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I am an amateur photography and although i have taken long exposure photos before, this is the first time for a while and with my new camera Canon EOS1300D.

I am surprised at the blurry result. The photo was taken on a sturdy tripod with 2 sec timer delay. Aperture 29 and 30 sec exposure. Iso 100. I was in our house and there was no wind.

Lens 18-200mm tamron.

Am I missing something or forgotten some basic photography skills?

Photo can be seen here

Many thanks

UPDATE 19/9/17: Although I call myself an amateur, there were some basics that I was sure I had got right. For the record, the initial photo in question was taken in clear view. There were no windows or any sort of obstruction. Also, the tripod was sturdy and I was surprised that the second-floor flooring might make such a difference. Saying that, these are all possible options.

After some testing, I have come to a solid conclusion that the issue only occurs when the 'VC' function on my Tamron 18-200 mm DiII VC Zoom Lens for Canon is turned on. Below are two pictures taken. The blurred one is with VC on and the good one is with VC turned off. Both on a tripod 2 sec delay; 30 sec exposure and 29 aperture. 100 ISO.

VC Off

VC On

Looking at the website I purchased the lens through, the VC function is "Three-coil electromagnetic VC image stabilization system provides a 4-stop handling advantage for significantly sharper images"

So my question now is; Is my lens VC function working? Perhaps the VC function is not meant to be used for long exposure shots. This is beyond my expertise.

Many thanks for all the help so far!

PS: Not sure on correct protocol to update posts so happy for some one to put me right!!

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    What is the floor construction where the camera was situated? Is the floor slab on ground, or is wood subfloor on top of post-and-beam construction, or...? Or maybe on a 2nd floor? On joisted floors, people walking by can induce surprising amounts of vibration in even a tripod-mounted camera, especially at longer focal lengths. – scottbb Sep 18 '17 at 23:26
  • Thanks. Photo uploaded. Photo taken on 2nd floor with wooden floor and carpet. I feel everything was very still but I will try outside this evening on hard rock and test the camera. I have a 50mm lens I will try too. I will report back. Thanks – Adrian Chamberlain Sep 19 '17 at 8:20
  • I saw speculation below it was through a window -- was anything between the camera and the mountains? Window, screen, plastic, etc.? – Linwood Sep 19 '17 at 14:48
  • I have updated it now but at the time I had no idea what the problem was. Thanks to the help of those on the forum I have managed to windle it down. – Adrian Chamberlain Sep 19 '17 at 19:29
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    As edited, you have completely invalidated some (if not all) of the answers, and have asked a completely new question instead. I suggest you write an answer to your own question, and revert the question to its original form. – scottbb Sep 19 '17 at 22:03
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It looks like movement (primarily vertical) during the exposure. I understand you think the tripod was steady, but I think the parallel doubled mountain range and background seems to indicate that during the exposure the camera moved.

EDIT: Given the updated question and example, since right now this is the upvoted, wanted to clarify since it appears to have a specific cause not just vibration.

It appears the VC is not maintaining control during the entire exposure. My GUESS is that it's timing out in some fashion and re-centering; it might also be defective. Lens based optical vibration reduction works by shifting one or more lens elements to track (or more precisely track opposite) of vibration. The effect means the field of view is shifted during exposure, ideally to keep it in one place. It is possible that it is timing out, and re-centering back to some neutral position. It is possible it is defective and "flops" in some fashion after a given time. Testing a different VC lens might tell you if this is a "feature". All that said, most vendors recommend vibration control be turned off when locked down on a tripod; a few lenses may have a "tripod mode". If it is working at more typical stabilization shutter speeds (say 1/30th), it is likely not worth pursuing.

An interesting way to tell how image stabilization interacts with long exposure is to get a dark night and lock down on a tripod and shoot a bright star for a long exposure (adjust ISO as needed to get a dark sky and thin line). Ideally you get a perfectly straight line. Rotate the camera 90 degrees and shoot again; still should be a straight line. Both regular vibration (e.g. wind) and any optical stabilization impacts can be seen in that, effectively graphed over time, and the 90 degree flip will tell you if the stabilization is different in different orientations (note some lenses have a "mode" for active or normal or similar that can affect this also). This will let you see, for example, if it times out at 10 seconds or something consistent, with a sudden movement (my guess), or if it is just jittery. Reading the manual (lens or camera) to see if there's any comment on timeout may help also.

  • I took a number of photos with similar results. I do not see any camera movement. Tomorrow night I will try placing the camera on a solid surface, instead of tripod but I feel something else is wrong..... any ideas on anything else? Is there any chance that the motion of the shutter movement moves the camera? – Adrian Chamberlain Sep 18 '17 at 21:13
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    It's hard to imagine what else it could be, there's no mirror or other object in the light path at the time of exposure. If you had IS lenses conceivably they could be malfunctioning but that seems quite unlikely especially with this amount of motion, but you should turn off any image stabilization if you have it on your lenses. You can try taking a photo of a bright, point source (star, far away bright light) and may be more able to see the path of any movement. See if it's similar shot to shot. – Linwood Sep 18 '17 at 21:33
  • Hi Linwood, Thanks for your help. I have updated my post (not sure if I have done it the best way). I think it is the image stabilization. Can we assume that my lens VC is faulty? – Adrian Chamberlain Sep 19 '17 at 19:11
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When using a tripod you're supposed to turn VC/IS/OS/(any image stabilisation) off, with the exception of certain more expensive lenses which have a special mode for use on a tripod. This effect is pretty common and often a cause of problems like this. You should turn stabilisation off even during bright days when you have fast shutter speeds to eliminate any possibility of it interfering with the shot.

I'm afraid no stabilisation is 100% perfect.

  • Whether to leave stabilization on or off when a camera is tripod mounted is an individual lens based decision. Some lenses even have IS modes specifically designed for tripod usage. Particularly at shorter shutter times with very long focal length lenses IS can be very effective in reducing blur even when used in concert with a tripod. Canon's IS II series of Super Telephoto lenses have an IS mode designed to reduce mirror slap when the camera is tripod mounted. – Michael C Sep 21 '17 at 3:19
  • @MichaelClark, that's true, thanks for pointing it out. I didn't include this as I saw OP has just a very cheap and basic Tamron zoom which doesn't have this feature, but I guess I should have at least mentioned it in the answer. – walther Sep 21 '17 at 5:51
  • Including VC/IS/OS/(any image stabilization) in the answer leaves the impression you mean to include pretty much all forms of IS. If your opening sentence were Tamron specific it wouldn't present the issue in quite the same way. – Michael C Sep 21 '17 at 7:37
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Tamron VC has the unfortunate tendency to kick in while your image is exposed, and move the image a considerable distance, when you don't give it enough time to settle between half-press activation and full-press shutter release. You can see the movement yourself when you look through the view finder. I had a lot of ruined pictures because of that when i used back button focus.

VC isn't recommended for most lenses anyway when you shoot from a tripod, so just switch it off in this situations.

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You're tripod probably got knocked by someone (blame your cat), but it's possible that there's a weird reflection thing going on if you're shooting through a glass window. Try using a lens hood or dark cloth to make sure no light gets between the window and the lens.

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Is my camera working properly

The best way to answer this question is to test the camera. Forget about the landscape image that's puzzling you for a moment and just try the camera out under similar conditions. Set up your on some really solid surface, like a concrete wall, and take some long exposures. Do they come out the way you'd expect them to, or do they also suffer from the shifting that you're asking about? If your test shots are fine, then the problem most likely isn't the camera.

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It looks like the tripod wasn't fully tightened. During the start of the exposure, I suspect that the weight of the lens on the front of the camera meant that the camera tipped forward a little. Make sure that everything is tightened properly on the tripod, especially in the direction that would make the camera point up/down. Also check that the tripod is sturdy enough. The rated weight of a tripod is misleading, it isn't just the weight of the camera plus the weight of the lens. A lens, especially a telephoto lens, acts as a lever on the up/down joints of the tripod

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The mere process of pushing the button can make a slight camera shake with results like this. Check if your camera has a setting with a 2 or even 10 second delay (typically advertised for selfies, but great for this too). When you use that function, you click the button, walk away, and ten seconds later the picture is taken, with no more shake.

I don't know your camera model, but it is probably a DSLR (with a mirror). The slight ding from the mirror flipping up can also produce such issues. You can avoid this by locking the mirror up before you take the picture (keep using the ten second delay).

Finally, light could be reflected from behind the camera, and enter through the viewfinder. Some models have a flap that closes the view finder; if yours hasn't, put a piece of cloth or tape over it (a black sock work too...).

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    The OP has already stated that he is using a 2-second timer for the shot. – osullic Sep 19 '17 at 7:15
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    Neither would account for that motion either in a 30 second exposure. – Robin Sep 19 '17 at 17:20

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