Three ways to shoot night time photography that aren’t astrophotography
Heading out to shoot at night time in the middle of nowhere usually brings visions of astrophotography to mind. But that’s not the only kind of photography you can do at night, as this video from Adam Karnacz at First Man Photography illustrates. Adam heads out to England’s picturesque Lake District to show off three ways you can shoot nighttime photography and open up your creative freedom.
The first method is a pretty simple one, and that’s a basic long exposure. These are great because you don’t need any gear other than your camera and a tripod. A remote camera trigger can help, too, but many cameras these days have a smartphone app that allows for remote control and worst case, your camera will almost certainly have a self-timer, so you can hit the button and step back to make sure your finger jabbing the shutter isn’t going to bump the camera.
Long exposures work in many places these days because the light that the camera sees is built up over a long period of time. Even at night, there’s often at least some light in the sky that will reflect off the ground – well, unless you happen to be in a particularly dark sky area and it’s a new moon. And with the ISO performance of cameras today, it’s fairly easy to get a preview of your scene for composing, even if it looks too dark for your eyes.
The second technique is one that’s become quite popular over the last few years and that’s light painting. In fact, we featured another light painting project earlier today. The camera setup is essentially the same as for a regular long exposure. The only real difference is that you’re going to be walking around in front of the camera with a light source while the exposure’s happening.
You don’t need any kind of fancy lights for this – although, they can help. In a pinch, you can use the light from your smartphone to illuminate the scene in front of you. The trick is to make sure you don’t shine it on yourself or you’re definitely going to appear in the shot!
The final method Adam shows in the video is also light painting, but with a bit of a difference. Instead of walking around in front of the camera with a light, he’s flying a drone with a light attached to brighten up the scene and paint light exactly where he wants it. Adam’s using Lume Cubes attached to his DJI Mavic drone which is a great solution for this kind of thing.
The advantage that a drone offers over regular light painting from the ground is that you get more control over the direction of the light. If you want it to look like a tree or other subject is being lit by an overhead full moon, that’s quite easy when you can get your light source up high. Do be sure to check the night flying laws where you live, though! This one won’t be an option for everybody.
Have you had a go at light painting with a drone? How’d it go?
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.