Night shoot ba­sics

Fa­mil­iarise your­self with the fun­da­men­tals of night pho­tog­ra­phy be­fore head­ing out

NPhoto - - Feature -

While there are spe­cific skills and gear needed for the dif­fer­ent sub­jects you can shoot at night – as we will ex­plain over the com­ing pages – many of them rely on the same ba­sic gear, tech­niques and plan­ning. Here are four things you should con­sider be­fore you set out on any night pho­tog­ra­phy trip.

1 be pre­pared for the cold

The tem­per­a­ture at night can drop dra­mat­i­cally, even dur­ing the sum­mer months. Dur­ing a shoot, you’re also likely to find your­self stand­ing in one lo­ca­tion for quite some time, so al­ways take along some warm clothes, even if it’s balmy and bright when you set out.

Nat­u­rally a hat, gloves and an in­su­lated coat are go­ing to be essential, but also make sure that your shoes or boots are warm, wa­ter­proof and well in­su­lated from the damp and cold. It’s also worth tak­ing a flask of cof­fee or tea to help lift your spir­its.

2 Watch out for con­den­sa­tion

As the tem­per­a­ture starts to drop dur­ing the night, you’ll of­ten find that any mois­ture in the air will con­dense on any gear you have out in the open. With your tri­pod, bag or even the out­side of your cam­era this doesn’t mat­ter too much, but when it forms on the lens, viewfinder and rear screen it can be a real prob­lem.

You can min­imise con­den­sa­tion by giv­ing your gear some time to grad­u­ally ac­cli­ma­tise, rather than tak­ing it straight out of a warm car or house into the cold air. But on many evenings you’ll still find con­den­sa­tion will form, so take along plenty of cam­era cloths and a clean­ing kit. An­other op­tion is to use a dew heater, which is an elec­tric blan­ket that keeps the lens warm, and so keeps con­den­sa­tion at bay.

3 avoid light pol­lu­tion

The glow from houses and street lights can make it al­most im­pos­si­ble to see the stars clearly, so for many night pho­tog­ra­phy tech­niques you’ll need to get away from large towns and cities. When shooting wide views of the stars you’ll find that ur­ban glow will still be vis­i­ble sev­eral miles away from nearby towns, and even small vil­lages. You can in­cor­po­rate this glow into your im­ages, but for com­pletely dark skies you’ll need to ven­ture out to ex­tremely re­mote lo­ca­tions.

4 Stay safe!

Go­ing out to most lo­ca­tions at night isn’t much more dan­ger­ous than it would be dur­ing the day, but it pays to take a few pre­cau­tions, par­tic­u­larly if you’re ven­tur­ing off the beaten track. If pos­si­ble, take some­one else with you, or at least tell some­one where you are go­ing and when you’ll be back.

Make sure that you’re fa­mil­iar with any po­ten­tial dan­gers in your lo­ca­tion, such as un­even ground, wa­ter and even cliff edges. It’s easy to miss these when you’re work­ing in the dark, so make sure that you ar­rive in day­light so that you can suss out the area.

A torch is essential for a night shoot, not just for find­ing your way and mak­ing it eas­ier to ad­just cam­era set­tings, but for il­lu­mi­nat­ing ob­jects to fo­cus on and for light-paint­ing parts of the scenery (see page 25)

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