Is there any way to keep this from happening?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by derek_thornton|1, Feb 7, 2011.

  1. I have really started to get into night photograhy. My favorite subject is trains. Most often they sit under lights and I frquantly capture the light with it. Sometimes the liht comes out as a perfect twinkle. Other times it comes out with nasty halos and ghost. I guess it depends on how the lens is aimed in relation to the light. I like to use my Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D the most as far as filling the frame from a safe distance. I have also used a 50mm f/1.4 AF-D, a 28mm f/2.8 AIS MF and my 12-24mm f/4. The flares, ghost and halos happen with all these lenses. Is there a way to keep this from happening or does Nikon make a lens that can handle this well in the 35mm range?
  2. SCL


    The laws of physics are what they are. You can try to shoot from a different angle, or in some cases (not this one) put on a lens hood.
  3. If that's ruined for you, you need to learn about Photoshop. ;)
    Seriously though, if you're shooting digitally, chimp a lot when you're shooting. Light reflections, especially inside the lens varies for each lens, angle, and nature of light.
    Some people use little thingies held in front to try to shade the lens more than a hood, but never worked very well for me. There are even holders made to hold the shades....
    Oh, if you will size your picture so it is no more than 700 pixels in any dimension and put a caption on it, it will display in line with your post.
  4. rnt


    I don't know... Doesn't look 'ruined' to me- great shot! Ghosts and halos will always happen when shooting directly into a light source. Better lenses will have less obtrusive ones due to multicoated lens elements.
  5. Take multiple exposures and blend them in post.
  6. There is another way.. maybe, but it can be expensive...
    Nikon used to produce a specialty lens for this kind of stuff that was designed to handle Halo's in the best possible way, legends have been written around this lens..... it was called the 58mm Noct F1.2 AI-s...
    Here is how Nikon likes to remember this one :
  7. I agree with Bob...I think it's a great shot as is. I'm trying to imagine what it would look like without the "sparkle". I suppose it could be p'shopped out a little, but as another poster said, sometimes these things are a fact of life. I think you did a great job of using a fact of life to ADD to the picture.
  8. I like your photo. But if you want a more "real" effect on the light sources, put your camera in manual or aperture priority (my favorite) and shoot at f4 with a lens shade. I'd use a tripod because your speed is now going to be below what you can normally handhold and retain image sharpness. And I prefer a tripod shot photo over the use of higher ISO values and/or VR lens .. which as good as they are .. they are not as good as a simple sturdy tripod.
    You shot this photo with your lens apparently stopped down too far (for your liking) .. .. F4 is one of my favorite night settings but it causes you to determine where you want the focus to be as there will be a smaller depth of field.
    As you increase depth of field .. looks like you wanted the whole train in relative "sharpness" .... you caused the points of light to "star" .. only way around that is to open up the lens .. but not too far or your light will halo around the same points of light ..
    Next time out .. do a simple experiment .. shoot at f16, f5.6, and wide open on your lens .. look at the light sources .. and therein you know where you need to be.
  9. When I get a halo, I just adjust the camera's position very slightly (it usually doesn't take much) and re-shoot. Because you have many different light sources, elimination of one source of halos can generate another.
  10. JDM, I should get a book on photoshop. I can set the WB, add some contrast, frame it and sharpen if needed. Anything else takes to much time. I think it could be fixed but it would take some time. Also, I wanted the photo a little larger so the problem could be seen better. Its just two clicks! Mondays.
    CPM, I have heard of that lens, very nice. They are going for $3,000 on ebay.
    Bruce, I like the sparkle. Its the ghosting that I dont care for.
    Michael, I always shoot from a tripod. I dont think it could be done without one. And, a flash would cause all that reflective tape on the loco to blow out. I do shoot in AP, if it is real dark in M for bulb. I have shot in everything from f/5.6-f/16 and ISO's 200-800. I normally have plenty of time to shoot and make corrections. In this case it started to pull out right after I got there. I may not ever see UP 1982 again. Hopefully I can figure this out so the next time something special comes through I can get a better shot.
    I have noticed that a UV/clear filter can make it worse, so I always remove them before shooting at night. I will try a hood and I appreciate all the responses. Thank you.
  11. SCL


    Derek - I got to thinking (a strange phenomenon) after I replied earlier. There are some things you probably didn't specifically consider in this shot, but which you might try in future shots. As mentioned the aperture up all the should reduce the intensity of the effect the diaphragm has on the "rays" of the stars, and don't use any sort of filter, as it introduces an additional source of l internal reflections between your subject and the sensor plane of the camera. BTW - I should have mentioned that it is a nice shot, and if you need to "retouch" it to remove distractions, Photoshop is a great tool.
  12. Thanks Elliot. I just did not have enough time to move around. So it turns out this was a timing problem more than the lens. From the way it looks Stephen Lewis was right and it would happen even if I was using a 17-35mm f/2.8.
  13. I think you can fix that halo, and the photo is print-able and frame-able.
    Very good photo, imho, not ruined at all.
  14. Shooting at a much faster shutter speed will minimize this effect. And to shoot at a fast shutter speed, you'll need flash.
    Google: OW Link railroad photography. He was the master of flash and trains.
  15. Trains at night are what I do. Have been doing them for the past four years with massive flash set ups, and for the past ten years with ambient. I've shot with 35mm, large format, and now mostly Nikon D300. I have now flashed over 200 trains, most all of them moving including the UP 3985 three times. I have some thoughts. First, older lenses designed before digital generally don't work so well for this. They don't have the newer coatings and more importantly they don't have coatings on the rear element. I now have zero lenses from before the digital age for this very reason. The newer lenses will still ghost, but not as badly. Second thought is if you have any goofy UV filter on your lens, THROW IT AWAY! They just don't do anything for you, and are usually the cause for these problems with trains. Even expensive B+W mrc etc. filters are totally worthless. I've had more shots ruined because of filters than anything else before I caught on. I got rid of them and that cut my problems by 75% right there. There is absolutely no reason to have a UV filter on your lens. especially for train shots.
    It looks like you are simply shooting stationary trains. This is very easy. Just check the LCD for ghosting and readjust your angle. That's about all it takes. It's harder for me because I rarely photo trains that aren't moving at track speed at night--I have to take what I get. Add to that I have to be very careful about not getting nasty flashballs from my monolights on the high gloss paint of the engines. Photoshop is usually very effective for getting rid of some of these artifacts. I use several techinques, depending on how large the area is and where it is. I photo trains almost every day. My sales job let's me drive 100 to 400 miles per day, and I can photo trains in the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, an western Minnesota at all times of the day and night. I'm a pretty hardcore foamer and will set up enough flash to light several hundred feet of train, even when it's forty below zero and blowing hard.
    Here's a couple of recent ones I took of stationary trains. I used some off camera flash, matched to ambient and CTO gelled:
    Kent in SD
    You said flash will make the shot worse? I use it for almost all
    of my RR shots now. It's not hard. My flash do NOT engage the
    reflective tape. Balancing ambient & flash is highly effective for
    stationary trains. Doesn't work for moving ones, of course. For that,
    I have 15 flash, nearly 10,000 watt seconds of power.
  16. Second thought is if you have any goofy UV filter on your lens, THROW IT AWAY! They just don't do anything for you, and are usually the cause for these problems with trains. Even expensive B+W mrc etc. filters are totally worthless. I've had more shots ruined because of filters than anything else before I caught on. I got rid of them and that cut my problems by 75% right there. There is absolutely no reason to have a UV filter on your lens. especially for train shots.
    Another good example of bad advice on the Nikon forum.
    When can we begin to understand the real purpose of a filter, and when it should be removed for certain types of photography (such as night photography when point source lights are common)?

    Folks, there is a reason people put a filter on their lenses. Number one reason is to protect the front element from dirt, scratches, and damage. I would be willing to bet a lot of money that NOBODY can tell the difference between two photos taken with and without a UV filter. NOBODY can tell the difference in most everyday photo situations.
    Here's how it works from here on out. Kent, please pay special attention to this:
    If you don't like UV filters, don't use them. But don't come on this forum telling people they are useless and that they should throw them away. You can say "I don't like them, I think they aren't necessary" but please do not TELL PEOPLE to throw their filters away. This is not helpful and is a waste of peoples time to read.
    Some people like UV filters, myself included. Some do not, like Kent. Great! Can't we all just get along?
  17. Dave--
    Topic here is photo'ing trains, something I do have a great deal of experience with. In that fifteen plus years of experience, photo'ing trains outdoors nearly every day, it's the experience of myself and the other published foamers that filters = problems. There are three strong headlights on a train (headlight, two ditchlights.) They can flare like crazy. I've had many, many shots ruined because of filter use (I include polarizers too.) Bottom line is that I don't personally know any semi-pro RR photographer who used UV filters. Add to this I've never once had a lens damaged because it didn't have a filter on it. Not one, despite regular use in extreme conditions. I have had one damaged because it had a filter on it. So again, when it comes to this specialty photography especially, do not use a UV filter. It's asking for trouble. You can certainly tell a difference when you get flare.
    Kent in SD
  18. Kent, great photos! I knew I was going to catch hell on that statement. I should have said the onboard flash or flash on hotshoe aimed directly at the train will cause the reflective tape and stripes to blow out. I know of a few people who use multiple flashes to catch moving trains and Winston Link was indeed the master. As for the filters, I am one step ahead of you. I noticed that very quickly. I use the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR when I shoot during the day. I was getting some little green ghost from the headlights & ditchlights. Removing the UV filter cleared that right up. I assumed it would help with night shots and it did.
    You are in about the best place in the US for trains. Wide open grasslands and lots of snow. I am in SC, no snow and lots of forest. Can you tell me what Nikon has in the 35mm range that would be well suited for this?
  19. Some lenses are less prone to demonstrating flare and ghosting than others. The 58mm Noct is one of those lenses. A much less expensive option is the manual focus 28mm f3.5 . This lens also resists flare and ghosting very well, even though it doesn't benefit from the newer coatings. I have the non-AI version. I haven't had it very long, but I've tried to get it to flare or ghost on a couple of occasions, and have yet to be successful.
    And you don't have to just take my word for it. You can read Bjorn Rorslett's review also. I can't speak to how well it will perform on a D300, but has a few AI versions ranging from $75-120, so at that price, it might be worth a shot. If you try it and don't like it, you can return it.
  20. Derek--
    The very best lens in that range that I have found is the Nikon 17-55mm f2.8. The lens is very sharp and well designed to stop flare. It's what I do most night shots with. Another lens I will go to if I need something faster is the Sigma 30mm f1.4. I tried the new Nikon 35mm f1.8G, but it had more CA (purple fringing) than the Sigma does, and seemed to have more ghosting (but I didn't shoot at night with it enough to be positive about that last one.) I've been very happy with the 17-55mm. I rarely use anything else at night. I also have the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VR and use on the D300. The 17-55mm f2.8 is every bit as solid and a good match. Nikon has a new 35mm f1.4G which I've read is excellent, but it's also very expensive. Haven't tried it, but it has the latest nano-coatings to combat flare etc. For the money, the Sigma 30mm is very good.
    Do not use on-camera flash for trains. You will get flashballs, and the light will "excite" the reflective tape as you've found. The whole thing is to get the flash off the camera. I do have a Nikon SB-800 but don't use it for RR shots. It only has 30 ft. range, which doesn't go very far for this subject. Instead, I use up to seven Nikon SB-28 flash on lightweight stands, with CyberSync triggers. (Also have a pile of White Lightning X3200 monolights for big scale shots.) You could do quite a lot with just four SB-25 or SB-28 and radio triggers. You can shoot ISO 800 f2.8 very easily with that, and that includes moving trains. With snow on the ground, it doubles the power of the flash and I easily get ISO 800 & f4. I am careful to point the flash away from the camera so it doesn't bounce back into the lens. That's a key point to remember. Think of light as a rubber ball--it bounces off your subject. Don't let it bounce back towards your lens and you'll start getting usable results very quickly. Gary Knapp uses up to sixteen of the SB-25 etc. type flash and lights up quite a bit, but I think he sets the flash too far off the rail as he shoots ISO 1600 & f2. Not much DoF doing that. I think Gary's favorite lens is the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 according to a couple of emails I got from him. Four flash are really pretty versatile. Note that the shots I linked above only use two SB-28, and I balanced them to the ambient light. Train crews are not bothered by flash. The other thing I like is I don't even have to use a tripod to shoot fast moving trains at night using flash. I generally do, but the shots are just as sharp without one. Obviously I can't bring in ambient light when shooting moving trains with flash. Otherwise, you can have a lot of fun just shooting ambient light with fast lenses and high ISO. See if you can find a dogcatch van and get a shot of crew posing up on the rail for you. You could do that with on-camera flash, using slow sync. Tell them to hold still even after the flash goes off. As for being in the best place to photo trains, lately about all I've been getting are snowplows, crying out loud. They are kind of cool though.
    Kent in SD
  21. Very Interesting - somehow, I never thought of trains to photograph - but that ghost and / or stars effect gives very nice effect, most of the times...
  22. Easiest thing would be to look for lenses which show less tendency to ghost and flare than the ones you're using. I don't know how good or bad the lenses you have are with respect to ghosts.
    One possible but complicated way would be to set up like you're doing a multi-shot pano with a panoramic head, if your trains are sationary. Take the shot you want, then rotate or tilt the camera to get rid of or change the location of the ghosts. Using the hugin software you can stitch them together, but instead of actually stitching them you can output each individual image, then blend out the ghosts by hand in PS. Sounds complicated, but I think it would be faster than for example trying to remove by hand the ghost in the image posted above.
  23. As far as filters for the night stuff I found in my own tests that a even a high end filter on my 35 F2.0 lens added massive flare and ghosting in my opinion. What I did to test this was simple. Point your camera at a recessed ceiling light in a dimly lit room and start shooting away. Be sure to place the light in different areas of the frame and even outside the frame. Shoot at various f stops and ISOs, I also played with way under exposing the light to way blowing it out. As I said after doing this myself I tossed the filter for this one lens as I didn't consider the flare and ghost risk worth the physical protection the filter provided. I did grab the cheap lens hood to make up for some of that protection. I gotta say though it's your call as to the value of your post processing time vs the potential loss of a few hundred dollar lens (assuming worst case outcome).
    To add flash off camera you may just be able to walk along the side of the train manually popping a small strobe. I've seen it done for high end car shoots but that was in a completely dark warehouse.
    By the way I gotta tell you the shoot looks great to me.
  24. Frank--
    None of the pro/semi-pro railroad photographers I know (and I know a lot of them) use UV filters at all. None of these people have ever had any damage at all to a lens because there wasn't a filter on it. Not one. Coatings on modern lenses are really very tough. Railroad photography can be pretty hard on camera gear--I usually damage or destroy one camera and a lens every year (ouch!) Never once had a lens damaged because there wasn't a filter on it. One was badly damaged when a filter broke and scratched up the front element though. The hood on my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 once saved my lens when I was photo'ing a rail grinder. This is a huge machine with 88 grinding heads that reshapes the worn rails to proper profile. They are notorious for picking up chunks of ballast (large gravel under the tracks) and flinging it up to 50 ft. One such chunk hit the lens hood of my lens and was deflected. If I had relied on a flimsy filter, I would be out both an expensive filter and a lens repair. The Nikon hood saved the day! As a side note, I now keep a bit further back. If that had hit me in the head it would have hurt!
    Kent in SD
  25. I shoot night photos, but not trains. It's just about getting the right lens and adjusting the angle so that there's no flare. The 28/3.5 mentioned is pretty good. One of the best is the 20/3.5 Voigtländer, extremely low flare. This winter I've been trying the Schneider Apo-Componon HM 90/4.5, which is really a close-up lens, for night photos due to its excellent contrast and low flare. Haven't used it so much, but the results are very encouraging. For a 35 mm lens hard to say, I don't use that focal length for stationary night shots. I know that my favorite, the 35/1.4 AIS, gets some ghosting, the new AF-S version is probably better in this respect. The Zeiss 35/2 is worth taking a look. I don't remember any ill effects with my 35/2.8 PC, but the image quality is not up to par with the latest lenses (of course the older lens is cheaper too).
    I agree to skip the filters. Some lenses react particularly badly to filters, but for night shots it's generally not worth the risks of using a filter even if the lens and filter combination is a good one.
    One key thing to note with flare and ghosts is that few lenses can handle a strong light coming from slightly outside the image area directly into the lens, but a lot more lenses can handle point light sources in the frame. Thus, use a big enough hood and check very carefully that you don't have lights shining into the lens just outside the frame.
  26. One other thing, if you're using an FX lens on a DX camera, you can use a longer hood than the one that is supposed to go with the lens.
  27. Use a Carl Zeiss T* lens filter works wonders for ghost and flare probs.
  28. There are a lot of good suggestions here, but I would recommend photoshop. This is what I got with 4 minutes of work (clock ticking)...
  29. Nice Hamish. Can you tell me how you did it? I was thinking that I could take the wheel beside it, cut, paste and blend it in.
  30. Thanks everyone for taking the time to help me. Thanks for the compliments too. Bjorn Rorslett recommended the old MF 28mm f/2 AIS. It looks like they are going for around $450.00.
  31. Sure, here goes...
    First made a copy of the area you circled in.

    Made a "colour range"-selection of the purple area.
    Desaturated the marked area until it was grey.
    Pasted it back in to the original.
    Then I used a little of the detail from the neighboring wheel and cloned it over the hazy area where the purple colour had been.
    I then used the healing brush to remove the white circle you had added ;-)
    And that was it.
  32. Thank you Hamish!
  33. I took Bjørn on his words about the Nikon 28mm f/2.0 Ai (or Ai-s does not matter in this aspect), and he is right, you really have to work your best to get flare or ghosting from this lens, and by the way it is so fine stopped a little down.
    I also have the Zeiss 35mm f/2.0, but even it is better than most in that area it is not totally free from this - the Nikon 28mm f/2.0 is much, much better in that area.
    But the Zeiss 35 has some other qualities, but that is not the subject here.
    You can get the Nikon from Grays of westminster with guarantee, but perhaps more expensive than from e-bay.

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