Nighttime photography

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Nighttime photography

Postposted on Tue May 11, 2010 4:38 pm

I mentioned it in passing but I'm trying to get night shots of animals--particularly amphibians--and am looking for ideas. I can't go with bright white lights cause they spook the critters, and I can't go with super heavy duty lenses that take forever to set up.
Night time is better for finding most herps, and a goodly number of mammals (possums, coons, armadillos), but these shots are usually A: in motion and B: quick.
My camera is a nice point and shoot, and I've thought about getting an external flash but those I've seen are intended to work with particular camera models. Are there generic ones, or are there ones you can use entirely separate from the camera? Or would getting a red light flashlight/spotlight maybe help? I've got the observing/waiting part down, I'm good at finding critters, but getting a picture of that armadillo as it hightails it u nder low light conditions is beyond me...
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Tue May 11, 2010 4:46 pm

Fast + dark don't mix well. What camera do you plan to use?
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Tue May 11, 2010 5:34 pm

Are there generic ones, or are there ones you can use entirely separate from the camera?

There's a crude option for any camera which allows you to manually set the shutter speed and aperture. What you want to do is set the shutter to 1 second or so (maybe half a second) and put your aperture fairly small (up around f/8 to f/11 would be good, depending on factors such as the strength of the flash and your distance to the subject).

Anyway, once the camera's set up, you just need a flash that allows you to manually fire it (often there's a "test" button or something on the flash unit). So you click the shutter, and while it's exposing, you pop the flash. Under normal lighting conditions this would result in a lot of blur, but in very dark situations the shutter is "exposed" but has nothing to capture, until you pop the flash. And since the flash is (ideally) a very fast event, it acts as if the shutter was exposed for only a very short period of time.

This has drawbacks of being unpredictable and unwieldy, but as the advantages of being very accessible and not requiring much in the way of equipment investment. It also gives you a wide DoF for nighttime shots, which helps offset the difficulties in getting focus right.

So that's it: One crude option that's cheap and requires a bit of practice.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Tue May 11, 2010 7:46 pm

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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Tue May 11, 2010 7:52 pm

I've got a timer for my DSLR. If you hook it to a laptop via USB or WiFi, you can operate it from there, too.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Wed May 12, 2010 8:27 am

One way or another I'm going to get a night shot of the bat that flies around my yard in the summer. The thing flies in a big circle through my neighbours backyard then dives down & skims the surface of my pool. I want to capture the moment he hits the surface. All I need is a good light set-up so I can capture it at a fast shutter speed.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Wed May 12, 2010 9:55 am

That would be beyond awesome :D
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Wed May 12, 2010 12:02 pm

I'm hoping I don't need something as elaborate as what this guy has. :o Those are some amazing images.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Wed May 12, 2010 12:05 pm

Hoser wrote:I'm hoping I don't need something as elaborate as what this guy has. :o Those are some amazing images.



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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Fri May 14, 2010 3:16 pm

Hoser wrote:I'm hoping I don't need something as elaborate as what this guy has. :o Those are some amazing images.

Wow. I hope to be half that good someday.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Fri May 14, 2010 8:49 pm

Hoser wrote:I'm hoping I don't need something as elaborate as what this guy has. :o Those are some amazing images.


I love how he has a Bat-sensor. Does he also have a Bat-utility belt? :lol:

We have bats flying around the street lights outside our house (they eat the insects that are attracted to the lights), but I've never tried to take pictures of them. Maybe I should bust out the old 40D and the 70-200/2.8 L (I sold off the 300/4 L a while back), but frankly, I think they're too fast for me to focus on or compose. They'd just be a black blur on the screen next to the streetlight.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Fri May 14, 2010 9:03 pm

Pre-set your focus (manually, if need be), and freeze the action with the flash.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Tue May 18, 2010 10:26 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:Pre-set your focus (manually, if need be), and freeze the action with the flash.


That would depend on how close he could get. If he's going to be more than 20' away, his flash might not have the oomph to effectively help capture them. I'm not doubting he has a good flash, but over a distance like 20' the effectiveness of the flash is greatly diminished.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Tue May 18, 2010 10:45 am

That is one problem; lots of these shots will be more like 15-20 yards, rather than 15-20 feet.
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Re: Nighttime photography

Postposted on Wed May 19, 2010 5:31 pm

Track down a stash of expendable flashcubes and then wire several of them in parallel to a model rocket igniter (or, easier way, just touch them off a 6V lantern battery). You can get a briefer and more powerful strobe out of them by using a higher voltage battery than what the original camera contained. A little duck tape and coat hanger fabrication should allow you to aim them at the target zone from a tree branch or a spare tripod.

One of those inline Polaroid "flash bars" would allow you to run a setup for 10 shots without resetting the hardware since they all aim in the same general direction.

Then, open your camera for a long tripod exposure (say, 10 seconds) and let a flash rip.
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