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D700 - Optimum Setting for Nightime Landscapes

Tony Estcourt , Dec 22, 2008; 03:29 p.m.

I went out the other evening and shot about 50 frames at night with my D700. I used my normal daytime settings for the camera and shot in RAW. Some of my shots were handheld at high ISO speeds, most were long exposures at around 5s. Once back at home I have found that compared to my normal daytime phoptography it was necessary to alter the white balance and instead of sharpening (which seems to accentuate noise in the sky) i have used the noise reduction function in NX2, this seems to allow you to find a nice balance between noise reduction and sharpening.
It occured to me that there was a number of options for optimum quality and I wondered if anyone has any recommended approaches to long night-time exposures. Some questions:
1/ On the D700 is it better to do noise reduction in-camera or NX2 - is it the same tool?
2/ Would i get better quality by doing multiple shorter exposures or one long one?
3/ Is there a rule of thumb when it comes to setting ISO and trading noise from ISO speed vs. noise from long exposures. Is the "noise" in both cases the same effect on the photo?
4/ I normally have d-lighting switched to auto - do you think this helps?
Some example photo's:
http://www.tonyestcourt.co.uk/html/tate1.html
http://www.tonyestcourt.co.uk/html/st_pauls.html

Regards

Tony

Responses

Michael Hahn , Dec 22, 2008; 04:22 p.m.

I would keep doing whatever you are doing with that Bridge Photo! Great shot.
michael.

William Pahnelas , Dec 22, 2008; 06:43 p.m.

i'm no authority on the subject -- but i'm very pleased by the absence of annoying "noise" in my D700 captures when shooting at night on a tripod. like you, i keep all in-camera NR off. when i get the exposure i want, i don't find myself needing to apply any NR in post-processing, either. i generally shoot at about f/8 -- which in noticed you did, also. but i used base ISO, whereas you pushed it up to 400. i prefer to lengthen the exposure time; i think the results are cleaner. as for ADL, i always shoot at normal setting, knowing i can reduce or kill the effect later, if i need to. you already appear to be on the right track, as i too liked your bridge photo.


50/2 AI, 15s, f/8

Bob Bill , Dec 22, 2008; 10:54 p.m.

The d200 seems to produce cleaner images with the in-camera noise reduction turned on. However, I am often taking 3-4 minute exposures with some light painting/light modification. William, you sure picked the perfect time for this shot, ambient and artificial are well balanced and still color in the sky. I like shooting in tungsten white balance or raw to add blue to the sky and neutralize the incandescent lighting. I like the mixture of lighting here. Nice stars on light points too. Night shooting sure extends the time for shooting. Will be shooting night seascapes this weekend to extend my hours on a trip. A mc36 timer remote makes it easy to chimp and adjust the shutter speed. Something that really helped me to quickly get to the desired long exposure was to take the first shots with the iso at 1600 and aperture wide open, knocking down the shutter speed to about 15-30 seconds. Once exposure is dialed in, just compute the number of stops back to 200 iso and down to say f8 or 11, and adjust shutter speed accordingly and are usually there. No 6 minutes to shoot and process image as you try to find the proper exposure. Tony, I really like the lighting on the bridge support and looks like you had it cranked down to 28mm so great working of converging lit lines. Oh, have been using a headlight with red lens so my night vision isnt disrupted. Amazing how much easier it is not to keep holding the flashlight as you adjust the camera, tripod, lights. That and the timer make the transition to night shooting a breeze.

Francisco Solares-Larrave , Dec 23, 2008; 10:25 a.m.

If I were doing long exposures, I would...

Turn picture control to neutral
Use the NR for prolonged exposures (I think it's in the set up menu)
Turn off Auto D-Lighting
Try different types of WB until I find the one I like best

Other than that and what other people said above, I think that's it. BTW, whatever settings you have, you're doing great. Take care!

Michael Hahn , Dec 23, 2008; 01:57 p.m.

I am curious. The images are great. But are the realistic. They look quite saturated, but lovely. Did the scences really look like the brige shot and the nice street scene above. I saw some lovely blue sky through my sunglasses. Wow. Brilliant. But, of course when I took off my glasses, the blue became rather dull. That is reality. Dull.
Should we enhance reality or just record it?
thanks,
michael.

Tony Estcourt , Dec 24, 2008; 10:18 a.m.

Thanks for the info everyone.

On the last point, in my opinion they really did look like that, i didnt do anything to enhance or saturate the colours. However with long exposure times and lots of artificial lighting its hard to say what would represent an entirely natural representation of this scene.

Everyone has there own tastes I guess, when i first started landscape photography, a well established member of the camera club i went to couldnt believe the colours i was getting with Fuji Velvia. He preferred Kodak Ektachrome for its "real colours". When i look at Kodak slides they look too cold for me.

Arash Hazeghi , Dec 24, 2008; 01:37 p.m.

Tony,
If you shoot in RAW mode camera setting don't matter as you can reproduce any setting with Capture NX2 including high ISO NR so it doesn't matter if you select them in camera or not. The only feature you have to set in camera if you need it is the long exposure NR which takes a secondary dark frame in order to subtract the hot pixels which may show up for very long exposures, but this is not the same as high ISO grain.
For clean night shots, use a gray card or color temperature in combination with live view to set the white balance accurately. use ISO 200-500 and a tripod, you should not need any noise reduction with D700 and extreme long exposures at above ISOs, sometimes when you pull shadows and sky you see posterization effects but IMHO D700 handles night scene exceptionally well.

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