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Brad Fitzpatrick

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Focusing in the dark [Aug. 20th, 2006|02:04 pm]
Brad Fitzpatrick
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Any tips on how to focus on an object in the dark when it's too dark for auto-focus to work, even with the AF-assist, and it's also too dark to manually focus looking through the viewfinder?

Anything better than trial-and-error? I suppose to a large degree it's intuition/memory learned over time, but I'm wondering if there's any rules of thumb or tricks that might help.

(I finally got a new tripod after losing my camera mount ages ago and have been having fun with long exposure shots again...)

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[User Picture]From: lakeguy
2006-08-20 09:34 pm (UTC)
What Camera do you have Brad?
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[User Picture]From: brad
2006-08-20 09:38 pm (UTC)
Canon 20D
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[User Picture]From: jwz
2006-08-20 09:38 pm (UTC)
The AF-assist on most external flashes is way better than any built-in AF-assist. That's why I usually lug my flash around, even though I almost never shoot with flash: it's just there to help with focus.

There's always the old-school way: stand 6' away. Turn the focus ring until it says 6'.
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[User Picture]From: brad
2006-08-20 10:01 pm (UTC)
I'd assume the focus ring only says the distances on it on a fixed lens? I have my lens and two of scsi's here, all zoom, and don't seen it on there.
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[User Picture]From: taral
2006-08-20 09:56 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: brad
2006-08-20 10:00 pm (UTC)
Ah, good call.
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[User Picture]From: vereorc
2006-08-20 10:21 pm (UTC)
Set it on automatic mode and let the flash pop up and fire without triggering the shutter. (Pushing halfway down on the release.) Put it on manual focus and change to Av or Tv or whatever mode. Take your picture.
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[User Picture]From: cyberpigue
2006-08-20 10:40 pm (UTC)
If you have a lens with a marked focus ring you can set the manual focus to each marking and tie a string with knots in it to your tripod for those distances. Then all you have to do in the dark is pick your subject, stretch the sting out to the right know and shoot away. It sounds harder than it is and works well for quick setups.
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[User Picture]From: ciphergoth
2006-08-20 10:40 pm (UTC)
I'm having a wonderful time but I'd rather be focusing in the dark?
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[User Picture]From: rival
2006-08-20 10:49 pm (UTC)
Focusing in the dark;
Focusing in the dark.
Focusing in the dark,
Ah, ah, ah, ah.
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[User Picture]From: mattcallow
2006-08-20 10:44 pm (UTC)
Street photographers use hyperfocal distance to make everything within a certain DOF "acceptably sharp". Saves on missing a moving target while you're focusing on the fly, but it'd would work equally well if your viewfinder isn't bright enough to focus manually on a static object: http://www.dofmaster.com/hyperfocal.html
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[User Picture]From: girl_on_a_stick
2006-08-20 10:45 pm (UTC)
Find something about the same distance that is a bit lighter and easier to focus on, set and lock the focus then reframe to your desired subject?
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[User Picture]From: marcuso
2006-08-20 11:50 pm (UTC)
Use the focus distance scale on the lens. If it is a static subject (with tripod), stop down as much as possible for a 30 second exposure (use Tv mode) in order to give largest DOF (as others have mentioned). If aperture is around F11 larger, increase ISO to further reduce aperture (to value like F22.)
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[User Picture]From: dossy
2006-08-21 12:09 am (UTC)
If the subject is far enough away that you focus to "infinity" then they're too far for most flashes to reach, so you won't get much of a picture anyway. ("Here's your picture: 0x00, repeat pixels as necessary.")

Most flashes only reach 5-7 feet, sometimes 12 feet. If it's too dark to manually focus through the viewfinder ... then I guess just learn to guesstimate distances up to 12 feet away from you. Lay down a tape measure and just learn to get a feel for it.

If you're going for long-exposure shots, the assumption is your subject is completely stationary. In that case, yeah ... taral's suggestion (flashlight) is a good one.
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From: baudehlo
2006-08-21 03:07 am (UTC)


Sounds like you need to join the photogeeks mailing list :-)
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[User Picture]From: revjim
2006-08-21 03:54 am (UTC)
I carry one of those tiny led pocket lights. Pretty powerful and, with the camera in manual focus, works pretty easily. A regular flash light would work too. What's cool about the led lights is you can paint with them if you're so inclined. :)
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From: ex_kalyan
2006-08-21 05:40 am (UTC)
For night shots, I usually pop my camera flash, set it to "Slow shutter sync" and then shoot. You get some amazing pics with flash :)
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[User Picture]From: brad
2006-08-21 05:47 am (UTC)
Got any example shots you particularly like?
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[User Picture]From: codetoad
2006-08-21 07:26 am (UTC)
Can you explain more what you're trying to photograph? Still objects at night from a distance? A party (close-ups)?
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-21 10:06 am (UTC)


The fotocommunity is always pretty helpful (http://www.fotocommunity.com/forum/)

- in case you speak german http://www.fotocommunity.de/forum/ -
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