Monday, August 4, 2008

Some Thoughts On Night Photography

      Taking photographs at night can be quite rewarding for the avid photographer to add to their collections. Night photography using a digital SLR camera is one of my favorite genres of photographic imagery for the following reasons: (1) The night shoot opens up a whole new world to your eye as subjects are obviously lit by artificial or natural moonlight and just seem to beg being captured on digital media. (2) It can be quit cathartic to be out an about when most are sleeping while you seek out targets of opportunity to shoot. (3) Long exposures can render really cool effects i.e. lights from moving automobiles, amusment parks, boats on the water ect..

      What makes an interesting night image is really subjective; subject matter can really be anything that may stir some emotion in the viewer. I typically look for extreme contrast, color, unique lighting and drama. Here is an example of a LDS temple in Oregon that I took one chilly evening that looks so much more stunning at night than it ever did in the daylight.

      For those of you that have never ventured out in the early pre dawn hours to search out great photo opportunities I can offer a few pointers. (1) Remember how much the temperature will drop as that night gets long so bring ample clothing. Time seems to fly when your actively seeking new subject matter or having to get in you car going to new locals you can easily burn 5 or 6 hours. (2) Equipment you may need includes: A solid tripod with a good head on it ( I prefer a ball head), a photo backpack where you may place you camera body a couple of lenses like a wide angle and a medium range zoom telephoto. It is also good to have a cleaning cloth for lenses, LCD screens and eyeglasses to take care of condensation on cold nights. One of the most important things I carry is a backpacker’s headlight for obvious reasons.

      Here are some techniques to use at night versus shooting during daylight hours. (1) You’ll obviously be using your tripod on every single shot but remember that were talking 3o second to several minute exposures and you must control camera shake. Think about attaching a weighted bag to your tripod hook to add stability. (2) Turn on your cameras noise reduction software; it will be in menu section most of today’s DSLR’s . (3) Be very aware of stray light sources and how they will affect the final image. (4) Do play with your cameras white balance setting as you can achieve artistic effects from changing from lets say a cloudy to a tungsten light setting. Here is an example (5) Take a lot of captures and experiment with exposure times especially when trying to achieve the perfect motion blur or the silky look to a city fountain perhaps (example).

       I hope you will enjoy night photography as much as I have.

Shawn M

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