Nighttime Photography/Fireworks Pics

Discussion in 'Photography Board' started by Justplainmk, May 13, 2013.

  1. Justplainmk

    Justplainmk Earning My Ears

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    Alright I figured this would be the best place for my question...

    I have had my rebel t3i for a number of years now, and the pictures I still struggle with our nighttime pictures. Either the flash is blinding or the picture is blurry and unfocused.

    I am going to Disney World in a few weeks and would love some advice on nighttime photos, parade photos, fireworks photos, etc. Settings, angles, sample pictures, anything and everything appreciated!!
     
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  3. mom2rtk

    mom2rtk DIS Veteran

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    What settings have you tried in low light situations and what lenses do you have?

    If there's not enough light getting to the sensor, the camera will compensate by giving you a longer shutter speed in most cases, resulting in blurry shots.

    Do you ever use a tripod?

    If you can't get a fast enough shutter speed to prevent shake, then you need to stabilize the camera for a longer shot (with a tripod or on a solid surface like a trash can or table).

    Are you talking about low light stationary shots or low light moving shots?
     
  4. Gianna'sPapa

    Gianna'sPapa DIS Veteran

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    The key to nighttime photography is equipment. I know you stated you have a T3i, but what lenses do you have (make it easy on us non-Canon users and give the lens specs also), do you own a tripod (one that travels easily if your flying), do you have a remote control, neutral density filter? To some extent these are the tools necessary for nighttime/lowlight photography. Don't expect to get non-flash moving objects with a consumer 18-55 f3.5-5.6 lens. For things like fireworks you will need to stabilize your camera (lens is not as important for these shots) and either use the camera's shutter delay or a remote control. The remote control and a tripod is the preferred method. Trashcans and the like have been used in a pinch, but are not the recommended way. After you review your equipment, then think about the type shots you want to take and then we can make some recommendations. There is a lot of collective knowledge on this forum, however we do need some specifics to make recommendations.
     
  5. havoc315

    havoc315 DIS Veteran

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    Sounds like you are stuck on auto settings, that don't work well in low light.
    Pop-up flashes don't have a great distance. And with a nearby subject, you get a blown out subject while losing the background.
    And without a flash -- if on auto, the shutter speed may slow down too much, causing you motion blur.

    The 2 best pieces of equipment for night time photography are:
    1 -- A tripod. So you can do slow shutter speeds without camera-shake. Also fantastic for fireworks, where you want to 5-10 second exposure. That's simply impossible handheld. But even at 1/10-1/20 of a a second, a tripod is helpful.
    2 -- A faster lens. Not necessary for fireworks. But for other night time pics, a faster lens will let you get adequate light without a flash, and with a faster shutter speed. The "cheap" fast lens is typically the nifty fifty, 50mm/1.8 lens. There are more expensive alternatives.

    Without additional gear, some basics of night time photography:

    Avoid the flash except for nearby stationary subjects. The using the slow sync/rear curtain flash modes. But both the photographer and the subject need to be very stationary. (Again, a tripod helps a lot!)

    When not using the flash, crank up the ISO. Not all cameras will fully crank up the ISO on auto modes. (My camera will go up to 1600 on auto, but can go up to 12800 is set manually). I'd shoot in Shutter priority mode -- Try to get the fastest possible shutter speed with a proper exposure. If the picture is too dark, increase the ISO more. If the action is moving, such as a parade, try to shoot at 1/200 or faster, which may require a very high ISO.

    The best fireworks photos are absolutely taken with tripods. The settings I used were fully manual mode -- ISO of 100, Aperture set to 8- 11, and a shutter speed of 6-8 seconds. (this was on the RX100, on a dSLR, I'd use a smaller aperture and longer shutter speed) .
     
  6. PythonFan888

    PythonFan888 DIS Veteran

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    Just some examples with settings. I shot in RAW with a Nikon D7000.

    Hand-held night parade:
    http://allen-c.smugmug.com/Travel/Allen-Castillo/i-HQHX75G/0/XL/DSC_6770-XL.jpg
    Shutter priority. Lens: 50mm f/1.8.
    f/1.8. 1/250 seconds. ISO 1600. 50mm
    Exposure adjustments and noise reduction in post.

    Buildings at night:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/allen_castillo/8683540216/in/photostream
    Tripod. Remote shutter release. Aperture priority. Lens: Tokina 11-16mm
    f/14. ISO 100. 20 seconds. 11mm
    With a tripod you can do long exposures and keep the ISO down to preserve details and avoid too much noise.

    Fireworks:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/allen_castillo/8056371479/in/set-72157627344397028
    Tripod. Remote shutter release. Neutral density filter. Manual exposure. Bulb mode.
    f/14. ISO 100. 23 seconds. 15mm
     
  7. Pea-n-Me

    Pea-n-Me DIS Veteran

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    Read Understanding Exposure, also.
     
  8. Gianna'sPapa

    Gianna'sPapa DIS Veteran

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    I know these are just examples and are very good recommendations, however I want to clarify that you don't need a (N)eutral (D)ensity filter to get good fireworks shots. If you wish to get the long exposure multiple explosion shots, then yes the ND is required. Due to the long exposures with the ND filter you will get a limited amount of shots. To do it without the ND filter: Tripod, remote shutter release, bulb mode, manual focus (I have found that focusing out to infinity, then back off slightly, f8-f11 (I prefer f11), shutter speed 2-8 seconds, lowest possible camera ISO. Also, I would recommend getting as many shots at the beginning as possible because as the show goes on there is more smoke. The lens you use is totally up to you and not a major factor. I have shot it with consumer lenses and professional lenses. Both came out well. How wide you go, again, is your choice.

    [​IMG]
    Dessert Party FW by Terry McGraw Photography, on Flickr
     
  9. PythonFan888

    PythonFan888 DIS Veteran

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    Agreed. If you can keep your shutter speed low (less than 10 seconds would be an estimate depending on the brightness of the bursts) you should be able to keep the highlights under control.

    Next time were down there I actually plan to shoot fireworks with a couple of lenses that don't accept filters. It should be interesting.

    Also, excellent point on the manual focus settings.

    Nice fireworks shot BTW!
     
  10. NJGuy3

    NJGuy3 "You forgot one very important thing, mate...I'm C

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    Very nice pic!

    Question for both of you...how do you time your fireworks shots to get the proper burst scene? Any tips, tricks, etc that may help would be apreciated! :goodvibes
     
  11. havoc315

    havoc315 DIS Veteran

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    You can simply know the show. Helps to use a remote shutter. But really, unless you know the show, you can't do much planning. You can listen for the sounds of the fireworks being fired.

    Mostly.... I know for my fireworks pictures, I just do 6-8 second exposures, one after the other, non stop until the end of the show. And I walk away with several good shots.


    [​IMG]
    Epcot Illuminations by Havoc315, on Flickr

    [​IMG]
    Epcot fireworks from World Showcase by Havoc315, on Flickr
     
  12. PythonFan888

    PythonFan888 DIS Veteran

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    I think I wrote this on another thread: The Disney fireworks shows are precisely "choreographed" and the burst sequences are fairly easy to time once you're familiar with the shows. Although Illuminations has gone through some changes in the past few years (you can see distinct differences in my shots from 2011-2012-2013) you can still prepare. Watch youtube videos. Familiarize yourself with the music and the changes in the color of the castle and how these are connected to the bursts. Look around these boards and on flickr for fireworks shots taken by others.

    Good luck.
     
  13. mom2rtk

    mom2rtk DIS Veteran

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    I especially love that second shot Havoc!

    I don't know how others do it, but I sort of guess on each shot. I aim for 4-8 seconds per shot. But if some of the bursts have been really bright I go for a shorter length. If they are darker bursts, I go longer. I use a remote shutter release with the camera on bulb mode, so I'm watching next to my camera, but have the remote in my hands and am counting in my head.

    [​IMG]
    IMG_4698-1 by mom2rtk, on Flickr
     
  14. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg WEDway Peoplemover Rider

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    The neat thing about longer exposures is that you don't have to worry quite as much about 'timing' the shot, because unlike regular snapshot photography, you're not just capturing a fraction of a second in time...you're capturing a long period of time - multiple seconds. That's why the tripod is needed - if the camera shutter opens up and stays open, the camera starts gathering all the light presented to it, and imprints it to that point of the frame. If the light moves through the frame, you get a light trail or streak...the light is being 'painted' onto your photo as it travels. If the camera moves on the other hand, then the sensor itself is changing its position relative to the light it's capturing, meaning things will become blurred or streaked or ghosted. As long as the scene and the camera remain perfectly still, the light being gathered by the long exposure will fill in nice and sharp in the same place - buildings, trees, sky, etc all come in sharp and well exposed...but anything moving THROUGH the scene will streak or leave a trail showing its path during the exposure. That's the combo you want - still camera, still background, but firework bursts streaking along their paths which gives you those lovely lighted blooms in the sky. In other words, don't try to 'catch' a single burst at a specific moment, but rather start the exposure before the burst, and leave the shutter open for a while...any bursts that occur while the shutter is open will be captured. If you see a really nice burst that you just caught while the shutter was open, you can stop the exposure to lock it in, and then start a new exposure to capture the next set of bursts. If you just leave it open the whole time, you can capture dozens of bursts in the same image, all painted into your shot as they happened!

    Photography is all about light - long exposures are a way to capture darker scenes by allowing the sensor to be exposed for longer periods of time, helping it find and pull in all the light it needs to 'see' the scenery. It's why even in the middle of the night, on a dark street, you can set a camera on a tripod, open the aperture up, and let the shutter stay open for 30-40 seconds, and end up with a shot that looks like daylight. Your eye could barely see 10 feet in front of you, but the camera sees the entire landscape like the middle of the afternoon - because you're letting the sensor stay exposed and let every little vestige of light no matter how dim 'burn' itself into the shot. But again, a very very still camera is needed - which is that the tripod is for - when painting in the light in the scene, the sensor and the subject being captured both have to stay exactly aligned with eachother, not even the smallest movement or vibration...otherwise that light will 'paint outside the lines', and that's where you get blur.
     
  15. Gianna'sPapa

    Gianna'sPapa DIS Veteran

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    Like others have said, its a matter of knowing the show and adjusting, as it goes on. You really have to concentrate on the show. That is the downside because its hard to enjoy the show when you are concentrating on the shot and planning in your head for the next. I hope you plan another day to enjoy the fireworks and put the camera down. Its like when I come home from a motorsports shoot, the first question is always, "Who won?" I really have to think and sometimes I actually have to look at the photos. I'm concentrating so hard on the shot(s) that I don't get to enjoy the event like a fan!
     
  16. handicap18

    handicap18 <font color=blue>Husband, father of 3, and Disney

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    At MK (and even at your local fireworks display), listen for the the pffffttt when they launch the fireworks. About a second later is when they actually go off.

    I like to use BULB and use my remote shutter. I like ISO 200 with f/10 and the shutter speed varies anywhere from 4-10 seconds (Sometimes longer). During the Finale you can switch to f/22 as it gets very bright.
     
  17. NJGuy3

    NJGuy3 "You forgot one very important thing, mate...I'm C

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    Thanks everyone for the advice, tips, info...much appreciated! :goodvibes I'll apply this during my next trip in September.
    I made my first attempt at shooting Wishes, using tripod, remote shutter and in manual mode...wasn't to hapy with the results but feel it was just bad timing with bursts. Although, for some reason, I've done much better during past trips when shooting Illuminations.
    And I usually make sure I see Wishes twice during a trip so that I can enjoy one show with my wife and without the camera! I'm fortunate that my wife tolerates my photo taking at Disney! lol
     
  18. Justplainmk

    Justplainmk Earning My Ears

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    Oh my gosh this is amazing advice!! I definitely need to fiddle with my camera before I go. That's interesting about everyone recommending a tripod, I'm okay with lugging around my camera and my lens (which is 55 250 mm for those who asked), but I don't think I have the strength to add a tripod on top of that. Especially mine, it's pretty clunky. Do you have recommendations for a more portable tripod? Or should I just try and balance it on objects; like trash cans or my little brother's head?
     
  19. wiigirl

    wiigirl DIS Veteran

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    My best Firework pics are with a tripod. :thumbsup2
     
  20. zackiedawg

    zackiedawg WEDway Peoplemover Rider

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    Tripods don't have to be all that much harder to carry - get a fairly light one, and you can even uses it as a 'walking stick' when the legs are pushed together, you can sling it over your shoulder with the camera attached, or you can compact it all up and keep it in a bag.

    Also, many of us who shoot often at Disney will just keep a tripod in a park locker rental - bring it in the morning, put it in the locker so you don't have to walk around with it all day, then at night when you're ready to shoot some fireworks or night shots, go get the tripod.
     
  21. BirdsOfPreyDave

    BirdsOfPreyDave Disney Lover, DVC Member, SSR Fanatic DIS Lifetime Sponsor

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    Lots of advice on fireworks has been offered (my best success has been with a tripod, bulb mode, and a remote trigger, just as others have suggested). To the rest of your question, I have a few recommendations for other shots.

    First, turn off your flash. As you've noted, the built-in flash can give you some pretty harsh results. It's effective range isn't as far as you might think, and it isn't going to do anything for you if you're shooting something more than 4-5 yards away. If you have it turned on for shots that are beyond it's effective range, it's only going to mess up the camera's exposure calculations. With a little practice, you'll probably find that the T3i's sensor is good enough to achieve some really good pictures without the flash anyway.

    Second, I recommend you check out your camera's shutter priority mode (Tv on the dial). In shutter priority mode, you tell the camera how long to leave the shutter open, and let it assign the correct aperture to properly expose the photo. This allows you to set a speed that you're personally able to hand-hold with minimal blurring due to camera shake. Do some experimenting before your trip to find the slowest shutter speed you can hand-hold without too much blur. Keep in mind that this setting will be a lot different based on the focal length. If you're really zoomed in, camera shake will have a much bigger impact than if you're taking a wider shot.

    Next, set the ISO to auto. In Tv mode with ISO set to auto, if the camera can't open the aperture wide enough to properly expose the image, it will bump up the ISO until it can. As the ISO increases, though, so will the noise in the photo. Do some playing around before your trip to determine the highest level of noise you deem acceptable (keeping in mind that there is post-processing software that will be able to remove some noise). In your camera's menu, there's an option to set the upper limit for the highest ISO you want the auto ISO to use. It will prevent the camera from going into that ISO range you decided was too noisy. I think the default setting is 3200.

    You'll need to keep an eye on the readouts in your viewfinder, because the kit lens is only going to take you so far. In Tv mode, if the aperture can't be opened any wider and the ISO can't be bumped any higher, the aperture number will blink in the display. This is an indication that the shot will be too dark, and that the camera can't make it any better given the settings you've restricted it to. (When you start getting too many of these occurances, it's when a f1.2 lens goes onto your wish list.)

    Avoid zooming in. As I mentioned earlier, when you're zoomed in, camera shake will have more of an effect. Also, the kit lens you have is a variable aperture lens. The farther you zoom, the less light the lens is able to let in. Keep it wide, save using the highest quality file size possible (I always shoot in RAW, but a JPEG L also works), and crop in post if necessary.

    Metering mode is also a consideration. Ask yourself if you're taking a shot of an evenly-lit scene, or if the brightness of the main subject differs widely from the brightness of its surroundings (e.g., a lighted Electric Water Pageant float in the middle of the pitch-black water)? This is almost a shot-by-shot decision. Do some playing around with the T3i's four different metering modes. The default, evaluative metering, won't always be the best choice -- especially at night.
     

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