Author Topic: Time Exposure shots  (Read 2782 times)

shane_man15

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Time Exposure shots
« on: January 23, 2012, 01:19:32 AM »
Been trying to do these lately and have had little to no success. All of the pictures seem to come out out of focus. I've been manually focusing them to the best of my ability, but they still seem out of focus. Trying to stay away from the light noise as much as I can, but yeah. Anything to help out here?

By the way, Tried to take a picture at Smith last night, and it came out sort of poopy. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  :)
« Last Edit: May 13, 2012, 09:59:19 AM by shane_man15 »
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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sataraid1

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2012, 10:08:04 AM »
Focusing in low-light situations is tricky. Don't trust your camera's autofocus in low light. When manually focusing, use a "live focus" or similar process in low light, where you can look at a magnified portion of your image, rather than relying on what you see in the viewfinder.

You could also be suffering from blur caused by camera vibration. Over the course of a long exposure, vibrations from the ground you can't even feel are enough to reduce sharpness. Use the biggest, heaviest tripod you can that includes a center brace. When I used to do a lot of night work, I hung bags of lead shot in the center brace of the tripod to make it more stable. (Also handy for long telephotos.)

Avoid the temptation to use a wide aperture to shorten your exposure time. Wider apertures have much shallower depth of field, which will exacerbate any focusing errors.

Also, long exposures in low light will reveal shortcomings in a lens that would never be seen during normal daylight. Lens flares that you can't see in the exposure itself can still cast a sheet of light across the frame that will soften the image.

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2012, 11:01:46 AM »
Agree 100%.
My first assumption is you are getting vibration or movement in the tripod.  I learned to get away from vehicles and off the ballast too.  You will be shocked at how much transfer goes through the ground. 

I found this out at CP230 when a coal train came through and made the entire camera bounce and I was over 100 feet or more away from it.

shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2012, 11:10:28 AM »
The funny thing about this latest shot, I had the car off and was probably a good 100+ yards from the tracks. Decided I would take a picture from the slope of the hill near Smith siding. Train had to take the siding, but this was all last minute. Had time to set everything up. Just sayin'. :P

But this go-around, I left the camera in Tv, set the exposure time to 30", and set the ISO at 400. There was a tiny light coming off the signal box for the public crossing at Smith and I focused on that through the viewfinder, because I can't use the screen very well to focus. Can't see anything very well anyways. I'll post the picture up sometime today.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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CIOR

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2012, 12:15:12 PM »
You would be shocked how much even just your foot steps will kill a timelaps.  I try and stay still as possible, heck, even a touch of wind.
I'll also add the tripod is key too.  You have a cheap head on there and the slightest movement will play through it. 

shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 12:21:22 PM »
You would be shocked how much even just your foot steps will kill a timelaps.  I try and stay still as possible, heck, even a touch of wind.
I'll also add the tripod is key too.  You have a cheap head on there and the slightest movement will play through it. 
That could be the case. At some point though, I do want to get a remote trigger for time-lapse shots. The other thing is I need to find out how to get the best quality out of this camera. I know these pictures can be better, but it seems as the pictures aren't all that great. It's only just a learning process. ;D
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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CIOR

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2012, 12:29:56 PM »
Ah, are you using the trigger to release?
If you are, try setting it on your timer and then doing a shot.

What happens is you move the camera albeit briefly during the initial part of the exposure and get blur side to side.

IndyKing

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2012, 01:22:46 PM »
I learned to get away from vehicles and off the ballast too.

I always try to avoid softer ground too.  This is especially important with time lapse.  If you set up the tripod on softer ground then the legs might gradually settle down into the ground over time, something that you might not be able to discern visually but again being enough to blur the image.  Ideally, I would set up the tripod as far ahead of time as possible.

Of course, it's all a bit of a balance as rock hard ground will transmit vibrations better...
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SemperVaporo

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2012, 01:50:26 PM »
Don't you mean "Time Exposure"?
 
"Time-lapse" is a technique of taking multiple photos over an extended period of time to show slow changes in the scene.
 
When taking a Time Exposure, always use either a cable or timer to trip the shutter.  And if using a cable, be very careful to not move the cable in any way duing the open shutter time; any slight tug, even the weight of the cable being left to dangle on LONG exposure times will blurr the resulting photo.
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shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2012, 02:06:18 PM »
Don't you mean "Time Exposure"?
 
"Time-lapse" is a technique of taking multiple photos over an extended period of time to show slow changes in the scene.
 
When taking a Time Exposure, always use either a cable or timer to trip the shutter.  And if using a cable, be very careful to not move the cable in any way duing the open shutter time; any slight tug, even the weight of the cable being left to dangle on LONG exposure times will blurr the resulting photo.
I've never actually known what it was. I've called it Time-Lapse, Over-exposure, and one other I can't think of right now. But It just seems to be a bit of a struggle.

Ah, are you using the trigger to release?
If you are, try setting it on your timer and then doing a shot.

What happens is you move the camera albeit briefly during the initial part of the exposure and get blur side to side.
I haven't thought about the timer. But yes. Just clicking the trigger and going. If that really is the issue, I'm going to feel rather...dumb, for the lack of a better word. LOL
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shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2012, 02:18:25 PM »
Picture from the night before. To me, it just looks like it's simply out of focus.
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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1976

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #11 on: January 23, 2012, 04:34:23 PM »
Wow, I've never stood that far back for one before.

CIOR

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2012, 04:50:05 PM »
Picture from the night before. To me, it just looks like it's simply out of focus.
Im going to say its you pushing the trigger as your biggest issue and second is focus.

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2012, 05:02:25 PM »
I always use the shutter release on the camera, I don't have the best tripod, and I generally stand 50 or less feet from the tracks.  Of course I have no idea what I'm talking about, but it seems like the fact that you're so far back multiplies any motion problems, similar to trying to shoot a 300mm shot with no tripod.

shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2012, 05:19:17 PM »
Well, I originally wanted to have this at a rather wide angle. And it didn't really work out, but that's okay.

At some point this week, I'm going to try this again. I'll try the self timer and try to find something to anchor my tripod with.

So far though, It honestly seems like I'm doing the right thing, but It's not so easy when you have to figure this all out by yourself.
Still think the Brain W. and Santini need to make their way to Vincennes again sometime.  ::)
Shane Smiley (shane_man15)

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Racecar52

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2012, 08:24:08 PM »
Shane, just out of curiosity, what is your camera?
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sataraid1

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2012, 09:51:20 PM »
Looking at the image, I'm going to say that focus is your problem. The lines of the light trails stay straight and true, which tends to rule out motion problems or vibration. It's also a safe bet that the minimal amount of vibration involved in tripping the shutter was far too slight to cause a problem.

Remember, in near total darkness, that fraction of a second of vibration isn't even going to register at ISO 400.

With that said, using a shutter release and the self timer (2-second mode if it's available) is *always* a good idea.

shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2012, 11:00:41 PM »
Shane, just out of curiosity, what is your camera?
Canon EOS Rebel T3

Looking at the image, I'm going to say that focus is your problem. The lines of the light trails stay straight and true, which tends to rule out motion problems or vibration. It's also a safe bet that the minimal amount of vibration involved in tripping the shutter was far too slight to cause a problem.

Remember, in near total darkness, that fraction of a second of vibration isn't even going to register at ISO 400.

With that said, using a shutter release and the self timer (2-second mode if it's available) is *always* a good idea.
I plan on trying it again with the timer and seeing what happens. I just need to find a way to focus on things better. If there was a constant flow of train traffic that night, I would've been out there for quite a while.  ;D

Anyone know how to focus better in low light situations? I know previously stated was using the screen instead of the viewfinder. But I can't hardly see anything on it.
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SemperVaporo

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #18 on: January 24, 2012, 12:02:10 AM »
The lens should have numbers etched or printed on the focus ring showing what the focus distance is for various rotational position.  So, measure the distance from the camera to the main object in the scene and set the focus ring to that number.
 
BUT!  Most of those numbers are rather "general" in their meaning, and are not EXACT, you probably cannot tell whether the distance number is to be centered over the marker or to the left or right of it it.  So,  to compensate for that, you need to narrow the aperture so the "Depth of Field" is wider (i.e.: the distance from the closest thing that is in focus to the most distant thing that is in focus is as far as possible).  You can get a near infinite depth of field with a mere PinPoint of an aperture opening.
 
BUT!  If you make the aperture small, then not much light can get in at any one time, so you need to extend the time of the exposure to allow enough light to get in to produce the image.
 
BUT!  The longer the exposure time the more blurring there will be in the image due to vibration of the camera due to; earth tremors (someone stomping around near the camera), wind buffeting the camera (or some one sneezes hard near it, the blast can affect the camera!) or your own heartbeat if you have a hand on the camera.
 
You can reduce the time exposure by using a faster film (or a setting on the digital camera that simulates faster film).  BUT!  This can produce an image that appears slightly out of focus due to the graininess of the film (or the way the digital sensor pixels are summed to produce the data to be pixels in the output image).
 
 
So, it is a trade off of aperture opening, time of exposure and the film speed to get the image as "in focus" as you can get.
 
Remember the cameras that the professionals used to use many years ago? ... Some had a tape measure built-in to the front and the photog would pull it out to measure the distance to the person being photographed and set the focus ring to the number he read on the tape.
 
I can say that from the image you posted here, it appears that you probably should just set the focus ring to "Infinity" (looks like an "8" on its side) and let it go at that.  Your distance is in the hundreds of feet and most focus rings are only marked out to maybe 50 or 60 feet, so anything over that is "infinity" as far as the camera is concerned.
 
Some digital cameras have some other settings that don't have a film equivalent.  Look for things like "EV".  These are settings that can a voltage to the sensor to make it more or less sensitive to light.  It can help in low light applications, but it can also create artifacts where the sensor is so near to it threshold of sensitivity that other energy sources can trigger a visible image in random pixels (cosmic rays, radio waves, heat, etc.) and they don't have to enter through the lens to cause the image to get a frosty look to them.  Other settings can change the way the individual pixels are interpreted... It is kind of like the post processing for contrast or brightness, but done during the initial exposure and creation of the raw data.
 
I do not understand why the manufacturers cannot do a better job of explaining these additional capabilities in a manner that the average user can understand.  The best I have seen in a User's Manual is a list of the setting values and words to the effect of "try it and see what it does" (No help at all!)  It becomes a matter of making a list of all the settings and taking a photo of the same scene with the same lighting conditions in each of the settings and recording which image was created with each setting and then trying to detect what the settings did.  Some will not seem to have an effect in most circumstances, but may make a world of difference (good or bad) in other lighting conditions (sunlight, shade, incandescent, florescent, dark, bright, dull, foggy, etc.).  You then need to figure out if any new scene might be photographable using one of these obscure/oddball settings.  I don't have the patience to do that.
 
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shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2012, 12:22:17 AM »
Here's the problem: Canon, and it's loveliness, forgot to put the numbers on the lenses. The only thing the lenses have are the markings for the millimeters. That's it.
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WrongMain

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #20 on: January 24, 2012, 01:43:44 AM »
Maybe this will help.  Set your F-stop at least 5.6, F8 would be better.  If you set the focus at infinity with those F stops, your subject should be in focus.  It also looks like you need to get closer to your subject.  The light coming from the crossing gates tends to disperse, spread out over distance.  It will also be aggravated if it's not a clear night.  Any atmospheric condition will soften the lights, making them look like they're out of focus.  Be sure to use a remote trigger or cable release.  And if there's any wind at all, try to stand where it won't affect the camera.  Time exposure photography is a learning process, and kind of like a crap shoot.  Good luck and don't give up. :)
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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #21 on: January 24, 2012, 08:59:05 AM »
Here's the problem: Canon, and it's loveliness, forgot to put the numbers on the lenses. The only thing the lenses have are the markings for the millimeters. That's it.

You can still figure out which way to turn the focus ring to focus closer or farther.  Just shift it to as far as possible.  The example you used above would definitely qualify as 'infinite focus'


And just to claify SemperVaporo and WrongMain are saying the same thing.  F-stops and aperture means the same.
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sataraid1

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #22 on: January 24, 2012, 10:34:48 AM »
Time exposure photography is a learning process, and kind of like a crap shoot.  Good luck and don't give up. :)

Yes, and revel in the fact that you can play all you want without having to wait two weeks to see the results, which end up going in the trash anyway!

While the importance of camera stability IS important, I still don't think it's the primary issue here. You've got to remember that while your exposure is indeed long, your moving point of light (the locomotive) is traveling through the frame, perhaps rapidly. It's in one location in the frame only for a split-second, therefore you would see evidence of camera motion *when it occurred*, rather than throughout the entire exposure. Motion blur would show up as a pronounced irregularity at one particular point in the trail. If there was a sudden bump in the trail, you'd know the camera had been jolted. *But even that would not have made the trail less sharp if it were in focus.* It would simply mean a change in the direction of the trail for the moment it was moving. If the trail was sharp, then suddenly fuzzy for a short time, then sharp again, you'd know there was some vibration for a short time rather than a jolt.

Motion is almost always evidenced by distortions on a particular axis of movement ... left to right, up and down. Sometimes even "swirls". When you poke a camera on a tripod, it moves in the direction you poke it, then "bounces" back and forth on the same axis.

What's more, I'd wager the scene was entirely dark when you tripped the shutter, so even if you'd really whacked it one, there wouldn't have been enough time for even the slightest amount of light to register on the sensor for the few milliseconds the camera was vibrating.

I'm not disputing any of the advice being given above. It's all good advice, and any of it can have a pronounced effect on your image. I'm just saying that I think focus is your issue here, rather than motion, based on what I see in the image.

As for how to get correct focus ... go there during the day, focus during normal light, and mark the barrel of the lens and the location of your tripod. When you set up later, I assure you the few feet of potential error won't matter at distances like the one in your sample above. Or just throw a white towel over your camera, grab a book, and wait for the sun to go down. I've done both!

sataraid1

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #23 on: January 24, 2012, 10:39:14 AM »
Oh, and something else I just remembered ... if you're serious about taking night shots, if you have any kind of filter on your lens, remove it. Reflections between the filter and the front element of the lens will cause an upside-down "ghost" image of bright points of light.

shane_man15

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #24 on: January 24, 2012, 11:03:59 AM »
Oh, and something else I just remembered ... if you're serious about taking night shots, if you have any kind of filter on your lens, remove it. Reflections between the filter and the front element of the lens will cause an upside-down "ghost" image of bright points of light.
When people talk about filters, I'm completely lost.   ???

If anyone has seen the kit you can buy from Sams Club that comes with the Canon EOS Rebel T3, I'm pretty sure it comes with no filters, but I'm still lost on them. Time to do homework on filters! (as if this college kid doesn't already have enough. ::))
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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #25 on: January 24, 2012, 11:38:24 AM »
When people talk about filters, I'm completely lost.   ???

If anyone has seen the kit you can buy from Sams Club that comes with the Canon EOS Rebel T3, I'm pretty sure it comes with no filters, but I'm still lost on them. Time to do homework on filters! (as if this college kid doesn't already have enough. ::))

They screw on the front of the lens.  They have many types of filters, and I'm betting you do not have any. 

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Re: Time-Lapse shots
« Reply #26 on: January 24, 2012, 03:02:57 PM »
They screw on the front of the lens.  They have many types of filters, and I'm betting you do not have any. 
No. I don't have anything like that. Didn't receive anything like that anyways.
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Train horns are also my thing.

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