What’s so special about night photography? I’m drawn to night photography for several reasons, but mostly because I love long exposure times. Long exposures offer us a chance to bring a "special effects" feel to our photos. The camera records and absorbs light over time, something our eyes and brain together aren't programmed to do, and voila! Streaking clouds, misty oceans, taillight trails on the freeway, and, of course, dazzling star trails!
I’d like to point out two important technical aspects of night photography that intrigue me. First, it’s dark, so you really have to learn where all your buttons and features are – much by tactile feel and memory. Working with your camera gear in the dark provides a unique opportunity to spend quality time getting to know it more intimately.
The second aspect of night photography is understanding the behavior of ISO and the CCD sensor. From manufacturer to model, every camera’s sensor is different and will deliver diverse images from one to the next, especially when taxed with long exposure techniques. I like to say that the photographer has to “get to know the personality of their sensor”. What I’m saying is, with each camera I work with, I realize that exposure times and ISO combinations are different from one to the other. Getting to know the personality of the sensor simply means getting to know what combinations of ISO and exposure times work best with that particular camera in a particular scenario. Night photography is really the art balancing of noise, grain, exposure time, and ISO with the artistic side of composition, light, and scenario. You have to play with it.
Have fun! Don’t get caught up with exact measurements. Play with ISO, exposure times, light painting and don’t get caught up in the details. Often, when shooting with multiple seconds of exposure time I’m counting out the seconds of exposure out loud. Remember, it’s not always an exact science with night photography long exposures and there’s no harm in close. Close counts in horseshoes, with hand grenades, and also with long exposures.
**For more information about our upcoming workshop, Star Trails: Nocturnal Creativity with Bristlecone Pines, click here.