A lot of people are doing nighttime photography these days including yours truly. There are many good sources of information on nighttime photography. I’ve written a few blog posts myself (Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy Steps). Nighttime photography falls into two categories – star trails and night sky. In this post I want to elaborate on something I’ve discovered recently with regards to night sky photography.
Nighttime photography is pretty much like daytime photography. The biggest difference is you can’t see what you’re doing. Let’s run through a quick comparison of camera settings in daytime and nighttime photography.
Continue reading “Mastering Night Photography – Focusing” »
Tags: Aperture, aperture priority, auto focus, depth of field, focal distance, focal length, hyperfocal distance, ISO, live view, manual, manual focus, night, nighttime photography, photography, shutter speed, white balance
Posted in How To, Journal, Night photography | Comments (2)
How many times have you returned from a shoot with some photographs you are really excited about only to find out they are out of focus. That’s always very disappointing and often frustrating. And it happens all too often to me. At the Joshua Tree Gathering this past March someone asked the question, ”How many ways can a photograph be out of focus,” and that got me thinking. This would be a fun article to write.
But let’s get something straight from the start. Not all ‘out of focus’ photographs are out of focus. They may not be sharp but that can come from two causes. They can actually be out of focus or they can be blurry. This may seem like a subtle distinction but it’s an important one. So let’s take them one by one and explore their causes and solutions.
But before we do, I want to make another very important point. A photograph that is out of focus or blurry is not always a bad thing. Often times the artist does it intentionally because that is his or her artistic vision. When it’s done intentionally to create an expressive photograph then it’s not only OK, it’s necessary. It’s when it’s unintentional that we get frustrated and loose great moments.
But now, let’s get into the details. We’ll talk about blurs first.
Continue reading “Mastering Sharpness – Fuzzy Photos” »
Tags: auto focus, blur, blurry, camera motion, camera vibration, depth of field, DSLR, f/stop, focal distance, focal length, focus, fuzzy, landscape, manual focus, Mirror, photograph, sharpness, shutter speed, tripod
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A topic that receives a lot of attention in our workshops is focus. It’s incredibly important, so important that I consider Appropriate Sharpness to be one of the four pillars of a successful landscape photograph. (For more, read Making a Photograph – The Four Pillars.) Most of the questions center around depth of field and hyperfocal distance. In fact, this is so important that I give a class on Appropriate Sharpness during just about every workshop. Let’s start the discussion with Depth of Field
Depth of Field
This is the range, if you will, of objects in the view of your camera that are in focus. Objects in front of this range are out of focus as well as objects behind the range. A deep depth of field would have the flowers just a few feet from you camera and the distant mounts miles away all in focus. The depth of field would then extend from a couple of feet to infinity and for all practical purposes would be infinitely deep. This is often referred to as a ‘near-far composition.’
A shallow depth of field may be just a couple of inches deep with nearer and more distant objects out of focus. This is referred to as ‘Selective Focus.’
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Here are some tips on nighttime photography from an informative article by Dan Richards in a recent issue Popular Photography. Credit for these tips goes to three great photographers – Matt Walker, Darren White and Mashahiro Miyasaka. Here is the heart of what they shared…
- Use a fast, wide lens. Wide lenses slow the apparent motion of the stars. Fast lenses gather more of the faint light.
- Use a tripod. The shortest practical exposure is 30 seconds. Star trails require anything from tens of minutes to an hour or more.
- Use an intervalometer. This is essential for exposures greater than 30 seconds or if you plan to take a sequence of 30 second exposures.
- Be aware of the weather. An overcast sky will foil nighttime photography plans and a wind will wreak havoc with long exposures.
- Be careful. Scout the location ahead of time. Use a headlamp, especially one that has a red light so as not to destroy your night vision.
- Include interesting foregrounds. They can be silhouettes or you can light paint them. You also have the option of creating a composite image by capturing a well exposed image of the foreground at low ISO and a high ISO image of the sky and then blending the two.
- Focusing is really difficult. Autofocus doesn’t work so you must use manual focus. Pick the brightest star in the sky and use live view to focus on it (don’t change your focal length to focus; use the focal length you’ll be using for your image). Another alternative is to focus on an object at infinity during the day and then marking the focus point with fluorescent tape so you can reset the same focus at night. Again, use the focal length you will be shooting with as the infinity focus point changes as you zoom in and out.
- Exposure is critical. If you’re going to shoot starry night photographs your exposure length will be 30 seconds (with a 24 mm lens or wider). Shoot wide open and run tests with different ISO settings. If you’re going to use a long exposure to get star trails determine the ISO setting your 30 second exposure and then adjust ISO and f/stop to compensate for the length of exposure. If your ISO is 6400 at f/2.8 and 30 seconds, if you want a 60 second exposure reduce your ISO to 3200. A two-minute exposure requires an ISO of 1600.
- Take a workshop. That’s always good advice, no matter how experienced you are. There’s always more to learn.
- Don’t get disheartened. This is not easy stuff but practice pays off.
- Get in shape. Good locations for night photography are going to be where there’s minimal light pollution and that’s a long ways away from city lights.
- When the temperature is cold wrap a hand warmer around your lens to keep it from fogging over on those long half hour to hour exposures.
Well, that’s it. Yea, and I confess; I threw in a couple of my tips too.
Hey, here are a couple of blog posts I’ve done on nighttime photography a while back there.
Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy steps
So, go on out there and give it a try. Have fun and be careful.
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Tags: autofocus, composite, exposure, f/stop, fast lens, focal length, focus, focus point, foregrounds, hand warmer, headlamp, image, intervalometer, ISO, light, light paint, live view, location, manual focus, night, nighttime, overcast, photo, photo workshops, photography, seconds, silhouettes, sky, star, time, tripod, weather, wide lens, Wind, workshop
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I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to what goes in to making a great landscape photograph. It turns out there are four things, four pillars if you will. Four, that’s a good number. There are the four legs of a table or the four wheels of a car. And not to forget the four sacred directions of the Native Americans.
In landscape photography the four pillars are evenly divided between the aesthetics and the technical. So what are they? The two aesthetic pillars are Fantastic Light and Strong Composition. No surprise there. The two technical pillars are Appropriate Sharpness and Optimum Exposure. No surprise there either. If just one of those pillars is missing, well, the table collapses, the image suffers.
Let’s look at them one by one….
(click on the images to enlarge them)
Joshua Tree Spring Sunrise (2011)
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – The Four Pillars” »
Tags: Aperture, balance, border patrol, cloudy, color, composition, constrast, cool, f/stop, fine art, focal distance, focal length, focus, golden hour, grad nd filter, graduated neutral density filter, HDR, High Dynamic Range, histogram, hyperfocal distance, light, luminance, mid-day, midday, open shade, overcast, photography, rule of thirds, shadows, sharpness, tonality, twilight, unity, visual tensioin, warm
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