Saturday, August 26, 2006

Noise Reduction in Post-Processing

A few weeks ago, Joe Reifer published the results of some Canon 5D in-camera noise reduction tests that he had done.

While the 5D, and many other DSLR's, can remove long exposure noise by using an in-camera dark frame, it's also possible to perform a similar process in post-processing (i.e., in PhotoShop). This is especially useful if your DSLR does not have the ability to do in-camera noise reduction.

Back in 2004, Jeff Medkeff published an article titled "Using Image Calibration to Reduce Noise in Digital Images". Along with his great explanation of the different types of noise in digital images, he gives a very clear outline of how to photograph a dark frame in the field, and how to use the dark frame to remove digital noise using PhotoShop. Since my DSLR doesn't support in-camera noise reduction, I've been using this technique for the past year, and it has worked great.

If anyone would like to do some experiments to compare in-camera noise reduction against this post-processing approach, I'd love to hear what you learn.

Monday, August 21, 2006

William Fraser

Who is William Fraser? Although he's no relative of mine (my last name is spelled with a "z", not an "s"), we both share an interest in night photography. Or, maybe I should say, "shared" an interest in night photography.

(photo: William Fraser)

William Fraser took one of the earliest night photographs that I found for my night photography documentary film. The above photograph, A Wet Night: Columbus Circle, was taken around 1897 or 1898. Aside from being one of earliest artful night photographs, I love this image because it captures the cold, damp feel of the night (and it predates Brassai's brilliant foggy Parisian night work by 30 years).

I have no information on the size of the print, nor the medium he used to photograph it. If anyone can point me to any information about William Fraser, I would appreciate it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

"Summer Nights" Reception Party is Tonight!

Just a reminder that the reception party for the "Summer Nights" show of night photography at the Blue Plum Gallery (41 Arkansas St) in San Francisco is tonight (Saturday, August 19th) at 7pm. The show runs through the end of August, and includes work by Marc Babsin, Tim Baskerville, Andy Frazer, Susanne Friedrich, Mark Interrante, Mark Jaremko and Michael Koerner.

(Collapsed carport in an abandoned Naval base)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Night Photography Show in San Mateo, CA

A few Bay Area night photographers have a show of their work at the San Mateo City Hall ( 330 West 20th Avenue, San Mateo, CA) through Sept 6, 2006. City Hall is only open 9-5 Monday through Friday (which SF_Buckaroo pointed out is a bit ironic for a night photography show).

(photo: Lane Hartwell)

The show features work from Todd Friedlander, Lane Hartwell, Mark Jaremko, Joe Reifer, Greta Schnetzler and John Vias.

Support your local city government (and night photographers) and drop by.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


One aspect of night photography that never fails to surprise me is how unexpected things show up in your photographs after you've finished shooting, returned home, and either downloaded or processed your shots. These gremlins find their way into your shots because it's so difficult to see clearly through the viewfinder at night. One friend of mine had a reputation for unexpectedly capturing orange construction cones in his shots. Sometimes this phenomenon can ruin a shot. Other times, something unexpected can improve a shot.

(photo: Andy Frazer)

Last week I was south of Mono Lake in a burned out forest of Jeffrey pines shooting star trails. I remember seeing at least three or four shooting starts per night, but none of them were either within range of my camera, nor appearing while I had my shutter open. In fact, when I was at Olmstead Point, I had just finished a twelve-minute exposure when an awesome meteor skipped and streaked across the sky right in front of my lens. I missed that one by about ten seconds.

But, this morning I was looking through some of my photographs from the weekend and I noticed that one of them had caught a shooting star. That was the first time it ever happened for me!
(close-up of the previous shot)

With more than 30 people shooting over four nights, I wonder if any other photographers are going to discover shooting starts in their shots?

Friday, August 11, 2006

In-Camera Noise Reduction

Night photographers seem to be fascinated with how different digital cameras perform under long exposures. The goal has always been to find how long the camera can shoot before it introduces noise. In fact, I jumped over to the Dark Side four years ago with the D60 because it seemed to be the first digital SLR that could shoot clean images longer than 30 seconds. Today, the D60's four-minute limit pales in comparison with it's successors.

There seem to be six popular approaches to solving the problem of long exposure digital noise.
  1. Keep the exposures short.
  2. Keep the camera as cool as possible without freezing it.
  3. Use noise reduction post-procssing software, such as Noise Ninja.
  4. Use in-camera dark frame subtraction
  5. Use dark frame subtraction in post-processing
  6. Keep buying the latest and greatest cameras.

(photo: Joe Reifer)

At the Night Photography Conference at Mono Lake last week, Joe Reifer and Mark Jaremko conducted some long exposure tests with the Canon EOS 5D and the 1DsMk2.

Joe has posted some interesting findings of the 5D noise reduction on the Nocturnes Message Board. We can only hope that a 1DsMk2 report will be forthcoming, too.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Night Photography Conference at Mono Lake

I've just returned from the Night Photography Conference at Mono Lake for large format photographers, environmental nude photographers and, obviously, night photographers. This workshop was hosted by Lance Keimig, Tim Baskerville and Tom Paiva, and marked the 15th anniversary of "The Nocturnes" night photography exhibit in San Francisco in 1991.

Over the past four days and nights, more than 30 photographers enjoyed some great workshops, presentations and slide shows, as well as took time to photograph the tufas at Mono Lake, Olmstead Point in Yosemite, the remains of a recent forest fire south of Mono Lake, and a nearby ranch. But the high point for many people was shooting at Bodie Ghost Town under a full moon.

(photo: Joe Reifer)

We also enjoyed a luncheon in honor of Steve Harper, the first person to teach a college-level course in night photography. Steve gave us a great slide show of his night photography work, much of which was done back in the 1970's and 80's. He also talked about much of his ground-breaking work to characterize different films and development processes (that's chemical development... this was before digital cameras and PhotoShop) for night photography.

Aside from the great weather, there were only a few minor problems. One photographer got his huge truck stuck in some sand at 2AM (AAA told him to call back at 8AM, after the sun came up). A second photographer left his cellphone at Bodie (and also suffered a minor bout with food poisoning). And one seasoned photographer (who should have known better) showed up with a digital camera and no battery recharger! I'll probably think of a few more incidents tomorrow, but right now I'm dead tired after suffering from four days of sleep deprivation, and then driving into the sun for the seven hours.

I'm going post a link to some of the photographs once they get uploaded, and a Flickr tag is agreed upon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Alcatraz "Night" Photography Trip

Keeble & Shuchat in Palo Alto, CA, is hosting a photography workshop on Alcatraz on October 10, 2006. The brochure mentions an opportunity to do night photography on Alcatraz. However, the trip only lasts until 9:00pm, so it's not clear how much night photography you'll be able to do before the last ferry boat leaves the island.

Also, the brochure mentions an "82% full moon". But according to the US Naval Observatory website, moonrise is at precisely 9:00pm that night. So, it's not clear to me how much of the moon you'll see until you get back on the ferry boat.

I won't be able to make this trip. But if anyone out there makes it, please send me a link to your best night shots and I'll post them on this blog.

(Thanks to Joe Reifer for pointing out the late moonrise schedule).

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mark Jaremko

Another Bay Area night photographer, Mark Jaremko, recently updated his website of night photographs. Like all night photographers, Mark is a great person to shoot with, and regularly produces some beautiful work. Mark likes to work on the "bleeding edge" of 35mm digital technology which gives him the ability to create super high resolution prints. It's always good to know someone who is taking higher resolution images than you are. It keeps your mind busy planning your "toy path" for the next few years.

(photo: Mark Jaremko)

In October, Mark will be participating in the Nocturnes gallery at the San Francisco Open Studios once again. He is also participitating in the Canvas Gallery's Open Studios preview running right now.