How to take glowing tent campsite photos

Laura

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Moderator note: This thread was split out from the Campsites album.

I remember back when I first joined this site, seeing an awesome tent picture taken by @Laura...http://backcountrypost.com/threads/my-tent-shot-is-the-featured-photo-for-best-of-may-2014.3360/. It left quite an impression on me and was one of the many pictures on here that inspired me to buy a camera and start learning a little.

Nowhere near the quality of Laura's, this was my attempt at doing something similar on a quick overnight this weekend.

Harriman State Park, NY

Cool shot! The key things to that tent shot I took were a moonless night and lighting the tent for only a second or two. And LOTS of processing to lighten up the cliff-when you have completely dark skies you need to do a little light painting or you just get silhouettes, but that was a spontaneous shot and I didn't have any light source with me.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Cool shot! The key things to that tent shot I took were a moonless night and lighting the tent for only a second or two. And LOTS of processing to lighten up the cliff-when you have completely dark skies you need to do a little light painting or you just get silhouettes, but that was a spontaneous shot and I didn't have any light source with me.

Thanks! Interesting that you only light it up for a second or so. How do you do that if you don't mind me asking? I shot this facing east, so I believe that whole bottom right section of the sky which is discolored is light pollution from New York City, 30 miles away. I didn't really process this one, it's identical to the original except I clone stamped out my ground sheet which was partially sticking out from under my tent. Thanks for the tips and the original inspiration!
 

Nick

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The amount you need to illuminate the tent is wildly variable. Some folks use a flash, some use a head lamp or something. It can be momentary or last the entire exposure like in the shot below. How much light you apply just depends on all the other variables in the equation. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, tent material, light brightness, direction, ambient light and so on.

 

Vegan.Hiker

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Since you guys seem to be in a willing mood to teach I'm going to get greedy... I took a bunch of pictures of roughly the same shot with roughly the same settings... 13 second shutter, f3.5, 800 iso. All but 2 or 3 came out looking out of focus? I've been wondering was it a slight breeze or me and my dog walking around shaking the ground while the shutter was open? Or was it the initial click of the shutter causing reverberations since I was using a little crappy 5" plastic tripod? Light pollution? Or maybe my camera just isn't good enough for those types of shots? I'd be curious to know.
 

IntrepidXJ

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What did you set the focus at? You can try using the timer to help prevent shake. Did you leave IS (if your lens has it) on while on the tripod (you should turn it off when on a tripod, or it can cause blurry shots)?
 

Nick

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What he said. If I'm just manually triggering shots like that on a tripod, I set the timer to 2 seconds that way I'm not touching it when the shutter opens. Also figure out where your infinity focus is when it's light out. Some lenses have it marked but even then it can be a little off. And the IS can do crazy things when left on and your camera is on a tripod.
 

IntrepidXJ

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If I'm just manually triggering shots like that on a tripod, I set the timer to 2 seconds that way I'm not touching it when the shutter opens.

That's typically what I do, too, however, if I'm using my long lens I find that I need to use the 10 second timer for things to stop shaking in time.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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I did use the timer since it was on a tripod. I didn't turn off any image stabilization settings so maybe that was it. I'll check the focus settings when I get home. Thanks!
 

Nick

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I did use the timer since it was on a tripod. I didn't turn off any image stabilization settings so maybe that was it. I'll check the focus settings when I get home. Thanks!

An example of what can happen when you leave IS turned on when using a tripod. Or maybe my camera was drunk...
bad stars.jpg
 

Laura

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Thanks! Interesting that you only light it up for a second or so. How do you do that if you don't mind me asking? I shot this facing east, so I believe that whole bottom right section of the sky which is discolored is light pollution from New York City, 30 miles away. I didn't really process this one, it's identical to the original except I clone stamped out my ground sheet which was partially sticking out from under my tent. Thanks for the tips and the original inspiration!

It's basically trial and error-you take shots with different lighting times and decide what you like best. I didn't want the tent to be blown out or so bright that it distracted from the Milky Way, so I had Stan just turn on a headlamp for about a second. When it comes to light painting, you don't really need much time with the light.
 

Vegan.Hiker

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So I just checked and my camera had the image stabilization on (called steady shot on my camera) and it specifically says to turn that setting to off when using a tripod. So it sounds like that was at least part of my problem. Also, I had the camera on autofocus instead of manual focus. Was that wrong of me to do? Since my camera is an early model mirrorless with a lower quality lcd screen and no viewfinder, I think it would have been impossible to manually focus it on anything in the dark. I'll try to find out tonight.
 

Nick

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Autofocus usually won't even work in the dark since there is nothing for it to lock on. It may have tracked around and just given up wherever, or grabbed a little detail somewhere that you didn't intend. Manual focus next time and figure out where your infinity mark is if it isn't marked. Then when it's dark, you can just manually set it there and know you'll be tack sharp.
 

Yvonne

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I did use the timer since it was on a tripod. I didn't turn off any image stabilization settings so maybe that was it. I'll check the focus settings when I get home. Thanks!

you need to turn off IS when your camera is on a tripod. And definitely use manual focus. As Nick said, Autofocus does not work at night

What did you try to shoot? Your numbers sounds pretty low to me at f3.5
 

Laura

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So I just checked and my camera had the image stabilization on (called steady shot on my camera) and it specifically says to turn that setting to off when using a tripod. So it sounds like that was at least part of my problem. Also, I had the camera on autofocus instead of manual focus. Was that wrong of me to do? Since my camera is an early model mirrorless with a lower quality lcd screen and no viewfinder, I think it would have been impossible to manually focus it on anything in the dark. I'll try to find out tonight.

Autofocus will screw everything up in night shots! I show up to my locations while it's still light and set up the camera where I want it, set the focus, then turn on manual focus and just wait for darkness. Super clear shots every time! :) That tent shot was something of a fluke in that I didn't plan it ahead of time, but the evening before I had figured out where infinity was on the lens and set it. When I happened to get up at 2:45 a.m. and saw the Milky Way the camera was ready, so I just aimed in the darkness and took a shot.
 
Last edited:

Devo

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Autofocus usually won't even work in the dark since there is nothing for it to lock on. It may have tracked around and just given up wherever, or grabbed a little detail somewhere that you didn't intend. Manual focus next time and figure out where your infinity mark is if it isn't marked. Then when it's dark, you can just manually set it there and know you'll be tack sharp.

Whats the best way to figure it out? Mine isn't marked.
 

Nick

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Whats the best way to figure it out? Mine isn't marked.

Go outside in the daylight and autofocus on something far away. Now look at where your focus ring is. That's your infinity mark and where you should manually set it when it's dark out if you want sharp stars.
 

Devo

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Go outside in the daylight and autofocus on something far away. Now look at where your focus ring is. That's your infinity mark and where you should manually set it when it's dark out if you want sharp stars.

Sweet thanks Nick! I have tried auto focusing on the moon and then switching to manual, results weren't always the best though.
 

Yvonne

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Autofocus will screw everything up in night shots! I show up to my locations while it's still light and set up the camera where I want it, set the focus, then turn on manual focus and just wait for darkness. Super clear shots every time! :) That tent shot was something of a fluke in that I didn't plan it ahead of time, but the evening before I had figured out where infinity was on the lens and set it. When I happened to get up at 2:45 a.m. and saw the Milky Way the camera was ready, so I just aimed in the darkness and took a shot.


that's how I always get my settings , too. Works perfect
 
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