Posted on July 5th, 2012 No comments
Photos shot at night can be highly dramatic or a total waste of time. To increase the chances of the former, here are four tips for night time situations.
Creating light trails
Light trails are when car headlights and tail lights leave streaks across your photo, usually with dramatic effect. What you’ll need: a tripod of some type and a long shutter opening. Some point and shoot cameras can go up to 15 seconds which should work. All DSLR’s will have a time or bulb setting that can go 15 seconds or more. Set your camera on its lowest ISO speed (usually 100 or 200). Set your aperture to f11 or higher if possible – which will keep everything in focus, foreground to distance.
Then, just wait for a car to pass (for red streaks) or wait for an oncoming car (for white streaks). Experiment with different length exposures if the streaks aren’t long enough. Look for high vantage points to see the longer length trails. In this photo, I was on the 8th floor of a hotel overlooking the ocean road. Flyovers work ideal for this type photo.
Take off that UV filter
At nighttime, take off your UV protective filter. At night, one or two things happen with a UV filter in place. First, the shot will probably look more washed out than it would if you removed the filter. Secondly, with the filter in place, you now have twice as much glass to make reflective glare from any street or building lights. If those lights are shining into your lens, you sure don’t want a second layer of glass making reflections on the lens’ main element.
Shooting dark night landscapes
When cameras take a picture, the camera’s computer tries to make an educated guess as to how dark or bright everything should be in the photo. Unfortunately for bright scenes like beaches or snow, or for dark scenes like night time skies, it assumes everything is a medium colour and will end up compensating to make everything a medium tone. That’s why snow turns out grey and night skies are often grey. To get those nice dark blue or black skies, you need to fool the camera’s sensors.
That’s what those +’s and –’s are for on the exposure compensation dial. By dialling in more minuses, you are telling the camera to take in less light than it thinks it needs. The result is a darker photo and hopefully, that nice dark sky that you envisioned. If it’s still not dark enough, dial in some more minuses until the sky is as dark as you like it.
In this picture, we arrived at Amazonia Golf Resort after the sun had been down for 30-40 minutes. In the upper picture, the camera tried to give me a medium toned image, but dialling down my exposure by -2 stops, the sky and the building’s interior looked more exactly like what we saw.
Pack a torch
Nothing worse than getting ready for that perfect moonrise photo, only to discover your battery needs to be changed. If you can’t see, you can’t get your shot. There will be dozens of problems that come up in the dark. Pack a small torch in your camera bag and leave it there.
After being in the dark for a while, your eyes acclimatise themselves to the darkness, and turning on a light will ruin that dark sensitivity. To prevent that from happening, place a red piece of cellophane over the torch’s lens. Even after the light goes off, your night vision won’t be impaired.