PHOTO GRAPH AT DUSK
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