Old 09-05-2019, 02:18 PM   #1
need2foam
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Default Help with headlights

I'm interested in getting help with headlights so that they look like neat stars and don't turn into gross yellow blobs like this shot. Settings used were f/8 1/500sec ISO 1000 (autoISO) at 200mm.

This scene was backlit a few minutes after sunrise. I didn't bother submitting this shot since it is a slam-dunk rejection for a variety of reasons. I'm just interesting in everyone's thoughts about headlights.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions
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Old 09-05-2019, 03:28 PM   #2
bigbassloyd
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The joy of shooting with a zoom lens coupled with a sharp light gradient and headlights aimed directly into the sensor. Not much to be done in those low ambient light situations.


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Old 09-06-2019, 12:50 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbassloyd View Post
The joy of shooting with a zoom lens coupled with a sharp light gradient and headlights aimed directly into the sensor. Not much to be done in those low ambient light situations.


Loyd L.
Thanks, Loyd
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Old 09-06-2019, 04:48 PM   #4
RobJor
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Random thoughts:

Auto ISO seemed to work pretty good but once I get into low light I am going to manual. Think once you do a few you will have some settings you find work best.

At the edge of the curve, if you let it get into the curve just a little and give it a little track to run into you won't be shooting directly into the focus of the headlights. Probably will not get a crisp star burst but could help.

As far as this site once you leave sunny days you have a little hill to climb, has to be a little or(lot) special,

Here is one at 200mm:
Image © John Crisanti
PhotoID: 677996
Photograph © John Crisanti


I realize it is apples and oranges as you don't have all those great elements but in terms of the headlights I think the sample is valid. If you download you can see his exif.

Bob Jordan

added: once you back off a little the blob effect will lessen a little visually??

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Old 09-06-2019, 05:28 PM   #5
need2foam
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobJor View Post
Random thoughts:

Auto ISO seemed to work pretty good but once I get into low light I am going to manual. Think once you do a few you will have some settings you find work best.

At the edge of the curve, if you let it get into the curve just a little and give it a little track to run into you won't be shooting directly into the focus of the headlights. Probably will not get a crisp star burst but could help.

As far as this site once you leave sunny days you have a little hill to climb, has to be a little or(lot) special,

Here is one at 200mm:
Image © John Crisanti
PhotoID: 677996
Photograph © John Crisanti


I realize it is apples and oranges as you don't have all those great elements but in terms of the headlights I think the sample is valid. If you download you can see his exif.

Bob Jordan

added: once you back off a little the blob effect will lessen a little visually??
This is a stunning shot. Just when I think I've learned something about photography, I see something like this and realize that I've understood nothing.

For some reason, I was under the impression that you need to stop down to f/8 or less for the "star" effect but this one was made at f/6.3. He isn't pointing the barrel of the lens into the full wrath of the headlights like I was, either.

I would have been a lot better off with a shorter focal length - this train had a fantastic consist - this old CORP motor, plus one of the former UTAH MK 50-3's, plus a couple of motors in old BN paint, plus one of the SP tunnel motors - none of which you can see with the telephoto perspective.
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Old 09-06-2019, 07:21 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by need2foam View Post
This is a stunning shot. Just when I think I've learned something about photography, I see something like this and realize that I've understood nothing.

For some reason, I was under the impression that you need to stop down to f/8 or less for the "star" effect but this one was made at f/6.3. He isn't pointing the barrel of the lens into the full wrath of the headlights like I was, either.

I would have been a lot better off with a shorter focal length - this train had a fantastic consist - this old CORP motor, plus one of the former UTAH MK 50-3's, plus a couple of motors in old BN paint, plus one of the SP tunnel motors - none of which you can see with the telephoto perspective.
Keep in mind that John is using an APS-C camera, so if the information you read (regarding what "stop" range was best for getting "starburst" effects from point light sources) was written with 35mm in mind, the equivalent aperture for John's shot would be about f/10. Smaller apertures do assist in creating the "starburst" effect on point light sources like headlights.

Another important factor is the aperture blades in your lenses. Newer lenses with rounded aperture blades intended to improve the appearance of out-of-focus areas (so-called "bokeh") will not usually give you "starburst" effects like older lenses which have "straight" aperture blades, the minute "corners" of the closed down aperture blades being what makes the light appear as "starbursts."

You can also work on those "blobs" in post processing. I don't know what you use for processing your photos, but most image processing software has what they call a "haze" filter and a "structure" filter, and dragging the "haze" tool into the "negative" zone, in combination with dragging the "structure" tool the opposite way, might help to tame those headlight "blobs." somewhat. If you get carried away with it, you might get some other effects you don't like and have to take other "measures" - as always, there's going to be some trial and error involved. As always, you'll want to shoot in RAW to have the most post processing flexibility.

At the end of the day, in the example you provided you did really pick a shooting angle that was straight "down the pipe," and moving inside the curve (outside looking too overgrown for a shot from that side) might have enabled you to spare your eyes and your camera sensor from looking straight into those blaring lights. In dim light and particularly when backlit like that, there's little hope to escape the result you got with those headlights being THE dominant light "source" in the image.
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:46 PM   #7
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I don't really look for starburst but here is recent I messed up some but maybe demonstrates something????.

First is slight crop, with some shadow reduction but pretty sharp edge around the ditch light and a slight burst(I prefer). Second is a crop with less shadow reduction and a pretty good burst. Even tho my position is the same, the distant shot grabs the headlight at an angle similar as if I were shooting head on. Modern prime at 4.5

Bob
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Old 09-07-2019, 01:03 AM   #8
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I haven't tried many yet, but I had some success with one. It was a little too head-on, so I caught some lens flare. It didn't help that I knew the train was coming and watching the light fade too quickly for my needs. I'm convinced that 90 percent of success with these shots involves getting the subject during a vary narrow window of ambient lighting conditions.

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Old 09-10-2019, 02:05 PM   #9
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Thanks for the helpful input, everyone.
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Old 09-16-2019, 09:32 PM   #10
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I went to another location and tried again at a spot that is more elevated so I wasn't shooting directly into the headlights this time. Headlights are not quite as bad as before. The overall scene seems to be darker. There are some weird ghosts (from my UV filter, I think) in the second shot that I need to clean out with the healing tool. I just wanted to present what it looked like out of the camera before I processed it.

Camera settings were f/4.5 1/250 ISO1600. 200mm.
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Old 09-17-2019, 11:20 AM   #11
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An important note regarding headlights and something to keep in mind... your lens filter plays a huge role. I learned this the hard way this past week when I was getting some fairly bad ghosting in my images. Bright green reflections. Took me a bit to figure it out, but I took off the Amazon basics lens filters I had on (a highly rated product) and it eliminated the issues completely. I thought there was no way my Tamron G2s could be causing it. Sure enough, they weren't the culprit. Headlights can be dealt with by purchasing good lenses, but you need to be careful with what you protect the lenses with.
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Old 09-17-2019, 03:03 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RobJor View Post
I don't really look for starburst but here is recent I messed up some but maybe demonstrates something????.

First is slight crop, with some shadow reduction but pretty sharp edge around the ditch light and a slight burst(I prefer). Second is a crop with less shadow reduction and a pretty good burst. Even tho my position is the same, the distant shot grabs the headlight at an angle similar as if I were shooting head on. Modern prime at 4.5

Bob
I too have found the BEST "starbursts" are achieved with good prime lenses. The Nikon G-series primes work great, even at f/8. I also second the advice that others are providing with respect to getting rid of any filters you might have on the lens whenever you have bright light sources in the frame. On night or sunrise/sunset shots, I always take the filters off. Come to think of it, I am ditching filters most of the time now.
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Old 09-23-2019, 10:32 PM   #13
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Sorry if I repeat what someone else said. I am guessing the problem you are having is that the shot is way under-exposed because of the bright headlights? Shoot in manual. Before the train gets there aim in direction and adjust to proper exposure. It has to be in maual, in A,S or P the headlight will re-adjust the the settings. Funny thing is, even with the background being properly exposed the headlights are not that much brighter.

On a side not ditch any fitlters. If you want to protect your front element use your hood and lens cap. Even the clear filters cause ugly ghosting.

My bad you are asking about stars, shot at F/11-F/16. Some lenses just do not do a good job at producing it.

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