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Thread: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

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    Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Hi everyone!

    I'm learning about photography and recently bought my first DSLR. This site seems to be a notch above the rest so I was hoping you could lend a helping hand with some brutally honest comments and advice.

    Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    30 second exposure time at f/22 and ISO 100 (LO1) on the D90, with the 35mm 1.8 lens; I also activated the noise reduction for long exposures on the camera.

    After taking the picture I read how aperture values can lead to difraction and loss of detail. I think using a neutral density filter, iso 200 (the base iso for the sensor) and f/14 with the same exposure time would have led to a clearer picture, is this correct?

    How else could this picture have been improved?
    Any comments and advice are welcome. Thank you!

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Dan

    Was this shot in Raw?
    What post-processing software are you using?
    And where do you rate yourself on the post-processing knowledge and skills scale?

    I don't think f22 would/should have presented any problem on this shot.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with the capture of the scene. What I am wondering about is if 'lifting' the buildings in the mid- to background would give hte whole thing a bit more vibrancy. They are a bit dull and flat. Hence the questions about post-processing.

    ps - I like it!

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Hi Donald!

    It was shot in jpeg; I'm trying to limit myself to the tools that the camera is offering me and learn to use those as best I can before moving to post-processing. I also find it more fun that way! :-) So I'm not using any post-processing software and I'm trying to avoid it for now if possible. (I also don't know anything about post-processing for now)

    I'm not sure I understand what lifting means - would a recomposed shot with more sky and less of the lower part of the picture work? Or is it a software tool?

    Thanks!

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Dan

    Okay.

    I would encourage you to move onto shooting in RAW just as soon as you can. It will open up a lot more opportunities for you.

    What I meant by lifting (one of my own terms, I think, as opposed to anything you'd read in a textbook) reflects my own preferences and approach. By lifting I mean causing those buildings behind (particularly that one second up on the left) to be bit brighter and have more contrast; to give it more 'zap'/'pop'.

    There are many ways to achieve the same end, but a favoured approach of mine is to use dodge and burn techniques and sharpening tools to apply Local Contrast Enhancement (these are all terms you can get to grips with once you get into post-processing). 'Dodge' and 'burn' with computer software is the digital version of what happens (or, more commonly now, what used to happen) in darkrooms where you can burn in some of the image to darken it or hold it back to lighten it up. Instead of letting more enlarger light at it (to burn) or less (to dodge), we now use electronic brushes in software packages to brush over those parts of the images that we want to 'burn' or 'dodge'.

    I would want to get a dodging brush onto that building and, as I say, 'lift' it a bit. Wouldn't want to make it nearly as bright as the building in front that has the light shining onto it, but just give it a little tickle with the dodge brush.

    I should add my view that I do like the composition on this one. If you had put the the line of lights from vehicles right in teh centre, you would have, I think, split the picture in two and it would not have had any sense of harmony. As it is, you've got it off centre and, with the lines of light neatly breaking off ot the rogth and to teh left right at the bottom of the frame, you've created an interest that then pulls our eye up and into the background. Well done.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Dan, I think you did a very fine job at this shot. My only little suggestion would be to lessen the shutter speed time from 30 to 15 seconds. It's like lowering the exposure value by -1. In that way, there would be more separation in tone between the street lights and the roof area of the buildings. For me, I would love to make the street lights my main subject and let the image become darker a little bit. I think it would make your image more "dramatic". Great shot, btw.
    Last edited by jiro; 30th December 2010 at 12:56 PM.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Dan

    I couldn't resist the temptation. If you'd rather I didn't do this, please do say so and I'll remove it immediately.

    This is what I was meaning.
    Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    And your original
    Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    What did I do?

    Well, I use the GIMP, an open source (it's free to download, but you're invited to make a donation) software package. Most of the workd uses one or other of the Adobe products (Elements, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc). But I've never been one for conformity.

    So, with the GIMP:
    Duplicated the layer and applied Wavelet Sharpening at Radius 0.02, Amount 2.2
    Duplicated the layer and applied Local Contrast Enhancement (same tool as at 1) above - Radius 1.8, Amount 0.2
    Added a new, transparent layer and changed mode to Overlay
    Take soft white brush and paint over areas to dodge(Snow on roof of first building on left; 2nd building on the left; - all at 20%. Snow on teh roof of the one 2nd on the left 35%. Second building on the right and tower blocks towards top right - at 15%.)
    Resized image to 10.24 on longest side and applied output sharpening of Radius 0.02, Amount 0.2

    Now, of course, you or others may think this results in an awful edit of the image - which is fine! But it's one set of ideas for you to think about.

    I think I've gone too far with the snow on the roof of the building 2nd on the left. I don't like it.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Quote Originally Posted by jiro View Post
    Dan, I think you did a very fine job at this shot. My only little suggestion would be to lessen the shutter speed time from 30 to 15 seconds. It's like lowering the exposure value by -1. In that way, there would be more separation in tone between the street lights and the roof area of the buildings. For me, I would love to make the street lights my main subject and let the image become darker a little bit. Great shot, btw.
    Hi Jiro,

    I agree that foreground roof is rather blown, but I think of those light trails only being half the length would spoil it, so I'd suggest a second exposure to get that roof and blend in PP and only go to those lengths if a two layer approach to processing a single RAW file didn't work.

    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheManWithTheSuntan
    It was shot in jpeg; I'm trying to limit myself to the tools that the camera is offering me and learn to use those as best I can before moving to post-processing. I also find it more fun that way! :-) So I'm not using any post-processing software and I'm trying to avoid it for now if possible.
    Hi Dan,

    As you can see, PP is unavoidable I'm afraid, but I do appreciate your concept of getting one thing well under control before moving on, I do the same. A little PP can go a long way, and if you're not sharpening (in PP), I seriously doubt you'd see any difference between sharpness at f/22 and f/14, especially after downsizing for display online.

    Plus a filter, on this type of subject, would probably give flare problems to deal with (in PP!) or put up with.

    I'd suggest starting PP with something simple like Elements, you could, for now, do a lot with just shooting RAW and using the Auto button.

    Welcome to the CiC forums from me (and I like it too).

    Cheers,

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Hi, Dave. I think you have a good idea about the streaks of light if Dan lowers the shutter speed to 15 seconds. I did some post-processing work on Dan's image mimicking a -1 exposure value if the shutter speed was changed from 30 to 15 seconds and here is the result:

    Night / city / long exposure; please critique
    picture027oEn2_resize by jiro bau, on Flickr

    Dan, my apologies for doing an edit on your work. Full copyright notice under your name was included on my flickr account regarding your image and it was set to private mode so only CiC members can access it. I only do it here so I can have a way of attaching the file without much compression. Thanks.

    Oh, before I forget - "I am very much impressed by the resolution of your image when I saw it. The Nikon D90 at ASA 100 is just plain awesome." I wish I could get my hands on one in the future.
    Last edited by jiro; 30th December 2010 at 01:52 PM.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Donald: I don't mind at all, I think it's an improvement from the original. I used to be completely against editing software like photoshop, before I had any idea what that meant. I now realize there's no clear boundary when it comes to editing, as the camera itself inevitably edits the picture in one way or another. Also, is cropping or removing red eyes really bad, even though they bring you closer to what the photographer actually saw? Or changing the white balance? I'm more open to it now than before, especially if the picture maintains its original character. Not to mention there are people that can start with the most common picture and create a work of art using these programs.

    So you've given me something to think about and I might start looking into these tools sooner than I would have otherwise.

    Jiro: That looks really good, I think it captures the mood a lot better! At least to my untrained eye the post-processing tools seem to be working well on the jpeg, I guess the sky's the limit on raw. I appreciate the copyright stuff - I can only hope I'll start making pictures that are worth fighting over the internet for. :-)

    Dave: Thank you for the warm welcome and advice. Actually that applies to everyone in the thread, you guys are a friendly bunch!
    Would the filter have created issues because of the low light? Does that happen when you have light sources in the frame of is there another rule to follow?
    Last edited by DanTheManWithTheSuntan; 30th December 2010 at 01:57 PM.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheManWithTheSuntan View Post
    I used to be completely against editing software like photoshop, before I had any idea what that meant.
    Dan

    We've had lots and lots of discussion on here prompted by people relatively new to photography at this level, who have arrived at the view that post-processing is somehow cheating. If it is, then the great photographers of the past who spent hours and hours in their darkrooms, were also cheating .... and I don't think anyone has ever suggested that!

    When you post-process an image, you're not altering it. You're carrying out part 2 of the process. Part 1 was setting up and pressing the shutter.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Quote Originally Posted by DanTheManWithTheSuntan View Post
    Also, is cropping or removing red eyes really bad, even though they bring you closer to what the photographer actually saw? Or changing the white balance?
    Unless the photo is for journalism or a court record you can do anything you want. It's your vision that counts and nothing else.

    I very much like your photo. If it were mine I might try cropping out the top third. To me it results in a stronger image.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Hi all - I've been following along and I have a question regarding night time photography.

    Is there such a thing as a "properly" exposed night time photo or is it all personal preference? Can you tell by the histogram? I'm a RAW novice, but have been viewing all my pix in ACR and checking out histograms.

    Thanks
    Debbie

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Dan

    We've had lots and lots of discussion on here prompted by people relatively new to photography at this level, who have arrived at the view that post-processing is somehow cheating. If it is, then the great photographers of the past who spent hours and hours in their darkrooms, were also cheating .... and I don't think anyone has ever suggested that!

    When you post-process an image, you're not altering it. You're carrying out part 2 of the process. Part 1 was setting up and pressing the shutter.
    I like the way you put this. I'm new too Dan and I just recently started tinkering with post processing. I read a neat comment in response to pp on another site that states, "Pictures are taken. Photographs are made." or something to that effect.

    Anyway, I really like this image. I'm very impressed with the quality of the camera in the conditions as well as the composition. Very cool.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Quote Originally Posted by snapdown View Post
    I like the way you put this. I'm new too Dan and I just recently started tinkering with post processing. I read a neat comment in response to pp on another site that states, "Pictures are taken. Photographs are made." or something to that effect.
    Xavier

    As Pops has said in a number of threads on here, "The camera is a box in which you store photographs. The picture is behind your eyeballs."

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Quote Originally Posted by djg05478 View Post
    Hi all - I've been following along and I have a question regarding night time photography.

    Is there such a thing as a "properly" exposed night time photo or is it all personal preference? Can you tell by the histogram? I'm a RAW novice, but have been viewing all my pix in ACR and checking out histograms.
    Debbie

    There are lots of people on here who will be able to answer. But Colin is a real low-light expert. If you can hang-on until New Zealand wakes up, then hopefully Colin will see this post and give you the benefit of his expertise in this area of photography.

  16. #16

    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Hi Dan

    I like this shot. It's a good night time scene with a good spread of light throughout the shot. I think the problem was that the foreground had more light than the background. I would have used an ND grad filter turned upside down (dark bit at the bottom). That would have slowed down the exposure time, but f/18 would still have done it in under 30secs.

    I did an edit in CS5. I used the ND grad tool to simulate what the grad filter might have done on the camera, and I think you can now see how the shot is a lot more balanced in exposure. Worth doing again, I think. Do you have filters?

    Please, please, pretty please... shoot in RAW?

    Night / city / long exposure; please critique

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Hi Dan,

    I'll just add my 2 cents. The guys advocating shooting in raw are doing so 'cos they know it's power of recoverable data in the file. What I mean by this is you can recover bits that are too dark and at the same time recover highlights. I've just bitten the bullet and bought PS CS5. Worth the money just for the new noise reduction, sharpening and fill light.

    As for long exposure in the centre of a city, well, as you've so many different light sources, optimal exposure will always be a mixture of guesswork and compromise. A tiny one of mine,

    Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Plus, you've got the problem of light pollution, as you can see in this one, the unsightly red glow.

    Hope this helps.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Hi Dan,

    Just ignore diffraction. Yes, it's real, but in reality it's only something you'll physically see on a VERY large print (several feet across), or at high magnifications on your computer.

    In reality, when you down-sample an image for online display you're chucking away 95% of affected pixels anyway; correct sharpening is far more significant in terms of image quality.

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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    PS: I've also given your shot a quick re-interpretation. Personally, I don't like revealing too much shadow detail in a night shot. After all, it IS a night shot, and it's not detail we can normally see - plus - it usually makes the image look flat and less contrasty.

    So here's my take on it ...

    Night / city / long exposure; please critique

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Night / city / long exposure; please critique

    Quote Originally Posted by jiro View Post
    Hi, Dave. I think you have a good idea about the streaks of light if Dan lowers the shutter speed to 15 seconds. I did some post-processing work on Dan's image mimicking a -1 exposure value if the shutter speed was changed from 30 to 15 seconds and here is the result:

    Night / city / long exposure; please critique
    picture027oEn2_resize by jiro bau, on Flickr
    Hi Jiro,

    Oooops, I'm not sure if I explained it very well; my concern wasn't the darkening effect of one or two stops, it was that all the vehicles would have travelled only half the distance (in the shorter time), so what here is a continuous trace with overlapping headlamp streaks might become a collection of dashed lines of white headlamps on the roads. With the shorter trails of different vehicles separated by black space.

    The only way to mimick the effect in PP would be to carefully clone out half the length of each individual trail - it isn't obvious to me if you've done that, but if you have - my fears were unfounded

    Cheers,

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