Thursday, December 10, 2015

Getting Lit for Christmas

A few houses have lights along my route out of town. One in particular has a fascinating net of lights over the whole facade on the side toward the trail. The lights are subtle, green or blue, rather than bright and dominant.

My attempts to photograph it have all failed so far, for various reasons: my phone camera is too cheesy for such low light. My trusty Olympus hockey puck (a first-year Stylus 720 SW) decided to quit on me after years of thumping and banging. Last night I tried again with my older Olympus C 3040Z, which has awesome low light performance and is very easy to adjust manually while shooting at night.

The older Olympus is not heavy, but it's an odd shape. It's not shock resistant like the hockey puck was, so it travels in a Lowepro bag that's nicely designed, but a bit of a Nerf football to carry around.

I knew. I knew I should have a tripod. I knew that. I hoped I could fake it with the camera mount on the handlebar or by bracing the camera on the rear rack pack, so I wouldn't have to lug a bulky tripod for just one shooting location.

With the camera on the bike, this trippy image is the best I got. It's neat in its own way, but I still want to capture how weird the lights look without special effects. Don't know yet whether I want it enough to drag a tripod for 15 miles, 7.5 of them uphill.


RANTWICK said...

I've had enough coffee today that those points of light are perfectly clear and still.

greatpumpkin said...

The Olympus C-series cameras were outstanding. Under some conditions (of which low light is one), mine outperform the newer cameras with which I intended to replace them (I have a C-3040z and the later C-5050z). The low-light performance seems to have resulted from a conservative upper ISO (what used to be film speed) limit of 400 and internal processing that was almost noise-free (what we would have called grain in film). In fact I always have the noise reduction turned off, which most new cameras don't even let you do. I've also found the autofocus to be very reliable--often more so than my other cameras. My reasons for wanting newer cameras are faster response times (undetectable shutter lag) and better dynamic range (the light to dark range, or tonal range)--all digital cameras up to about 2007 have a range of only about four stops and tend to blow out highlights easily, which has been much improved since then. I wish that Olypus had continued some of these lines of development in their products. I've found it hard to find a camera I like as well as my C-5050z.

greatpumpkin said...

Having taken many low-light photos (a favorite kind)--sometimes known as "available-darkness photography," I found some tricks to he helpful since Ihardly ever have a tripod with me when I want one. Hand-held, I brace the camera against myself. I use the neck strap (having dropped and broken two cameras, I always use it) and you can pull against it and brace against your body. Also, when releasing the shutter, press down on the button while pressing up on the bottom of the camera to reduce twisting movement. Hold your breath while taking the picture. Then, for improvised camera supports, I look for anything that might be available--fences, trees, car roofs--and indeed I've used the bike. A clamp, mini-tripod, Gorillapod, or monopod are often sufficient and are easier to carry than a normal tripod. You can use a monopod and your two legs to improvise a tripod that will work well enough for many conditions. Just a few ideas, which you may already know. The picture as taken has a magical quality about it. I also played with the unique qualities of digital--including shutter lag and blurring--and sometimes an exact rendition is less interesting.

Steve A said...

My first digital camera was/is a C900/D400Z. It's sitting next to me now, though I am thinking that recycling is long overdue since the flash no longer works and smartphone cameras have 10X the pixel count. OTOH, the D400Z has an optical viewfinder, unlike most new cameras selling for what I paid back in the day.

NHcycler said...

That is a pretty cool photo -- it looks like it's a water reflection. And remember, that 7.5 mile uphill slog will be a 7.5 mile downhill ride home (hopefully with the wind at your back both ways)!

cafiend said...

The problem is that the 7.5-mile slog uphill IS the ride home. I get the downhill in the morning.