Night photography

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by raffal, Jun 26, 2013.

  1. What technique I should use to be able to see sharp/pretty sharp plane during landing and the same time trial of lights behind it ..... obviously it has to be slow shutter speed, but it is impossible to use flash in slow/rear curtain mode -- because, no way the flash can reach the plane .... In this sample, i took the photo near Mc Carran Int.Airport in Las Vegas,NV : f/13 8s ISO 100 .... the plane is invisible , the plane's lights look like meteors hitting the airport instead of following the plane ... any ideas or suggestions ? thanks.raf
  2. Hi Rafal, you're right, there's really no way I can think of to light the plane even at high ISO, however;
    Here are 3 pages of similar images as your attempt which might offer some ideas. Many of the more interesting compositions are from a higher vantage point and some distance away to capture the flight path on takeoffs and landings. - page 1 of 3
    You can also blend an entire night's exposures to create an interesting composite composition from the same camera position.
  3. Found a few examples that might have been flash-lit especially the St. Maarten approach which I know to be accessible from the beach right in front of the landing strip. Shot with a 5D-MkIII wide angle, and from the blown trails it was certainly shot at high ISO:
    I'm not sure how the others are made but here they are: probably flash-lit
  4. I have no idea about American airports but I do know that if you fire a flash at an aircraft on approach in Britain you will be in trouble.
    I can tell you how one of the publicity shots that BA used of a night landing was done, as it was shown on a BBC programme. Basically, it involved a crane, a battery of arc lamps and a lot of people, most of whom were there to ensure the safety of the plane and the other people working on the shot.
    They had three photographers working on the job, to get the most images in the shortest time, as they had to be off the runway no more than an hour from the start. Two of the photographers were using what looked like 10x8 monorails and the third had a Hasselblad, presumably doing filler shots.
    As you can imagine, this was back in the 'nineties, very much pre-digital.
  5. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    One of the photos Michael linked to is Copyrighted to Szabo Gabor, who is a member on this site. He just might share some info with you.
  6. Assuming that flash is allowed - the "simple" answer is to get closer to the plane! The shots on were obviously taken from right under the end of the runway.
    "....because, no way the flash can reach the plane....."​
    A powerful flash will reach 30 metres with a useable exposure at high ISOs no problem, and with a shiny white object like a plane you'll get a ghost image at a much further distance. I'd estimate that those planes on were about 50 metres above the camera, maximum.
    Let's do some quick GN calculations: True GN of something like a Metz 60 CT-4 is around 45 (metres/100 ISO) so at 1600 ISO that's a GN of 180, meaning you could use an aperture of f/4 at 45 metres and have the plane fully exposed. A two stop underexposure would probably be acceptable for a ghost image, which takes us down to f/8, and that's perfectly doable. The Metz doesn't even have a zoomable head, so you might be able to equal its GN with a less powerful hotshoe unit at a head setting of 105mm or something like that. You don't have to light the whole field of view after all.
    Having said all that, by far the safest way to do this is to cheat it in PS by combining a daylight shot with the night trails. Head-on low sunlight wouldn't look too different from flash. You just need to find a runway that faces approximately east-by-SE/west-by-SW and shoot early morning/late evening.
  7. Ray, I suspect it might be the same name but different person; no harm asking, though.
  8. Rafael. The best you can do is dusk while thee is still enough light to get an exposure. Many instrument runways in the US and no doubt McCarran have strobe lights installed aligned with the runway and pointed toward landing aircraft. They are sequenced and powerful and they are used mostly in bad weather to help the pilot make a transition from instruments to visual cues to land the airplane. You might get something if you can get to a side of the aircraft while the strobes are operating. I don't know how you would set an exposure however. I could not guess the guide number of one of those strobes but they are powerful. I have made many a landing over them at various airports. Firing a flash at an airport boundary may bring on the security folks although it is an order of magnitude weaker than the airfield strobes.
  9. I light up freight trains at night all the time, and use high powered monolights. This would be do-able with about 2,000ws of flash, easy. (I have 10,000ws which would be total overkill for this.) I have a set of Paul Buff LRT (Long Range Throw) reflectors, and think I could probably produce usable light out to at least 1,000 ft. and probably further if the object is painted white. Now, would I do this? Not without checking at the airport first. The way I'd put it is, "I want to be outside your fence and take a shot of a plane landing. I'd show them my camera with a little SB-900 attached, and not mention the honking big White Lightning X3200 monolights out in my car.
    But yes, this is pretty easy, technically. Camera on manual, rear curtain sync. In the shots shown I don't think they used very much flash power at all. Maybe as little as 200ws.
    Kent in SD
  10. A couple of other thoughts. If you have to talk to airport security, I would show them a couple of these kinds of shots so they know what you are talking about. Point out that the planes are already pointing up to the sky and they will never even see the flash. You need to get on a website that caters to this airplane photo crowd and ask them how "touchy" airport officials are about flash, and how they would avoid being hassled. The flash is the easy part, not getting hassled might be the tougher part.
    Kent in SD
  11. I would imagine security around LAS will be quite stringent around its perimeter even with the popularity of plane spotting.
    It all depends on the airport, though. Where I live, YMX and YUL is pretty accommodating of plane spotting plus there are a few great spots outside of airport property. On's forum, though, there have been reported horror stories of confrontation with security and gear confiscation.
    It used to be that plane spotters will just bring a pair of binoculars. Now it's a trunk full of video and stills gear, multiple tripods and even telescopes and shared on YouTube and other photo forums the same night.
  12. Regardless of the other factors, you can set the shutter/flash sync to first or second curtain setting to fire a flash at the beginning or end of the shutter run.
  13. At a very minimum it is extremely unwise to trip a flash at an approaching aircraft at night. This could be very distracting to the pilots and worst case could result in a mishap. Best case you might find yourself in very hot water with airport security The kind of image you are looking for may not be feasible.

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