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Author Topic: Help me get sharper 400mm long exposure landscape shots!  (Read 5512 times)
Quintin Lake
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« on: March 26, 2013, 08:35:22 PM »
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I've got a long lens conundrum and wondered if anyone might be able to help.
I'm getting unacceptably soft results for 400mm compressed landscapes with  Canon 100-400L @ 400mm with 5DII.
But only for longer exposure shots 1-4 second range. Here is an example of the kind of shot I'm taking like this, though its not magnified enough to show the softness:
http://quintinlake.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Western-Desert-Journey-Egypt/G0000kFUwXry.h20/I0000Tvj31swO1LQ/C0000JnIJLx1O284

To try to rectify the problem I bought a Canon 400mm f5.6 prime and while its a better optically, especially at the corners  my results are still too soft for 1-4 second exposures (again fine for faster shutter speeds).

Therefore I'm guessing my series 2 gitzo ( GT2541 with RRS BH-40) isn't sturdy enough or perhaps there are are other long lens techniques I'm getting wrong???
As i'm not a wildlife shooter I'm not very familiar with long lens techniques so when i use my 400mm I feel like i'm starting again which is most frustrating. If you have any technique or gear suggestions i'd be most grateful!

These are the technique and gear I've using for my 400mm shots:

Checked lens foot tight
Checked all ball head knobs tight
Checked all tripod adjustments tight
Gitzo GT2541 with RRS BH-40
RRS plate to lens
Using mirror lockup
Using cable release
100 ISO for max detail in landscapes
f8-14
Canon 5DII
Taking multiple frames with a few seconds between
Hanging bag from centre hook
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tsjanik
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« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2013, 09:19:22 PM »
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Quintin:

My 2 cents:  if you are having problems at 4 seconds, it seems unlikely to a camera effect, i.e., shutter shake.  Is it windy when you have the problems?  If so, you need a sheltered area, heavy tripod and anything else to stop movement.  I have found it impossible to stabilize long lenses in strong winds at long exposure times, so I hope someone else has a suggestion.  
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 09:21:46 PM by tsjanik » Logged
Slim
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« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2013, 10:15:14 PM »
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It's funny that I just saw this post as I just tried to do the same thing tonight.  Any feedback here would be appreciated.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2013, 10:54:27 PM »
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Hi,

There may be a few reasons.

Wind can definitively be a problem. You can activate live view on your Canon and check the image at maximum magnification. If it moves around it really indicates that you would have problems. When shooting tripod I always use live view at maximum magnification for focusing and that works as a reminder on stability.

Image stabilisation may also cause some unsharpness. Stopping down causes diffraction, but with f/11 you should be OK. Checking focus may be a good idea. Some haziness may come from air vibration.

Here are some long lens shots:

Bird, low ISO, 70-400 zoom at 400 mm APS-C, 24MP
http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Travel/Stuff/27603520_zJWRhh#!i=2427796438&k=srL5xHn&lb=1&s=O

Osprey, 560 mm on APS-C, 24 MP, windy conditions:
http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Travel/Stuff/27603520_zJWRhh#!i=2427797196&k=PnT5Qrh&lb=1&s=O

Bison, 400 mm on full frame 135, handheld:
http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Travel/Stuff/27603520_zJWRhh#!i=2427798056&k=3KVn4CH&lb=1&s=O

Mule deer, 400 mm APS-C 24 MP, tripod
http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Travel/Stuff/27603520_zJWRhh#!i=2427796974&k=HhgD3sf&lb=1&s=O

Moose, 400 mm, APS-C 24MP, tripod
http://echophoto.smugmug.com/Travel/Stuff/27603520_zJWRhh#!i=2427797772&k=qKHXKSD&lb=1&s=O

I'm not exactly saying those are all sharp, but I guess they are pretty typical of what I achieve.

Best regards
Erik


I've got a long lens conundrum and wondered if anyone might be able to help.
I'm getting unacceptably soft results for 400mm compressed landscapes with  Canon 100-400L @ 400mm with 5DII.
But only for longer exposure shots 1-4 second range. Here is an example of the kind of shot I'm taking like this, though its not magnified enough to show the softness:
http://quintinlake.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Western-Desert-Journey-Egypt/G0000kFUwXry.h20/I0000Tvj31swO1LQ/C0000JnIJLx1O284

To try to rectify the problem I bought a Canon 400mm f5.6 prime and while its a better optically, especially at the corners  my results are still too soft for 1-4 second exposures (again fine for faster shutter speeds).

Therefore I'm guessing my series 2 gitzo ( GT2541 with RRS BH-40) isn't sturdy enough or perhaps there are are other long lens techniques I'm getting wrong???
As i'm not a wildlife shooter I'm not very familiar with long lens techniques so when i use my 400mm I feel like i'm starting again which is most frustrating. If you have any technique or gear suggestions i'd be most grateful!

These are the technique and gear I've using for my 400mm shots:

Checked lens foot tight
Checked all ball head knobs tight
Checked all tripod adjustments tight
Gitzo GT2541 with RRS BH-40
RRS plate to lens
Using mirror lockup
Using cable release
100 ISO for max detail in landscapes
f8-14
Canon 5DII
Taking multiple frames with a few seconds between
Hanging bag from centre hook
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 11:00:11 PM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2013, 11:01:22 PM »
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You may want to invest in Lloyd chambers "getting sharp images" articles.

My guess would be a combination of shutter movement and poorly designed tripod foot.

You could also try to lay a bag partially filled with sand on top of the camera and see if it helps.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Robert DeCandido PhD
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« Reply #5 on: March 27, 2013, 12:21:51 AM »
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Heat Waves?

I have a heat wave problem in southern Thailand in the middle of the day when I try and shoot migrating birds (raptors) - from about 11am-3pm I lose many photos to heat waves...one shot will be focused and the next not...even though I am tracking the bird and shooting rapid fire...

On the other hand, your images look like they are from late in the day...are all slightly out of focus or do you get a few that are sharp?

Does it make a difference with IS on vs. IS off?
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rpsphoto
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« Reply #6 on: March 27, 2013, 12:28:08 AM »
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If you are using auto-focus you may want to try manual focusing using the "Live View" function (I am not familiar with Canon DSLRs so excuse me if your camera does not support this function).

Best regards,

Bob
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capital
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« Reply #7 on: March 27, 2013, 12:47:45 AM »
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I looked at your example photo, unfortunately without an example at 100% view it makes diagnosing very hard.

The BH40 ball head from RRS might be subject to creep, and may be compounded by excessive tightening. Have you tried screwing the lens collar of the 400mm directly to the tripod base? Or can you try an alternate support?

Do you get sharp 4 second exposures if you are in live view and trigger the 10 second timer?

Are you attempting to shoot through a large distance of air? The refractive index of air, especially when the air is being heated will cause large decreases in resolution, if you take a series of photos in a row you see the fluctuations in image quality as the air shimmers.

And like others have said, you must do these tests in the absence of a breeze/wind which will work against you in determining the cause, perhaps though, wind is the cause.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2013, 12:51:07 AM by capital » Logged
ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #8 on: March 27, 2013, 12:51:48 AM »
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There is a program called PhotAcute that can extract a high resolution image by combining several less sharp images. It may be useful to handle heat waves.

Best regards
Erik

Heat Waves?

I have a heat wave problem in southern Thailand in the middle of the day when I try and shoot migrating birds (raptors) - from about 11am-3pm I lose many photos to heat waves...one shot will be focused and the next not...even though I am tracking the bird and shooting rapid fire...

On the other hand, your images look like they are from late in the day...are all slightly out of focus or do you get a few that are sharp?

Does it make a difference with IS on vs. IS off?
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David Sutton
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« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2013, 01:46:08 AM »
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The 400mm f 5.6 can be difficult. It acts like a tuning fork if there is any wind. The best solution I have found for slow shutter speeds is a 2kg beanbag on top of the lens. I use one whenever I can for any shutter speed below about a 400th/sec. Secondly I use a bungy chord looped around the tripod hook and my foot. For this lens I find hanging a bag from the centre hook can make matters worse if there is wind.
Finally I'd try live view and compare it to the autofocus.
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Petrus
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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2013, 03:11:14 AM »
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Long tripod plate (on a video head) with a cradle for the front part of the lens helps also, the lens foot can be wobbly. I made a cradle from a block of nylon, height adjusted so that it pushes the front part of the lens slightly up when the screw on the foot is tightened. It is still possible to rotate the lens as nylon is quite slippery.

This still leaves the problem of tripod head not being heavy and sturdy enough. The ultimate solution is of course two tripods, often nothing else works.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2013, 04:00:00 AM »
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The 400mm f 5.6 can be difficult. It acts like a tuning fork if there is any wind. The best solution I have found for slow shutter speeds is a 2kg beanbag on top of the lens. I use one whenever I can for any shutter speed below about a 400th/sec. Secondly I use a bungy chord looped around the tripod hook and my foot. For this lens I find hanging a bag from the centre hook can make matters worse if there is wind.Finally I'd try live view and compare it to the autofocus.

One way of getting around the dangling-bag-in-the-wind problem is to not let it dangle.
I have a heavy canvas bag that I take with me when shooting outdoors.
On location I fill it with rocks - up to 50 kg - and attach it the tripod hook, but, with just enough of the weighted bag touching the ground to prevent any movement.
With such a big lens though I would employ all and any means to reduce movement that have been suggested.
Of course, depending on how strong the wind is, even these measures may not be enough.

Tony Jay
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2013, 05:06:15 AM »
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Btw, I also use this:

http://reallyrightstuff.com/Items.aspx?code=LongLensPkgs&key=cat

Cheers,
Bernard
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2013, 05:34:36 AM »
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Interesting Bernard.

From the picture on the RRS website it seems as if there is just a single head and tripod to which the lens-support package attaches.
Is this correct?

Tony Jay
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graeme
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« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2013, 05:54:08 AM »
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As Erik says, using live view at 100% before pressing the shutter release can be helpful for checking  how steady your camera is.

Graeme
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francois
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« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2013, 05:58:28 AM »
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Using two tripods can really help sharpness (as LiveView, cable release, mirror lockup). I also turn the IS system OFF. But I have yet to find something for heat waves. I've always found that producing sharp images can be a challenge with my Canon 100-400 lens and it is a problem for stitched images as one or two unsharp photos completely ruin the final image.
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Francois
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« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2013, 06:24:12 AM »
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But I have yet to find something for heat waves.

But there is! Sky telescopes use a system where a laser beam is shot up along the line of sight and the atmospheric interference is measured. This is then used to correct the signal captured by the optical system. Somebody just needs to sell this system to landscape photographers working in the tropics.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2013, 06:29:14 AM »
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Interesting Bernard.

From the picture on the RRS website it seems as if there is just a single head and tripod to which the lens-support package attaches.
Is this correct?


Yep.

Cheers,
Bernard
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francois
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« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2013, 06:38:05 AM »
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But there is! Sky telescopes use a system where a laser beam is shot up along the line of sight and the atmospheric interference is measured. This is then used to correct the signal captured by the optical system. Somebody just needs to sell this system to landscape photographers working in the tropics.

I'll be waiting in line when such a system is available…
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Francois
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« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2013, 07:09:31 AM »
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Bernard:
I use a similar system, but have extended it to support the body itself, by adding a Sunwayfoto long lens support.  This is particularly effective at preventing vibrations from the shutter.  Even this system benefits from a Manfrotto long lens support at slow shutter speeds (attaches to tripod leg and the portrait camera plate on the side of the body), but makes it much harder to adjust.  All of this is still ineffective against strong winds.  Shown is a heavy crop of the ice along Lake Erie shore (200mm); I tried using the 600mm but was unable to get a sharp image in the 20-30 mph winds.  Ironically after shooting I saw this post.

Tom

Sunwayfoto (very well made)

http://www.amazon.com/SUNWAYFOTO-Telephoto-Support-TLS-01-Compatible/dp/B004XU5XTQ/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1364385010&sr=8-2&keywords=sunwayfoto+long+lens
Sunwayfoto


Manfrotto long lens support:


Manfrotto]http://www.amazon.com/Manfrotto-359-Long-Lens-Support/dp/B0019MPLHK/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1364385096&sr=1-1&keywords=manfrotto+long+lens+support]
Manfrotto


http://
_IGP1179 by tsjanik47, on Flickr


http://
_IGP0024 by tsjanik47, on Flickr

« Last Edit: March 27, 2013, 07:25:35 AM by tsjanik » Logged
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