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Thread: How do you compose in the dark?

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    Default How do you compose in the dark?

    When taking star trail or long exposure shots in the dark. The lack of light sources makes it impossible to look through the OVF. Turning on liveview shows a black screen. How do you know what is included in your composition and if the subject is in focus in such a situations?

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    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    usually will set up before dusk,
    or you can bring a powerful torch to light up foreground if you want to set up in the dark.
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Quote Originally Posted by catchlights View Post
    usually will set up before dusk,
    or you can bring a powerful torch to light up foreground if you want to set up in the dark.
    I did bring a powerful touch but not able to see if the horizon is straight or such.

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    Moderator catchlights's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    this one should help.

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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Quote Originally Posted by catchlights View Post
    this one should help.

    erm mind if i ask what is this call? will go search around for shop selling it
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    hotshoe spirit level, should come very cheap. quite a few variations too, depends on wad u like haha.

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    Suggest u to get a 3 way version. Abt $3 to $5 more ex than the two way version but it can help you check you tilt level as well.
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Quote Originally Posted by catchlights View Post
    this one should help.

    The spirit level only levels the camera. It does not level the horizon. Most of the time when doing star trail, I am tilting the camera up to capture more of the sky. The horizon may not run parallel to the ground.

    ok. I know there may not be an easy way. Can those who shoot in the night share with me some of the techniques they use to see "in the dark". Right now, I am shooting a 2 min ISO3200 exposure for me to see and then do the actual shoot. But this is very labourious to do in the dark. Do a test shot, adjust in the dark, then do another test shot, adjust some more and so on...
    Last edited by ManWearPants; 13th May 2011 at 10:55 PM.

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    Senior Member bonrya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants

    The spirit level only levels the camera. It does not level the horizon. Most of the time when doing star trail, I am tilting the camera up to capture more of the sky. The horizon may not run parallel to the ground.

    ok. I know there may not be an easy way. Can those who shoot in the night share with me some of the techniques they use to see "in the dark". Right now, I am shooting a 2 min ISO3200 exposure for me to see and then do the actual shoot. But this is very labourious to do in the dark. Do a test shot, adjust in the dark, then do another test shot, adjust some more and so on...
    Usually you have to go and setup very early (when there's still some daylight) and wait for night to come. It's not advisable to turn up in the middle of a dark field and try to set up (you may drop something).

    And the spirit level helps if you have the 3 level one. You can estimate how accurate your composition will be from the camera facing upwards. It's not always about the horizon since it's not only meant for landscapes.

    Hope that helps.

    Btw, what do you mean the horizon will not be level even though the camera is level? Do you have sample pics to show?
    Last edited by bonrya; 14th May 2011 at 08:40 AM.
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    Senior Member giantcanopy's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Yes, the last I did was to set up shop before total darkness.
    Anyhow with Liveview, I also purposefully crank up the ISO to view at an overexposed frame for compositional purposes.

    Ryan

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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Quote Originally Posted by bonrya View Post
    Usually you have to go and setup very early (when there's still some daylight) and wait for night to come.
    Quote Originally Posted by giantcanopy View Post
    Yes, the last I did was to set up shop before total darkness.
    Anyhow with Liveview, I also purposefully crank up the ISO to view at an overexposed frame for compositional purposes.

    Ryan
    What about when you want to change composition in the middle of the night? Surely you are not just taking one shot a night?

    Anyway, the equipments that I am bringing are
    1) compass for locating the northern star
    2) IR touchlight strapped to my forehead for illuminating the foreground for composition
    3) shutter release
    4) ballhead tripod. I am wondering if a gearhead tripod will be more useful since you can make minute adjustment

    Quote Originally Posted by bonrya View Post
    Btw, what do you mean the horizon will not be level even though the camera is level?
    Maybe I should not say horizon but middle interests, say mountain ranges, a row of buildings in the distant, etc. For example, you have a tent in the foreground, mountain ranges in the background and the stars as the background. Lights in the foreground, structure in the middle and stars in background.

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    Senior Member bonrya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants

    What about when you want to change composition in the middle of the night? Surely you are not just taking one shot a night?

    Anyway, the equipments that I am bringing are
    1) compass for locating the northern star
    2) IR touchlight strapped to my forehead for illuminating the foreground for composition
    3) shutter release
    4) ballhead tripod. I am wondering if a gearhead tripod will be more useful since you can make minute adjustment
    After you take the first shot you can review the picture and change the composition to your liking. Just move the camera slightly based on what you want to shoot.

    Unless you want to shoot many different subjects in the middle of the night and will need to make dramatic changes in your angle, then it'll take a longer time to compose etc. Usually it's just that one picture. (not one shot one kill, btw)

    Usually people that do astrophotography do intensive research on the position of the stars etc so they know what to expect and where. Don't think they will wing it and shoot whatever is there.

    You can return many many times to the same point just to shoot the same thing. If you fail the first 10 times, maybe you'll get it right on the 11th.


    Maybe I should not say horizon but middle interests, say mountain ranges, a row of buildings in the distant, etc. For example, you have a tent in the foreground, mountain ranges in the background and the stars as the background. Lights in the foreground, structure in the middle and stars in background.
    The spirit level didn't work for you when you took these pictures..?
    Last edited by bonrya; 14th May 2011 at 04:50 PM.
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    An alternative is to wing it first, shoot slightly wider, then correct in Post.

    For star trails, I guess you will be take tons of pics using a interval timer. Do your horizon correction after you have merged all the shots.

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    Senior Member giantcanopy's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Try to crank up iso and see if u can have a better view in liveview.
    Previously when I was using my older D80 with no liveview, when I had to do shots in near darkness, I
    take some test shots wide aperture at highest iso to "see". Not very exact science, but works

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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Thanks all. I think there is no easy way to see in the dark. I think have to stick to the high ISO shot and then followed by the long exposure. I have not tried the intervalometer and merge. I will probably try that the next time to get dark skies. A two hour exposure produce a "daylight" sky.

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    Sorry to intrude, could anyone please explain what does it mean by intervalometer and merge for star trail? I only used mine for time-lapse video. I always though star trail is just single extra long exposure shot?
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cowseye View Post
    Sorry to intrude, could anyone please explain what does it mean by intervalometer and merge for star trail? I only used mine for time-lapse video. I always though star trail is just single extra long exposure shot?
    I am not an expert at night photography. Instead of time lapse, you can also stack the images. The advantages are you can take shorter exposure so that the sky remains dark, you can omit exposures that may have interferences such as a car drive by. And shorter exposure time means lesser noise and hence cleaner results.

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    Moderator daredevil123's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do you compose in the dark?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cowseye View Post
    Sorry to intrude, could anyone please explain what does it mean by intervalometer and merge for star trail? I only used mine for time-lapse video. I always though star trail is just single extra long exposure shot?
    Sensor get hot. When exposing for very long, the sensor will heat up, causing noise as well. At the same time, you might get hot pixels in the picture. So the best approach is to do shorter exposures, then wait a few seconds and fire up again. and continue doing it till you attain the total exposure you are looking for.

    Stacking technique
    Last edited by daredevil123; 15th May 2011 at 06:02 AM.

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    Thank you manwearpants and dd123.
    The info has been very insightful.
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