Photo Friday: Like Night and A Better Night

One of the things that had bothered me the most about my dying camera was that I couldn't take a night exposure without spending a lot of time, afterwards, editing the photo: sharpening, adjusting the contrast, making the colours more vibrant, and the endless removing of blown pixels, which added annoying red and blue blocks to the image, making it hard, sometimes, to tell what was a fault with the sensor and what was a real star.

And the image was never truly sharp, because the camera would shake a little as the mirror flipped up to take the exposure. That wasn't a problem with an ailing camera, but was a sign of the limited, clunky technology.

The last photos that I shot with my old Nikon D80 were of the night sky, on a side road in the village of Galetta, north-west of Ottawa, in the Ottawa Valley. And they weren't very good, though I did publish them. You can see the images in last Thursday's post.

My D80 was a 10-megapixel device whose ISO speed was limited to 1600. Last week's photo was shot at that setting, with a 25-second exposure at f4. The only light that I received in setting up the shots was thanks to the stars and an extremely dim glow from nearby Arnprior.

The image shows very little: dark silhouettes of trees and power lines; dim stars.

It took me about 10 to 15 minutes to bring the images to where I felt I could show them, but I'm not proud of them.

On Tuesday night, the sky was clear and the temperature was bearable, and so I thought I would try a night exposure with my new D7200. Before I left the house, I set the camera to Manual mode, set the aperture to f2.8, the shutter speed to 25 seconds, and, just for fun, set the ISO speed at a modest 3200 (the first photo that I shot with my new camera was taken of my cat, who was on my bed: a lonely, low-watt bulb lit the room, and I took the photo at ISO 25600—you can see it here).

I drove southeast, over the Strandherd Bridge, and followed Earl Armstrong Road until it took me to Bowesville Road, outside of city lights, not far from the airport. On the horizon, the glow of Riverside South, Manotick, and Barrhaven lit the treeline. To my surprise, this rural part of town saw lots of car traffic: seldom did a minute pass when at least one car would arrive at this intersection.

My first attempt resulted in a totally white image: everything was washed out. So I dialled the ISO down to 1600. Same result.

I went to 800 ISO, and received an image, but the photo looked as though I had shot it on a foggy day. There was still too much light getting in. At 500 ISO, I could see stars, but the sky was still too bright for my liking.

At ISO 100, the lowest setting, I got the desired result. The stars were bright, the sky discernible, and the glow of the city illuminated the horizon. And the image was sharp. One of the added features of the D7200 is the ability to set the mirror to lock up, so that it does not move while you take your photo. And, shooting by remote control, I didn't have to lay a finger on the camera to shoot.

When I saw the result, I was thrilled. And, with the new technology, I was able to download the photo, by WiFi, directly from the camera to my smartphone, where I posted it on Facebook.

Easy-peasy.

I did do some touchups on the photo, when I returned home. Because the D7200 is really new, having only hit store shelves on March 19, most photo-editing software have not been updated to accept the RAW files. I had to download some Nikon software to import the photos and touch them up, and then save as a JPEG file.

Here is the final result:
 

But working with this camera is like night and day from my old camera. Or, in the case of these photos, like night and a better night.

Happy Friday!

While I still have to get used to the camera and I need to shoot a better vista, at a better location.

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