nighttime photography

Who Says a Tripod Can't Be Fun?

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Hey Gang! Who says a tripod can't be fun, as well as functional? Not me. And not MeFoto. These guys recently introduced a line of cool, colorful and sturdy tripods that are also lightweight and compact: great for street and indoor photography.

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I like the gold-color model, but check out the other colors and make your own tripod fashion statement.

These tripods are not meant to support super, heavy-duty telephoto lenses. Again, they are great for street photography and for photographing indoors in low-light situations. 

For shooting with long lenses and in the field, I use my Induro CT214 Carbon Fiber tripod with my Induro BHD2 Dual-Action Ball head. That set up is kinda fun, too!

Speaking of low-light and street shooting, here is a favorite low-light street shot that I took on my Route 66 Road Trip earlier this year. 

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Explore the light,
Rick

Today's Guest Blogger: Andy Smith

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First, thanks to Rick for asking me to do this guest blog post. I've been on several workshops with Rick and I have to say, they are a great learning experience and a ton of fun. What's more, you meet great people!

Rick asked me to write this guest blog post because I, along with Mike "Spike" Ince, will be leading the nighttime photo session on Rick's Southwest Photo Caravan later this year. (Note from Rick: All my 2013 workshops are full, but space is available on my 2014 workshops.

I’m going to be outlining the basic steps to creating a simple timelapse video using Adobe Lightroom 4 with a bit of help from LRTimelapse.

If you’ve seen any of the incredible night-sky timelapse videos on the web and wonder how they do it, the good news is that the basic process isn’t that hard. The main steps are:

1) Create a sequence of photos.

2) Process them as desired in Lightroom, using Auto-Sync to make sure all the photos are adjusted the same.

4) Export the entire sequence as a Lightroom Slideshow video using some slideshow and video export presets from LRTimelapse.

In my case, after catching the night photography bug at the VLA during last year’s Bosque Del Apache workshop with Rick and Juan Pons, I attended a night photography workshop at Devil’s Tower with Colorado night-photography instructor David Kingham.  While it wasn’t specifically a time-lapse workshop, I was left with several hours-long sequences of photos and he recommended I look into LRTimelapse for creating time-lapse videos.

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Above (click here to watch): The Milky Way over Devil’s Tower with the lights of Hulett, Wyoming over the horizon.

LRTimelapse is available at LRTimelapse.com. There’s a full paid edition, but the free edition will do quite a bit to start. The software allows you to deflicker your photos and do adjustments across the entire sequence, but for this simple example, I only had to use the export presets that come along with the software. Download and install the software, paying specific attention to getting the included Slideshow and Video presets installed.

As far as the photos themselves, obviously you’ll need a tripod and an intervalometer.  I’ll skip over the those details for this post and just talk about creating the video, but you can check Mike (Spike) Ince’s prior guest post on night photography.  My night photos were all 30-second exposures with one second between.  Because the light was consistent across the sequence and I was in manual exposure mode, I didn’t get any flicker that might need to be adjusted.

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Above (click here to watch): A wider, fisheye view with more metors.

After you import all your photos into an individual directory in Lightroom, you can make whatever adjustments you need to get them looking how you want.  Use Lightroom’s Auto-Sync feature to apply the adjustments consistently across the entire batch of photos.  Or, another option is to edit one of the sequence as desired, then cut and paste the Lightroom adjustments to the rest of the photos.

After you’ve gotten your sequence edited, the next step is go into the Lightroom Slideshow module and select your entire sequence of photos. Use one of the LRTimelapse presets - they will set you up for a clean video sequence. For mine, I used the 15-fps 1080p preset from LRTimelapse.  Then I just used the 1080p setting for the video export.  When your export is done, you will have an mp4 file you can then play or upload to Youtube or Vimeo.

That’s really all I did here.  It’s simple, but gave me enough of a start to want to learn and do more.  Further steps include using LRTimelapse to handle the flicker you can get from auto-exposure adjusting to changing light levels, or day-to-night transitions (like the moonrise at the end of these videos).  Then there’s adding music, editing multiple sequences together, etc.

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Above (click here to watch): Devil’s Tower Creek Reflection with Star Trails, Light Painting, and Wandering Photographers

I’ll leave you with a couple of observations. First, it takes a lot of photos to generate a short sequence - at 15 frames per second, 2 hours of images generates only 16 seconds of video.  And second, both night photography and timelapse are extremely addictive. know! I’m going to be doing many more.

Good luck trying this on your own! 

Thanks again Rick! I look forward to our Southwest Photo Caravan.
David Kingham Photography  
Spike's Guest Blog Post on Night Photography

Andy Smith on Google+

Andy Smith Photo Website

Today's Guest Blogger: Mike "Spike" Ince

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My guest blogger today is friend Spike, a.k.a. Mike Ince.

Spike will be heading up the nighttime photo sessions on my Southwest Photo Caravan later this year. Info on my 2013 Workshops page. We hope you can join the photo fun - during the day and into the night.

Take it away, Mike.

A big hello to everyone out there!

Thanks to Rick for letting me have the opportunity to guest blog for a day!

I first met Rick on his Oregon Coast Photo Caravan. Then a few months later, with him and Juan Pons, I became fascinated with the astrophotography in New Mexico while visiting the Very Large Array.

Since then, I have been hammering out these photos striving to improve my techniques one photo at a time – both on the field and in the digital darkroom.

If you would like to try some shots like this, here are some starting guidelines for the Big 3: aperture, iso and shutter speed.

1.  The faster the lens the better. 2.8 is popular and works great, lenses with a larger aperture will work that much faster. All of my shots n this post are at f2.8, and of course wide angle lenses are ideal!

2.  A good starting point for ISO would be 1000 (start here and work your way up), but most of the time you will find yourself moving up fast. I tend to favor the 2000-4000 marks. Noise reduction can be cured drastically in Lightroom, Photoshop and a lot of plugins, so do not hesitate to bump it up if you need to.

3.  For shutter speed, most of the time I am between 20-30 seconds. If you want to avoid star trails, then keep it under 30. At 30 seconds plus, you will start to get star trails, which is a whole other ballgame (but a fun one). Of course you will need a tripod and it will also help to use a remote or set the self timer to 5 seconds or so. This allows the camera to stabilize after you touch it.

4.  When scouting a location, take a pic at 30 seconds (or longer) with the ISO sky high! That way you can create your composition and see whats really out there in the dark. Then play with the above settings.

Aside from these guidelines, here is some other things to keep in mind.

If your primary focus is the Milky Way, shoot on, or within a day or two of the new moon. The darker the sky, the better. If you want to include some foreground elements, then a little moonlight can help illuminate the scene. A quarter moon can be good for this. Just because the moon is not a new moon does not mean you are out of luck. Also keep an eye on what time the moon sets. Every month there will be time to catch the moon set and still have time before sun up to shoot away. There are plenty of free apps for both Apple and Android to figure out when and where the moon sets and some even have entire star charts.

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You have awesome shots... now what? Now you enter the digital dark room! See my before and after pics above (the orange glow comes from the city lights. To avoid this you need to be FAR away from the metro areas).

You can accomplish all of your post editing in Lightroom or Photoshop, or even use a combination of both. I also use a combination of filters from both Nik and Topaz. A big key is blending images together to get your desired look. Sometimes I will use 1 filter (or sharpen, or color adjust etc.) and then blend that with another layer, taking elements from different layers I like. If using Photoshop keep everything on its own layer and use masking techniques to blend your final composition together. I believe this achieves the best results. A little from here, a little from there, and before you know it you have your final piece! Don’t hesitate to go crazy and experiment! Keep in mind these are just guidelines so do not hesitate to try something new and think outside of the box.

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On my last shot I found a lonely highway and had 30 seconds to spare so I incorporated some light painting along with the Milky Way. Fun stuff!

I have been posting some of my shots on Google Plus and enjoy interacting with the communities there, so add me and see what’s next! I also recently launched my site which you can visit anytime as well!

You can see more of my work on my web site and on Google +.

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Above: Here's an HDR image I took of Spike on our Bosque Del Apache Photo Workshop.

Thanks, Mike, for a great post. See you under the starts on my Southwest Photo Caravan!

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