Tag Archives: night

Shooting After Sunset

For a while, I had been thinking about trying to do some night photography of airliners.  I had seen some good shots people had got but SeaTac does not have a lot of ambient light to illuminate aircraft flying overhead.  It would be better if there was a large public space under the approach that would provide so brightness to work with.  I was down at SeaTac to pick up a colleague and knew I would be there as the sun went down so I decided to have a go at some shots.

I used the 70-200 f/2.8 to get as much light as possible.  The sun was going down so I was going through quite the transition of lighting conditions.  Some were just twilight while other were when things were getting quite dark.  The autofocus was also struggling since the center point was being used and the underside of the jet lacked much contrast in the dark.  I still got a few usable images.  The lack of light means they aren’t too great but it was fun to try something different.  Now to find a better location!

Night Touchdown

I posted about some night photography I tried on jets approaching SeaTac.  After finishing that up I was heading to the terminal to pick up my colleague and I decided to go for a shot of touchdown in the dark.  This was not going to be an easy one to get since it is really pretty dark at the north end of the airport so little ambient light.  I was relying on the lights of the jet and pushing the ISO to a really high level.  It is true that the noise gets really tough in those conditions but when looking at the image at a normal size, it really is not a big deal.  Besides, it is a shot we would never have done in pre-digital days.

How Dark Can This Thing Shoot

Every once in a while, I really test the high ISO capability of the cameras I have.  The R3 got an early test when I was at Red Flag,  I went out on two evenings to shoot some night departures and experimented with the ability of the camera to perform in those conditions.  The high ISO capability of cameras has not moved on too much to be honest.  The max ISO I used on my 1DXII was 51,200 and the R3 is still the same.  It does appear to be a bit cleaner but they have possibly hit a bit of a limit.  What I had not tried out before was an electronic viewfinder in such conditions.

The first night, I went out into the dunes to be ready for the B-1 departures.  As it turned out, they didn’t launch that night.  I did get some fighters coming out my way for a while before I concluded that this was a bust and I was heading back to the hotel.  I tried shooting a few of the jets but I discovered the limitations of the camera pretty rapidly.  When there is no light, the electronic viewfinder really struggles.  The frame rate of the viewfinder drops like a stone and tracking a subject becomes pretty problematic.  The frames per second drop too so the chances of a result are slim.  With an optical viewfinder, this is not an issue but the chances of a good shot are also slim.

I returned to the hotel feeling pretty dispirited by this result.  I wondered whether this was a real problem for adopting the R3.  The following night, I went out again with the B-1s again being my main target.  This time I had some tankers heading out before the B-1s launched.  It was a very different evening.  Sure, the lack of light still makes the chances of getting a good shot pretty low but the camera seemed to have no problem tracking the subjects and keeping the viewfinder frame rate up to a perfectly acceptable level.  If I had only gone from the previous night, I would have concluded that it was unusable.

The embedded images in the RAW files looked pretty good but the Lightroom edits required a lot more work.  DPP might be the answer or DxO PrimeRAW could do a good job.  However, that is not the issue.  Will the camera allow me to shoot at night with very dark subjects.  Apparently, the answer is yes.  It can handle it.  However, it can’t track an almost black subject with a couple of navigation lights like an optical viewfinder can.  That is a limitation that I may have to live with.

Backlight For A Seastack

During the evenings at Cannon Beach, we could see lots of lights out on the water.  Fishing boats were out at work and their lights were very bright.  I am not sure whether they only fish at night or not.  During the day, it would be hard to spot them without the lights giving you a clue since they were generally quite far out.  However, one boat was closer in than the others.  It was right behind on of the sea stacks near Haystack Rock.  With a lot of mist in the air, the light from the boat was diffused and provided a backlight to the rock.  It wasn’t lone before the boat came out from behind the rock and the effect was lost.

My Attempt At Aurora Shots

There was a prediction that the Aurora Borealis would be visible well south in the US and, with clear skies in the area, I figured I would definitely go and see if I could get some shots.  I thought my best location would be Mukilteo since I could be on the waterfront with an unobstructed view to the north.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to have that thought.  There were tons of vehicles lined up trying to find a space in the parking lot at Mukilteo.

I didn’t even bother to mess with this and turned around.  I figured I would try the park at the other end of the waterfront and found a parking spot as soon as I arrived.  No need to park on the street outside the park.  There were still a lot of people there waiting including a few cameras pointed skywards.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have anything to shoot.  The predicted aurora never got as well developed as far south as us.  I got a few shots including some where I tried to work out whether it was just ambient light on clouds in the distance or some sort of illumination from above but it was a bust.

Night Skies on San Juans

One great feature of traveling to more remote areas away from the cities is the clear skies you can get at night.  The ability to see plenty of stars when the sun has gone is great.  With summer approaching, the sun takes quite a while to go down so I had to wait until quite late to get a shot that I wanted.  I could have waited even later but I wasn’t that committed to the shot.  I wasn’t using a fast lens so, even with higher ISO, I was still using a 30 second exposure.  Even at 16mm, this still shows up some motion in the stars.  Ideally, I would have taken a fast wide lens but I didn’t bother renting one for the trip so this will have to do.

Red Flag Night Launches

Adobe periodically updates the processing algorithms that are used by Lightroom and Photoshop. Each update provides some improvements in how raw files are processed and it can be good to go back to older shots and to see how the newer process versions handle the images.  I find this particularly useful for images shot in low light and with high ISO.

I have some standard process settings I use but have also experimented with modified settings for use with high ISOs and the higher noise levels that come with them.  I got to some night launch shots from an old Red Flag exercise and had a play with the images.  The E-3 launch was actually as the light was going down but it still had some illumination so it didn’t need much work.

The KC-135 and B-1B shots were a different story and were at high ISOs and with very little light.  I was able to update the process version and apply some new settings I had worked out since the original processing and it resulted in some pretty reasonable outputs considering how little light there was to work with.

Experimenting With Night Shots of Ferries

With the ferries coming and going to the terminal at Orcas, I was able to have plenty of chances to take photos.  I did get standard shots of the boats in low light conditions.  They are not easy to shoot since they are constantly moving.  No long exposures at low ISOs are possible so it is high ISO and the associated noise.  However, I did decide to experiment with some long exposures and blending of shots.  The boats make a curving approach to the terminal.  I thought this might make a nice long exposure.  It worked okay but the curve is a bit disguised by being too low down to really appreciate it.  However, it was fun to try.

Of Course I Had a Go – Comet Neowise

With the limited options to go anywhere, you would think that any photo opportunity would immediately pique my interest.  The arrival of a comet in the night sky would seem to be just the sort of thing I would have a go at.  However, it took me a little while to get tuned in to the idea of seeing this comet.  I had been out of the house one evening and, when I got back, I saw a video about the comet on YouTube.  With it getting dark, I figured I would try and check it out.  We had a run of very clear skies so this seemed like the ideal opportunity.

The problem was where to see it.  The comet was relatively low in the sky and I needed to get a bit higher up.  Plenty of hills around here so I headed out in the car.  However, we also have a lot of trees and I failed to find a good spot.  I also think I hadn’t let it get dark enough in hindsight.  It did get me thinking about it a bit more though and I decided I should go to the shore since the view would not be obstructed.  Mukilteo seemed like a good option.  Apparently, I was not the only one to think so!

I got to Mukilteo at about 10pm to give my self time to get sorted out.  The parking lot was surprisingly full.  It certainly wasn’t crowded but there were a lot of people there.  I got set up once the comet started to be visible.  There is a path along the shore with some grass behind it and I set up on the grass.  What I didn’t know about was the night sprinkler system.  I found out when it switched on!  I only had to move a short distance to stay dry, though.  Then I was free to shoot the comet.  I did try a shot with the ferry crossing underneath but the ferry moves a surprisingly long way in a short exposure time.

Evening on Embarcadero

Lockdown continues to be an opportunity to go back to previous photos and these come from our trip to San Francisco in January.  What a long time ago that now seems and how strange it is to think of a time when we freely traveled across the country.  On our first evening, we met up with friends for a drink and some food.  We met them down around Embarcadero.  At the end of the evening, before heading back to our hotel, I took some photos of the area.  The Ferry Building was nicely light as was the Bay Bridge.  It was a lovely evening to be out which I guess is indicative of the benefits of Northern California in the winter!