigation light streaks using time lapse with light still in the sky. So I set the camera to shutter priority using an exposure interval of what I remember being 12 seconds, pointed at the sky, which was still quite bright and fired the shutter as a plane flew overhead. (B777 is very good aircraft for getting good light streaks with it's white wingtip lights!) I was really happy with the results, nice light in the sky, aircraft light streaks were good, wispy clouds even more wispy, but because of the relatively bright sky the camera stopped down. I checked the metadata : shutter was 5 and fstop 22, which unfortunately helped show up all the sensors dust spots. I should of tried this shot when the camera was new!

vikkyvik,

My camera and lens have a quirk that needs looking into. I was shooting with a Canon 200mm F2.8 prime all day with no focus problems. A truck drove past as I was firing of a series of shots and it snapped the focus from far to close, the camera or lens spat the dummy, after that my shots weren't as crisp, slightly soft. This more so with my Canon EFS 70-200mm F4. I shoot single frame mode and servo focus mode, which I believe is recommended for fast moving subjects.

vikkyvik,

For the time lapse shot I framed the A30, a busy road that passes next to Runway 27L at the bottom of frame and the fading sky light in top of frame for aircraft to pass through. I think the servo focus was trying to focus on something; the only object in that region was a lamp post which was very narrow so it was struggled back and forth. I just gave up and set it to manual it got the job done, but I will try fiirng of the shutter in auto focus as you suggest and see what the results are like with my lens.

regards CapKramer

[Edited 2012-02-22 15:37:33]

User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9763 posts, RR: 27
Reply 10, posted (2 years 5 months 14 hours ago) and read 5584 times:
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Quoting CaptainKramer (Reply 9):
I was really happy with the results, nice light in the sky, aircraft light streaks were good, wispy clouds even more wispy, but because of the relatively bright sky the camera stopped down. I checked the metadata : shutter was 5 and fstop 22, which unfortunately helped show up all the sensors dust spots. I should of tried this shot when the camera was new!

At what ISO? Often with long exposures when the sky is still light, I'll have to switch down to ISO 100 or so to keep the image from blowing out, and keep the aperture below 13 or so (which will show up enough dust spots!).

Just for an example, this was a 777 shot at 10 seconds, F8, and ISO100:

http://www.vksphoto.com/Airplanes/By...e/i-82WhvrJ/0/XL/IMG9377-AF-XL.jpg

Quoting CaptainKramer (Reply 9):
I shoot single frame mode and servo focus mode, which I believe is recommended for fast moving subjects.

I usually use multiple frame mode (burst mode? it's not much of a burst on my camera). For focus, I'll usually use servo if I'm shooting airplanes with no possible obstructions. But if there are possible obstructions, then regular AF mode, for the exact reason you said.

Quoting CaptainKramer (Reply 9):
I think the servo focus was trying to focus on something; the only object in that region was a lamp post which was very narrow so it was struggled back and forth. I just gave up and set it to manual it got the job done, but I will try fiirng of the shutter in auto focus as you suggest and see what the results are like with my lens.

Yes, that's definitely a possibility - that there's nothing bright enough for the AF to focus with. I usually end up using lights (lamppost, house lights, approach lights), and I pick them based on approximately how far away I want the camera to focus (that's what I did for the above-linked shot: focused on one of the approach light bars).



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineCaptainKramer From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2012, 225 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (2 years 5 months 5 hours ago) and read 5527 times:

vikkyvik,

Nice shot by the way. I used an ISO of 100. Unlike yours which is a true night shot, I wanted to see if the same approach would work at sunset. I took my shot after the sun had just dipped below the horizon, so it was quite bright. I kept taking the shot as the sky darkenend the fstop came down and the dust spots dissapeared. I'm still not compleletly up to speed on editing in Photoshop Elements 8, hence the work around in fact I don't even know if you can do dust removal in PSE8. Must read manual.

Next time I will try using manual mode and set the fstop that works best to avoid dustspots, while maybe having to push the fstop instead of pulling it because of the stop down.

Regards CapKramer


User currently offlineevall95 From Australia, joined Aug 2011, 306 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 5 months 2 hours ago) and read 5485 times:

Thanks for that guys. I've got a rough picture of how to shoot at night. most of you guys said that you would recommend a tripod. well I do not own a tripod. what would be the best tripod fir this or any aviation photography in general? keep in mind I am only 16 so i am not the richest guy and I will not be using all the time but I would like something that is durable and will not break.

User currently offline777LR From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 58 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (2 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 5192 times:

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 10):
that there's nothing bright enough for the AF to focus with. I usually end up using lights (lamppost, house lights, approach lights), and I pick them based on approximately how far away I want the camera to focus (that's what I did for the above-linked shot: focused on one of the approach light bars).

So do you mean that when taking night shots of light streaks like the example you posted above, you should first focus on something that has light, then recompose and press the shutter when the aircraft is about to approach? Sometimes, I try focusing on the night sky and my camera (Rebel XS) has a hard time doing so.

Also, I'm still not sure whether to us MF or AF for night shots. Is there a better option for shots like the example you posted above?

I just want to make sure that the methods I'm using for night shots is what's accepted for others.

Just a follow up question: Most people talk about how the camera's stabilizer should be turned off when using a tripod. Do you have to turn of IS in this situation (trying to shoot light streaks) and when the aircraft is still (taking a night shot when an aircraft isn't moving)?

Don't know if you know the answer to this, but I also record videos of airplanes, the manual says to turn off the camcorder's image stabilizer when using a tripod. Is it only talking about situations where you're not moving the tripod? When recording videos of aircraft, you're pretty much obliged to pan and tilt the tripod. I find image stabilizer necessary in those situations, but I'm skeptical about keeping it on because the manual says not to.

Thanks,
Kevin

[Edited 2012-02-26 20:21:47]

User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9763 posts, RR: 27
Reply 14, posted (2 years 4 months 3 weeks 5 days 10 hours ago) and read 5186 times:
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Quoting 777LR (Reply 13):
So do you mean that when taking night shots of light streaks like the example you posted above, you should first focus on something that has light, then recompose and press the shutter when the aircraft is about to approach? Sometimes, I try focusing on the night sky and my camera (Rebel XS) has a hard time doing so.

Basically. It goes like this:

1.) Set the lens at whatever focal length I want to use.
2.) Set the lens to autofocus, and press the shutter halfway to focus on something that is approximately how far away I want the camera to focus. For light trails, I generally use a narrow aperture (The shot that I posted was at F8; that's actually wider than I usually use, which is F11-F14 or so). Narrow aperture gives me greater depth-of-field (to keep the light trails in focus), and makes bright lights have the star effect instead of looking like giant blobs of light.
3.) While I'm still holding the shutter button halfway (so the camera is holding focus), switch the lens to manual focus, and release the shutter button.
4.) Compose appropriately.
5.) Take the shot (and however many others I want to take with the same composition and focus).

When I want to recompose (either different zoom or different angle or whatever), I'll usually run through the process again. Only takes a couple seconds.

The night sky is very hard to autofocus on. I do focus on the moon every now and then, as it's typically bright enough.

Quoting 777LR (Reply 13):
Also, I'm still not sure whether to us MF or AF for night shots. Is there a better option for shots like the example you posted above?

The above method is what I use. I use it because I'm not particularly good at focusing by eye.

Quoting 777LR (Reply 13):
I just want to make sure that the methods I'm using for night shots is what's accepted for others.

Use whatever works for you! I remember reading about the AF-to-MF switch method, but I don't think it was described as pertaining to aircraft light trails. But I use it for light trails and nighttime landscapes.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offline777LR From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 58 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (2 years 4 months 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 5114 times:

Thanks Vik!

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 14):
focus on something that is approximately how far away I want the camera to focus.

Can you clarify on that sentence?

It makes a lot more sense now.


User currently offlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9763 posts, RR: 27
Reply 16, posted (2 years 4 months 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 5096 times:
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Quoting 777LR (Reply 15):
Can you clarify on that sentence?

Sure. I drew some stuff on the previously posted photo to illustrate:



So let's say I want the focal plane to be approximately where the red rectangle crosses the light trails. This is based on my chosen aperture, focal length, and where the lighttrails start and end (i.e. how much distance I need to be in focus).

(Note that for this photo, shot at 18mm and F8 on a Rebel XS, it's a largely unnecessary exercise, as any subject farther than about 10 feet away will have practically everything to infinity in focus. But if I'm zoomed in more, it matters more.)

Anyway, so given that there's nothing to focus on in the sky at my desired focal plane, I'll decide to use the 1000-foot approach light bar (circled in yellow) as a focusing object, since it's about the same distance away.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
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