Sunday, April 15, 2012

Night Photography: Success!!

My buddy Justin and I headed out to Treasure Island tonight, the island smack-dab in the middle of the San Francisco Bay between Emeryville/Oakland and San Francisco. I brought my new ball-head tripod and had some pretty solid success with it tonight!

I'll post more photos later, but just spent a bit of time post-processing my favourite one, so just this one for now. I'll post more later when I get time to post-process.

San Francisco Ferry Building, from Treasure Island
Canon Rebel T1i // ISO 100 // 250mm // f/20 // 15 sec. Postprocess in Lightroom 4.
Learned a few significant things tonight, and made some good progress after our last nighttime photo shoot on Twin Peaks:
  • You actually (surprisingly) don't want to use a low (wide) aperture for nighttime shots of scenery like this. I had brought my 50mm f/1.8 lens and figured that would be useful, but I didn't even take it out.
  • Small aperture is your friend here, as those cool star patterns only show up past f/15 or so.
  • Holy crap shooting in RAW is a good idea. I shot in RAW+Jpg, and realized only afterwards that my favourite shot (this one) was shot with White Balance of Daylight. This caused a very yellowish/orange glow of the lights which was... ok... but in comparison with the final image I am incredibly pleased I was able to change the colour temperature AFTER taking the photo. The comparison is shocking (see comparison image below)
  • Hat, gloves and windbreaker are a good call for nighttime photography!
  • Post-process is actually much more awesome than I thought. In my photo class we were taught to try to get everything right in-camera, even cropping if possible. So I try to do as much at shooting time as I can. But stuff like incorrect white balance or noise or wanting stronger shadows is too hard or impossible to get right at shooting time. I am VERY happy with the results you can get in Lightroom, and this post-process on the image above only took about 20 or 30 min. Not bad.
  • Oh yeah, and Lightroom is awesome. It's slow on my Windows machine, not sure why. These RAW files are like 15 megs each, but still. I might try it on my Mac and see if it's faster there before I commit to buying it on one platform or the other.
And now for the before and after, check this out... crazy. When I took this photo I loooved it and figured it was gonna be the best one of the night. It still was the best of the lot when I got home, but once I started fiddling with it in Lightroom the power and potential of post-processing became pretty obvious.

 Not a bad photo, in fact I still really like it. But man look at those oranges, the red/orange colour bleed on the buildings, not that great.
And side-by-side in Lightroom 4:

Really happy with the more natural lighting look in the post-processed image, and the sharpness brought on by the improved contrast.

Those streaky lines by the way were caused by a tourist cruise boat driving by while I was taking the photo. The framing of the cruise boat lights on the San Francisco sign is a complete accident, and I love how that kind of accident works out sometimes :)

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