Join Keith Kiska for an in-depth discussion in this video Night photography, part of Landscape Photography: California's Mobius Arch.
So one of my favorite times to shoot and one of the biggest growing trends in photography is night photography. I love night photography because of the silence, the solitude and the challenge. It's so much more difficult to get a great photograph than it is shooting in daytime or any other time. Night photography has a whole bunch of challenges along with it and we're going to explore them right now with this particular shot. We're here at Mobius Arch and I want to get one of the most important things, Mobius Arch. I want it at night, I want clouds and I really want to light my subject as good as I can.
So first of all, with night photography, it's always a good idea to do all of your scouting during the daytime. Daytime's the best time to scout. Have a good idea of what the light's going to do and how it's going to work and really take advantage of that natural light in finding your shot. Also with night photography, aside from shooting, your fingers and the cold weather. It is going to be freezing sometimes, especially here. So make sure to keep prepared and get ready for that temperature to drop. Right after the sun sets, you are going to be cold. Make sure to be aware of the light. Like we just discussed, light can really change from scene to scene.
Here at night, you have different types of light to work with. You have moonlight, star light and the light that you bring. Stars equal low light and high ISO. You're going to get a lot of noise out of your images, but you're definitely going to get that Milky Way in your shot. Clouds equal movement. When you're shooting at night, if you're lucky enough to have clouds, it's going to create ten times more drama and intrigue into your scene. Clouds are usually pretty sharp and crisp. Not at night. You have to be shooting with about 30 seconds or so at night of an exposure time in order to get enough light into your camera.
There's one type of light that you can control, the ones you bring. So make sure to bring a good variety of lights so you have more control over lighting your foreground. Your stars might be bright and your sky might look great, but your image in the foreground is underlit, so make sure to get your light out. Try a little light painting. Try a static light and see how that works. So now we're getting in to actually setting up your tripod and and taking that shot. First, we need a tripod and a good ballhead. Make sure that your tripod or ballhead is as sturdy as possible, and lightweight while you're at it if you can, but the sturdier the better.
Most of your shots are going to be pretty long exposure, so any wind or camera shake is really going to ruin your shot and give you a blurry shot in the end. So make sure to have a solid tripod. Also, shooting at night, if you fire your shutter by hand, you're going to create a little bit of jiggle in your shot, so you're going to use the intervalometer as a trigger, to stand back, fire the camera, and it can be shot without any kind of motion or shake to it. Now also, if you don't have an intervalometer, like I don't sometimes, the best thing to do is set your camera on a two-second delay or ten-second delay if you feel that two seconds isn't enough for you to get to a safe spot and get away from your tripod.
One of my favorite things I learned about night photography is exposure. I had the biggest problem ever not knowing what exposure to get my shots at. I'd be doing shots at around five minutes or ten minutes or so because I want to keep my ISO a very low. But when I realized how good these cameras are and how you could really jack up your ISO and make sure you get still a clean not that noisy image, I realized that I could start shooting at about 30 seconds. Anything over 30 seconds and I would start to get star trails or blurry stars in my shot. So if I kept my shutter speed around 30 seconds or so, or 25 seconds, depending on which lens you're using, I find that that was my sweet spot for exposure.
And once I had my exposure dialed in, I just adjust my ISO and aperture to make sure the shot works. This particular shot lighting-wise was one of my favorites. First, I had the moonlight coming down and basically filling in most of my shot with really nice moonlight, but then I had a whole bunch of extra lights on me that I used to perfect the light just the way I want it. There are a number of different ways you can light a nighttime scene. So the lesson here is, try new things. You never know which type of lighting scenario you're going to like best. So just give a whole bunch a try and then be patient with yourself.
Go home, play with it, see what worked good, see what didn't, and go out there and give it another shot.