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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You read this story again and again. The setting may be different but the plot is always the same.
It’s a dreary, overcast day. You had planned this photo session for months, scouting it on Google Earth for the best location, checked the sun position on TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris), and received inspiration from the photographs of other photographers. You made travel plans and booked lodging.
You arrived early at the iconic location, having traveled across the country and driven many miles in a rental car to get there. But as you approach the sky turns dark with low hanging, gray clouds. The light is a disappointment but you walk out to a viewpoint and set up anyway. You keep telling yourself that good fortune happens to those who are prepared.
The minutes tick by and the sun, unseen behind a thick cloak of clouds, continues its inexorable decent to the horizon. Other photographers join you and you ask each other, “Will it happen?” Most shrug their shoulders and reply, “It doesn’t look like it will.” It turns chilly and a cold breeze starts blowing. Many photographers mutter, “It’s not going to happen,” pack up their gear and head back to their cars and a warm meal waiting them in the comfort of a nearby restaurant.
Continue reading “Two Minutes of Light” »
Tags: clouds, exposure, focus, golden hour, golden light, Google Earth, histogram, light, Mc Way Cove, Mc Way Falls, overcast, photograph, photographer, sunset, TPE
Posted in Journal | Comments (1)
I just finished posting a batch of new photographs on my website. They are from three different ‘shoots.’ I’d like to tell you a little about each of the shoots and share the photographs with you.
I don’t put anything up on my website until I get prints that I’m satisfied with. Another way of putting it – a photograph isn’t done until it looks great on paper. I’ve made large prints of all of these and, I must confess, I’m very pleased. I’ll be matting and framing them and showing them to the public for the first time this weekend at the Old Monterey Fine Arts Festival in Monterey, California. If you’re in the area Saturday or Sunday, stop in and say Hi.
I have two photographs to share from last month’s Big Sur photography workshop. We covered famous Highway 1 from San Simeon to Carmel-by-the-Sea. The weather was clear, the sun was bright and an on-shore wind made for some great surf.
I chose two photographs to put on the website. The first is Bixby Bridge. I’m not normally into photographing man-made structures. But this one turned out so well with great light and a sense of its gracefulness and size that I had to include it. Click on the link to see the photograph and read more about it.
View Bixby Bridge (2012)
The other photograph is China Cove in Point Lobos State Park. I’ve always been impressed with its rugged serenity and, with the soft light of an overcast day helping out, I think I finally got a photograph that captures it.
View China Cove (2012)
Continue reading “New Photographs” »
Tags: Arizona, big island, Big Sur, Bixby Bridge, blue, California, canyon de cheylly, China Cove, chinle, cool light, green, Hawaii, intimate, landscape, midday, onomea bay, overcast, phorography, photo, photographer, photographs, Point Lobos, red, side light, soft light, spider rock, summer, sunny, sunset, Surf, twilight, warm light, workshop, Workshops
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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
Posted in Making a Photograph | Comments (9)