Shooting Night Photographs

Hey folks, been a while.

This is a going to be a bit on night photography.  Special request from Tanya about how to do some.

First off, you’re going to need to get to know your camera.  Some point and shoot cameras have the ability of doing long exposures, but I’ve never felt the need of trying to find out how, since of course most people these days are going towards DSLRs.

You’re going to need to set up your camera to shoot in Manual mode.  This setting will give you control over the shutter speed and the aperture.

You won’t really need a lens with a high aperture rating like F1.8 or F2.8  This being useful in low light situations, also softens parts of photos that you won’t want softened.

I generally will shoot at an aperture setting of F11, F16 or F22.  This will sharpen your image, giving a crisp feel to it.  Depending on the subject of course.

Set your ISO setting in your camera.  The higher the ISO, the sharper, but noisier and the more grainy your picture will be.  I will shoot at either ISO 100 or 400.  The lower the number this time, the more light it’s going to need for the shot.  The higher the number, the less light, but more chances of noise.  Since you will be taking pictures of the night, you don’t want noise, it will definitely show up in your pictures.

Now, unless your stance and your handholding of a camera is like a rock and you can hold that position for an endless amount of time, you’re going to need a tripod.

Not just any tripod will do.  Sure you can go out there and purchase a $20, joeblow tripod.  But it will be less stable.  Giving a lot of ‘shake’ to the camera.  This is not good, especially in night time photography.  Spend a bit more on the tripod.  I’ll talk about purchasing a tripod in my next blog.

Remote or cable release.  This may not seem like an important thing to have, but trust me, you’ll want this.  Even with your camera on a sturdy and stable tripod, any action on the camera will move it.  Like pressing down on a the shutter release, you may not notice it at the time, but the minute movement will push the camera enough to shake it.

Having said that, there’s just one more thing that you might want to think about.  The camera strap.  Yes, I said the camera strap.  They are great, when you are walking around.  However, when sitting on a tripod, a little bit of wind or the dangling motion of the strap can move the camera on the tripod.  Either take the strap off or hang it securely somewhere on the tripod, but don’t just let it dangle.

Red light flashlight, this may seem like an unimportant piece of equipment.  But have you ever noticed in the low lighting situation that when you use a regular flashlight, then when you turn it off, you need to wait to have your eyes adjust to the low light again.   Well, this rather small piece of equipment will save you this.  It’s to keep your ‘night vision’ at a certain level without having to adjust greatly to the light changes.  Why ‘red’?  From the Focus Scientific website, it says “The human eye uses a chemical pigment called rhodopsin to increase sensitivity to light. Rhodopsin is insensitive to longer wavelengths (red light). White light will bleach the pigment out, thus ruining your night vision. It can take 20-30 minutes for this chemical to fully regenerate.”

You can use a mini Mag-Lite with a red filter on it, but I would recommend something like the Skywatcher Dual Red and White LED light.  For those times that you need the whiter light.  It’ll cost you about the same, after you buy the mini-mag and the filter attachments.

Dual Beam Red 600x480 

If you do want to the Skywatcher LED, please contact my friend Tristan at Focus Scientific on Carling Ave, in Ottawa, ON.  PLUG PLUG PLUG.  🙂

Bring a buddy, I don’t care how safe it is in your town, you might be walking around with a couple of thousand dollars worth of camera equipment at night.  This can tempt a lot of people into doing a few things. It’s always good to have someone watch your back.  Plus, with another photog around, it’s fun.  Sometimes, they may have a perspective that you might not have even thought of, not to mention, you won’t feel as lonely, having someone to talk to.

Having said all that, now all you have to do is find an area that would be great for night time photography.  Choosing a spot isn’t as easy as one would think.  You’ll want a area that has nice even lighting from all around.  You might not notice it, but even the smallest bright light can ruin a shot.

night1St. Laurent Blvd & Highway 417

As you can see, in the above picture, it shows a great night time evening skyline of the Ottawa area.  You’ll notice that in this shot, the bottom right hand corner, there’s a car dealership that has it’s lights on for security reasons.  Yeah, it just totally ruins it for this picture.  It almost looks like a bright sunny day in that area.  Also, the parking area, about mid way in the photo, they have their lights on as well, for safety and security as well.

Once you have selected an area.  Go out, experiment and have fun while doing it.

Composition, choose a focal point, remember the rule of thirds.

Set your tripod and camera up, take your time, this isn’t a race.

Start at an aperture setting of F16 and a shutter speed of 1” (one second).  See how that looks.  It’ll probably look pretty dark.  Increase the length of your shutter speed to 30” and see how that looks.  Then to 45”, 1’ (minute), etc. etc.

Take many photos at various lengths of time, various apertures.  Like a friend once told me, “you can take one photo, leave, and find out that it’ll be total crap and you would’ve wasted your whole time, or you can take 400 photos, 399 of them will not be to your liking, but there will be that one perfect shot and it’ll be worth it”.

Once you start taking photos at night, you’ll start to get use to it.  You’ll start to know when aperture and shutter speed are around what you should use.  Try to get it right in the camera first, then you’ll have a lot less to do in post processing.

Also try out different things. 

Turn the picture into a black and white photo and see what type of effect it will have.

Bike path along the Rideau Canal, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Try some star filters, to give the brighter lights a star burst effect, take a picture near water for light reflections.

Pretoria Bridge, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Try it in areas where there is light movement, ie. Moving cars.

Highway 417 & St. Laurent Blvd. Exit

Try something static, that gives an interesting feeling.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the National War Memorial, Ottawa, ON, Canada

But most of all, have fun!


Sorry for another rant, but I have to speak…

Just wanted to let some of you know about the convo that I had with Rogers Customer Relations department.

To start, I’ll have to tell you about the recent past.

When the iPhone3G came out, I was 3 months into my new contract, I was bummed out, since at the time, I would’ve liked to have an iPhone, but was told I wasn’t able to upgrade.

Quietly, less than 2 weeks after the launch of the iPhone3G, the newspapers released an article saying that Rogers was allowing some that was 3 months max into their contract to get an iPhone3G. I went immediately to the Roger’s Plus store, only to find out that ALL the iPhones in the city had been sold out. You know, this really pisses me off. But I lived with it. I had my Blackberry 8900 and I started enjoying it more and more.

I especially enjoying talking with my friends in South Carolina and Georgia over Blackberry Messenger, at no extra charge. $0.75 per text for long distance texting, if I had gotten the iPhone.

Recently, my 8900 took an unfortunately ‘dive’ into the Ottawa River. Suffice it to say, even if I could retrieve it, it’s most likely dead now.

I called Rogers about their Handset Protection Guarantee. The girl, being very friendly, I should’ve gotten her name. Most friendly person that I have ever talked to on the Roger’s Customer service call centre.

She offered me a free replacement of a Blackberry Pearl. Well, after having a 8900, I really didn’t want a Pearl. She then offered me a BB9100 for $249.99, well, the 9100 is still a Pearl, just an updated Pearl.

She took a look at my HUD eligibility. She saw that I only had 5 months to go until I was eligible. So she said because I’ve been a long standing customer of Rogers (1991), they would let me upgrade early to a 9700 for $99.00

When I was talking to her, it was only 12 days til the launch of the 9800. She did say that was my option, however, I do still have to go in store to pick it up since that is the only way to do a HUD and that I would have to purchase another SIM card.

So I went to get a SIM card anyways, since I have an old Blackberry 8130 that would hold me over until launch date. Well, the girl at Carlingwood Shopping Centre sold me the SIM card, but refused to activate it, because their system showed that the account was under my english name and that it didn’t match my ID.

She went on to tell me to call customer service to have them activate it. Which is what I did.
They did see that my name was different on the system. But the person I was talking to was Roger’s Blackberry Tech support, he activate my SIM got me going on the older BB. And transferred me to customer service to have my name changed.

I spoke with another girl, who I explained the whole situation to, about losing my 8900 and was hoping to upgrade to an 9800 early, etc. etc.

‘She’ told me that I would have to talk to Customer Relations. So she transferred me there.

Now, the next guy I was talking to, he said that only Customer Relations was the only people that could allow an early upgrade and that they would have no problems upgrading me to the 9700 for $99.00 as spoken to before. But when I mentioned the 9800, we got into this small tiff about how the 9800 ‘might’ not be available available about a Customer Relations upgrade and that I could not go into the store to pick up the upgrade, because Customer Relations would have to ship it out, even if it ‘is’ available on launch date. He said that there were no guarantees.

Oh c’mon! I was told by one person that I could go into the store to pick it up on launch date and then by someone else that I can’t?!?

After a bit of bickering back and forth (the guy still being friendly), he asked that if he could be ‘blunt’… And to give Customer Relations a call back (on the 27th) to see if it is available for them to upgrade me to. My response was “So, you want me to call back, 3 days after the launch, when it could be possibly sold out? Like the iPhone3G?”

He responded by saying “Or you can call back on the launch date, but we might not have anymore information than we do now…”

What can I do? ‘Settle’ for the 9700? Continue on for the next 5 months with this 8130 (which doesn’t have wifi, btw, and can’t upgrade to the OS5, so apps are just crap, compared to my 8900) until I can properly upgrade?

With that ’sorta’ behind us, he wanted to make sure that everything was still in order. The name change. Well, they still screwed that up as well (even though I just talked to the girl about 15 mins earlier). They missed spelled my name and there was 4 other names attached to my account. All of them a different variation of my legal name and my english name.

He did apologize and looked into my account to see there if there was something that could be done. Again, since I’ve been a long standing customer and that BELL has been calling me with offers to entice me to move to them, I’m pretty much extended on any discounts that I can get. He did work something out for me, but I’m not at liberty to mention this out in public.

But I’m still a little miffed about the ‘possibility’ or the ‘impossibility’ of me upgrading to a 9800. I was so psyched about going in to the store on launch day to pick up one.

Now, I’m sorta dreading the call back to Customer Relations, because of a fear that it won’t be available as a Customer Relations upgrade.

I don’t blame the people, they’re just doing their jobs.  But I sorta feel that they could’ve done more in this case, getting my hopes up and all.

So, this is how long standing customers are treated?