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A380 and 11400 ISO photo - how it happened

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  • A380 and 11400 ISO photo - how it happened

    Hello again,

    I've had a lot of people asking how this photo happened:


    As you can see, it's from the Nikon D3S camera - which for the moment is the best low-light camera from the point of low noise and good autofocus in the dark.

    I used "P" mode for this photo (and the series of them that night). This is the programmed automatic mode. I set auto ISO sensitivity for minimum of ISO200 and maximum of ISO HI0.7 (which is ISO 20,000, I think). I set the minimum shutter speed to be 1/50sec. I varied exposure compensation as needed. It's not quite a full automatic mode, you still have some control. The auto-ISO results in the unusual ISO numbers you might have seen, like 5600, 2200, 11400, 9000, etc.

    Noise reduction was very simple - just using the sliders within Camera Raw 6.0 of Photoshop CS5. I didn't use any special or difficult processes to reduce noise. The image is relatively clean out of the camera (for 11,400). It would be the equivalent of about ISO3200 or ISO4000 from a Nikon D700.

    I bring the image into Photoshop as a smart-object, scale it a bit bigger than the canvas to remove the semi-transparent borders at the edge of the image, resize down to 1024x683, then apply a couple of high-pass sharpening smart-filters at 0.3 with soft-light blending mode. And that's it.

    It's not difficult to achieve - but you have to be aware of lights on the plane and around. Avoid metering those - or you'll get a dark image.

    In the D3S, you can configure the autofocus to use particular amounts of focus points (out of 51 in total), and to be more forgiving of other objects passing through the frame in front of your subject. This last feature is useful if you deal with light posts getting in the way. So if an object gets in the way, the camera will ignore it and keep the focus as it was.

    Nikon Professional Services global website has a technical guide for the D3S which gives excellent practical examples:


    It also pays to use manual white balance in these kinds of night photos to avoid unpredictable results from having so many artificial light sources nearby.

    I hope that answers your questions.

  • #2
    ...You were also using a tripod, correct?
    Last edited by afkabruce98; 2011-01-06, 03:51.


    • #3
      Yeah, of course. But 1/50sec, that can be done hand-held as well. I mainly use a tripod because the camera and lens is heavy. Didn't think it was worth mentioning - nobody asked about it. And to be honest, I actually just plain forgot about it.


      • #4
        No worries. I've not tried it myself, but I'm sure that a sturdy tripod with a fluid head would definitely help give that extra bit of stability necessary to get a sharp shot!


        • #5
          Wimberley Tripod Heads work pretty well - better than some of the others I've tried due to the fact the lens and camera sits balanced properly and doesn't tip backwards or forwards when the lock-wheels are loosened.

          You set the height on the side-mounting so it is right along the centre line of the lens, and then move the camera backwards and forwards along the horizontal mount until it sits balanced without tipping tipping forwards or backwards. You can tilt it up to a high angle and it'll stay there. That helps to keep it steady. It's a bit more expensive than some rival offerings, but the extra cost is worth it. It's built to last.

          It's great for steady moving airliners or race-cars, but not useful at airshows where freedom of movement is more useful.

          If you see me around, you can have a go with my camera on the tripod and see how it is.