NPhoto - - Special Feature -

What ’s the Big Idea?

Cities and vil­lages come alive with lights and colour at night and dis­tract­ing de­tails such as cranes, wires and un­sightly build­ings seem to melt away in the back­ground. Ev­ery hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion has some­thing that will look great at night, no mat­ter where you are in the world. A few clas­sic sub­jects for night shoots are il­lu­mi­nated foun­tains, sculp­tures, cas­tles, churches or cathe­drals and mar­ket places.

What ’s the Key?

There are nu­mer­ous night pho­tog­ra­phy tech­niques to try, but here are the key ones.

First, and most ob­vi­ous: use a tri­pod plus a re­mote re­lease to avoid cam­era shake. I pre­fer a sim­ple ca­ble re­lease that doesn’t re­quire bat­ter­ies, as bat­ter­ies tend to go flat just when you need them, and that’s a nui­sance when you’re out pho­tograph­ing land­scapes.

There is a short win­dow of time when the light­ing is just right for dusk shots. This opportune time is about 20-30 min­utes af­ter the sun has gone be­low the hori­zon. It’s when the lights come on and the sky is a deep blue. The prime shoot­ing time is only about 10 min­utes be­fore the sky is too dark. When this hap­pens the high­lights in the lights start to burn out.

It is ad­vis­able to lock your mir­ror up and wait a few sec­onds be­fore trip­ping the shut­ter to avoid pos­si­ble vi­bra­tions from the mir­ror. In this im­age of Ma­narola in Cinque Terre, Italy, I used the op­ti­mal aper­ture of f/8 which re­sulted in an ex­po­sure of 30 secs us­ing aper­ture-pri­or­ity mode. An ex­po­sure of 30 sec­onds is nor­mally the long­est ex­po­sure avail­able in ‘auto’ modes; if you re­quire longer ex­po­sures, shoot in man­ual mode.

If you are in a land­scape away from the city lights, try pho­tograph­ing a sky full of stars over your scene. This re­quires you to use a high ISO such as 1200-3200 – the ex­act set­ting will de­pend on the phase of the moon. If the land­scape is lit by a full moon, I have used an ISO as low as 400, but gen­er­ally you will see more stars if there is no moon­light. Set your lens to in­fin­ity, and turn off the aut­o­fo­cus. Your aper­ture will need to be set as wide as it can go, us­ing the widest lens you have. The key to this type of pho­to­graph is to have an in­ter­est­ing fore­ground to sil­hou­ette be­low a sky full of stars.

This opportune time is about 2030 min­utes af­ter the sun has gone be­low the hori­zon, when the lights come on and the sky is a deep blue

Lights give a sense of life to a town, and add warmth

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