Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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I'm going on a boat cruise tonight in London. What's the best way to take photos of the riverbanks from the boat at night?

My kit includes:

  • Nikon D7000
  • Nikkor 35mm f/1.8
  • Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6
  • Nikon SB-400
  • Yongnuo YN-465

Obviously the background will be constantly moving, flash power can't reach so far, and even with the 35mm lens I'm unlikely to be able to get the shutter speed fast enough to avoid motion blur (without going up to ridiculously high ISO).


This was originally part of another question on photo-SE.

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4 Answers 4

Depending on the lighting of the riverbanks, you may or may not be able to achieve sharp images, but I can explain how to get as sharp as images as possible.

Your Nikon D7000 should have no trouble with ISO 3200, so I would not be afraid to use it. The amount of noise at 3200 should be correctable in post if you prefer to remove some of it. Along with that ISO, chose your widest possible aperture on the 35mm f/1.8 and you are basically setup to shoot the best possible images considering the circumstances.

You can test out bumping up to ISO 6400 or down a notch to 1600 depending on your preferences, how fast the boat is moving, how far away the riverbanks are, and the ambient lighting.

A final suggestion would be to do a bit of tracking of the riverbank as it floats by. You may be able to get sharper images if the boat is moving very fast. I am guessing that a dinner cruise type event moves pretty slowly though, so this might not work.

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I've never thought of the tracking technique - will definitely give that a try. I guess I won't know the speed until I get on the boat though. –  Fan Yang Sep 2 '11 at 15:54

use the 35mm

  • on aperture priority
  • at f1.8
  • set auto-iso to kick in at 1/50s shutter speed
  • set the max iso to 3200

Try these settings to start, and if you get more light than you expect

  • lower the max iso
  • increase the minimum shutter speed
  • open the aperture

also remember when using the 16-85 at 16mm, you may be able to get away with half the shutter speed of the 35mm, reducing your need for the faster aperture, and the wide angle may give you some interesting shots.

you may need to look for interesting reflections in the water to add some interest to the foreground as the riverbank may be some distance.

depending on how stable the boat is, use something to lean on to reduce shake.

if you want to take some pictures of the boat with the riverbank in the background, try using your flash in slow sync mode, an underused mode of the flash (sometimes i really think it should be the default mode, generally more attractive pictures)

enjoy!

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You might be able to get interesting results by using a wide lens and a tripod and facing the camera over the front or rear of the boat (including some of the boat in the frame) and using a long-ish exposure. Try anything from 5 seconds, to a minute.

This should render the boat sharp in the frame while giving interesting light trails of the city as it passes by...

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What's the best way to take photos of the riverbanks from the boat at night?

You're really in as good a shape as you could possibly hope for.

  • You're right, the flash will be useless past a few feet. Don't bother.
  • Your 35mm lens is already a speedy f/1.8. You could go to an f/1.4 (35mm or 50mm, the latter being much cheaper), but that only buys you a 2/3 of a stop, and will cost a lot. Use all the aperture you've got; the shallow depth of field won't be an issue since you'll probably be at your hyperfocal distance anyway.
  • You're going to need a relatively fast shutter to compensate for the boat motion.
  • Crank your ISO, especially on your nice D7000 (which has awesome low-light performance). High-ISO noise is way better than blur caused by slow shutter speeds; it's at least fixable in post-production.
  • A tripod or some other sort of brace (leaning against the boat's rails for instance) will at least eliminate handheld shake, even if the boat itself is moving. That's better than nothing.

Beyond that: hope for full moons and flat waters.

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2  
Depending on the boat, there may be a lot of vibration from its engine. In which case a tripod is the last thing one would use, instead it would be better to hand-hold to insulate the camera from the vibrations of the platform. But, as I said, it depends on the boat. –  Staale S Sep 10 '11 at 15:25

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