Summer Project #3
Long-exposure photographs give you a myriad of creative possibilities and a great deal of “wow” factor. Many amateurs are afraid of the dark and avoid night photography as being too technical for them to tackle. While long-exposure photography may take some trial-and-error for you to perfect your technique, employ these simple tips to get you started:
1. The most important piece of camera gear to bring along on your night-time adventures(and perhaps the most obvious) if your tripod. What basically happens in a long exposure is that the shutter stays open for from 30 seconds to an hour or even longer. Movement of the camera will most likely ruin your photograph. You can also set your camera on a wall or ledge, but it’s usually most convenient to have a tripod on hand.
2. Nearly as important as a tripod is a remote cable release. Although you may not realize it, it is nearly impossible to press the shutter button on your camera without causing it to move a bit. To eliminate any possibility of camera shake, a remote cable release allows you to open the shutter without even touching your camera. You can also use your camera’s self-timer, but if you are planning on taking a lot of exposures that night, it will save you time to use a cable release.
3. Another useful piece of equipment is a lens hood. Why do you need a lens hood at night? Long-exposures capture all available light and while the sun may not be causing glare, street lamps might. Lens flare may be an element that you wish to incorporate into your images, but it’s hard to predict or control so many photographers like to avoid it altogether.
4. Turn auto focus off and change settings to infinity. Long-exposure photography is the capturing of light in motion and if you leave your auto focus on, it will constantly be changing its focus throughout your exposure.
5. The length of the exposure is usually dependent on the amount of available light. Photographing a city at night, you may need 10-30 seconds of exposure time. Capturing star trails( a lifelong hobby for some photographers) will require 8 min to an hour or longer.
6. Long exposures are usually done with DSLR cameras, but film cameras can also produce wonderful results. In fact, depending on the type of film you use, an analogue camera can cause some unique effects such as color shift. Tungsten film, though sometimes difficult to find, is known for giving excellent white balance in night photography.
There are many tutorials and websites dedicated to helping amateur photographers to venture out-of-doors at night and tackle long-exposure photography. Some professional photographers prefer to photograph stars, some prefer urban landscapes. Each scenario requires slightly different techniques–trial-and-error is part of the learning process for every photographer. If you live in the city, grab a coffee, set up your gear somewhere and open your shutter. If you love far from city lights, seize the opportunity to photograph the stars. Summer is coming to a close, and soon those clear nights may be accompanied by less comfortable weather. Now is the time to experiment!