Finally got some night shots

One of the things that I like most in terms of photos is pictures taken at dusk or night time; even more so if water is involved.  I have already mentioned that I had some great night time shots in my sights in Swansea Marina this week, only to be dashed by the poor weather.  If there is a choice between slogging around a deserted water side district and sitting in the hotel bar with a pint of real ale, then there is of course no choice.  So last night, having finally returned back to Suffolk,  I took the plunge, as it were, and popped over to Ipswich and the Marina in order to take some shots in darkness. 

However there are many things you learn when you involve yourself in photography.  One is to always heed the old Boy Scout motto, ‘Be Prepared’.  I found that, no doubt like most ‘water side developments’, this one was tightly controlled as far as parking went.  Even at 8pm.  And of course, I had not brought any change with me.  So much frustrated driving around followed, and just as I was about to give up and go home, a space right on the waterfront availed itself.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and set about getting the Nikon ready to shoot.  I set the F-stop to 11, the ISO to 100, and the mode to manual.  Then I got the tripod out and got ready to shoot.  The results of my first night time shoot surprised me.  They are, I hesitate to say, rather pleasing.  I have made a few elementary errors such as letting street lights leak into the corners of some shots, and I over exposed one of them and made it rather grainy, and I also learnt a bit about post processing.

Yes, the post processing ‘workflow’ has become a bit of an art for me with my daylight photos.  I use Adobe Camera Raw to sort out clarity, detail and sharpening, and have been in the habit of increasing the sharpening in recent weeks.  But on pictures taken at night, even on a low ISO, that is asking for trouble as you are letting masses of noise into the shot.  So I then did a second pass and was more restrained in my settings, and here are the initial results.  Hope you enjoy them.

Finally, before we get to the actual results, I have learnt a few things again here.  In no particular order, here are some things I will try and remember next time:

  • The positioning of the camera is key.  I didn’t consider the effects of the streetlight above my camera in the second picture, and it flared into the top right corner.
  • Use a shutter remote release.  You don’t want that camera moving.  I haven’t sussed out the mirror lock function yet, but this also helps in steadying the camera and that’s how you get those pin-sharp images.
  • To deal with the artefacts and lens flare from the lights in some pictures – take the long exposure first [most of mine were 6-10 seconds], then take the same shot at a much shorter exposure.  You can subsequently increase its exposure in Camera Raw, and then add it as a layer to the original so you can erase the flared bits and expose non flared detail beneath.
  • The key settings are LOW ISO, LONG EXPOSURE, but try to start at about F8 and play around with the aperture in Aperture Priority mode.
  • Beware pedestrians; especially when a tripod is involved.  Don’t hog footpaths, especially if like me some shots were taken outside a busy pub on the dock – you don’t want to end up with the tripod wrapped round your neck.
  • Prepare – check out things like parking charges if you are driving – many ‘shootable’ venues such as this one are very busy, even at night, and nothing is more frustrating than driving round unable to stop and take pictures!

Above: I was surprised at the clarity and crispness of the images in low light – that is the effect of a decent tripod and a low ISO.

Above: This was an interesting shot because it involves indoor and outdoor subjects.  A surprising amount of detail from the inside has been captured.

Above: Some flare from the rope ligths in the middle of the picture, because this was taken with a 6 second exposure at F11.

Above: The shot that taught me that ‘less is more’ as far as post processing goes.  Just a little sharpening and some de-noising.

Above: Again some lens flare, this is a problem I will have to learn to deal with by positioning the camera.

Above: a crop from a larger image, again having done some post processing, mainly in camera raw, I’m pleased with the result.

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One response

  1. Amazing! =)

    September 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm

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