G Dan Mitchell , Jan 24, 2012; 12:24 p.m.
I did not look at all of your examples, but am instead answering based on my own experience with night photography. There are several options for getting good focus with night photograph:
- Use a laser pointer to put a spot of light in the frame and manually focus on the spot.
- Place a small light (I use a pocket LED) in the frame, focus, remove the light and make your exposure.
- Use live view with exposure simulation turned on. In many cases - though not quite all - this may give you enough light without the previous two techniques to achieve focus manually.
- Arrive early and focus before the light disappears. Leave the camera in place to make the exposure later without changing any settings.
- Do slight focus bracketing among several exposures and take the best one as your final image.
- Find a nearby subject that is better lit and about the same distance from your camera position as the tree. Focus and recompose.
- Avoid the largest apertures, even if this requires a much longer exposure, since they provide narrower DOF and reveal focus issues more readily.
- Try to shoot with shorter focal lengths when possible. Longer focal lengths are more susceptible to motion blur from even slight breezes vibrating the camera, and this is true even with excellent tripods and heads.
- Don't worry about sharpness "problems" that are only visible at 100% magnification on your computer screen. The real issue is whether or not the image is sufficiently sharp for the presentation that you will actually end up with - a small jpg for web presentation can look share even if it is far less than perfectly sharp at 100% and even a fairly large print can be sharp with some softness visible at 100%.