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Thread: Low-light focus: any tips?

  1. #1

    Low-light focus: any tips?

    Recently I stumbled across some very rare mammals - nocturnal, of course, almost all marsupials ae nocturnal - and wanted to take their picture. I had no problem getting close enough, and astonishingly enough, no real problem with flash - they weren't fazed at all by it - but focusing was very hard.

    Autofocus really struggles when the light is very bad - I'm talking a couple of hours after sunset here - but manual focus is difficult enough with a digital SLR (they don't have visual focus aids anymore); more difficult with a long lens; more difficult again in bad light; and still worse when the creature is moving around.

    In the end, I got the shots, some using autofocus where the creature stayed fairly still for long enough, others with guessed-at manual focus, and others again by pre-focusing on a particular spot and waiting till my quarry passed over it. All in all, it was a very unsatisfactory way of going about things. There has to be a better way. Any hints?
    Tony

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  2. #2
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    how about a laser pointer? small enough to not distract the creature and allows the AF to see the colour contrast and lock on

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    how about a laser pointer? small enough to not distract the creature and allows the AF to see the colour contrast and lock on

    The old laser beam in the camera trick
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scotty72 View Post
    The old laser beam in the camera trick

    make sure u make the sound PEW PEW PEW when u turn it on, like a Stormtrooper

  5. #5
    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    This is the truth --- somewhere, some time ago I came across a series of pics that showed a fella with one of those head band mounted lights that cave explorers use and he had it aligned to fall on the general area that he was aiming at to get photos of nocturnal bush rats, numbats and the like.
    It was a pretty professional looking set up complete with an on / off micro switch attached to the lens tripod foot.

  6. #6
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    A head torch! Of course! Now that's good thinking, JM and Andrew. I don't really have a spare hand to hold an ordinary torch, but I could probably manage a head torch ... well, maybe a torch on my hat anyway. Orthodox head torch might be difficult for a left-eyed photographer.

    Now, how to organise switching it? This could make for an interesting project!

  7. #7
    I use a head lamp

    It is great for low-light

    e.g Cemetry/Graveyard pics at night, with tripod. The headlamp gives enought light to achieve manual focus.

  8. #8
    Ausphotography Regular kevinj's Avatar
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    Use a head torch covered in red,it doesn`t bother Nocturnals as much,have been on night field trips using red covered spotlights and Possums etc don`t seem to notice it.
    Kev.
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  9. #9
    You could always whack your 580EX on top of the camera and switch it to throw the the AF assist beam only and fire no pre flash/or flash?? But i am guessing by that fact that you were using a flash that that trick did not work?
    "Knowledge is a single point, but the ignorant have multiplied it."

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    Quote Originally Posted by hackcessor View Post
    I use a head lamp

    It is great for low-light

    e.g Cemetry/Graveyard pics at night, with tripod. The headlamp gives enought light to achieve manual focus.
    Wandering around a graveyard with a miner's hat on could lead to some curious looks from passers by...

  11. #11
    Amor fati! ving's Avatar
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    i use a torch.... works ok as long as i dont have heavy lenses and what not on the camera

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    Autofocus really struggles when the light is very bad - I'm talking a couple of hours after sunset here - but manual focus is difficult enough with a digital SLR (they don't have visual focus aids anymore); more difficult with a long lens; more difficult again in bad light; and still worse when the creature is moving around.
    get a rangefinder camera Tony, and your problems will be solved, provided you can get close enough. rangefinders are limited to moderate telephoto lenses.

  13. #13
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    May not be the best solution but I just had some good success on possums and roos in the Grampians by taping a small torch to the top of my lens hood so the beam is directed to the subject, of course it meant switching it on and off but in combo with the flash it seemed to give good results and no red-eye.

    Problem with head lamp ones is how do you direct the fixed light on your head to the subject whilst trying to see your camera controls or look through a viewfinder at the same time.

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