Nighttime Photography

Thursday, April 28, 2005 8:40 PM
How do you get good nighttime photos of roller coasters and parks in general?

Any tips would be useful, thanks :)

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:07 PM
rcdb.com has some good ones under each coaster but there aren't really any sites with just nighttime in general though.

Here's some good photo sites which what have what you are looking for:
http://pointbuzz.com
http://coastergallery.com
http://coastergrotto.com
http://coasterimage.com
http://eastcoaster.com
http://jonathan-hawkins.net

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:07 PM
A tripod, and a timed shutter are good bets. Also, if taking with a 35mm you might want a manual release trigger thingy.

I found that with my digital, the lower the ISO speed the less noisy the photos turn out.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:18 PM
^I use a digital camera, and tips like that are what I am looking for, not where to get photos. Thank you :) *** Edited 4/29/2005 1:18:58 AM UTC by Jophish***
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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:19 PM
I use low ISO, long exposure and small aperture.

I don't keep exact notes, but if my memory serves me correctly, this shot was on ISO 400 film at f/22 with a 4 second exposure on a tripod with a cable release. (the nice thing about Dorney is that in May you can lug a tripod around the park and not be in anyone's way :) )

My personal tastes/opinion is that this is still the one place that digital does not look as good in the end as film. As always, YMMV.

(or maybe I should reword that to say film is much more forgiving if your exposure is slightly off than digital is)

In the end there is no 'right' answer. If you're really serious, learn about photography and get out there with your camera and figure out what works and what doesn't.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:25 PM
In order to get good nighttime photos, you essentially need two things: a camera that can take a long exposure, and a solid mount to prevent the camera from moving. I'm going to use digital for my explanations.

First off, the camera shutter needs to stay open for a certain period in order for the limited amount of light available to "collect" within the sensors. Your mileage may vary, but depending on the brightness of the scene you're photographing, you'll probably need 2-3 seconds for a well-lit coaster to upwards of 10-20 second or more in a very dark setting (the lens aperture also plays a role in this, but I'll let someone else complicate things if they want). If you can, set your ISO setting as low as possible to minimize noise, and enable a noise-reduction feature if your camera has one. More technobabble: Lower ISO means longer exposure time because the sensors are less sensitive to light, so if you're trying to capture a train with motion blur, you may have to increase your ISO setting or lower your F-stop.

Secondly, the camera MUST remain absolutely still -- even the most minute movement will result in blurry images. The ideal setup is to have a tripod with an external manual-release shutter cable, but budget-conscious/lazy photographers can compensate by using common midway things like garbage cans, sidewalks, and anything else that's flat and won't move. If you don't have a shutter cable, try to set the exposure for a set amount of time if the camera supports it; if you need to hold down the shutter though, I hope you don't have shaky hands.

Other things to be careful about: really bright coasters can ruin the rest of a photo's background; Dragster, for instance, is almost as bright at nighttime as it is during the day -- thus if the structure looks good, the background is probably too dark. Get the background right, and the track will be quite overexposed. Different settings will bring about a happy medium, or if you're really daring, composite two pictures together in Photoshop! (that's tomorrow's lesson :)

Lastly, try to avoid people walking in front of the camera during a long exposure -- very annoying.

Don't just stop at roller coasters -- night shots of nicely lit flat rides -- especially those of the spinning variety -- often lend to really fantastic shots with cool blurring effects. It'll take a lot of experimenting to really nail down some good scenes since it's not just point-and-click, but the results are often worth it!

-Skydiving "I take pictures too!" Jeff

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:30 PM
A tripod is a must for long exposures. I find it easy to use light posts and fences located around rides to help any camera shake.

This one I took with a tripod:
http://www.pbase.com/shortyx517/image/30993233

This one while holding the camera against a post:
http://www.pbase.com/shortyx517/image/30798211

I agree in the end there is no "right" answer. If you are shooting digital I suggest taking lots of photos, especially at night. Some may look sharp on your camera but when you get home and look at them on your computer or print them, they can be blurry.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:48 PM
Coasters with colored light are often best photographed at f/8 or f/11 to get the best color, when using ISO 100 or 200. That's an old tip that old SLR manuals used to suggest for photographing fireworks and getting good color, and in my experience it worked. So for something like Millennium Force, with the a colored lighting package, you'll probably get better color.
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Thursday, April 28, 2005 9:56 PM
Wow I completely misread that post.

Oops..I think I should get some rest...

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 10:23 PM
This photo was shot with a shutter speed of 0.8 and an aperture value of 5.6 at ISO 100. Though, like Jeff said, I like to use f/8 a lot, especially for fireworks. Again, keep the ISO low and a tripod is a must. I often use a mini tripod that I keep in my camera bag. The top of a garbage can be an adequate place to set it (which is how I shot the photo above).

Understanding Exposure is a great book that was recently updated. Well worth a read for all areas of photography.

*** Edited 4/29/2005 10:43:32 AM UTC by Gemini***

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 10:41 PM
I took this pic by trying to be really still, and messing around with the nighttime picture settings on my Nikon 3100 until I got it right. I just wanna be a part of this and pat myself on the back. =P

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y61/CASB/DSCN2323.jpg

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 11:04 PM
MForce, it's kinda blurry, but better than some of my shots (Ouch! -- Don't worry, that's one of my worse ones though)

Again, thank you to all of those who have commented. I got a lot of good stuff from y'all that I will look into. I knew a bit about playing with the ISO and stuff, but some of these terms are new to me. Those photos that y'all posted all look great, and I hope I can build up to that level. Fortunatley, I have an SLR which seems to be a bit better than your garden variety camera.

Now, about tripods, someone mentioned ones that can actually fit into your camera bag? That would be preferred (though I can't recall ever seeing one that small, but I'm sure they are out there), but does it make any difference between mini tripods and full-sized ones?

Again, I thank you all :)
*** Edited 4/29/2005 3:05:38 AM UTC by Jophish***

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Thursday, April 28, 2005 11:27 PM
I have been very pleased with my Ultrapod. It is the largest one from the brand and was recommended by the manufacturer since I have a larger camera. Also, the strap is a nice perk.
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Friday, April 29, 2005 12:00 AM
I have a ridiculous Bogen tripod. It's the only tripod I'll ever have to buy.
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Friday, April 29, 2005 1:01 AM
ya, I know it's kinda blurry. =/

I was stuck just holding it against my chest and trying to be very, very still. If I had brought my tripod I wouldve been set! :(

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Friday, April 29, 2005 4:20 AM
I took this one with a two second exposure time by placing my camera on a wall.

http://www.themeparks.ie/dca/cs3.htm

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Friday, April 29, 2005 9:12 AM
Beautiful photos, guys.

One more tip, The purpose of using a manual/cable release in conjunction with a tripod is so you don't jiggle the camera when you hit the button. Another way around this if you don't have one or your camera doesn't support it is just to use the timed (delay) shutter feature, the one you'd normally use to take a portrait of yourself. By the time the shutter goes off the camera has stopped shaking.

This is also a good tip if you're trying to take photos with a long zoom, which can be sensitive to camera shake.

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Friday, April 29, 2005 10:56 AM
I know this one isn't at night, but it involves exposure and aperture.

http://image12.webshots.com/13/0/90/55/147009055sPeRmi_ph.jpg

It was a really sunny day, so I had to play with my settings. I wound up snapping that on ISO 100 (maybe a little less...) and F/8.

You just need to play with your camera's settings to see what works best for you/it. If you can do it, go to your home park for a strictly "photo day". Bring your manual, a tripod, and patience.

If you want, even bring a pad of paper and write down your settings and compare them with the photos later.

While you're doing that, don't trust your LCD screen when judging between 2 pictures. If you're having trouble trying to decide which settings you like best, compare the 2 pictures on a real monitor or prints.

Hope this helps.

-Josh

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Friday, April 29, 2005 11:29 AM
Before I got my digital I only had a point and shoot; I was able to take some great photos at night (My Spectromagic, castle pics and illuminations shots are great) by just using 800 speed film and no flash.
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