The night shoot
Tips on Capturing Landscape Images with time exposure.
Many photographers assume that once the sun goes down, so do the opportunities to take spectacular landscape images. For me I like time exposure photography most of all. I find this the most satisfying and challenging type of photography. I have found that the darker it is the better results I usually get in my images. You are more likely to pick up unusual colors not typically visible to the naked eye while capturing wonderful colors in the landscape here are a few tips I have learned in the past.
Find locations during daylight hours
Where possible try to visit the place you intend to photographer before you actually go, this will get you prepared with what to take. I normally try to find several potential spots where I can go to shoot during a single trip out, just in case the first place I go to turns out bad, and you can move on to your next place. If this is you first time out, read up on what you are going to try out, this will save a lot of time wasting with your camera and its settings
Find a strong subject to anchor your image
Look for a good focal point in your picture, and something to draw the viewers eye to the page. I believe a good landscape picture should have a good fore and background image, try to “frame your shot” with trees, skyline etc. Try to take the picture from a different angle that people would normal see.
Avoid artificial light
The further away you can get from city lights, the better your images will turn out. I have found that shooting in nearly pitch-dark conditions using long shutter speeds pulls out colors and tones not generally visible to the naked eye. I also like going into the city to capture the lights and get that “sparkle” effect with the street lights as well. I'm lucky, I only have to drive about 30 mins and I am in the country, where it is pitch back. Remember that you can adjust the colour of your images later in processing.
Don’t break the law
Nothing ruins a good photography time that getting locked up for trespassing. Remember if possible get permission from the owner of the property or structure before you start taking pictures, it could be a religious site, or a place that photos are not to be taken. So respect other people’s property. Who knows they could let you come back time and time again. A general rule of thumb is if the area in question has a fence around it, a sign posted advising that trespassing is not allowed, stay out.
Take the right gear
Taking the right gear might seem a bit silly to suggest, but there have been many a time I have forgotten, my cable release, and pen touch, so it can never be said enough…
Pen Torch & flash light
Drink & Snacks
Warm clothing (I might look stupid, but I’m warm)
Wide angle lens
Charged camera Batteries
I also use my pen torch to check my settings on the camera, and my flash light to quickly shine on my foreground subject to get my image initially focused. There is nothing more frustrating than staying out all night shooting landscapes just to return home to find the main subject out of focus because it was too dark. I consider a bright flashlight so important that I will return home if I forget to bring it.
Keep it in focus
Take the time to get your image in sharp focus. As I mentioned above, having a bright flashlight will make it easier to use your camera’s automatic focus. This is method I prefer because I never know if the image is truly focused if I set the focus manually (since it is typically so dark). I usually focus on a main foreground subject using a high intensity flashlight. When that isn’t possible, I sometimes try to focus on the horizon or a bright object in the distance such as a streetlight. I have even been successful finding a focus point by using distant stars. If all else fails and your camera refuses to settle in on a focus point, switch to manual focus mode and start experimenting.
Below I have set a couple of night time shots I took recently; I have also put down the settings used. Again these are not hard and fast rules, but more “trial & error”. Each photographer has a different slant of a picture of what they consider a good shot and a bad shot. I go out with friends of mine on a regular basis on photo shoots; the good thing is we all have different taste to what we like.
Remember to have fun and experiment. None of these suggestions should be considered hard and fast rules. I am always trying out new ideas. I think the key to getting exceptional landscape images is to shoot often and to be willing to go out and come back empty handed. As strange as that sounds, it has really proven true for me. Every time I head out to shoot I always hope to come back with stunning images. The sad truth is that I occasionally come back with just mediocre shots that never see the light of day. At some point I realized that this was just a natural part of learning and growing as a photographer. You just never know when you are going to be in the right place at the right time with your camera. It is all about capturing those unique and beautiful moments.