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Thread: The lights, they was a dancin'

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    Member Sierra Hotel's Avatar
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    Default The lights, they was a dancin'

    took these last night . . .








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    Member tull777's Avatar
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    Oh man, you did good. Night before last I was up until 2:am(work night) trying to get some shots and they faded by the time I got set up.

    Where were you shooting from?

    Bummer I missed them last night.

    Again, well done!
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    Your Northern Lights are getting better and better as you practice more each night. Excellent job.

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    Member Hunt'N'Photos's Avatar
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    You guys are doing a good job of rubbing it in! I was in an excercise on base working from 6pm to 6am the entire time the lights were dancing! Eric was nice enough to send me a text letting me know what I was missing out on! One of these days everything will come together I will get some lights images! As has been said I have been watching your images on here and they are getting better all the time. One of the big things I think could really improve your photography is to watch the backgrounds a little more and include some more forground elements into your images. Pick a spot to photograph from that may include a tree or two to help frame the image, but yet does not include distractions like the powerlines, etc. I realize how difficult this is at night to line everything up in the frame for a good composition, but it will be well worth the effort. Everything else about your shots work very well! Keep at it and have fun!
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    Member Sierra Hotel's Avatar
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    Thanks folks.

    Cory, good points, and I was really trying to gather some more foreground for the composition - however I cropped the bottom of a few of those pictures to push lights from nearby houses out. I ran out at midnight with my son (he woke me to go out and shoot the lights with him at midnight - dear boy), and we didn't go very far.

    The powerline shot had the potential to be the best - without the powerlines. Next time I think I'll head up on Ski Rd. here in Chugiak and see if I can eliminate a bit of the light pollution.

    Again, thanks all for the comments - I'll keep clickin' if y'all will keep providing c&c.

    Thanks,

    SH

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    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Smile Very nice...

    Thanks for posting those pics. Very nice!!
    The two loudest sounds known to man: a gun that goes bang when it is supposed to go click and a gun that goes click when it is supposed to go bang.

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    very nice


    ....
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    Default Ok how'd you do it?

    The night of the Eclipse, I tried to get the NL to come out in my camera, but I couldn't focus worth nothin', what were your settings & such please?

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    Member EricL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gogoalie View Post
    The night of the Eclipse, I tried to get the NL to come out in my camera, but I couldn't focus worth nothin', what were your settings & such please?
    You need to set your focus to "infinity" (little sideways 8 on the lens barrel) and on manual focus. Don't try using auto focus, it will drive you and the camera crazy! Largest aperture, 2.8 or larger, 400 ISO, 5 to 10 second exposure maybe 15. Tripod and cable release. Remove any filters you may have on the lens. This should be enough to get your started. What camera and lens are you using?
    EricL

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    Default Rebel XT

    with the Factory 18-55mm lens, & no infinity or beyond setting on my lens...(sorry am a buzz lightyear fan...)

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    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Default Set up for shooting auroral displays

    Quote Originally Posted by gogoalie View Post
    with the Factory 18-55mm lens, & no infinity or beyond setting on my lens...(sorry am a buzz lightyear fan...)
    That should do pretty well for getting shots of the aurora. Set the focal length to 18mm. Use manual focus and manual exposure too. Set the focus at infinity, which would be as far as it will go when you twist it in the direction of more distance from the camera.

    The best f/stop is probably about f/8, though you might try f/5.6. Don't use the lense wide open because it won't be as sharp. Stop it down at least 2 stops. Hence if it is an f/2.8 lense you can try f/5.6, and if it is a f/3.5 or f/4 lens you're better off with f/8.

    Set the shutter speed to something between 10 seconds and 30 seconds. Perhaps 15 is best. Use 10 seconds for a stable or very bright aurora. Use 30 seconds for a dim or very fast moving display. Note that the big problem with 30 seconds is that the stars will move in that amount of time and won't be round dots of light, but instead will be short streaks. At 20 seconds it isn't as noticeable, at more than 30 it is fairly obnoxious.

    Then set your ISO to the highest value that you can tolerate as far as noise goes.

    And of course this requires a tripod or equal for holding the camera.

    Note that the amount of exposure is very tricky, and depends more on the ISO and the f/stop setting than anything. Generally the display will move enough that the shutter time determines more about how much area is lit up rather than how bright it is.

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    Member EricL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Floyd_Davidson View Post
    That should do pretty well for getting shots of the aurora. Set the focal length to 18mm. Use manual focus and manual exposure too. Set the focus at infinity, which would be as far as it will go when you twist it in the direction of more distance from the camera.

    The best f/stop is probably about f/8, though you might try f/5.6. Don't use the lense wide open because it won't be as sharp. Stop it down at least 2 stops. Hence if it is an f/2.8 lense you can try f/5.6, and if it is a f/3.5 or f/4 lens you're better off with f/8.

    Set the shutter speed to something between 10 seconds and 30 seconds. Perhaps 15 is best. Use 10 seconds for a stable or very bright aurora. Use 30 seconds for a dim or very fast moving display. Note that the big problem with 30 seconds is that the stars will move in that amount of time and won't be round dots of light, but instead will be short streaks. At 20 seconds it isn't as noticeable, at more than 30 it is fairly obnoxious.

    Then set your ISO to the highest value that you can tolerate as far as noise goes.

    And of course this requires a tripod or equal for holding the camera.

    Note that the amount of exposure is very tricky, and depends more on the ISO and the f/stop setting than anything. Generally the display will move enough that the shutter time determines more about how much area is lit up rather than how bright it is.
    I have found anything more than a 15 second exposure turns into light "mush". The last time I caught the lights I played around with the exposure and in reviewing the shots at home my shots at f4, 20 sec exposure were too dark and mushy. This was with a 5D and 16-35L f2.8 lens. I didn't try anything smaller than f4. You might read through this thread: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraAlert...opic.php?t=807
    EricL

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    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EricL View Post
    I have found anything more than a 15 second exposure turns into light "mush". The last time I caught the lights I played around with the exposure and in reviewing the shots at home my shots at f4, 20 sec exposure were too dark and mushy. This was with a 5D and 16-35L f2.8 lens. I didn't try anything smaller than f4. You might read through this thread: http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraAlert...opic.php?t=807
    The cited URL is certainly interesting, with some good comments about various things. Unfortunately there are also a few which are not so good... :-) Was there any specific part of that discussion that interested you?

    I'm not sure I know what you mean by "mush". The point of stopping down the lens is that virtually all lenses are sharper when stopped down 1 or 2 f/stops, and virtually all lenses then begin to suffer from diffusion if they are stopped down too far. Hence from f/4 to f/8 usually produces the sharpest images, depending on the lens.

    As noted previously, the ISO setting is of significance, because the shutter speed doesn't necessarily affect exposure of the moving aurora all that much. BUT... if you cannot get away from extraneous lights from surrounding terrestrial areas, the shutter speed will have a very direct relationship to exposure from interferring light sources! (That might be what you've encountered?)

    The primary trick to use in the field is checking the histogram or looking at a blink-on-over-exposure LCD display after taking a shot, to verify that nothing on the image is being blown totally out. If half the sky blinks due to city lights, make the shutter speed faster!

    The ISO of course is limited by how much noise one can tolerate, and in that respect newer cameras are significantly better. That seems to have been affecting some of the participants in the discussion at the URL cited, as they apparently could not use anything faster than ISO 400 without excessive noise. Not being able to use higher ISO values will certainly require a larger lens aperture to compensate, but the optimal solution is not to open the lens up that far.

  14. #14
    Member Floyd_Davidson's Avatar
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    Default Error correction

    Quote Originally Posted by Floyd_Davidson View Post
    The point of stopping down the lens is that virtually all lenses are sharper when stopped down 1 or 2 f/stops, and virtually all lenses then begin to suffer from diffusion if they are stopped down too far. Hence from f/4 to f/8 usually produces the sharpest images, depending on the lens.
    That should say "lenses then begin to suffer from diffraction if they are stopped down too far", not "diffusion".

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    Member Sierra Hotel's Avatar
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    FWIW, here's the shooting info:

    Nikon D80
    Nikkor AF 20mm f/2.8
    20 sec f/2.8 (the shot with the brightest lights was 30 sec f2.8)
    ISO 400

    I probably should have pushed the ISO to 800, which would have let me stop the lens down to f/5.6 or even f/8, but learning has occurred, and I've learned how to deal with noise a little better since I took these shots.

    Cheers,
    SH

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    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    Gogalie
    Set your rebel on "P" for program focus the lens so that the stars are bright points(normally infinity) and trip the shutter. That's it, don't worry about the settings. Ive been shooting the lights for years and I do just what I said let the camera do everything but focus, then I bracket my shots but 9 times out of 10 the camera dose a better job than I did. Tracy because of her back ground has too mess with the settings every shot, she looses about 60% of her Aurora pics! Almost forgot the period from 4/23-4/29 is predicted to be very hot with auroral activity
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