Best Photography Tips – Shooting Night Landscapes 1

For many of us Night photography is an unexplored territory but if you have some interest, a trek can kick-start your passion for this genre of photography. Due to minimal air and light pollution in the hills, it’s a great opportunity to take great night shots.
Night photography in the hills can be very interesting. When exposed for a long time, the camera can see what our naked eyes cannot. One thing good about night photography is that the light situation does not change at all. Thought it’s a practice to sleep early in the hills, if you are passionate about night photography, you might end up spending the whole night under the stars!

Here are some tips on how to take great night shots.

Carry a Tripod

For night photography, the importance carrying a sturdy tripod for cannot be stressed enough. I call it – a night photographers’ best friend. Though it’s cumbersome to carry a tripod on a trek, it’s an absolute must if you are keen to take some good shots.

Most new lenses are equipped with a feature called Vibration Reduction (VR) or Image Stabilisation (IS) or Optical Stabilisation (OS). This will just allow you to shoot at a couple of stops slower and will control the blur but it cannot eliminate it altogether. Hence, this is not particularly helpful for night shots.

Mounting the camera on a tripod does not ensure that your pictures will come out sharp. Pressing the shutter release button while your camera is mounted on a tripod can result in slight shakes, enough to ruin your masterpiece.

If you don’t have a tripod and still want to shoot, try to find a rock or keep it on the ground. Low angle shots can look very interesting at times.

Self timer is a very handy utility that all cameras are equipped with. This can come as a very handy tool when shooting at shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds. For longer exposures you will need a device to control the shutter externally.

LaknavaramEturnagaramBikeTrip_15

This picture was shot at 9:30pm without a tripod by keeping the camera on the ground for about 3 minutes. Aperture f/11.0

Use Manual Focus

Most professional photographers prefer using Auto Focus for most cases, but for night shots, Manual focus is the preferred way.

Before getting into more detail, let me explain what this Manual focus means. It is the process of adjusting the focal point by rotating the focusing ring yourself and not using the Autofocus. This has no correlation with the Manual Mode (indicated by M in the modes dial). The Manual Mode (M) in your camera is to allow you to set Aperture and Shutter speed arbitrarily to control the amount of light coming in.

Your obvious question will be – why use Manual focus? This is because the camera’s auto-focus won’t work at such low lights. So, when we cannot see anything using our eyes, due to the darkness, how can we set the focus manually? Most lenses have a focusing distance indicator. (Unfortunately, the 18-55mm kit lens does not have this) To make the camera focus to infinity, rotate the focusing ring till the focusing distance indicates infinity. This will make sure that even the distant objects will be in sharp focus.

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n lenses which do not have this distance indicator, here is the solution. If you have a Canon, rotate the focusing ring to a little less than the left extreme. For Nikon and Sony users, rotate it to a little less than the right extreme.

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This picture was shot at Keylong. I spent almost the whole night under the stars! ExposureTime – 501 seconds FNumber – 14

Shoot in Manual Mode

Since the light at night is very low, the camera’s light meter won’t be able to determine the Shutter speed or Aperture while using in Aperture priority (A for Nikon and Av for Canon) or Shutter priority (S for Nikon and Tv for Canon) mode. This is one of the situations where we need to switch to Manual Mode (M) and take control of the Aperture and Shutter speed.

What settings should you choose for the exposure? There is no way we can tell you the exact settings. You will get know this using trial and error. An aperture of f/8 or f/10 is good enough to start with, for getting sharp pictures. You need to experiment with the shutter speed depending on what you want.

Since light at night is very less, an exposure of 30 seconds might not be enough especially if you want to capture star trails. In this case you need to use the BULB mode. This is a setting that is available only when you shoot in Manual (M) mode. If you keep decreasing the shutter speed in Manual mode, you come across this setting. In BULB mode, the shutter can be kept open for an infinite time period, provided your batteries don’t run out!

To use this mode, you need a wireless or a wired remote to control the opening and closing of the shutter. Pressing the remote for the first time will open the shutter and pressing it again will close it. Wireless and wired remote controls – required for shooting in BULB mode.

Wireless and wired remote controls – required for shooting in BULB mode.

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Roopkund032

This picture was taken at Loharjung in the Roopkund trek. Occasionally, I saw the clouds glowing and wanted to capture it. Exposure 30 Aperture f/4.2 Focal Length 34 mm .

   

I used an exposure of 30s (the maximum you can do without a remote)

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Thank you for reading the post. You might like to read my previous posts.

This article is written by Saurabh Chatterjee. He is a professional photographer and a photography trainer. He strives to ‘make every camera-owner a great photographer’ through his photo tours and Photography workshops.

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