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A little night photography

Now that I’ve got myself a tripod (on long-term loan from my brother who had to upgrade to something a little more robust to support his newer, bigger, heavier camera!), I’ve been trying a little bit of night photography when the opportunity arises.

Here is one of my latest captures taken under near-full moonlight (no other light sources).

I’ve also previously tried (less successfully) a night picture of a mountain under a full-moon.

But, I’ve got a question for all the much more experienced night-photographers – how do you get the camera to focus in these conditions??
The auto-focus (Canon EOS 450D) can’t focus in such low light levels, the live-view shows only a black screen so is not helpful either, and the old-fashioned naked-eye through the viewfinder is rather difficult also in low light (especially with eye-sight as bad as mine!).

Is there any other way to assist the camera in focussing on the subject when there are no well-lit area(s) in the scene?

Comments

  • D Byrne
    D Byrneover 3 years ago

    Depending on your lens I’d try the manual and focus to Infinity.

  • Thanks Drec. I’m using the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. I tried manual focus and focussed it out all the way but the result was very blurry – perhaps ‘infinity’ is not at the point where the focussing ring won’t turn any further? Unfortunately the focussing ring doesn’t even have markings to indicate approximate focussing distance, most likely because it varies depending on the focal length being used (in this case, it was 44mm).

    – Tim Coleman

  • George Lenz
    George Lenzover 3 years ago

    did you try bulb mode?

  • No I didn’t George – I don’t have a remote control so using bulb mode would introduce movement blur (I use the 2 sec. timer for tripod shots so there won’t be any camera shake) – the longest shutter speed I can get in this method is 30 sec. on this camera.

    – Tim Coleman

  • Mark  Lucey
    Mark Luceyover 3 years ago

    Use the hyper- focal distance ,explained here or focus on infinity. Use a small AP > f8. Under full moon lighting you would need an exposure of approx 8 minutes at f8. As George mentioned definately use BULB mode.

    Hope this helps.

  • Thanks Mark – unfortunately I seem to have a little trouble finding where the ‘infinity’ focus is – I wound the focussing ring out all the way until it reached the end stop but this resulted in a blurred image. I am unable to use bulb mode without a remote controller as I would get movement blur/camera shake (I currently just use the 2 sec. timer to avoid this).

    The above image was taken at 44mm focal length, f/5, 30 sec. exposure and ISO200.

    I had a quick look at the hyper-focal distance chart but will need to have a think about it and perhaps a bit of experimenting…

    Thanks for your comments though.

    – Tim Coleman

  • Mark  Lucey
    Mark Luceyover 3 years ago

    What lens are you using Tim

  • I’m using the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

    – Tim Coleman

  • D Byrne
    D Byrneover 3 years ago

    Most likely the kit lens won’t focus to infinity(my older one wouldn’t). In the Custom Functions switch on Mirror Lock-Up at night and maybe have a look on ebay for a wireless remote release. I’ve used the Yongnuo brand and have no problems on it working plus compared to the canon, it’s pretty cheap(about $30 Australian)

  • Thanks Drec. Yes, I already use the mirror lock-up function (another one of those settings for night photography that I invariably forget to turn off until after my first (failed) shot in my next shooting session!). I did a quick google search and found the Canon wireless remote for A$35 at camera-warehouse.com.au (plus shipping I expect).

    – Tim Coleman

  • Mark  Lucey
    Mark Luceyover 3 years ago

    You don’t have a distance guide on that lens so it might be difficult. There is a work around. you could try using autofocus but with a torch. Try lighting something that is close in the field of view light it with a torch and try to autofocus. Once you have have focus confirmation, turn AF to Manual and turn IS off. Do this at the lowerst f number so on this lens f3.5. Now increase your apature to say f11 and take the shot. Agree witrh drec that you really need a shutter release to use bulb mode effectively. Hope this helps

  • Thanks Mark – you’re right about there being no distance guide on that lens. I had thought of using a torch (as I was walking back from taking the photo above) but I’d need quite a large torch to make the distance required for that shot! Even more so with this shot I took earlier!

    I’m also curious about your reasoning for changing the aperture to f11 – is that to increase the DoF so the exact/precise focussing is not so critical? Or is it just for better overall results (I’d heard f11 will give better results for most lenses – especially if you want the ‘star’ effect on any lights in the image)?

    – Tim Coleman

  • Mark  Lucey
    Mark Luceyover 3 years ago

    You don’t need a huge torch, just enough to illuminate an area about 5ft in front of the lens (that’s if there is a subject there).

    For example just say you wanted to focus on something that is 20m away. if you use the hyper focal distance of 1.5m ( that’s at f11 & 18mm, the smallent focal distance on yours lens) this will give you a DOF from 1.403m to infinity.

    You really only need to focus somwhere greater than 1.5m.

    Have a good read of the link I provided above study it and digest it until it sinks in. Once you understand it it is very simple.