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!


Depth of Field (DOF)

Hey, another photography blog tip.

Happy James!?!?!?  🙂

From here on in (at least for this blog), I will refer to Depth of Field as DOF.  Shorter for me to type, don’t like it, too bad.  😛

So what exactly is DOF?

In optics, especially film and digital photography.  It’s the range of focus between the distances of objects.

DOF is determined by the subject to camera distance, the lens focal length, lens f-stop, format size (APO Sensor or Full Format) and what is known as the Circle of Confusion criterion.

I’m not going to get into the science of it,  this will just confuse  you.  You just need to know what impacts DOF.

Why is this important to know?

In most  some cases, agreeably, it is preferred to see the whole picture as sharp.  However, in other cases, it is preferable to have the main subject stand out, by having that object as sharp as possible and the background blurry.

This is mostly seen in Macro Photography and portraits as well.

How do I achieve such a photo?

1. Determine your subject. In this case, I have chosen my cable box’s remote control

2. Choose the right lens. I have chosen my 28-70mm F2.8

3. Position the camera. Handhold, about 25cm away, zoomed in at 70mm.

4. Set the F-stop via the Aperature Priority or Manual, for the purpose of this blog, I have chosen Aperature Priority and have used F22, F11, F5.6 and F2.8 (note: the higher the F number, the LONGER the shutter needs to stay open, especially in low light, unless you are shooting on a tripod, use a flash).

5. Decide whether you want to shoot with manual or automatic focus.  I have chosen to set my Nikon D200 on automatic continuous focus.

6. Shoot.

The next few photos will show you a look and which F-stop to choose for your DOF photos.  Click the pictures below for a larger view.

2010-08-14_17-19-10 This was shot at F22 with flash, notice the sharpness over the whole remote?  This is great, if you want to do something like take a picture of the object to sell it.  It gives the greatest detail of the object overall.





2010-08-14_17-19-24 This was shot at F11.  If you can see, the top and the bottom halves of the remote are starting to fuzz a little.  The center are the VOL button is still sharp (the focal point may change in the next couple of photos,I am hand holding the camera after all.)





2010-08-14_17-19-38I shot this one at F5.6, you can definitely tell the the top and bottom ends of the remote are out of focus, making the VOL and CH buttons very clear.




2010-08-14_17-20-36 Now you can definitely tell that the center buttons are the main focus of this photo.  Shooting at F2.8 will give you a really shallow DOF.





Examples of DOF photos I have taken:





Of course these photos were taken with a DSLR camera.  It is rare that a point and shoot camera will have this type of function.  I do know that the Nikon Coolpix 5700, 8700 and 8800 did have the ability to control f-stop and shutter speeds (these models have been discontinued).  This  type of point and shoot camera is also known has a Bridge Camera.  Other companies do have their own, but again, I deal in Nikon.

Now get out there and shoot some photos…


Rule of Thirds

It has come to my attention that I have not put placed anything about photography lately.

Sorry, been too busy ranting about current subjects. 

Ok, shut the f*** up James, I’ll post something.

So, lets start off with a little bit of basic photography, Rule of Thirds.

For those of you that don’t know what the Rule of Thirds is.  Well, you’re in for a big surprise, which will increase your photography skills dramatically.

What is it?  Well, basically put, it’s a a rule of thumb that is used in the composition used in visual arts, such as Painting, Photography, and Design.

Dividing a picture into nine sections, like a grid, you’ll get the rule of thirds base.


Generally, this is an imaginary grid, but on some cameras, it is an option in the viewfinder.  I don’t know about Canon or Sony or any other inferior camera body.  (Just kidding, no not really… :-))

On Nikon DSLR cameras, it’s referred to as a ‘grid’.  You can find that in your set up options, probably under display.  Some of the point and shoot Nikons have it for the LiveView as well.

This grid will help you in dividing the picture view, as well help you level out your picture.


In the image above, you’ll see a picture of a boat.  Yeah, it’s just a boat, on water…  Doesn’t tell you much does it.  Plus, you can see the island in the background, it isn’t level.  So, this doesn’t look that great.


Lets re-take that picture.  Ok.   A bit better, you can now tell that the water is calm and it’s a good day to probably take a ride out on the water.  There’s more water, so you know you can go further on that ride too.  The sky is slightly cloudy, but at least you can see the sky and notice that it’s a decent day to go out for that boat ride.  But there’s still something wrong.  Wow, look at that horizon, it’s really out of whack now.  The angle certainly sticks out like a sore thumb.

Let’s try this again.


Oh wow!  Definitely much better.  The earth doesn’t look like everything is slide right off to the left now.  You can see the sky and the wide open waters.

Here’s the shot with a grid on top of it for your comparison.


2010-08-03_19-12-28-3 third


2010-08-03_19-12-28-2 - Copy third 

Better, isn’t it? 

Now, go out there and take some photos!


Scott Kelby’s Third Annual Worldwide Photowalk (2010)

G’day folks,

This being my first blog, I’m going to start by telling you what this blog will mostly connect with.  Mostly with  a couple of my biggest interests/hobbies.  Doesn’t everyone do that?

Currently, my hobbies include Geocaching and Photography.

It was fun day today.  I, went on Scott Kelby’s Third Annual Worldwide Photowalk today in Ottawa, ON, Canada with walk leader Dale Hogan of Dale Hogan Photography.


A photowalk is meant to be a social gathering of people that have a common interest.  That would be a passion for photography.

People from all walks of life get together and have fun taking pictures.  Some people get a little help with some techniques, talk tech and just all around other stuff.  It’s meant to be fun.

We first started off on the front steps of Parliament hill, walked around the Parliament buildings, through Major’s Hill Park, through the Byward Market and ended up at the Exchange Pub and Restaurant to compare and comment over photos.

Some of the local Geocachers from Canada’s Capital Cachers, with a passion for photography, also joined in as well.  RossMTBiker, GeoNarcissa, GarminGal, Tanglebones and I had a great time out today.  Ross showed off his new 100-400 lens for his sacrilegious camera, <cough> Canon <cough><cough>. jk

I drooled over someone else’s 70-200 f2.8 VRII Nikkor lens.  What I wouldn’t do to get one of these.

When I got to Parliament Hill, I totally forgot that I left my handheld GPS on the coffee table at home.  I wasn’t going to be Geocaching, but I wanted to grab a track file of the route we took, so I could GeoTag the photos that I took.

GeoTagging is a process of placing a location (Latitude and Longitude coordinates) into the EXIF metadata of a digital photo.  I’ll explain in a post about this in the future.

Back to the Photowalk.  There’s something to be said about going out with a group of people and take pictures.  You get to see the whole world differently through another photographer’s eyes (or lens).  I got some great ideas for some future shots, made some new friends, traded e-mails and phone numbers.

Scott Kelby is well known author and photographer.  He does photography training at and does a number of webisodes pertaining to photography and photoshop.  My favourite to watch is DTown, which gives tips and tricks on all things to do with Digital Photography.   Yes, he’s primarily a Nikon camera shooter, but the show is geared to Nikon and Canon, if you own something like a Sony Alpha, the same principles apply, but you’ll have to find out how to get through your camera menu to get the same result.

Once a year he organizes, online, a Worldwide Photowalk, in which local veteran Photographers lead a group of 50 photographers on a walk around the city and do what photographers love to do.  Take pictures!

I, originally thought about leading a walk, but the requirements needed a seasoned photographer or previous experience.  This is where I contacted fellow Geocacher and Photographer, Dale Hogan.  He graciously lead last years photowalk and this years as well.

This year, 1,111 photowalks with 33,483 photowalkers were registered worldwide.