Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Tale of Two Nights

It's always fun to try something new. Varina did a bit of night photography years ago - but neither of us has spent much time shooting in the dark in recent years. In the past several months, we spent some time shooting at night in Arizona and New Mexico. Here are a few of our attempts. What do you think?

This shot, titled "The Night Flight", is a digital blend of two images taken during our recent trip to Bisti Wilderness in New Mexico. The image was created using a technique Jay calls "Painting with Time", and no artificial lighting was used. He took one shot just as the last light was falling on the hoodoo - soft, directional lighting gives the formation a soft, golden glow. After taking the first shot, Jay left the camera and the tripod in place. Soon, the stars came out, and he adjusted the exposure to capture their light. (F5.6@25s, ISO 500). Later, he combined the images in Photoshop to create the final image you see above.
 Varina chose a simpler technique that evening at Bisti. Shortly after sunset, she used a 3.2 second shutter speed to capture these smooth hoodoos. The sky glowed with a soft magenta light in the West, and the reflected light created the slight color cast you see in the image.
We also tried some night photography in the Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona. Jay's shot is titled "A Night at The Control Tower". This is an example of light panting. Although we generally prefer natural lighting, we find that a bit of artificial light can work well alongside ambient light. In this case, the ambient light was provided by the moon. Jay used a 30 second exposure (F4, ISO 200) to underexpose the scene by about 1.3 stops. He wanted to avoid a longer shutter speed, since it would result in "star trails". He used a headlamp to light The Control Tower as he waited. Matching the exposure for the foreground and the background required some experimentation.
While Jay was busy painting with light, Varina climbed high on the rocks in the dark to find a spot that offered an interesting view from above. She wanted to capture the glow of residual light on the bizarre Southwest landscape. In order to capture enough light, she used a whopping 266 second shutter speed (F16, ISO 100). (Though she could have reduced that long shutter speed by increasing the ISO.) The rich colors in the rock were enhanced by the very faint glow in the western sky.

Light Painting, "Painting with Time", star light, moon light, residual light... your options are wide open! Have you tried shooting after dark? If you have some night shots you'd like to share, leave a link in your comment. Make sure you tell us how you did it!

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Anonymous Chris Martin said...

Hi Varina and Jay - I really enjoy your postings. It is fun to read your stories behind the great images.

I like to work with night exposures when I have the time as well. I was able to get out a bit for some longer exposures a couple of weeks ago while on a short vacation. Here is the link to a few of the experiments that turned out:

The two ocean and rock photos were both 237 second exposures at f/11 and ISO 200. There is non-ambient light from a nearby beach house. The cactus shots were both 30 seconds and ISO 200 with light painting on the trunks using my phone in combination with moonlight.

May 3, 2010 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

Great shots, Chris! My favorite is the first cactus shot. And I love the fact that you used the light from your cell phone to add a bit of soft lighting. That's awesome!

Thanks for the comment - and for sharing your work. I know others will enjoy seeing some of your images. I took a look at some of the other photos on your blog. You have a fantastic variety! It was fun to take a look around. Thanks!

May 3, 2010 at 9:04 PM  
Anonymous Ron Richins said...

Here's another method, but I only recommend it when mother nature gives the go ahead. This was the Bear Paw Fire last fall in the Tetons. After shooting a sunset, I drove toward Jenny Lake to try to find a vantage point to shoot the fire. Fortunately I found a spot where the fire, Mt. Moran, and the Big Dipper lined up. Shot at f/4, ISO 800, and 50 sec. exposure. I tested a few shots to get the focus--I used the silhouette of the trees and checked it on the back of the camera.

May 4, 2010 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Varina Patel said...

This is a fantastic shot, Ron! The light from the fire is incredibly beautiful - and the shot really strikes a chord! Really nice work!

May 4, 2010 at 9:03 PM  

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