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Thread: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

  1. #1
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    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Hello All,
    I am a beginner at photography. I took some night shots of our Downtown Skyline. I was using a Nikon D7100 with a 70-300 mm Zoom. There was a fairly heavy marine layer that created a hue over the city. I am not quite sure what I am doing, I do understand what the big 3 adjustments do but I don't always know what setting is the best for what I am doing. These shots were all in ISO 400 because I just didn't think to change it. I am thinking I probably could have gotten some better shots by making some adjustments there.

    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Shot at F/32 with Shutter Speed at 25 Sec, ISO 400


    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Shot at f/18 With Shutter Speed at 5 Sec, ISO 400


    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Shot at F/5.6 with Shutter Speed at .62 sec, ISO 400


    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Shot at F/29 with Shutter Speed at 30 sec, ISO 400


    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Shot at F/29 with Shutter Speed at 20 sec, ISO 400
    Last edited by 2bikemike; 16th August 2013 at 03:22 PM.

  2. #2
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Mike

    It would be good if you could give us the other key exposure factors - Aperture & Shutter Speed.

    What are your own thoughts? If these were someone else's images and you were being asked to comment on them, what would you be saying?

  3. #3
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Hi Mike

    I note Donald's comments and would be interested in your response. In the meantime, I'll offer a few comments.

    I think the weather conditions might be working against you here. They seem to be creating this brownish colour that I would not expect on a nice clear night. It could be worth keeping an eye on the weather and trying these shots again on a better night.

    Generally the images seem to be under-exposed. You can raise the exposure in post processing with things like Levels etc but this will also bring up the noise in the darker areas. This is one reason for using the lowest possible ISO.

    I usually take shots like this using Live View mode and manual focus (using the magnified screen). In a case like this I would focus on one of the buildings. As far as exposure is concerned, I've found that the simulated exposure view in LV mode usually gives a pretty good indication of what the final image will look like. Use manual or aperture priority and adjust the shutter speed until it looks good on the screen (and also take into account what the exposure meter is saying - there may be some compromise required here). There's no need to worry about some of the bright lights blowing out as long as it's not excessive.

    A tripod and a remote shutter release are essential for this sort of shot but my guess is that you've actually used a tripod.

    I think you could get a bit more out of your shots with some extra sharpening and a boost in saturation. I find that this sort of shot tends to need more sharpening than shots taken in stronger light.

    Finally, timing is most important. There is a period about half an hour after sunset when there is still a little bit of remnant sunlight. This can give a nice deep blue colour to the sky, but perhaps more importantly, it gives better definition to the edges of the buildings. I usually set up around sunset and then start taking shots about every 5 minutes until the light gets to an optimum point.

    Hope this is of some help

    Dave
    Last edited by dje; 16th August 2013 at 10:04 AM.

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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Hi Mike,

    Welcome to CiC.

    You have not done to badly. A little sharpening in ViewNX2 will make a difference.
    I guess the humidity in San Diego is a little high. You should not expect to get clear shots in high humidity, that hazy look is part of your environment.

    Phil Page (dubaiphil) is a master of cityscapes at night, you should follow his posts and look at his images. You got to remember Phil is shooting in an environment with very little humidity.

    Camera settings: Learn to use your camera on full Auto. Look at the EXIF of each shot and see what the camera has decided to do in each shot. Then change to Aperture priority and see how the camera handles that. Shutter speed priority will be next and then you start experimenting with Manual mode.

    Learn how to use WB, contrast and saturation – in camera- to your advantage. Read the instruction manual a few times as you go along experimenting with different settings.

    Go to different reviews on your camera.
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...kon-d7100A.HTM
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-d7100/
    These links will take you to helpful reviews that will help you beter understand your camera.

    It is a matter of learning how to use your camera and experiment with settings until you get the images looking like you want it to look like. The next step is enhancing your images in post camera software.
    It is a long journey and lots of experimenting, reading and practice will result in beter understanding your camera and refining your camera technique.

    Enjoy it and enjoy all the the “arguments” here at CiC. You will learn lots and lots right here at CiC.

  5. #5
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Mike

    It would be good if you could give us the other key exposure factors - Aperture & Shutter Speed.

    What are your own thoughts? If these were someone else's images and you were being asked to comment on them, what would you be saying?
    Donald I edited the OP with the other settings. My thoughts on the photos is that they aren't quite right but they are fairly close to what I was actually seeing. The humidity was very close to 100% with that heavy Marine Layer which did give that brownish color from the light reflecting in the haze.

    I don't think that I have the eye to critique a photo. I can look at pictures on here and say its a good picture or a great picture but I certainly can't say why it is so.

    I think I like the first picture the best. It was taken from a slightly different angle. I think I may have gotten closer to the ground as well.
    Last edited by 2bikemike; 16th August 2013 at 03:47 PM.

  6. #6
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Quote Originally Posted by dje View Post
    Hi Mike

    I note Donald's comments and would be interested in your response. In the meantime, I'll offer a few comments.

    I think the weather conditions might be working against you here. They seem to be creating this brownish colour that I would not expect on a nice clear night. It could be worth keeping an eye on the weather and trying these shots again on a better night.

    Generally the images seem to be under-exposed. You can raise the exposure in post processing with things like Levels etc but this will also bring up the noise in the darker areas. This is one reason for using the lowest possible ISO.

    I usually take shots like this using Live View mode and manual focus (using the magnified screen). In a case like this I would focus on one of the buildings. As far as exposure is concerned, I've found that the simulated exposure view in LV mode usually gives a pretty good indication of what the final image will look like. Use manual or aperture priority and adjust the shutter speed until it looks good on the screen (and also take into account what the exposure meter is saying - there may be some compromise required here). There's no need to worry about some of the bright lights blowing out as long as it's not excessive.

    A tripod and a remote shutter release are essential for this sort of shot but my guess is that you've actually used a tripod.

    I think you could get a bit more out of your shots with some extra sharpening and a boost in saturation. I find that this sort of shot tends to need more sharpening than shots taken in stronger light.

    Finally, timing is most important. There is a period about half an hour after sunset when there is still a little bit of remnant sunlight. This can give a nice deep blue colour to the sky, but perhaps more importantly, it gives better definition to the edges of the buildings. I usually set up around sunset and then start taking shots about every 5 minutes until the light gets to an optimum point.

    Hope this is of some help

    Dave
    Thanks for the comments Dave. You are right about the weather conditions. I did use a tripod with the remote shutter release. In reference to the light meter the shots were all under exposed. If I properly exposed to the light meter the shots seemed to be blown out or over exposed so I adjusted down until they started looking correct to me.

  7. #7
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Quote Originally Posted by AB26 View Post
    Hi Mike,

    Welcome to CiC.

    You have not done to badly. A little sharpening in ViewNX2 will make a difference.
    I guess the humidity in San Diego is a little high. You should not expect to get clear shots in high humidity, that hazy look is part of your environment.

    Phil Page (dubaiphil) is a master of cityscapes at night, you should follow his posts and look at his images. You got to remember Phil is shooting in an environment with very little humidity.

    Camera settings: Learn to use your camera on full Auto. Look at the EXIF of each shot and see what the camera has decided to do in each shot. Then change to Aperture priority and see how the camera handles that. Shutter speed priority will be next and then you start experimenting with Manual mode.

    Learn how to use WB, contrast and saturation – in camera- to your advantage. Read the instruction manual a few times as you go along experimenting with different settings.

    Go to different reviews on your camera.
    http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...kon-d7100A.HTM
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikon-d7100/
    These links will take you to helpful reviews that will help you beter understand your camera.

    It is a matter of learning how to use your camera and experiment with settings until you get the images looking like you want it to look like. The next step is enhancing your images in post camera software.
    It is a long journey and lots of experimenting, reading and practice will result in beter understanding your camera and refining your camera technique.

    Enjoy it and enjoy all the the “arguments” here at CiC. You will learn lots and lots right here at CiC.
    Thanks Andre, I have been playing with the camera a bit and actually taken a couple lessons. I have pretty much just been staying in the manual mode and shooting pictures at different setting to see what happens. I sure am glad I don't have to figure this out shooting film.

    Part of the reason I joined this forum is to help with the learning experience. So thanks again for being a part of that experience.

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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    I've thought about this in London, HDR is the obvious best answer for images not moving much, but I used my tripod as a walking stick and the rubber feet were worn down to the metal. I thought it would shake too much for a HDR image. So I decided on talking exposures every ten minutes until it became dark. A bright sky beats lamps, the darker it gets yields bigger differences in light and dark but there is an optimum time when most lights are not blown and it isn't night.

    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Mike: two things, in night work you need to make sure the foreground in front of you is clear look at the bush in front, there were many times that I did not check and ruined a good shot. The other is learning to blend an image either by HDR or hand blending two or more images together so you can get rid of blown highlights, or even the use of adjustment layers such as curves. As Andre states check out Phil Page's stuff also known as dubaiphil, some really awesome night shots.
    Keep working it does not happen over night maybe through the night.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    As usual, the opinions offered here-in are spot-on...take them to the bank.

    From a personal standpoint, my greatest "leap forward" in skill involved learning to shoot in manual mode
    utilizing live view with the histogram showing...instant "exposure to the right" information.
    Doesn't take long, as Andre alluded to, to realize that the camera's decisions should not be left to the camera.

  11. #11

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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Chauncey you must have a Canon as you can see the histogram before you shoot, if you have a Nikon you cannot fall back on that feature, we just have to work harder. Though it is something that I like about the Canon, however I just can not see the sense in shooting a Canary with a Canon, something of a small caliber would leave more bird.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Mike,

    Having read the replies of which contain some good advice and now seen the shooting data one item has been overlooked I believe.

    If I was taking this shot one of the most critical considerations would have been getting the main subject sharp which here are the buildings and their lights. An understanding of DOF (Depth of Field) the depth within the image of acceptable sharpness that varies with changing aperture would have suggested that an aperture of around f11 would have been ok.

    F11 is also roughly around mid aperture which generally gives the best IQ (image quality) from your lens. This 'ideal' aperture varies between different lenses and can be nearer f5.6 for some but that's another discussion. Small apertures, f29/f32 degrade IQ although that's yet another story but in this image there was no need to use them as all they did was cause an unnecessary longer exposure.

    So as you were using a tripod for this shot you could have aimed to use the aperture that would have given you the required DOF and closest to the 'ideal' aperture for IQ and you would have found that you could have reduced ISO to 200 (or base ISO for your camera) and of still had an acceptable shutter speed for tripod use.

    When I take night shots I generally take one shot in 'Aperture Priority' eg. I select the aperture I want, look at the result, if not happy change to manual and vary settings around those the camera first indicated/used.

    Grahame

  13. #13
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Thanks for the comments, they are very helpful. My main focus has been on how to correctly shoot a scene and not so much on how to improve it in Lightroom. Though I have played around a little in Lightroom I have a whole lot to learn in that regard. As far as taking multiple shots and blending or stitching that is way above my skillset at the moment.

  14. #14
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Welcome Mike from another San Diego County CiC member. I hope you will enjoy CiC and the folks who inhabit this site as much as I do...

    Regarding your interesting San Diego Skyline image, I have shot the skyline from Coronado Island and have viewed with interest the many posts of this iconic view. However, I have never seen an image that includes the reeds in the foreground and think that this is a very interesting concept on how to give a new twist to an often photographed shot.

    I agree with Grahame in that I normally use an aperture in the area of f/8 or so for night shots. This is especially true if I don't include significant foreground elements like your reeds. Including the foreground elements and the skyline would require a greater DOF than I normally need in shooting night shots.

    I am sure that, as a San Diegan, you know this but, I am mentioning this for other members who might not be cognizant of the unique climatic conditions we experience in this area. The difference between the climate (including air quality and clarity) directly on the coast and that a mile or two inland, is night and day. If you don't live right near the water, it is quite often a hit and miss situation whether you will get a clear shot or one marred by haze.

    I will often select an evening in winter to shoot my San Diego Skyline shots. The air is often clearer then. Summer has lots of haze.

    Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    I plan to return to Coronado to shoot the skyline in mid-December. Unless it is raining, the air is generally clearer on a cool crisp night. An added bonus is that it gets dark earlier so I don't have to be out as late. I plan on getting there before dark so I can shoot the skyline at the golden hour. Additionally, at that time, most of the offices in the buildings bordering the Bay are still open for business but, have their lights on and we will always have the illuminated Christmas decorations. Lit up buildings are more interesting than darkened buildings.

    I always use a remote trigger release when tripod mounted and I always carry a small flashlight to see my camera controls and to avoid tripping if the area in which I am shooting is pretty dark. I use mirror lock up and aperture priority metering. My Canon 7D has a few unique features that make it ideal for this type of photography...

    The User Selected Modes allow me to set up the parameters for different type shooting venues in advance and then select all the parameters with one twist of the mode dial... The parameters I select are: aperture priority metering, mirror lock-up, Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB), -1 stop exposure compensation and burst mode. The AEB and -1 stop compensation combined with the burst mode will give me one shot as the meter reads, one shot -1 stop and one shot at -2 stops each time I activate the shutter. Since IMO the bane of night cityscape photography is over exposure, this setup will almost always give me one exposure right where I want it.

  15. #15
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    Re: Beginner Looking For C&C on City Lights.

    Thanks for the comments Richard. You are correct about the conditions of from coast to inland. I left my house north of Escondido and it was clear as a bell. Crossing into Mission Valley I saw the Marine Layer rolling in, but I was committed to giving it a go anyway. I will have to look into some of those techniques you use.

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