Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wandering around under a full moon (again).

It was a full moon tonight and, what's more, it was relatively warm (even the wind chill didn't get below minus 10). That meant heading out with a camera and a tripod to take pictures by the light of the moon.
The worst thing about taking pictures at night is the ugly yellow and green light from street lights. So, I try to get away from street lights. That means walking.
I went to a couple of areas tonight, over by the railway bridge and out on the river at the start of the winter road to Moose Factory.
The time for the winter road is coming to an end so it was nice to go out on the ice one more time. I am careful, I know about the dangerous area near the shoreline where the ice is broken up by the tides in the Moose River. So far I have not sunk in far.
For my pictures tonight I decided to stick to a single focal length and took along the Canon 24mm f1.4 II lens with a Canon 5DII.
A 24mm lens on a full frame camera is pretty wide, not quite fisheye but a step in that direction. So it only works well in certain situations. The ideal ones for me tend to wide vistas or foreground objects that relate well to a large scale background.
When I shoot pictures at night I use time exposures. It is easy to do these up to 30 seconds each. I use mirror lock up and put the camera on a tripod to keep it steady and reduce vibration. I tend to use hyperfocal focusing--this means that I set the distance scale at the hyperfocal point. Set this way, the lens is in focus from half way to the hyperfocal point to infinity. To get the hyperfocal point for a given camera, focal length and aperture setting I use an online depth of field calculator. In practice this is pretty simple, I just need to remember the hyperfocal distances for a few different apertures for a given lens and camera. I tend to stick to a wide lens at night and f5.6 or f8. This means that the hyperfocal distances are pretty short so easy to keep most things in reasonable focus.
Because these shots are time exposures I use a tripod. I also use mirror lock up to reduce vibration and use a shutter delay to let the camera settle down after I touch it. My camera can be set for shots up to 30 seconds which covers most full moon situations. For longer exposures I have a Canon TC-80N3 timer remote which can be programmed to do most anything including taking a series of five minute exposures.
I play with exposure and the shots are usually ok until I give in the temptation to put something bright into the picture. Internal reflections sometimes cause problems. Images end up with additional bright spots, sometimes in ugly green. Since I am doing these pictures for my own pleasure I often edit them out.
When I want to have the moon itself show up in a shot I hope for a cloudy night when it may be a little less bright but it is still a lot brighter than anything else in the picture. I have played around with combining shots -- this can be a problem since the moon and the clouds are moving.
I put a bunch of shots on my website and uploaded low res versions of those and some "I did this because I was bored shots" to facebook.
There was not a lot of traffic on the winter road tonight. I saw only about half a dozen vehicles and tried to get shots of most of them. One of them stopped and the driver and passengers wanted to know if I was Ok and once they saw what I was doing asked what I was taking pictures of. I can understand the concern, it is cold outside and cold people get disoriented and do stupid things sometimes. People stopping....another one of the benefits of living in a small town.

1 comment:

  1. Great shots & story Paul. I'm really enjoying reading your blog about life in Moosonee and Moose Factory. I hope you have a chance to update it sometime soon!

    I really hope to make it out there someday to explore the area and take some photos of my own. There's so much light pollution down here in southern ontario and even southern quebec. I can only imagine the incredible star trails and northern lights you get out there!

    If you're interested, check out some of my photography at www.tohellandback.net