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Author Topic: Night aerials advice required  (Read 2480 times)
Harold Clark
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« on: June 13, 2013, 08:33:04 AM »
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A client has asked if it would be possible to do some cityscape aerials at night ( dusk actually, about the same light level that works well for architectural photos ). I have quite a bit of experience with daytime aerials shooting with 5D2, mainly using fixed wing although I have used helicopters a couple of times. I presume a copter would be necessary for this type of work, along with a good gyro. If anybody has some practical advice to offer it would be much appreciated.

A friend who recently passed on at the age of 92 had done a shoot for Time magazine of American cities at night in the late 1950s, using a 5x7 camera and f/1 lens. The pilot would stall the plane, and in that brief moment before they slipped into a spin he would make the exposure. Stalling the plane from 1000ft I would be working from wouldn't be a good idea, but I thought this approach showed great ingenuity none the less.
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luong
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« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2013, 10:28:27 PM »
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See this article about the famous New York Sandy blackout aerial:
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/194225/architecture-photographer-explains-how-he-got-that-new-york-magazine-cover-shot/

Looks like the photographer didn't have a gyro, nor even a stabilized lens, and it's pitch dark, not dusk !
25,000 ISO sounds crazy, but I've actually seen a 40x60 print at Photo Paris LA, and it didn't look that bad.
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Harold Clark
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« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2013, 03:34:00 PM »
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See this article about the famous New York Sandy blackout aerial:
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/194225/architecture-photographer-explains-how-he-got-that-new-york-magazine-cover-shot/

Looks like the photographer didn't have a gyro, nor even a stabilized lens, and it's pitch dark, not dusk !
25,000 ISO sounds crazy, but I've actually seen a 40x60 print at Photo Paris LA, and it didn't look that bad.

Thanks for the link, very well done photo. I have sourced a gyro and helicopter, I guess I will have to jump right in. Fortunately the site is literally walking distance from the airport, so I won't be wasting airtime in transit if the first attempt doesn't work out.

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KevinA
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2013, 04:09:47 PM »
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A client has asked if it would be possible to do some cityscape aerials at night ( dusk actually, about the same light level that works well for architectural photos ). I have quite a bit of experience with daytime aerials shooting with 5D2, mainly using fixed wing although I have used helicopters a couple of times. I presume a copter would be necessary for this type of work, along with a good gyro. If anybody has some practical advice to offer it would be much appreciated.

A friend who recently passed on at the age of 92 had done a shoot for Time magazine of American cities at night in the late 1950s, using a 5x7 camera and f/1 lens. The pilot would stall the plane, and in that brief moment before they slipped into a spin he would make the exposure. Stalling the plane from 1000ft I would be working from wouldn't be a good idea, but I thought this approach showed great ingenuity none the less.

Hellicopter, Kenlab gyro ks 8. Unless it's a special sky, straight after Sunset is very flat looking. You need it to start getting dark so the ambient is less than the building lights.
http://kevinallen.photodeck.com/-/galleries/london-aerial-views do a search for "night" There are a few on my site.Fast lens stopped down a couple of stops, wide open vignetting can be a problem. The problem with software vignetting solution can be a noise increase.
A 5DII iso speed 1600 is good 3200iso if it's that or nothing.
Despite I now shoot with a 1D X which I have used at 12800iso with good results, lower iso keeps more detail. I have now built a rig with a KS12 and a KS8.
Back in the day, it was f2.8 and a roll of 800iso 120 film and a KS8.
I would most defiantly hire either a ks6/8 or the new 6x6 gyro from Kenlab. Shoot lots the further away from 1/100th you get the hit ratio falls away.
Watch the focus on a 5DII in the dark, I would point it at a well lit building for the af to work then switch to manual. Every so often turn the af on repeat and check.
Good luck, it's fun nerve racking but fun.

Kevin.
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Kevin.
KevinA
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2013, 04:31:27 PM »
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Hellicopter, Kenlab gyro ks 8. Unless it's a special sky, straight after Sunset is very flat looking. You need it to start getting dark so the ambient is less than the building lights.
http://kevinallen.photodeck.com/-/galleries/london-aerial-views do a search for "night" There are a few on my site.Fast lens stopped down a couple of stops, wide open vignetting can be a problem. The problem with software vignetting solution can be a noise increase.
A 5DII iso speed 1600 is good 3200iso if it's that or nothing.
Despite I now shoot with a 1D X which I have used at 12800iso with good results, lower iso keeps more detail. I have now built a rig with a KS12 and a KS8.
Back in the day, it was f2.8 and a roll of 800iso 120 film and a KS8.
I would most defiantly hire either a ks6/8 or the new 6x6 gyro from Kenlab. Shoot lots the further away from 1/100th you get the hit ratio falls away.
Watch the focus on a 5DII in the dark, I would point it at a well lit building for the af to work then switch to manual. Every so often turn the af on repeat and check.
Good luck, it's fun nerve racking but fun.

Kevin.
I shoot 3 or 4 night jobs a year, I like to get on site for Sunset if I think it looks likely to be good, then a gap of 20 mins in the winter before the light ratio gets interesting, longer in the summer.
Wind direction will determine which side to shoot from, discuss with the pilot the shot you want and which direction is easier to hold the helicopter still. I prefer having a window popped out if it's ok with the company rather than sliding the door, less draft and you don't worry about things falling out in the dark. If it has to be an open door, bags strapped down and change lenses slowly in the aircraft and work in the bag, don't put things on the seat and take a torch! I also have a long strap I attach to my camera strap. I work that way even with the window popped out. Even daytime I have a strap for everything.
No need to lean out of the aircraft, you don't need the extra turbulence, work as far back as you can, direct the pilot. Simple instructions like hold here, left, right or hard left, keep this heading etc .
I've used a 5DII with good results for night aerials best to bracket if you can.
It's only the ambient light that changes, so if a building lighting is good for 1/50th it stays at 1/50th the ambient will just do the shadows depending on how bright it is.
Kevin.
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KevinA
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« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2013, 05:06:40 PM »
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One other thing. here in the UK a Helicopter has to have a special rating to fly much after Sunset. Check that they are equipped and happy to fly at night.
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Kevin.
Harold Clark
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2013, 06:32:29 AM »
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One other thing. here in the UK a Helicopter has to have a special rating to fly much after Sunset. Check that they are equipped and happy to fly at night.

Thanks Kevin for all the practical advice, obviously learned through lots of experience. I noted your comments regarding shutter speed, what is the lowest speed you have used that will still yield a decent percentage of sharp images?
I am thinking about using my 50mm f/1.4 lens, I will do some ground tests @ f/2.8 first to see how it performs.
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KevinA
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2013, 09:59:22 AM »
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Thanks Kevin for all the practical advice, obviously learned through lots of experience. I noted your comments regarding shutter speed, what is the lowest speed you have used that will still yield a decent percentage of sharp images?
I am thinking about using my 50mm f/1.4 lens, I will do some ground tests @ f/2.8 first to see how it performs.
50mm f1.4 not very good unless stopped down a reasonable amount. Apart from being soft it makes lights smear, looks like you shot through glass with raindrops on. The 24mm f1.4 mmii wide open is awful in the corners, even the client noticed.
Favourite is the 35mm f1.4 stopped down 2 stops.
You will be surprised how long you can hold onto 1/100th of a second as the light fades, I've been down to 1/30th the percentage of failures is greater than success at 1/30th, obviously conditions play a big part. A lens with stabilisation helps too.
Everything is telling you to keep upping the iso. I would go find a hill over looking a City one night and try it all out, that's what I did. I did it with my 1DsII, 5DII and a Nikon, famed for it's low light capability.Use different lenses, stops, iso etc You can check how the AF works as well. I had no luck trying to focus on a pinpoint of light, that fooled the af. I know standing on a hill is not the same, but you get to find the limit of your gear so you know when increasing iso will be better than blurred images.
I was talking to one guy, he had a pair of ks6 mounted at ninety degrees to each other, he reckoned he had great success at 1/15th.
I would hate the money shot to depend on getting it at 1/15th. If you can hire the KS6x6 I think it would do a really good job for you.
The rig I have just built probably would be good at 1/15th but I would rather be 1/60th. It's photography all round-a-bouts and swings, you gain in one place by losing in the other. Go shoot handheld from a hill one night, if you can do it with a gyro all the better.

Kevin.
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Harold Clark
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2013, 08:56:57 AM »
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50mm f1.4 not very good unless stopped down a reasonable amount. Apart from being soft it makes lights smear, looks like you shot through glass with raindrops on. The 24mm f1.4 mmii wide open is awful in the corners, even the client noticed.
Favourite is the 35mm f1.4 stopped down 2 stops.
You will be surprised how long you can hold onto 1/100th of a second as the light fades, I've been down to 1/30th the percentage of failures is greater than success at 1/30th, obviously conditions play a big part. A lens with stabilisation helps too.
Everything is telling you to keep upping the iso. I would go find a hill over looking a City one night and try it all out, that's what I did. I did it with my 1DsII, 5DII and a Nikon, famed for it's low light capability.Use different lenses, stops, iso etc You can check how the AF works as well. I had no luck trying to focus on a pinpoint of light, that fooled the af. I know standing on a hill is not the same, but you get to find the limit of your gear so you know when increasing iso will be better than blurred images.
I was talking to one guy, he had a pair of ks6 mounted at ninety degrees to each other, he reckoned he had great success at 1/15th.
I would hate the money shot to depend on getting it at 1/15th. If you can hire the KS6x6 I think it would do a really good job for you.
The rig I have just built probably would be good at 1/15th but I would rather be 1/60th. It's photography all round-a-bouts and swings, you gain in one place by losing in the other. Go shoot handheld from a hill one night, if you can do it with a gyro all the better.

Kevin.

You make a good point regarding the 50 1.4, it is dismal wide open, so obviously doesn't clean up enough until farther down the aperture scale. Your advice about a trial run is excellent, we don't have any hills near Toronto, but I can go up the CN tower to about the 1200 ft level.

Locally I have only been able to source a KS4, don't know if it would suffice. A Tyler mini gyro is available, but quite a difference in cost-$75/day for the KS4 vs $500 for the Tyler.

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KevinA
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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2013, 11:22:31 AM »
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The tyler is good by all accounts, I believe it has 2 KS8's inside.
Renting is a pain, somehow I've managed to accumulate 2 ks6, 2 ks 8 and a ks12. Starting to look like the new sensor gimbal stuff will replace them, but they will not always be the answer. There will still be a use for the KS for sometime to come.
If the job will stand the Tyler OK, if there is only enough for the KS4 do that.
I'm shooting a night job now on Monday, doing it for another aerial photographer who doesn't fancy it!
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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2013, 01:01:16 PM »
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one thing to definitely consider: Rent a 1D X instead of using your 5D Mk II. There is a HUGE qualitative native difference at all ISO settings above 800 between the 5D Mark Ii and the 1D X. Also have you used a gyro before? it takes some care and practice to get the hang of how to hold and handle it.
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Ellis Vener
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KevinA
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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2013, 01:21:52 PM »
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one thing to definitely consider: Rent a 1D X instead of using your 5D Mk II. There is a HUGE qualitative native difference at all ISO settings above 800 between the 5D Mark Ii and the 1D X. Also have you used a gyro before? it takes some care and practice to get the hang of how to hold and handle it.
True you could use the X and not bother with a gyro. I use the X plus a couple of gyros, still nothing beats lower iso to keep detail. The X still has remarkably good DR even at high iso. You definitely lose a bit of detail and sharpness when the iso gets cranked up. 3200iso and all is still good.
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Kevin.
Atina
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« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2013, 09:01:35 AM »
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Kevin, stopped down two stops from what?
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Atina
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2013, 09:03:16 AM »
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I shoot 3 or 4 night jobs a year, I like to get on site for Sunset if I think it looks likely to be good, then a gap of 20 mins in the winter before the light ratio gets interesting, longer in the summer.

Sunset, twenty minutes after sunset or twenty minutes before sunset?
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Atina
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2013, 09:04:17 AM »
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I have now built a rig with a KS12 and a KS8.

A rig?
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KevinA
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« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2013, 01:22:17 PM »
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from fully open
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Kevin.
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« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2013, 01:24:14 PM »
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Sunset, twenty minutes after sunset or twenty minutes before sunset?
Twenty minutes after Sunset the light starts to get good, often after sunset the light is very flat, no shadow but still to bright for street and building lights to show enough to make an impact.
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Kevin.
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« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2013, 01:41:39 PM »
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Yeah a rig. A KS12 weighs a ton, handholding is not really an option. So after lots of experimenting and building lots of different platforms to hold the KS12 and KS8 suitable for video I now have a rig I'm happy with. You can buy platforms from people like aerial exposures, but I've gone my own way. I have ones that are partly handholdable for smaller aircraft, less effective stabilising or fully stable platforms.
Getting balance usability, size and strength takes a bit of experimenting (well it did for me) and experimenting with Helicopters costs a lot. You can mount a platform in a car and drive over bumps and you think fantastic, put it in a Helicopter and it all goes to sh1t. Things like the Movi are going to make these redundant in the future I bet, but for now i'll stick with the mass gyros and wait for the mkII or III Movi.
Monday night I will be shooting stills with a KS8 and a KS6 mounted on something like a stick and supported from a harness by bungee cord.
Video.
You can watch lots of videos on youtube, but trying to find ones that have not had lots of post stabilising on is difficult. It degrades quite a lot as you are cropping and upsizing.
I suspect an easy way to get really stable HD without a lot of fuss, would be to shoot 4k, post stabilise and output HD.
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Kevin.
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