Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?

Started Dec 5, 2012 | Discussions
Al Giordano
Al Giordano Senior Member • Posts: 1,136
Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?

I'm looking for the proper technique and strategy for shooting a moving parade at night..Seems like a great challenge.  Obviously using a tripod is a must. Plus I have no idea how much light I will be working with.  I will assume I will have street lights overhead.  Should I shoot in ambient light with the high ISO or shoot flash?  Should I pan the floats?

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Nikon D800
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Tkopa Regular Member • Posts: 117
Re: Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?

I have some general ideas but not knowing the situation, only you can determine.

Unless the subject is very close, the flash has little chance to help. This photo was shot at night with two flashes sb600 and sb910 very close to her. The shutter was left open for 1/3 of a second.

f4    ISO 160   70mm  Nikon D800

If you tried the flash I think you would have to be very close.

The other option is to shoot at 2.8 or below, which limits your depth of field. With a parade float, I think you want to shoot at f8 and maybe down to f5.6. So you will need light. Leaving the shutter open longer without a flash leaves you open to motion blur and you have a moving target as it is.

You will need to be in manual mode to pull this off. Don't trust any camera automatic settings. Also, don't trust the light meter. Let yourself go Luke, feel the force.

The good news is the D800 can resolve shadows well, so I think you need to find the ISO that brings you to 1/30 shutter speed at f 5.6.  If you are at ISO 6400, then you are probably maxed out. I do think if you can see the parade, then you can shoot at 50mm 1/30 second, f 5.6 and ISO 6400.

If you are good to go, then try dropping the ISO first. ISO 3200 then ISO 1600.  Each step down in ISO brings you more dynamic range and thus more vibrancy in your color.  If you need more focal depth, then work up a stop on apperature. You will need a steady hand to brace yourself at 1/30 shutter but you can do it. I prefer ISO reduction over faster shutter speed.

Once you can get a decent shot, then put your flash on manual mode and 1/2 power. If you use 1/1 power, be ready to let the flash cycle for 4-5 seconds between shots. Load new batteries. I suggest at 1/2 power you can probably shoot every 1-2 seconds.  Also, if you are getting good shots at no flash, then 1/2 power may give you an extra kiss of light.  I am assuming a decent flash like the sb800 or sb910. The sb700 or sb600 doesn't have the power, but you can try.

So try ISO 6400, 50mm, f 5.6 1/30 on manual and see what happens. If you like it, add the flash. If it does anything for you, leave it on, if not shut it off and go naked. If you are getting something decent, back down the ISO one stop and see how it looks. After that, choose the apperature reduction of ISO reduction. Jump down to f 4.0 if you are ok with losing depth of field.

As for panning the floats, try it. That takes a good hand and good timing to pull off. I would rather position myself well and get stable than introduce that motion, but photography is all about trying it and finding out for yourself.

Let me know how it works out.

Donald Chin
Donald Chin Veteran Member • Posts: 5,757
My advice is forget about the tripod

How can you use a tripod in a crowd? Keep your gears as light as possible and that's it. Any current camera can shoot parade at night. Here's an examples shoot with a 2003 1st generation 5MP CCD DSLR.

http://www.fotop.net/DonaldChin

Phixer323
Phixer323 Contributing Member • Posts: 735
Re: Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?

You won't need a tripod to shoot a nighttime parade. While I don't shoot with Nikon, I have shot the night Disney parades numerous times. The difficulty comes with the changing conditions with the floats. At Disney, the Electrical Parade (and before that Spectromagic)  is easier than the Christmas parade because most all the floats and characters are lighted. That is not the same with the Christmas parade where it seems every other float or display is lit. You do not want to use flash on floats that have their own illumination in that your flash (I'm talking about an external flash) will overpower the lights and you lose the effect. The issue where you have a mixture of lighted and non-lighted displays can drive you crazy switching your settings and flash back and forth. My solution was to have two cameras, one set for flash and the other non-flash. I have used both a prime lens (30mm f1.4) and a zoom lens (28-70mm f2.8). Because you are shooting motion, I would recommend you use shutter priority (on my system it is Tv) and set it 1/100 or above to prevent blur and adjust your ISO to control the exposure. I would start at ISO 1600 and go from there. I have found that you really have to adjust on the fly.

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Stan dela Cruz Forum Member • Posts: 91
Re: Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?
Al Giordano
OP Al Giordano Senior Member • Posts: 1,136
Re: Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?





How did I do?

A tripod was a MUST for this shoot.  Very dark night, lot's of movement; the beauty queen shot was accomplished whilst the car was moving, she was waving and turning from side to side; Yikes!!

The second shot; I added some HDR  and some blurring of the background in post processing.

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Stan dela Cruz Forum Member • Posts: 91
Re: Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?

Pic turned out okay....  Just a few questions.... Why not open up the aperture  and/or go to a higher iso to get a more decent shutter speed?

Tkopa Regular Member • Posts: 117
Re: Technique for Shooting a Christmas Parade at night with Nikon D800?

I think you did a great job. The ISO 6400 was robbing the color dynamic but the D800 loves color so much, it kept as much as it could.

The tripod could steady the camera, but the beauty queen hand waving wasn't going to freeze with a tripod anyway. I usually photoshop that little blur out.

You did a fantastic job. To the suggestion of higher ISO, yuck!

This was a very credible job and the next time maybe a different camera angle to minimize motion speed (straight side view was the most challenging) can be tried with the tripod.

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