Night Panorama – The Revenge of the Stuck Pixel

Night photography can be pretty cool.  During the day, generally speaking, the human eye sees more variations of color and shadow than your camera, hence the reason for HDR and all that.  At night, the camera has the ability to accumulate light and color over time, which your eye can’t do, so in a way it sees more.  I don’t do enough night photography, but I got out the other night for this.

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I was pretty pleased, reviewing on the camera.  Pleased enough that I forgot about the downsides.  Doing things in the dark is just difficult.  I generally like shooting things a bit farther away, because it’s really hard to tell what is and isn’t in focus.  If you have more distance between your camera and the beginning of your subject, it’s easier to get enough depth of field to get them all sharper.  I did bring along a flashlight to check focus up close, but… it becomes a pain.  I also stepped in a lot of goose shit.  That’s just how it is.  This being Greenlake, I wasn’t even worried about getting mugged for my backpack full of camera lenses.  All was good, right?

Well… yes until I got home and saw a line of blue across all my shots:

All.  The.  Way.  Across.

You don’t see it in the panorama above because they have all been laboriously removed in Photoshop.  After I found the problem, I immediately shot a few more pictures with other lenses, batteries, whatever – I wasn’t happy about this.  They’re all the same, including with the lens cap on.  Any aperture, ISO speed, whatever.  I did some research.

If you want to get technical, this is called a stuck pixel or maybe a whole row of them.  It is slightly different from a hot pixel, which would be white all the time.  All that matters is it is going to ruin my pictures.  The internet is rife with folk remedies about taking off your lens, setting your camera to manual cleaning mode (where the mirror flips up) for a few minutes and then turning it off and reattaching your lens.  Maybe it works for some people, but it didn’t do anything for me.

Since hot or stuck pixels (at least a couple of them) are nothing new, there are some other options out there.  Some cameras have options to use a dark frame (basically a picture taken with the lens cap on which should contain light only on the problem pixels) to cancel out the noise in the good frames.  The theory is that since the bad pixels are always in the same place, you can map them and work around them.  I’ve yet to find any software that works correctly with my camera and since I’m a few weeks past the grace period on Canon’s warranty, I’m still unsure what happens next.  I see a lot of healing brush in my future!

6 Comments

  1. it is a beautiful picture though I have no idea where the blue line was – and I’m a trained photoshop professional (assuming you count one semester of graphic design at a community college trained and a fiverr.com account professional). No, but SRSLY I love night time photography and these are beautiful. I expecially (please excuse the Colorado spelling) like the reflections on the water front.

    Reply

    1. Thanks both of you guys – I really like taking pictures at night and it seems like I almost always like the stuff I get when I go out at night – I don’t know why I don’t do it more often. High inertia factor or something. I’m also enjoying looking at the tiny little star trails – you don’t think that these exposures (~15 seconds) would allow much time for the stars to move, but yup, they’re there.

      Reply

  2. Hello,
    How did you solve this issue finally? I’ve got the same problem on my Nikon D200 and I’m curious if chip replacement is the only option…

    Reply

    1. Hi Martin,
      I tried multiple solutions that are supposed to map the stuck pixels and effectively turn them off – there are several software solutions you can use in post-processing. I didn’t have any luck but if you can get them to work and if you only have a few, that’s probably practical.

      I tried all sorts of “folk remedies” that supposedly get the sensor to look for issues and map them out internally, but none worked – I don’t know if this works on some models but not others, but nothing worked for me.

      Eventually I called Canon support and they advised me to send it in. Even though I was out of warranty (and out of grace period on the warranty), I sent in a VERY specific explanation along with the camera. I included printouts of the issue and assured them that I baby my gear and this is a clear manufacturing error and to their great credit, they replaced whatever needed replacing to get it working.

      In summation, if you have a whole row of stuck pixels, I doubt you’re going to find any satisfactory resolution short of sensor replacement at the factory.

      Reply

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