Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (

Started 11 months ago | Discussions
Moti
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Re: Was never going to work .....
In reply to Doug Brown, 11 months ago

Doug Brown wrote:

Some things just don't photograph.

There is no such thing. Everythinis an be photographed providing you use the right tools and a photographer who knows what he is doing.

Moti

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sinkas
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

Thanks to the Op for posting - great discussion here. I like the idea of adding some light.

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Regards Daryl

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to Moti, 11 months ago

Moti wrote:

You did a remarkable job in analysing almost every point that lead you to fail a desired shot. It is nice to be able to find out what went wrong after the shoot but it is much nicer to think about these things beforehand and to be able to come home with a good photo.

Tha main reason for that is that you have a broad knoledge about almost every technical aspect related to cameras which is great, but you don't think as a photographer. Let me just give you two examples.

Biggest mistake, you didn't plan anything in advance. You didn't even define your subject. Is it the train? Is it only the lighting? So you go on a challenging mission without any planning, hoping that your technical knoledge will help you, well it didn't. As a former pilot you know that you go nowhere without a flight plan, same goes for a photography mission.

Another example, every photographer knows that on a challenging night mission, you always start with your best and fastest lens if you have it with you, and you had it. This is something you do automatically, without even thinking. Using your 35-100 at f2.8 would have given you a shutter speed of 1/24 instead of 1/6 which could have been the difference between fail and success.

That would have still blown the highlights of the coloured lights.   That is why I would reduce the exposure by several more stops, EV*.   (see calculation in the first post.)

The blowing/clipping of those coloured lights could've been minimized further by decreasing ISO to base 200.    That would have left plenty of DR to lift the snow and rails out of their darkness.

*In short, the image is horribly OVEREXPOSED, (using the proper definition of exposure)

As I mentioned above, you really have an excellent technical knoledge which is important but is not everything. There is much more into photography than figures, formulas and charts and thes other things are not less important to the success of good photography but somehow, they seem to be a bit neglected in these forums.

Cheers

Moti

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Thank you.

Your most helpful advice was this:

You didn't even define your subject. Is it the train? Is it only the lighting?

Almost all of my photography is unplanned.   I tend to make photographs of what I see as opportunities arise and try to set the camera up in a way that will optimally capture the file.  That is why I work hard at knowing the technicalities of the gear.

Usually I see something interesting and I photograph it with the technicalities in the background.  I didn't have much time the other night and the results show it.  I screwed up the technicalities.

So I did what I normally do, figure out why it was such a mess.  I learn from that stuff.  Who knows? I might see some moving lights some night in the future ... I'll know better how to capture it.

Cheers,

Tom

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to MikeyLNG, 11 months ago

MikeyLNG wrote:

I get the impression that you think far far too much about getting the absolute perfect shot with the exact settings as calculated by the scientific laws of physics with 12 formulas to ensure the aperture and ISO gives you optimal dynamic range with the least diffraction.

I mean does anyone really need to know "(EV = log (N^2)/t = log (28.09 x 6) = log 168.54 = 7.4 (log = log to base 2)"? Photography should be fun! Worrying too much about getting everything absolutely pixel perfect will just hinder your creativity in my opinion.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

I wrote that little bracket for people who might want to know how I got that approximation.  Some folks use the tables here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_value#EV_as_an_indicator_of_camera_settings

which are kinda handy when you can't trust your exposure meter, as in the case of the train at night.

They are also handy in understanding EC on your camera.

Here are some albums to check out, if you'd like:

http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/796805747/albums

I don't understand how a deep understanding of the science of photography hinders creativity.

It didn't hinder thousands of outstanding practitioners of the Art including this guy .  I don't  claim to be particularly creative, but by understanding more about my tools, I hope to become a bit more so.

Tom

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to Jim Salvas, 11 months ago

Jim Salvas wrote:

I have researched the situation thoroughly (using a Google image search for CPR Christmas Train) and I have the solution for your shot next year: arrange for the train to pass your farm at twilight.

There, all solved.

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Jim

I got it, thanks!   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Pacific_Railway#Holiday_Train

Ok, will you call Hunter Harrison, or should I?   He is an American so you might have more clout.  But his trackage runs through my farm so maybe I have a bit more.

The other way is to go up the line a few hundred yards and pull the signal for the next block.  That will slow the rascal down to a walk, allowing for a long exposure on a tripod.

Please destroy this post as it might get me into trouble with the "watchers".

many thanks,

Tom

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Moti
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

GeorgianBay1939 wrote:

Moti wrote:

You did a remarkable job in analysing almost every point that lead you to fail a desired shot. It is nice to be able to find out what went wrong after the shoot but it is much nicer to think about these things beforehand and to be able to come home with a good photo.

Tha main reason for that is that you have a broad knoledge about almost every technical aspect related to cameras which is great, but you don't think as a photographer. Let me just give you two examples.

Biggest mistake, you didn't plan anything in advance. You didn't even define your subject. Is it the train? Is it only the lighting? So you go on a challenging mission without any planning, hoping that your technical knoledge will help you, well it didn't. As a former pilot you know that you go nowhere without a flight plan, same goes for a photography mission.

Another example, every photographer knows that on a challenging night mission, you always start with your best and fastest lens if you have it with you, and you had it. This is something you do automatically, without even thinking. Using your 35-100 at f2.8 would have given you a shutter speed of 1/24 instead of 1/6 which could have been the difference between fail and success.

That would have still blown the highlights of the coloured lights. That is why I would reduce the exposure by several more stops, EV*. (see calculation in the first post.)

The blowing/clipping of those coloured lights could've been minimized further by decreasing ISO to base 200. That would have left plenty of DR to lift the snow and rails out of their darkness.

In theory it is true but if you'd have known in advance that your aim is the lights and not the train itself, you'd exposed for the lights with a bit of shift to the right before clipping and you get what you want, with a faster shutter speed and less motion blur.

*In short, the image is horribly OVEREXPOSED, (using the proper definition of exposure

Now this is an interesting point. What is the proper definition of exposure or better to say, the definition of proper exposure.  For me there are two ways to define proper exposure. The scientific way and the photographic way.  I agree that using proper scientific exposure would have ended with a terrible overexposed image, because the desired outcome is not part of the formula.

The photographic definition of proper exposure, at least for me, says - a proper exposure is the amount of exposure needed to make the image look exactly the way I want it to look.  Exposing according to this principle, could have given you exactly what you wanted.

cheers

Moti

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to sinkas, 11 months ago

sinkas wrote:

Thanks to the Op for posting - great discussion here. I like the idea of adding some light.

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Regards Daryl

You're  welcome!

I even considered driving my 4 WD truck to a strategic position and leaving the lights on high beam ... but a bit toooo much snow for that.  Maybe next year.  That would help (maybe a stop) in lifting the shadows on the train (if I wanted that, artistically), but not the overexposure, of course.

I should also add that a friend made a video of the train using an iPhone.   Not too great.   Also overexposed.

I am also considering better locations, where I have some ambient security and/or street lighting.  (see first para re using truck lights)

I just went to Lightroom and checked what I did.  VERY LITTLE SHADOW LIFTING, moved the white point and the highlights ALL of the way to the left.

I'll check it out in RawDigger and post the results.

Tom

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

GeorgianBay1939 wrote:

sinkas wrote:

Thanks to the Op for posting - great discussion here. I like the idea of adding some light.

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Regards Daryl

You're welcome!

I even considered driving my 4 WD truck to a strategic position and leaving the lights on high beam ... but a bit toooo much snow for that. Maybe next year. That would help (maybe a stop) in lifting the shadows on the train (if I wanted that, artistically), but not the overexposure, of course.

I should also add that a friend made a video of the train using an iPhone. Not too great. Also overexposed.

I am also considering better locations, where I have some ambient security and/or street lighting. (see first para re using truck lights)

I just went to Lightroom and checked what I did. VERY LITTLE SHADOW LIFTING, moved the white point and the highlights ALL of the way to the left.

I'll check it out in RawDigger and post the results.

Tom

Here is the RawDigger rendering of the RAW file:

RawDigger ... with NO adjustments to the RAW file out of the camera.  Lots of light....  coloured lights are  blown on the train.  AE metering caused overexposure of the image by keeping the shutter open way too long, 3-4 stops, I would guess. Clipping due to ISO 800 didn't help.  The streaking of the red tower lights in the background that camera shake is the biggest culprit here.  (1/6 sec)

Helpful?

t

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Iliah Borg
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

Have you tried panning?

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to Moti, 11 months ago

Moti wrote:

GeorgianBay1939 wrote:

Moti wrote:

You did a remarkable job in analysing almost every point that lead you to fail a desired shot. It is nice to be able to find out what went wrong after the shoot but it is much nicer to think about these things beforehand and to be able to come home with a good photo.

Tha main reason for that is that you have a broad knoledge about almost every technical aspect related to cameras which is great, but you don't think as a photographer. Let me just give you two examples.

Biggest mistake, you didn't plan anything in advance. You didn't even define your subject. Is it the train? Is it only the lighting? So you go on a challenging mission without any planning, hoping that your technical knoledge will help you, well it didn't. As a former pilot you know that you go nowhere without a flight plan, same goes for a photography mission.

Another example, every photographer knows that on a challenging night mission, you always start with your best and fastest lens if you have it with you, and you had it. This is something you do automatically, without even thinking. Using your 35-100 at f2.8 would have given you a shutter speed of 1/24 instead of 1/6 which could have been the difference between fail and success.

That would have still blown the highlights of the coloured lights. That is why I would reduce the exposure by several more stops, EV*. (see calculation in the first post.)

The blowing/clipping of those coloured lights could've been minimized further by decreasing ISO to base 200. That would have left plenty of DR to lift the snow and rails out of their darkness.

In theory it is true but if you'd have known in advance that your aim is the lights and not the train itself, you'd exposed for the lights with a bit of shift to the right before clipping and you get what you want, with a faster shutter speed and less motion blur.

Image what that histogram looked like in the camera.?!  big spike at the left and a little trail to the right ... no spike on the right.  No information to ETTER.  The histogram was of no use to me.   Here is the Lightroom histogram of that image right after import of the RAW file.

Lightroom Histogram of converted RAW with no adjustments.

Why use the AE at all?  It metered several stops too dark.

Why not just use M(anual) mode, lens wide open and shoot at high shutter interval, at base ISO?

*In short, the image is horribly OVEREXPOSED, (using the proper definition of exposure

Now this is an interesting point. What is the proper definition of exposure or better to say, the definition of proper exposure. For me there are two ways to define proper exposure. The scientific way and the photographic way.

Can you give me a reference to the "photographic" way?  I must've missed it.  Very likely .... as I get somewhat frustrated with many texts and blogs that have their own pet definition of the term!  

I agree that using proper scientific exposure would have ended with a terrible overexposed image, because the desired outcome is not part of the formula.

I don't understand the above.

What happened in the above case is that the metering led to a terribly overexposed image by averaging out the luminance of the scene, averaging  it to give an output at 18% gray.  That is the way cameras work when set on one of the AE Modes, P, A, or S in the case of the GX7.  I don't understand what the definition of exposure has to do with it.

The photographic definition of proper exposure, at least for me, says - a proper exposure is the amount of exposure needed to make the image look exactly the way I want it to look.

I don't understand this either!   Where do you look at the image?  In the playback on the EVF?  On the LCD?

Not on the computer screen or print because that is too late to change exposure (EV) settings.  Yes, you can tweak brightness, lightness and all that good stuff in post processing but you cannot change exposure .... (except in Lightroom!   Because an illiterate labeled that "Exposure" slider, misleading thousands, maybe millions of beginning photographers, like me!)

Exposing according to this principle, could have given you exactly what you wanted.

Doesn't help me.

This is my (badly written) understanding of getting an optimal exposure using the train example:

If I had set my camera up properly I would've set my EV (f/, ss), to record the luminance of that scene, stopping motion blur, without blowing highlights.  In other words  I would've opened my lens wide, shortened the shutter interval, to get the greatest illuminance on the sensor without motion blur, (either camera shake or subject motion), without oversaturating those coloured lights.

Fortunately the shorter the shutter interval the sharper the image and the less chance of blowing highlights of the coloured lights.  But there is a limit to how high I want to go.   I also want to get a good exposure of the snow and context of the train.  So I stop at 1/250 sec and keep my ISO at base to give me maximum DR, allowing me to lift any shadows, if necessary at minimal (read) noise in post processing.

Usually I can count on the camera's exposure meter and histogram to help me.  In the above case the metering was heavily influenced by the dark and the histogram was of little value since it gave no high end (highlight) information.

I don't know if the above is the above is the "photographic way" or the "scientific way".

I have criticised the wiki definition of exposure as being weakly written.  Here is the link to that diatribe: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52609244

Sloppy writing is sloppy writing ... whether in scientific texts or in photographic texts and should be corrected.   I hope that competent photographers will correct the (rare) fuzzy writing in Wiki.  Maybe that way a lot of the market-speak in the Brand blogs and Manuals (including mine) can be corrected.    Lots of examples, but lets leave that for another time.

I hope that this helps.

Tom

cheers

Moti

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to Iliah Borg, 11 months ago

Iliah Borg wrote:

Have you tried panning?

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Yes, thanks, with birds and airplanes in flight.  High speed boats too, when in close.

But the issue with this thing was my sloppiness in shooting in an AE mode letting the auto metering hold the shutter interval at 1/6 second .... over exposing the image and giving a huge amount of hand shake. Look at the hand shake in the red tower lights .... huge.

And as Moti pointed out, not knowing what my subject really was ..... those BRIGHT LIGHTS, even brighter than the MOON!!!!

So my point in posting this mess was to show the value of some careful post - mortem - izing to show the difficulty of metering specular lights in the dark .... huge over-exposures and motion blur.

So to me, it is better to go manual and use one's head. .... which I didn't.

BUT it won't bite me next time. I learned a good lesson. slow learner at times!!!

Cheers,

t

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Iliah Borg
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

GeorgianBay1939 wrote:

Iliah Borg wrote:

Have you tried panning?

Lorries and trains at night are fun too.

1/6 second

I would set 1/100 and pan.

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bruxi
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

Moti wrote:

You did a remarkable job in analysing almost every point that lead you to fail a desired shot. It is nice to be able to find out what went wrong after the shoot but it is much nicer to think about these things beforehand and to be able to come home with a good photo.

Tha main reason for that is that you have a broad knoledge about almost every technical aspect related to cameras which is great, but you don't think as a photographer. Let me just give you two examples.

Biggest mistake, you didn't plan anything in advance. You didn't even define your subject. Is it the train? Is it only the lighting? So you go on a challenging mission without any planning, hoping that your technical knoledge will help you, well it didn't. As a former pilot you know that you go nowhere without a flight plan, same goes for a photography mission.

Another example, every photographer knows that on a challenging night mission, you always start with your best and fastest lens if you have it with you, and you had it. This is something you do automatically, without even thinking. Using your 35-100 at f2.8 would have given you a shutter speed of 1/24 instead of 1/6 which could have been the difference between fail and success.

That would have still blown the highlights of the coloured lights.   That is why I would reduce the exposure by several more stops, EV*.   (see calculation in the first post.)

The blowing/clipping of those coloured lights could've been minimized further by decreasing ISO to base 200.    That would have left plenty of DR to lift the snow and rails out of their darkness.

*In short, the image is horribly OVEREXPOSED, (using the proper definition of exposure)

As I mentioned above, you really have an excellent technical knoledge which is important but is not everything. There is much more into photography than figures, formulas and charts and thes other things are not less important to the success of good photography but somehow, they seem to be a bit neglected in these forums.

Cheers

Moti

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Thank you.

Your most helpful advice was this:

You didn't even define your subject. Is it the train? Is it only the lighting?

Almost all of my photography is unplanned.   I tend to make photographs of what I see as opportunities arise and try to set the camera up in a way that will optimally capture the file.  That is why I work hard at knowing the technicalities of the gear.

Usually I see something interesting and I photograph it with the technicalities in the background.  I didn't have much time the other night and the results show it.  I screwed up the technicalities.

So I did what I normally do, figure out why it was such a mess.  I learn from that stuff.  Who knows? I might see some moving lights some night in the future ... I'll know better how to capture it.

Cheers,

Tom

I think you're too hung up on some things. Unless that train is moving at 5 km/hr, your priority is fast shutter. You have to boost ISO to get a fast shutter and get anything near sharp. It would also be nice to close down the aperture so you have more than 10 feet of lights in focus. Get those things right in camera and then adjust for exposure and increase DR by tweaking the raw file in LR. Also consider shooting a layer on a tripod at longer shutter before the train shows up and dropping that in later in post.

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Corkcampbell
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Why are you considering slow zooms for this?
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

And I include the 2.8 one that was in the truck. I think that the Oly 12, 45, 75, and perhaps the Pany 25mm prime lenses would have been better, since you have time to choose your location and are familiar with the terrain. Even though they're slower, the Sigma 60mm and Pany 14 might also work. They both focus quite fast.

Also, with a situation like this, I would have used two or three bodies, with one on a tripod. I'm assuming that you would know the day the train is coming, so you could have everything set up and just have to grab the hardware and get outside when you get your alert.

This would also be an excellent situation in which to use the video on whichever camera handles video the best. This is one reason that I have kept a couple of GH2s around, even though I don't like its stills. It does low-light video quite well with some of the primes I mentioned above (I don't have the 25 or 12mm lenses) and I think that this opportunity that screams for video. I would probably have had my 2 GH2s on tripods or some kind of support, one in front of the train and one to shoot as it goes by, with the 14mm on one of them. These can be started well before the train arrives; you could practice with other trains in different light conditions to determine if it's better to have the lenses set to manual focus or not. With the video cameras taken care of, you could devote your whole attention to getting some good stills. You have 11 months to work this out, determine your positions, test different lenses, etc. I've done similar things, but not with a train. I rather envy you for this and would have fun spending a lot of time getting everything perfect, perhaps borrowing a lens, camera, tripod, whatever...although I'm equally sure I'd probably fall asleep with a glass of cheap whisky in my hand and miss the alert call...

Once you get your stills and video clips together combine them and you would have a nice, unique video to throw on YouTube right before Christmas that would probably attract some attention.

My apologies if someone has already suggested this; I'm continuing my bad habit of replying before reading all of the posts in the thread.

My compliments on a well-thought out and comprehensive original post.

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dinoSnake
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

GeorgianBay1939 wrote:

eastvillager wrote:

Prefocus, use a tripod and camera flash and a wireless flash down off to the right and you could have nailed it. Take a look at O. WInston Link's railroad photos. He used a ton of lights to photograph this train under a full head of steam.

Thanks for that link.

I don't think that I'll buy and/or carry all of that apparatus around!

Great Imagery and story at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O._Winston_Link

Phenomenal Photograph (at the wiki link above) Takes us old f@rts back a bit. Those were the days.

Tom

Indeed.  I had the fortune to know Winston personally, a very gentle man.  In regards to the photos, on average he took 2 days to set up the scene and lighting for the photograph, plus the darkroom work (which is where I got to know him, he used the shop I managed to do some print processing).

If you expect to get results from a moving train...then, reading the prior replies, a tripod on this shoot is an absolute MUST.  Frankly, if you *really* want to get this shot without doing a "Winston" (200 light bubls set around the scene), you'd better expect an HDR with one for background and one for the freeze-motion of the train exclusively.  There is way too much dynamic range to ever expect to get a single shot that includes both the lights, well exposed, and some feeling of the ambient conditions around the train.  Not going to happen.

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Corkcampbell
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If you want to see all the ways to slow a train...
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

...the best source is the utterly fantastic movie "The Train" (1960) with Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield. One of the best filmed and acted action movies of all time and shows some imaginative ideas. No, they didn't tie a Santa Claus dummy to the tracks, but the film took place in July.

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The good news
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

you've got a whole year to prepare for the next one!

Mark your calendar so you'll have everything ready next year before hand.  Playing w settings last minute in the dark could definitely lead to errors.

You might try shooting Christmas lights from a moving car.

This falls into the 'botched' category, but then it was grab the camera and shoot w whatever it was set to.  Taken when the light changed and I was turning left while the fire truck went straight.

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Entertaining depiction of an almost impossible shooting situation.
In reply to Doug Brown, 11 months ago

Sometimes it's just not possible to get the perfect shot despite everything you've done. I think that all of us would have had trouble with the OP's nighttime train situation.

This reminds me of when I was recording (with GH3 and GH2 cameras) a huge evening performance by over 100,000 people in the world's largest stadium in July. Of course, the lights constantly changed, as in a colorful Broadway play or concert. I just couldn't get the white balance correct and blamed myself and the fact I had a new camera (GH3). There were also some people like CNN and the big Japanese team (NHK?) filming with much more expensive equipment. I actually went to this event twice to try to get it right because it was so unusual.

The next day, I told people that I was really disappointed in my failure. However, after the clips by the professional media people, I realized that my clips were actually closer to the color, and showed some details of floats and people that were blown out by the pro cameras. My cheesy little GH cameras had done a better job, and also gave sharper (although far from perfect because of distance and one camera being handheld) images. Another plus for the little m4/3 cameras is that I was filming clandestinely - non-stop recording was not allowed. So, CNN, the Japanese, and the others were told to stop and put the cameras away, take down their tripods, etc. They didn't even notice me, sitting in the best seat in the front row, with my little GH3 on a small tripod continually shooting but with its display turned in, and the GH2 in my lap. As far as I know, I am the only one to get an uninterrupted spectator recording of the entire event, some of which I put on YouTube.

So, the OP shouldn't beat himself to death over this - it's a major challenge, and he'll get it right next year, or the year after...

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Baron LaCat
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to pocoloco, 11 months ago

To freeze the train's movement, sneak out earlier in the night and rub heaps of grease onto the rails. That should slow the train enough for you to get some good shots...

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locke_fc
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Re: Once in a year opportunity : ) .... messed up. : (
In reply to GeorgianBay1939, 11 months ago

You're definitely over-thinking your "post-mortem".

It's much simpler than that. If you want to freeze movement, you shoot in shutter-speed priority at 1/250-1/500, or 1/30-1/60 if you pan your camera and are confident in your Planning technique. You can let the camera take care of the rest with maybe some -EV applied to account for the night scene.

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