Technical advice for shooting in lowlight situations

Railroadforums.com is a free online Railroad Discussion Forum and Railroad Photo Gallery for railroaders, railfans, model railroaders and anyone else who is interested in railroads. We cover a wide variety of topics, including freight trains, passenger and commuter railroads, rail news and information, tourist railroads, railway museums and railroad history.

jlevai

New Member
Hello All,
In a few weeks, I'm going to take a trip where I will be shooting in low light situations. I'll be going to Washington D.C. for National Train Day, and plan to shoot on the platforms. When I'm outdoors, I generally keep my ISO on 200, since my camera, a D70, can only go as low as that.
When I shoot in stations like WAS, from the high level platforms, which ISO and shutter speed should I shoot on. I don't want to get too much noise.
Last month, I took a picture of an Amtrak at 30th Street Station in Philly. I shot on a very high ISO, and I think there is noise in it. Here it is. Thanks for any feedback.
 

pmpete

Got RAW?
Depends on what lenses you have to some extent. Fast glass and OS help.
The D70 is a first generation DSLR so its high iso quality drops off fast. Although shooting RAW/NEF and post processing can be helpful. Nikon View NX works a lot better. iPhoto, Photoshop and Lightroom work great with these files.
The jpg processing in the D70 is very poor.
The next thing to look at is getting more light to the sensor.
Longer shutter speeds are possible if the train is not moving. Use a tripod.
VR stabilized lenses can get you down to 1/20th of a second if you have steady hands. Fast glass helps a lot but gets very pricy.
Nikon's 35mm F 1.8 is an awesome little fast lens for about 200 dollars.
Pete
 

jlevai

New Member
Since last September, all of my shots are on JPEG. Yes, the processing in the D70 isn't good.

What do you mean by high ISO quality dropping off fast, and fast glass?

Thanks.
 

kenw

5th Generation Texian
In short:

-set the ISO as high as you dare, possibly auto ISO if you can. experiment before you go to see what ISO is your max; it's very subjective. Older digitals can handle 800iso fairly well with minimal noise. some noise isn't the end of the world. A sharp pic with some noise is usually preferred to a blurry pic with no noise.

-set to shutter priority and if the train isn't moving use a shutter speed equal to or faster than 1/whatever focal length you have (50mm=1/50s; 20mm=1/20s, etc) or faster if you can. If trains are still, this will work fine without a mono/tripod.

- let the camera select the aperture, it will go as fast as your lens will allow. Then watch: if your camera selects something other than the max aperture that your lens will do, then you can speed up the shutter a bit (1st choice) and/or drop the ISO some (2nd choice).
 

Cliffs

Fallbridge Sub MP 118.6
Download Nikon ViewNX-2, its free.

Then switch over to shooting in RAW format.

ViewNX-2 has some features which will help you deal with shadows, dark areas, and some noise. Its not a deluxe program like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture, but it will give you some options when shooting RAW, without spending any $$.

You will be able to convert your RAW files to JPGs, with custom sizes, a couple of options for image quality, etc.

http://www.nikonusa.com/Nikon-Products/Product/Imaging-Software/NVNX/ViewNX.html
 

Tacoma Tom

New Member
One of the best thing about digital SLR's is the fact they have small micro processors built into the camera to get you the best photograph with the light situations you are dealing with. You shouldn't have to change anything if you have a half way decent SLR. I used to shoot with a Nikon D40X and I used to take night shots all the time and I rarely had to change the settings to manual. The best photographs were taken using the cameras automatic settings. About the only time I change the settings off of automatic is when I am shooting a very fast moving train. In that case I usually move the shutter speed up to about a 1000.

I rarely if ever go above a ISO of 400. I have taken photos of the inside of old train tunnels using a long exposure and a flashlight to paint the walls. The photographs looked great with no noise. The key to getting good night shots is to not move the ISO up. The key is to use a longer shutter speed and a tripod. If the object is stationary you should have no problems.


Moving trains at low light you are pretty much screwed. You have to have a shutter speed of probably at least 400,a lot of light,or a powerful flash. Even with all those things in place it will not be a very good photo. Your best bet would be to shoot from a train station using a tripod.
 

jlevai

New Member
I will bring my tripod to the event in WAS.

Most of my shots that involve trains not moving, I tend to use Manual Mode. I will try to keep the shutter speed as slow as possible and aperture wide.

I'll try to shoot some of the shots taken in dark conditions in RAW.

Thanks for the pointers, guys.
 

kenw

5th Generation Texian
moving objects in a low light ... tough one ... I doubt setting ISO would do much.
quite the contrary. A higher ISO will allow you to use a faster shutter speed, which is absolutely required to freeze a moving subject. Depending on how fast, moving from 200 to 400 or even 800 or 1600 could make all the difference in the world between a great shot and a blurry one.

Sure just changing the ISO all by itself won't do squat. But it will allow you to make the other adjustments that could make it work.
 

kenw

5th Generation Texian
another free RAW viewer and simple editor is Picasa, free from Google. Not sure about Nikon RAW but it does a great job of rendering Canon RAW files and saving as JPG. It isn't much of an editor (no layers, histogram, resize, etc) but if all you want to do is crop, rotate, brighen, Picasa is brutally simple. And Free.
 

Cliffs

Fallbridge Sub MP 118.6
I like View NX2 for quick previews and some resizing. The "straightening" tool works quite well too. Every time Nikon issues an update, they make significant improvements. Its a heck of a program for free downloading.

I checked the supported camera list after I recommended it and I didn't see anything for a D70.
 




RailroadForums.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

RailroadBookstore.com - An online railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used railroad books. Railroad pictorials, railroad history, steam locomotives, passenger trains, modern railroading. Hundreds of titles available, most at discount prices! We also have a video and children's book section.

ModelRailroadBookstore.com - An online model railroad bookstore featuring a curated selection of new and used books. Layout design, track plans, scenery and structure building, wiring, DCC, Tinplate, Toy Trains, Price Guides and more.

Affiliate Disclosure: We may receive a commision from some of the links and ads shown on this website (Learn More Here)

Top