So many photographers talk about light; shoot into the light, Light & Land, Chasing the Light, Luminous Landscape…so here is my contribution. Shoot after the light has faded 🙂
Night-time photography displays a whole set of different characteristics. Firstly there is no light (I will qualify that soon) and secondly how can we see what we are photographing?? Well, the trick is to photograph NOT when it is dark but just before it is dark, during what we refer to as the blue hour. or dusk.
If, for instance, truly dark sky appears around 5pm in the winter then we would need to be in place at around 4pm. Firstly, it is light enough to see what it is we want to shoot, and secondly, before the sky turns to black ink it turns a blue colour which digital cameras pick up beautifully.
Chose your location and patiently wait til lights just start to come on. These may be street lights, shop lights, spot or floodlights. When these are fully warmed up start to shoot. No hard and fast rules here but I suggest the camera is tripod mounted, or somehow made very sturdy as we are in for some long exposures. Set a low ISO (around 100 ISO should be fine) and an aperture of around f8. (if you wish for lightburst effects off light sources such as streetlamps select f16 or higher to achieve these more dramatically). Shoot away until the sky starts to darken – this will be obvious through your viewfinder and rear LCD picture. Long exposures give great results and if there are people walking around they will appear as ghostly apparitions at around 2 to 5 seconds. Experiment!
When processing the shot, don’t overexpose shadow areas – keep them shadowy with just some detail.
The photo below was taken recently on a Tatra Photography Workshop city break in Prague. About 15 minutes after this was taken the sky turned balck and the magic was gone – til the next night.
Shot on my Nikon D800, at f11, for 1.6 second and ISO 125 using the Giotto’s Vitruvian tripod. Lens was a Nikon 17-55mm – with NO filters at all.
Lastly, remember to take warm clothing!
Try it – it is very rewarding.