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Old 12-23-2014, 04:21 AM   #1
jfman OP
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Night photography: tips for setting focus manually

Hey guy i am starting to mess with night photography with my rebel 2ti dslr. I am having trounle finding focus because the sight and lcd dont show anything prior to the photo being taken. So I do trial and error until its about right. Is there a better way?

Auto gocus is useless btw... Unles i have a light source in the frame.
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Old 12-23-2014, 05:17 AM   #2
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Shine a flashlight on the subject and then focus?
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Old 12-24-2014, 09:12 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfman View Post
Hey guy i am starting to mess with night photography with my rebel 2ti dslr. I am having trounle finding focus because the sight and lcd dont show anything prior to the photo being taken. So I do trial and error until its about right. Is there a better way?

Auto gocus is useless btw... Unles i have a light source in the frame.
Does the rebel have a focus assist indicator? When it's really bad that's what I use on my Nikon DSLR's and it has arrows showing which way it's out of focus and then a dot for in focus.

Edit: Looked it up and you do have a manual focus confirmation, there's something that will flash/beep at you but I couldn't find much beyond that so I'd look in the manual or do some more digging in photo forums. I find DGrin (the photo sister forum of ADV) will get you better information, and DPReview's forums will get you answers a lot faster but not as reliable and sometimes random fanboy trolls will show up....think of it like a photo forum with a touch of JoMamma.
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Old 12-24-2014, 09:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jfman View Post
Hey guy i am starting to mess with night photography with my rebel 2ti dslr. I am having trounle finding focus because the sight and lcd dont show anything prior to the photo being taken. So I do trial and error until its about right. Is there a better way?

Auto gocus is useless btw... Unles i have a light source in the frame.
What are you shooting? does it move?

For far away stuff, I just manually do it most of the time w/ as tight an f-stop as I can afford...if it's on a tripod, I set it for depth of field. Just off infinity usually does great. I used to love the flashes that shot out a red LED light to help with near-focus of people. When I don't have that at my disposal, I manually focus alot. particularly if it's people. Definitely hit or miss, so I prefer a flash if people are involved. Take a look at your lens and figure out it's focus range in terms of lock-to-lock twist angle. For my SHG lenses, it's 180 degrees lock-to-lock from infinity to close focus. For my HG lenses, it's a mix of 120 degrees & non-mechanical couplings, which really screws with your ability to guess accurately.

DriveShaft screwed with this post 12-24-2014 at 09:57 AM
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Old 12-24-2014, 12:19 PM   #5
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I am just shooting landscpapes. i think with your tips I got the focus part down.

Now the issue I have is that the pics either have nice skies and dark landscpae or nice lanscapes and white/ugly skies. I have never messed with HDR.

Can I just take a low exposure shot, keep the rest of the settings then raise the exposure and combine them later on?

I dont know how to mess with brackets and stuff.

jfman screwed with this post 05-19-2015 at 08:54 AM
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Old 12-24-2014, 12:26 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by jfman View Post
I am just shooting landscpapes. i think with your tips I got the focus part down.

Now the issue I have is that the pics either have nice skies and dark landscpae or nice lanscapes and white/ugly skies. I have never messed with HDR.

Can I just take a low exposure shit, keep the rest of the settings then raise the exposure and combine them later on?

I dont know how to mess with brackets and stuff.
Brackets is easy once you find the setting. Just set it to the difference you want (I usually do 1 full stop) and shoot it preferably with a remote if you're trying to do an HDR so you don't move the camera at all.

Are you shooting RAW or JPEG? While it can't save everything you can get a lot more detail using RAW and this example is using a few generation old 4/3 sensor (E-620).

Quote:
Originally Posted by NikonsAndVStroms View Post
Here's an example of the highlights that can be saved, first image is a shot I took from my room over in Tel Aviv straight from the camera JPEG, then that with a direct B&W conversion and finally a B&W from a RAW file:



Additionally I've done a color RAW version since then:



(Edit: There are also some distortion corrections I applied in this new version)
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Old 12-24-2014, 01:46 PM   #7
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hyperfocal distance charts are your friend

at every lens zoom distance and aperture there is a focus distance that will put everything between x meters and infinity in focus

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperfocal_distance

and yes, there's an app for that

http://www.dofmaster.com/

if your camera allows manual focus and gives you a distance or scale, you should be able to set it to (for instance)

24mm
f/8
focus at 12.5ft

everything from 6.25 ft to infinity is in focus

It's not magic, just math.
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Old 05-19-2015, 08:56 AM   #8
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Even a blind squirrel can find a nut

I also just noticed that it is much easier to set focus by looking thru the lens rather than relying on the LCD...
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Old 05-19-2015, 09:39 AM   #9
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I also just noticed that it is much easier to set focus by looking thru the lens rather than relying on the LCD...
Really? Usually it's the opposite, you should be able to zoom in to 100% on the LCD and see it a lot clearer than through the rebel's viewfinder which IIRC is a pentamirror so it's smaller/dimmer than one with a prism. The only issue I can think of is if the noise from boosting the signal so much in the dark caused the LCD to suck.
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Old 05-19-2015, 10:18 AM   #10
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Pics look great on the LCD but look grainy in full size.
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Old 05-19-2015, 12:02 PM   #11
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A trick I learned from wxwax is to set the camera to aperture priority and select a small aperture. The camera will stare for half minute or a minute with the shutter open and the result is really sharp and sparkling night shots. Of course, the camera has to be on a tripod and I use a remote shutter trigger.
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Old 05-19-2015, 05:57 PM   #12
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Some cameras when powered on set the focus at infinity as a default during start up. You may want to try that with your night shots.... Low tech but it might work.
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Old 05-19-2015, 08:42 PM   #13
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Landscape mode? My old P+S had that, which I think simply set focus to infinity.

HDR: I don't know about all cameras but with my Nikon, you cannot shoot RAW and HDR at the same time, but you CAN shoot HDR with it - and from experiments with my iPhone, it can help - I think you can set the bracketing the HDR uses as well to assist in the extreme cases.

If you are shooting on a tripod, manual or auto bracket and then combining photos is also workable provided you don't have a lot of movement I suppose.

Are these actually time exposures?
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Old 05-20-2015, 05:53 AM   #14
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Quote:
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A trick I learned from wxwax is to set the camera to aperture priority and select a small aperture. The camera will stare for half minute or a minute with the shutter open and the result is really sharp and sparkling night shots. Of course, the camera has to be on a tripod and I use a remote shutter trigger.
Just a heads up in case you ever forget the trigger or for anyone who doesn't own one. Using the self timer will have the same effect.
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Old 05-20-2015, 05:57 AM   #15
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Pics look great on the LCD but look grainy in full size.
That'll almost always happen with night shots. Even at low iso you'll have shadow noise which is worse on smaller sensors like your rebel. But don't worry too much, noise reduction can take out some or all of it and you notice a lot less noise in prints/web sized images than on your computer monitor.
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