Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Postcard: Under the Stars

Desire and opportunity came together this evening for my first attempt at a starry, starry night photograph of my Vespa GTS 250ie. You need to click on the image for the larger version to really appreciate the stars.

It was sort of cozy sitting on the road in the dark balancing the camera on my wallet and a Gerbing glove to make this picture. It was almost pitch black when I made the picture, could barely see a thing. The Nikon D700 is pretty amazing at ISO 3200 making this kind of thing possible.

I'm looking forward to more serious nighttime explorations.

24 comments:

682202 said...

Great Photograph! In today's non-stop world people rarely take the time to look up at the stars. On the days I arrive home from work late, I tend to stand in the driveway with my hands full the days junk gazing skyward. Thanks for sharing. GAW

irondad said...

Ok, I'll admit. It is a totally awesome post card. Seriously. How are you going to get it into the postal box?

I actually don't look at the stars, much, anymore. I've seen "Men in Black" too many times.

bobskoot said...

Living in the heart of an urban metropolis such as Vancouver, it is difficult to see the stars for all the extraneous light. It takes over an hour to get out of the city, but that is a great photo. I've heard great things about the low light capability of the D700. Looks almost like HDR.

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

John McClane said...

Great photo, great sky, great scooter.

Richard Machida said...

Very nice photo! What was the exposure?

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sir:

What an amazing photograph! What a great idea!

Fondest regards,
Jack
Twisted Roads

Steve Williams said...

GAW: Thank you. I love looking at the stars. Wish I knew more about them. I'm lucky that my wife and I are in tune when it comes to being outside at night and appreciating the sky.

If we just had a hot tub out back we could really do some stargazing...

irondad: I've thought of actually making some postcards and sending them out. Plenty of inexpensive suppliers online.

You know "Men in Black" wasn't a documentary right?

bobskoot: Definitely lucky here that the light pollution is minimal and the sky generally easy to see. On crisp nights even the Milky Way is clearly visible.

The D700 is amazing. Much like the Canon 5D Mark II in low light. As far as HDR goes I have that on my list to apply to the Vespa!

John: Thanks for the kind words. Hopefull more night pictures to come.

Richard: The exposure was (if memory serves me---I could look at the metadata I suppose) 15 seconds @ F4, ISO 3200.

Jack: Thank you. I have been toying with the idea of night photography for a long time in regards to riding. Maybe I am getting closer to actually doing something about those thoughts.

Pvino said...

Great picture now it makes me want to buy another camera. I have been taking night shots with my
Canon 300 EOS at the nightlights "stars" - night photography; I have found great interest in shooting long exposures on a tripod. Your picture came out smashing - excellent, can't see any hot spots.

Phil

Baron's Life said...

Absolutely Divine. Great shot...!

Ale- said...

I must first say that I *like* this picture but...

...

...it's far from being noise-free. I see a *lot* of purple fringing everywhere mostly due to sensor overheating. definitely digital is not film. noise is not grain.
it looks as if it was a drawing, a pencil drawing skillfully colored in watercolors. a nice picture, I repeat, but if I were you I couldn't be satisfied with the camera... :-)
I dare to say that the little G9 could nearly do a better work.

Steve Williams said...

ale: I agree that there is noise in the image. What impresses me is how little their is at ISO 3200 compared to what the D700 or G9 would have at 800. I can produce useable images for publication at ISO 3200 with this camera.

Part of the increased noise in this particular image was me quickly processing the shot and bumping up the saturation. And the Web compression further exaggerates the noise.

Looking at the original raw file is pretty satisfying though.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Love the pic and the idea.

And whatcha do is why I don't! haha

Because I'm not that good a photographer.

Great idea Steve!

Harv

Angelo said...

Very Nice Steve. There's a great deal of skyglow on the rightside of the image and I assume there is a large city in that direction... maybe not?

Now just connect those dots and spell the great god, VESPA.

Arno said...

It is a very nice result, indeed.

But as a digital photog you need to be aware that your "stars" are not stars but digital noise. Long-term exposures penalize us digital photogs with this effect--which helped you magically to enhance your image beyond reality.

Bill Power said...

What a great shot!

Steve Williams said...

Pvino: It's definitely fun shooting at night. A whole new world to play around in with the camera. I fear I will have to bring a tripod though...

Baron: Thanks!

Harv: I'll see what comes of the idea over the coming weeks. It's fun out there in the dark!

Angelo: No big city in that direction. I'm not experienced enough or haven't paid enough attention to figure out why it appears so brightly illuminated. Housing development out that way but not dense. And no street lights. It's weird...

Arno: Yeah, at that ISO it's only a simulation of the stars. Even if I shot film I would only have variations in grain. But I do enjoy being able to shoot in such low light. Just shot an assignment this evening under low light in an auditorium. With film it would have been really difficult back when Kodachrome 200 was the fastest stuff in my camera bag. Now I just dial up the ISO and away I go. I have some portraits shot at 3200 that I should probably post to give people an idea of how sweet the new sensors are.

Bill: Thanks! Checked out your blog today and shuddered watching the wheelie and crash videos...

Arno said...

Steve,
Yes,the new sensors represent a quantum leap.
The greenish noise in your sky is a result from the (high) 3200 ISO. The "stars" (digital noise) are independent of ISO, they are a byproduct of long exposures (and you could argue that, thus, they depend on ISO, but only in a way that there may be less digital noise with higher ISO=shorter exposures).

I think to cover true stars AND the--in comparison--brightly lit lawn, you'd have to do HDR, with extreme bracketing.

Steve Williams said...

Arno: Thanks for the information. I am largely illiterate when it comes to the technical foundations of digital photography. I try to find techniques and workflows that allow me to produce what I imagine but I am still learning everyday.

HDR is definitely on the list. I have done several architectural images for work using it and am amazed at the results. Requires more patience than I often carry with me on the Vespa. We'll see.

For years as a photographer I pursued invisible grain and exceptional sharpness going so far as shooting 8x10 film and making contact prints. I have begun to release some of those personal "rules" and allow myself to explore pictures that did not obey those rules. I still remember my first mental release of technique after seeing the work of the Starn Twins.

But I still can get pretty narrow in my thinking. Shooting at high ISOs still has a voice whispering "this is wrong...."

Heinz N Frenchie said...

Incredible! We never cease to be amazed at your talent. If you ever decide to sell prints we will be your first customer. We really enjoy your blog.

Leo said...

Steve,

Great blog! I was looking on some posts about rain riding, and I'm intrigued by your winter riding section! Just subscribed to your RSS feed, so keep it coming.

BTW, beautiful pictures.

Steve Williams said...

Heinz N Frenchie: Thanks for the kind comments. I have been thinking about selling prints through SMUGMUG or some online fulfillment company like that. You'll know if I do!

Leo: Glad you found something useful. I'll be posting more as the days and weeks progress.

Thanks for your kind words about the pictures.

Pvino said...

Once I took a picture of the comet that came close to earth and it was spectacular; using my digital Canon camera on a tripod at 4am in the morning. I wished I had my scooter back then I would have rode up the hills for a better picture. Photography with a scooter is priceless. B&W film photography is a must for some but I am equally happy with digital application.

driftingfocus said...

Wow. Looks like an advertisement!

maestro said...

Dear Steve,
Waiting for my first Vespa (300ie super) and found your blog, and have been reading it through from the beginning. I love the photos, the philosophy, the safety tips, and your willingness to be honest enough to consider the occasional possible errors in your own approach to riding. So thanks for a wonderful introduction to scootering! I also wanted to respond to this particular entry to suggest that if you park the Vespa in the same spot and leave the shutter open for a couple of hours, the rotation of the earth will give you star trails, which I think would be an AWESOME photo -- the Vespa in focus in the center with the stars wheeling overhead! Hope you can give it a try, and thanks again for all your work on this new rider's behalf.