View Full Version : Sudden opportunity, early hours, need pointers

07-24-2012, 11:54 PM
I have a sudden opportunity and only a couple of days to do what research I can.

The museum is taking delivery of an airplane. The plan is to have it lifted over the fence by a crane. The whole process will start around 6 a. m. Sunrise is about 6:20 this time of year.

I donít know which section of fence the plane will be lifted over, and donít know if I can find out. If itís the front gate, east will be to my left. If itís between the museumís hangars, east will be to my back. There are exterior lights on the buildings, but I donít imagine Iíll get huge amounts of light from them.

The basic question is, what can I do to give me the best odds of getting clear shots? This isnít a time of day I have a lot of experience with. Iím inclined to shoot free hand, simply because a tripod may be too awkward to move in a hurry. I will essentially be around heavy equipment while itís operating, so if I havenít practiced moving with a tripod, now isnít the time to learn.

The obvious things to do are shoot with a higher ISO and keep the lens open as much as I can. I know from shooting Boise Bee last year after sunset that the camera will expose for far less light than there actually is (It was the end of a really frantic day. Iím lucky I remembered which direction to point the camera). Needless to say, I got odd colors out of that set of pictures.

Will deliberately underexposing help? What would be a good amount to underexpose by? Any other ideas? I don't have to get the world's best shots, but something the museum can share on Facebook would be nice.

07-25-2012, 08:23 AM
Your Nikon D90 really won't let you get above ISO 800 without producing lots of noise so you might want to see about borrowing or renting a lens. I'm thinking the 50mm f1.8 or maybe even a 35mm f1.8 which will allow you to shoot wide open letting in as much light as possible. Also, I'd recommend you shoot RAW if you don't already. If your exposure is off by a bit then you will have some leeway in processing. Of course, if you are not familiar with shooting RAW you will likely need to get some help processing them.

And while a tripod might be awkward you might consider a monopod which will make taking a 1/2 second shot a lot easier than hand holding.

I'm not sure why you would be deliberately under-exposing unless you are trying for a silhouette shot and that may work just fine. In that case expose for the sky and let the shadows fall where they want. During sunrise that will change minute to minute. I generally spot meter which really helps in keeping up the exposure as it changes.

Hope this helps!

07-25-2012, 09:43 AM
For the lower light shots - Tripod is essential. I'd likely shoot in HDR if there is no movement for a few seconds

07-27-2012, 10:07 AM
Your Nikon D90 really won't let you get above ISO 800 without producing lots of noise so...

Say What? You most likely won't need to, but I wouldn't hesitate to bump that puppy up to1600. Around here, twenty minutes before sunrise is a lot of light.

Just go into your menu and get the camera to help out. You have a high iso noise reduction option that can be set auto that will work just fine in this situation. In fact, there are setting you can make so that the camera won't bump the iso any higher than it needs to to get what the camera thinks is the shot, but I think I might stay away from that one.

Which in-camera "Picture Control" are you using? You might consider "Vivid" for that time of morning just to get a little better pop from the jpeg. You ARE shooting raw-jpeg...right? Just don't monkey around with any adjustments to the default "Vivid". Now's not the time to 'aspearament.

I don't imagine that either the crane or the plane are going to show up a day early, but your light might. If you could just spend a few minutes there the morning before to squeeze off a few of something in the light you most likely will encounter the next morning at different iso and aperture settings and get a look at...well, you know.

In my work, I'm involved in a lot of assisted lifts. One of my primary responsibilities is operating the overhead crane when we make a critical lift. From my experience, once it's hanging on the hook you generally like to go ahead and put it where you want it. So, if you want to try some HDR you probably need to talk with the operators about giving you a minute at some pre arranged spot. (you have any idea how much that minute will cost the museum?)

You'll have plenty of light and do just fine.If it were me, I'd be showing up with my D90 and the 70-300mm, that hasn't come of of it for a couple years now, without a worry.

I think I know how bad you want this to go well. Cross all the T's and dot the I's. Remember, it's usually the little things...

07-27-2012, 11:17 AM
Will you not be able to use a flash, as this would be my first choice for poor light shot? How close are you able to get? I use fill flash in the noonday sun on small birds up to 100ft. away, so should work well here. This way, you keep the iso/noise down, and the flash will freeze any movement to produce a nice sharp pic.

07-27-2012, 03:23 PM
HDR, or flash seem an obvious way to go depending on the look you want to create... A Monopod would also be very useful here, all though a good IS / VR Lens will help. Shooting RAW or bracketed might help you get some keepers if you are unsure with the exposure. Hope it goes well, and I look forward to seeing your results.

07-28-2012, 02:06 AM
Thanks to all who replied. I'd guessed the plane was most likely to go over the fence next to the museum, which turned out to be correct. Once I knew that, I knew talking with the crane operator to set up shots was right out - they'd be working on the only road that leads back to the FBO, the coffee shop and several business hangars. The truck that brought the plane was initially in a small lot near the gate to another section of hangars, which meant once it started moving, that section was blocked for a little bit, too. I also got my sun directions completely reversed.

But - I started with the 50mm lens (thanks for the idea, Iggy), and once the sun was rising, switched to the kit lens. The pace was slow enough that I could chimp frequently, and I had to, since there were enough clouds on the horizon that the light did not always brighten from moment to moment. Add in that it's a silver plane, and it's being lifted next to sheet metal buildings. The pace wasn't slow enough to bracket for HDR, so I didn't even try.

I had access to a gate that allowed me to move to the other side of the fence once the plane was over. Basically, I staked a spot as they started positioning things and stayed put. There were already people arriving for work, so I didn't want to be getting in the way of the folks handling the plane and that traffic all at once. Once the plane swung over the fence, I headed that direction, too. Didn't get as clean a set of shots, because there are a number of vintage trucks sitting along that fence, too, and I had to get clear of them before I could see much.

Still, it worked out pretty well, especially considering that in the end, I was flat out winging a lot of stuff. I did a quick edit on just enough pictures to get something on the museum's FB page (probably in the morning), and will post them as soon as I'm done with this message. I may put a few more up over the weekend. Right now, I'm bleeping tired. I've been up since 4:30, and since my boss is on vacation, I had to go into work.