Night Photography

Finally, getting my hands on a DSLR camera after wanting one for ages, was a little overwhelming, so many buttons, so many elements. It has literally taken months of fiddling around and taking endless random photos to get the hang of it. It is still is a learning process, only last month I discovered the setting for black and white photos. I flit between ‘sports’ mode (point and shoot) and aperture priority (I set the aperture and the camera calculates the shutter speed) which gives me pretty blurry backgrounds and this has become my camera comfort zone.

To spend an evening learning about night photography was a good opportunity to be coaxed from my comfortable place and stretch my photographic wings a little. Which is how I found myself on my knees outside the Chapter Arts centre in Cardiff, my view obstructed by the bottoms of a group of bloggers, whilst a man called Simon nipped light-footed backward and forwards as he waved his mobile photo torch about. We had been invited by Trunsun, who specialise in trips to the Northern Lights, a once in a life time opportunity to see one of natures most amazing displays and something you want to be able to record beautifully with a camera.

To begin with, Simon had us all switch to manual mode, so we took responsibility for setting the various aspects of the camera, ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture, rather than the camera doing the calculating. He talked through the different elements to ensure everyone was comfortable and then he got us to set to a slow shutter speed and take some photos, to see what clever things can be produced.

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Shutter speed at 8 seconds, with a very small aperture. Ruth of Let Her Eat Clean twirls her mobile round with the torch switched on.

I *may* have reacted like a Victorian being demonstrated the telephone “it does that….really!”

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Holding a camera still for 15 seconds is impossible, producing blur and camera shake.

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Placing the camera on a post for a 15 second shutter speed, gives the camera a steady base and reduces blur/shake.

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A 30 second shutter speed party trick. The person (Simon) disappears leaving only a pretty trail of lights created by his iphone torch. Purple Ella’s foot is placed in the composition for perspective. An alternative view was that a combination of darkness and that the camera was on the floor, meant I couldn’t see through the view finder properly to know it was there. Take your pick.

Other things I learnt:

Long shutter speed
Having never pushed the boundaries of longer shutter speeds, I discovered a whole other photo world.

A Tripod
Until now, I hadn’t thought I needed or wanted a tripod. Having discovered slow shutter speeds create some interesting results but work best with a steady base, I will consider investing.

Maybe a Tripod isn’t necessary
Posts, tables, bins, lamp posts, walls, the road. Anything solid can be used to balance a camera and create a steady surface. Leaning against a lamp-post and tucking your arms in can reduce camera shake and blur.

Just fiddle
Adjusting three main aspects of the camera combine to make the photo. ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed, it is worth playing around.

Don’t fear the manual
The evening was about using a camera on manual. Taking control of every aspect, adjusting all the various elements that make up a photograph in order to produce a pleasing result. Adjusting the different components before you have even considered subject or composition, seems a touch scary. However, digital allows lots of photographs and easy deleting.

Editing
Editing is OK, it is a good thing. A good photograph can be made better with a little bit of editing/cropping. Making things a bit more special is always worth doing (ironically, none of these photos are edited).

Expensive lens?
Simon was very clear that cheaper lens won’t compromise the quality of photographs and certainly are less likely to compromise my bank balance as much as a Nikon lens. That is a top tip. Sigma make good cheaper lenses.

The evening was sponsored by Transun who have some photography tips here and organised by the Joe Blogs Network. Simon of Iguana Photography was a reassuring and confident guide through the alternative world of manual photography. Many thanks for a great evening of light in the dark.

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22 Comments

    1. helloitsgemma

      Hatty, having read books, followed an on-line photo course, this was definitely the best. Practical and hands on. Also, it is great to be able to ask questions. I think you would really enjoy it, your photos are great, it would only enhance them. 

  1. Claire

    That looks amazing.  So sorry I couldn’t come due to poorly children.  I have learnt lots from your post though.  That’s good to hear about lenses as I’m planning on buying another make for my Nikon.

    Thanks. 

    Clairex

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