Pitch-Black Photography: Moon over the East China Sea
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, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image data — nearby photos Moonlight over the East China Sea Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan -- Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — 1/4 sec freestanding handheld, f/1.4, ISO 6400map & image datanearby photos
Moonlight over the East China Sea
Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan

Since getting my Nikon D700 and exploring its low-light abilities (see “Impossible Photography: No Light, No Tripod, No Hope”) I've been more and more bold in where I give it a try. I shocked myself with the results during my trip to Okinawa in January (The Atta Terrace Hotel at Night), and I pushed the limits even further during this month's trip to Ishigaki Island.

I took the picture above standing on a pier, with the moon just out of the top of the frame. As I described in yesterday's post, the vignetting comes naturally from using the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens on my full-frame D700.

Unlike when I was shocked with the good quality of the low-light results of the photos I took at the Atta Terrace hotel, the results this time were more attuned with what I expected: horrible quality, photographically, but they'll help preserve nice memories for us.

What did surprise me is how well the stars came out, as you can see a few. With the bright moon, and our eyes not really adjusted to the dark, we couldn't see more than a few in the whole sky, nor much else at all, for that matter: it was simply dark. We certainly couldn't see the land on the horizon (just left of center in the frame), Iriomote Island, I believe, about 15 miles distant. Taiwan is another 110 miles further in the same direction, but we couldn't see that, either. 🙂

Short Pier at the Fusaki Resort Village , Ishigaki Island, Japan -- Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — 1/4 sec freestanding handheld, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Short Pier
at the Fusaki Resort Village, Ishigaki Island, Japan

We'd gone down to the beach to check out the night view after dinner on our first night, then took the short path back to the accommodations area...

Rush Hour -- Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — 1/20 sec freestanding handheld, f/2.2, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Rush Hour

But we decided to return to check out the view from the pier itself, so after a short U-turn...

Fumie on the Pier -- Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — 0.3 sec freestanding handheld, f/1.6, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Fumie on the Pier

Like I said, these won't win any awards, especially with 1/3-second exposures handheld, freestanding(!), but they're nice enough for me...

Surprise! -- Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — 0.3 sec freestanding handheld, f/1.6, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Surprise!

We were on the pier for a couple minutes as I worked my way down trying to find angles that gave interesting shots, but it was difficult because despite how bright it looks in these photos, it was really dark. I could see the silhouette of the little roof, and probably the circle of the life preserver, but no detail at all – I couldn't see the railing at the far end, or benches, or detail in the roof, or anything like that.

It would have seemed less dark had we spent the time to let our eyes adjust, of course, but we hadn't, so a minute or so after I took the picture above, I was startled when a couple suddenly emerged out of the darkness and walked back toward land. As they passed me, I thought wow, it's so dark that I didn't even see them standing right there!, but in reviewing the picture this evening as I write this post, I realize some contributing factors: they had been behind the bend in the railing, and they hadn't been standing. Doh!

Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — 1/4 sec freestanding handheld, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos

As you can see above, at high ISO, bright light in an otherwise dark field produces strong streaks across the frame.

At one point I braced the camera against the railing and faced back toward the beach, and took a longer exposure (2.5 seconds)....

, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image data — nearby photos Couple on the Beach -- Ishigaki, Okinawa, Japan -- Copyright 2009 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Sigma 30mm f/1.4 — 2.5 sec braced, f/1.4, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Couple on the Beach

I really wish we'd have been able to see that many stars when we were there, but we didn't let our eyes adjust that first night, and it turned out to be overcast for the next two nights, so we missed that chance.

Continued here...


All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

I like these. I especially like the one of Fumie on the pier.

The thing about taking photos at night is, why should the photo end up much lighter than how the scene appears to your eyes? Unless you’re shooting for the NSA or CIA, trying to get more discerning ability in the dark through the camera than you can with your bare eyes, I say dial the exposure way down for these kinds of shots. In fact, I just came back from shooting some night shots myself, and I had to dial the exposure way, way down (-2.0 EV or so) to approximate something like what my eye saw. I consider this nothing but a bug in the exposure system.

If I wanted to match the scene as I actually saw it, I’d have just left the lens cap on. 🙂 Yeah, it overexposes low-light scenes, probably just showing off because it’s the only camera that can overexpose low-light scenes like that. 🙂 —Jeffrey

— comment by Zachary on May 17th, 2009 at 12:25am JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey, These low-light photos (nice by the way), made me think about the opposite…. Just curious. Are you aware there is a total solar eclipse on July 22. The path of totality runs just south of mainland Japan (http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2009/TSE2009iau/TSE2009-fig04.GIF) and it will have the longest period of totality in our lifetime (6 minutes, 30 seconds or so). From where you are it will not be total, but about 60% of the sun’s disk will be eclipsed.

Do you have any plans to see and/or photograph it?

We’ve had had a hotel reservation for a year on an island that will get almost 4 minutes of totality, but it’s looking to be absolutely impossible to get transport to the island, so we may end up losing out. Still trying. Even if do get there, though, I have no desire to photograph it. I want to just experience it. —Jeffrey

— comment by Howard Messing on May 17th, 2009 at 2:29am JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
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