Night Photography

Low Light Fun @ Nuit Blanche

We had some fun with our new gear at Nuit Blanche last weekend. We wanted to test out the high ISO capabilities of our new camera bodies, so we didn’t bring a tripod with us. Here are a few shots, all taken handheld between ISO 800-6400.

E-session – Michelle & George

After a whirlwind week in Thunder Bay shooting Patricia & Larry’s wonderful country wedding, we drove straight through to get back to T.O. for an urban/beach themed engagement shoot with Michelle & George, which was scheduled for Saturday evening. The couple had just moved into their new house in the beach, so we planned a route to explore their new surroundings. The weather wasn’t exactly cooperating, and an accident delayed Michelle coming back from her make-up appointment, but there was no turning back. We all just had to adapt. We are quite pleased with the results, and hope that the bride and groom to be are as well…

Shoot the (Super) Moon

For an event from which we tend to see the same image ad nausea, the SuperMoon on May 5th, 2012 sure garnered a lot of hype. And most of the pictures all look the same (mine included). But just because other people will likely take the same picture doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Especially new photographers. You can learn a lot by shooting a little white dot in an otherwise vast black nothingness. Seeing as the moon is something that new photographers tend to struggle to capture, here are a few variations of how you can shoot the next Supermoon (or any moon, for that matter.)

  1. You can try Exposure Compensation, but your camera may not give you enough leeway to underexpose enough to retain detail in the Moon.
  2. You can also try Spot or Center-Weighted Metering on the moon itself to retain detail.
  3. However, the best way to learn how your camera works is to use it in Manual mode. Start with settings along the lines of: ISO 100, Aperture around f11 and  a Shutter Speed in the vicinity of 1/30 of a second. Keep in mind that this shutter speed requires a tripod for stabilization (remember my mantra… Below 60, stabilize), which is almost always a must when shooting scenes at night.

The key thing to remember here is that we need to under-expose the shot, because the camera’s light meter will see a primarily black image and try to bring it up to what it thinks is the “proper” exposure, resulting in a black sky with a bright white dot with no detail in it.

Always be prepared!

Last night we went to a wine and food tasting/pairing at Deer Creek (a local country club), put on by the local wine shop where I make my wine. As is common with most events we attend, I brought my camera, just to take pictures of the food and general snapshots for my own uses. Well, it turns out that the photographer/videographer for the event broke his leg earlier that day, so they didn’t have anyone dedicated to capturing the event. Enter, Moi! I constantly complain that I always take too much gear with me for fear of not having something I need/want, so last night I made a conscious effort to “pack light.” I only brought my camera, a 16-50mm f2.8, a 30mm f1.4 and a flash. It was all I needed in a pinch and it simply reassured me that less is often more when packing gear. And trust me, my back is VERY happy about this revelation.

The owner of the shop and the marketing team that put on the event were very grateful for my last minute substitution and it could very well lead to more work… Not to mention a few selections from the owner’s private cellar.

Always get set-up shots when shooting events. Remember, your telling a story with your images.

Lamb Lollipop

Chocolate Mint Cheesecake Lollipop

 

The Owner, Trainer, Caterers and Marketing Team

*Clink*

Show some Motion – Redux

Following in the footsteps of my previous post, here is a more advanced way of showing motion in your pictures. Instead of staying still and letting the motion pass in front of your lens, pan along with a moving subject to keep it sharp, while blurring out the stationary surroundings.

This takes some practice and a degree in patience (from an accredited institution ;)). But don’t give up on it (unless you are on the verge of destroying your equipment) because the results can really wow people.

By panning along with the train and using a slow shutter speed, I was able to keep the moving train sharp while blurring the foreground with the movement of my camera.

Recipe for this shot:

  • Shutter Priority mode (S or Tv)
  • Dial in a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second to start, then adjust to taste
  • Use a low (100-400) ISO value
  • Set your autofocus to Continuous (or AI Servo for you Canon shooters)

Execution:

  • Handhold your camera and start tracking along with the moving subject well ahead of where you will actually be taking the picture (the apex).
  • Press the shutter button halfway down to initiate focus.
  • Twist/pivot at the hips while tracking along with the moving subject.
  • When the moving subject is almost directly in front of you, press the shutter button the rest of the way down, but keep panning, follow through with with shot. If you stop abruptly, your subject will likely end up blurry.

A great way to practice this technique is to take pictures of cars passing by on the street.

Comments or suggestions about this post? Feel free to post them below.

Show some Motion!

One thing that new(er) photographers think is out of reach for them is taking pictures of moving subjects. What they don’t realize is that the end result doesn’t necessarily have to be totally sharp or in focus. Playing around with slower shutter speeds not only teaches you how your camera works, but it can create some of the most exciting and interesting results for novices.

Take the example below. To show motion like this, it is simply a matter of choosing a slower shutter speed (recipe after the pic)…

Show some motion!

To add interest/contrast to this pic, I placed the tree in the foreground so I would have something sharp in my frame to offset the blurriness of the moving train.

Recipe for this shot:

  • Shutter Priority mode (S or Tv)
  • Dial in a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second or slower
  • Use a low (100-400) ISO value to retain detail
  • Stabilize your camera (a tripod is preferred, but anything that will prevent camera movement can be used)
  • Turn on your camera’s 2 second timer to avoid unintended camera movement when you press the shutter button down

Get out and try this, it’s easy and fun. It doesn’t have to be dark out, but try to avoid experimenting with this in bright sunlight, as it can result in overexposed images.

Feel free to leave some feedback below if you try this…

Don’t Hate, Compensate!

When it comes to getting great exposures, the more you leave up to your camera to decide, the more your camera will likely get it wrong. The more you take control, the more you’ll learn and the better the results will be. This is why most Pros shoot in Manual mode, so they have full control over their exposures. If you aren’t quite there yet, here is a tip to start compensating for your camera’s shortcomings when shooting in P, A/Av, or S/Tv modes.

Exposure Compensation allows you to adjust for your camera’s metering system when it gets the reading wrong (although technically, right). This happens most often with an overly bright or overly dark scene, and sometimes it does this as if on a whim. If the camera sees too much dark, it will automatically compensate for it and make it brighter. And if it sees too much brightness, the opposite will occur, you’ll get a darker exposure. Oftentimes the easiest way to correct for this is to use exposure compensation to trick the camera into getting it right.

Example: Have you ever taken a picture only to have the resulting image come out with what seems to be a grey wash over the entire thing (like the image below)? Well, this is your camera’s metering system getting it wrong (although technically, right). It “sees” so much brightness that it figures it should darken it in order to achieve a “middle grey” exposure… Camera Fail! To compensate for this, you’ll want to use some + exposure compensation to brighten it up. How much should I use, you ask? Well, that depends on the overall scene, but a good starting point would be +1. Not enough? Add some more. Too much? Take a bit off. That is the beauty of learning on a digital camera… You don’t have to pay for each exposure like we had to when we shot film.

The camera saw so much white in this shot, that it darkened it down to what it thought was the proper exposure...

To compensate for the fact that my camera got the light wrong in my first shot, I dialed in +1 EV (i.e. Exposure Compensation) on my camera and it brightened it right up.

Another example: Have you ever tried to take a picture of the moon? How did that work out for you? Big, bright, blown out white blotch where that nicely detailed moon was supposed to be? Black sky now kind of grey-ish? Yup. Thought so. Usually this is an exercise in frustration for new photographers, but if you can learn to think like your camera, you’ll be able to balance out its shortcomings. In this case, the camera is seeing an abundance of black (the night sky) and a smaller bright spot (the moon), so it thinks the scene is too dark and wants to brighten up the exposure. The fix? Simply use some negative exposure compensation to right the ship.