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vmx120
03-21-2012, 09:15 AM
Hi Everyone, My name is Geoff and I am Lora's husband. Lora told me that this is a great place for advice. I have a question and am hoping you can help me. How can I take a nightime action photograph? I work at our local ER and there are times that we have helicopters come in and land to receive patients for transfer. I would love to get a shot of these. I work nights so it is dark but the helicopter is lit up and moving. What is the best way to get this shot?


AndrewW
03-21-2012, 09:59 AM
Night action shots tend to be harder do to the lower light level, but with a subject that is lit up you should be able to get away with it. You can use a faster film (high ISO), this type of film is more sensative and will need less exposure time for the same amount of light.

You might also look into infrared photography for some good night stuff.

vmx120
03-21-2012, 10:18 AM
The shot that I want would be as the chopper is at a relatively slow speed as it would be in the transition from forward flight to hover. My thought is that the 200 would be fine, but do I want to use a wide aperture and fast shutter speed? Thank you for your reply


Geoff


TommyH
03-21-2012, 12:30 PM
Welcome to the thread Geoff,

Even though the heli will be in transition I think there might still be some movement with it, not much but enough it could throw blur some if the shutter is not fast enough. Unless it is on the ground. I would say for shutter speed you might want at least a 1/60 speed or faster. I wouldn't go too fast maybe up to 1/200 or so so you get some blur in the main blades and rotor. What do you think Andrew about the fastest speed to still show some blur?

What is the widest aperture setting you will be using? 3.5? You will need a wide aperture to be able to get a fast enough shutter speed.

Depending on how dark the overall scene is you might need a higher film speed. Usually my experience with night shots I have been around 800-1600 film speed for something that is moving. Think even though the pad is light up a film speed of 200 might be too low.

Now you could get a lower film speed if you have a really fast lens, something with an aperture of 1.8 or so. Or if the object is stationary you can use a longer shutter to compensate.

Being you have access to see the pad, what you might do is, preview the shot. Go to the pad and setup like you were going to take the shot with whatever speed film you have in the camera. Have your aperture wide open (lowest number), set your shutter to 1/60 or a little faster and look at the meter in the middle.

If it is under exposed (to the left usually on Canon from center), you can slow the shutter some but wouldn't go to much lower then 1/60 unless subject is on ground. If you can't slow the shutter enough or open the aperture more (lower that number) then you will need a faster film speed. If it's to the right overexposed then this is a better situation as you can adjust shutter faster or close the aperture some and take the shot right then.

Let's say you have a 200 film in camera, 3.5 aperture and 1/60 for shutter setup and the meter is at -3 (means its underexposed 3 stops). In order to get more light to expose it properly you need a faster speed film or slow your shutter speed even more. When you double your film speed you will get +1 stop. So at film speed 400 you would be -2, at film/iso speed 800 your at -1, to get it exposed right you need one more stop so that would be 1600 film/iso speed.

If it starts at -2, with your current setup (200 film/iso) then you would be able to get away with 800 film/iso.

The other option is to slower the shutter speed in the above situation. Shutter speed holds true like film speed. 1 stop is double the amount. So in the above to go from -3 to -2 on your meter, your shutter will drop from 1/60 to 1/30, and so forth. At a slower speed under 1/60 any slight movement will cause blur especially if you are holding camera.

Hope this helps some

vmx120
03-21-2012, 01:00 PM
Awesome advice, thank you. I forgot about the blades. Realistically, I want a shot as the bird is sliding in about 20' above the pad, dont want to freak out the pilot with a flash, I think my shot is the body of the bird with all its lights on with the blades blurred, as they would be anyway, then capture the night sky in focus behind it. I will have to basically sit on the pad to get this, probably get in trouble as well, but I know this will be an awesome shot.

AndrewW
03-21-2012, 01:04 PM
Welcome to the thread Geoff,

Even though the heli will be in transition I think there might still be some movement with it, not much but enough it could throw blur some if the shutter is not fast enough. Unless it is on the ground. I would say for shutter speed you might want at least a 1/60 speed or faster. I wouldn't go too fast maybe up to 1/200 or so so you get some blur in the main blades and rotor. What do you think Andrew about the fastest speed to still show some blur?

There's an advantage here in that the rotor blades tend to move faster then the helicopter itself so should allow for some motion blur on those while keeping the helicopter sharp. Best thing I think would be to experiment some and see what works best. Sounds like you will have more then one opportunity to get this type of shot.

Another advanced technique that can be used is panning with the suject to keep it in focus (this tends to blur the background) but that takes practice, especially with something like a helicopter which may not move as expected.

vmx120
03-21-2012, 01:11 PM
Im sorry but I believe I need to expand on the context of this shot. This hospital is in a rural area, not in the city. There is no light pullution. It is dark, even the hospital does not give off any light. What I want is a shot of the chopper suspended in this darkness against a sea of stars behind it.

TommyH
03-21-2012, 06:15 PM
Im sorry but I believe I need to expand on the context of this shot. This hospital is in a rural area, not in the city. There is no light pullution. It is dark, even the hospital does not give off any light. What I want is a shot of the chopper suspended in this darkness against a sea of stars behind it.

In this context I think you will need a high speed film 800 or better and a very wide aperture to capture a good amount of stars and have a high enough speed for the heli in slow flight.

If you don't have a wide aperture and high speed film I don't think you will see much of the stars, I am sure you are in a zone 2-1 for light pollution. Even in that good of a zone with a shutter of 1/60th of a second does not give much time for the light of the stars to hit the film and be captured. The best I can get around me is a zone 3 for light pollution. I can see the milky way galaxy in my exposures but I am shooting at a f2.8 or 1.8 depending on lens and either 1600 or 3200 ISO/film speed and 5 seconds to 30 sec exposure. If I dropped my exposure to around 1/60 I would be looking at very little stars just a few dots if any. You could have a different experience though being in zone 1 or 2.

Also some things to consider, a full moon is going to add a some amount of pollution so for best results try for a time with no moon or a crescent moon you will want very little moon light unless you incorporate the moon into the background. The other problem is going to be cloud coverage, so you will want a clear sky in order to see the stars. A picture like this will take some time and experimenting but once you get it, it will be an amazing shot.

You might have to shoot a few times and experiment to get the shot you are looking for like Andrew said. If you have a wide enough angle lens you might be able to get close to the pad vs being on it, put the pad in the foreground, the heli as the subject, and the night sky as the background.

The other thing you might do is prior to the heli landing, if you know its path and can predict it. Setup the camera on the tripod, take a long exposure for the night sky to capture the stars. Then when the heli comes (keeping tripod in same spot) take a shot of it at a faster shutter speed. Then you can combine the 2 images with a photo program layering them so you have a good amount of the night sky and the heli. Just need to have your photos put on CD when you get them exposed. Also take the photos fairly close together, so if you do a 10-15 second exposure for the sky, you might want to do it about 5 mins or so before the heli is going to land. If you have that kind of notice.

vmx120
03-29-2012, 09:32 AM
Sorry for taking so long to reply Tommy, The car broke down and I have been dealing with that mess. I think the idea of taking two shots and combining them is a great idea. As it happens last weekend at work we had a chopper come in. I took a few minutes and spoke to the pilot about taking a picture when they come in. As long as I dont blind them with a flash he was okay with it. Unfortunately I dont know which pilot is flying at any given time.

Anyway thank you for all your advise.
Geoff



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