Tomorrow night marks the first anniversary of my very first night photography session. Having read Troy Paiva‘s book ‘Night Vision‘ a couple of months beforehand, I’d been sufficiently inspired to purchase my first DSLR and take a few shots in the dark.
The info provided in Troy’s book is the perfect head-start for someone who has never tried this before…. Canon camera, CMOS sensor, wide angle lens, RAW capture, f5.6, ISO 100, coloured lighting gels, strobe flashgun, cable shutter release, exposure lasting around 2 minutes etc etc etc.
Of course the first few attempts weren’t that great. I had trouble achieving good focus. My cheap tripod was far from stable. The home made shutter release kept falling out of the camera socket and I had to return home part way through, waiting for my one and only camera battery to recharge while looking at the night’s sub-standard efforts on the PC.
The end of the second session was determined by the battery flaking out again. Back home and on to the computer. Wow! I couldn’t believe I’d created something that actually looked half decent – to my eyes at least.
All the lighting was done with a strobe flash, using red green and blue gels. A basic mistake was overdoing the flash pops. I fired at the door frame from inside the building with the blue gel five times, hence the intense oversaturation. The red in the windows is pretty blown out and the green wash on the outside wall was done just for the sake of adding another colour to the mix rather than being a calculated decision. It’s hard to believe a micro second flash can have such a dramatic effect. Only experience teaches how much light is required to achieve the effect you have in mind.
But for a total newbie, I was ecstatic with the end result. Looking back at it 12 months later, of course I think I could do better today… go less heavy with the blue light in the doorway, fire the red strobes AWAY from the camera rather than towards it and lots of other stuff. I like the green though 😉
Other useful lessons learned from that night… before the next full moon session I ordered up a battery grip, spare batteries, a sturdy tripod, proper cable shutter release (well, Chinese ebay version), a good quality LED torch (known as a flashlight in the US) and a wider choice of coloured lighting gels.
Despite the lack of organisation, I’d got my first night shoot in the bag. Without Troy’s hints and tips I doubt I’d have returned home with anything other than a flat battery, a few duff exposures and total frustration. A year later I’m more organised, feel like I have at least some clue what I’m doing and I have a much higher success rate. Practice makes perfect as they say. I’m still practicing 😉
In future posts I’ll go into more detail on the gear I use and cover the more techy aspects behind some of my night photos.
Bye for now.