This blog post is reflecting my little somewhat silly passion of shooting landscapes at night. It builds on a former post “shooting into the night” which I also strongly can recommend you. Although this blog post does give out a tips, it is not meant to be a covering guide. The great thing about Night Landscape is that the family is at sleep, and you got the time for yourself, only downside is a tired day after understandably can become a challenge.
You might be fearful about the amount of light, but rest assure, the faintest of light is enough to create splendid pictures, it all comes down to shutter time and the ability to keep the camera steady for an extended period of time. So even if all logic tells you that its time to head for the couch, then venture out for a shoot instead.
Depending on the expression that I am intending, is various time at night is to be preferred. Blue Hour, Milky Way core, first light or Aurora Borealis has their own schedules and their own considerations. Once the sun sets, magic starts, the colors and light in the sky quickly change. At first there may be remains of the sun in form of rays of reds, oranges, and yellows or blues. Soon after at nautical sunset, will the sky will become a deeper and darker blue. This phase might be there for an extended period of time, much depending of the time of year. Soon after utter and lovely blackness. Perhaps the time that i love the most is before sun-up when it is totally dark for the eye, but it is by far dark, the sun is already giving off hints in the horizon too faint for the eye to see. In this example I arrived at Þingvellir an half hour before sun-up, the emerging light was simply stunning when seen through me lens.
Know your way around
Some places is situated near hazardous elements like steep cliffs, other is less accessible and yet others might to be difficult to find or get back from. It strongly recommendable to know your turf. This may mean showing up an hour or so prior to sunset to get familiar with the surroundings and to figure out the best place to set up for the shot. If not for safety, then think composition, get out there early allows you to composition the landscape in your photo in an entirely different way.
Another benefit to arriving early is that you will have time to set up the camera in the daylight instead of fumbling around in the dark. Your photo buddy will not enjoy you waving around with a flashlight, ruining his exposures, and above all ruining his night vision.
When shooting into the night, long exposures is the main thing. Sometimes i expose the foreground for up to 5-6 minutes, and the stars for some 10-15 seconds (using the magic glove technique). A good, sturdy tripod and ball head is critical to stabilize the camera and give you sharp shots.
A good interval meter is almost a necessity. I love the Viltrox jy-710rx for several reasons, but perhaps the most its visual timer when shooting manual bulb. Several camera systems is supported, I recommend looking at the linked page, the power within their interval meters is strong, and most camera systems seems to be supported.
A strong flash light, preferably a strong led. The blue light not only allows you to navigate safely but also light paint elements in your composition with ease.
Bring a microfiber cloth to clean your lens for vapor. You might be tempted to buy microfiber cloths that are made for cleaning eye glasses, but be careful, some of the microfiber cloths sold at eye glasses stores or for cleaning eye glasses have cleaning solvents in them and can damage the coatings on your lenses. My recommendation is to get a microfiber cloth from a camera store. They do come in 18% grey, how neat is that. I cannot recommend using such a cloth For removing solid particles like a mud splashes. For that I use lens cleaners and a lot of lens cleaning tissue. Using a cloth for such cleaning will effectively be creating a variation on sandpaper.
Pay attention to your glass, using a fast sharp prime is to be preferred. This does not need to set you back thousands of dollars. I use a Samyang 14mm f/2.8, which did set me back with 200 usd. This lens deserves a blog post by itself, and I hope to get around doing just that in a very near future. In short it is a Dark Hole of a lens; it will not let any light escape, and is super sharp even when shooting wide open. Using a prime combined with a narrow aperture will also make it easy to produce starburst effect. These diffraction’s can introduce a magical element to your photos.
Finally remember warm clothes, and plenty coffee, prepare for a cold night.
Pay attention to focus
If you are using the Samyang you are in luck, it is dead easy to focus at night. It is true focus can be a challenge when it comes to night photography. Do not expect to be able to use any sort of auto focus. If you focus is in the range of Infinity, then a distance light, a star a street lamp can be useful, use the focus magnification and get it right. other options is to using a flashlight illuminate something in your scene will provide enough light for to focus. If you setup before sun down you got the joy of focusing for the motive you are to take, while there is light for the Auto focus to work, remember to pop your equipment back to manual focus to prevent inadvertently changing the focus while shooting.
Use a catchy element
Try to find something to include in the foreground when shooting a landscape. This will increase the intensity of the photo. A foreground element will make the shot much more interesting to the viewer, and will help to lead the eye through the scene.