Introduction to Night Photography--Mark Holmes.
(Photo above shot while crossing the bridge.) Took a one time photo workshop last night in Coronado, CA. It was only 15 minutes or less from me as I shot down I-15 to the end of it, then north a short hop on I-5, then over this massively tall, winding bridge to the island of Coronado. What a beautiful place this is. I drove to the Ferry Landing and there were people walking around, sitting in outdoor cafe's, water, beach, pier....
I had about 45 minutes to take it in before I was to meet the Photographer putting on the class at 6:00pm. I got a few shots before the class started
I got my backpack full of gear and was carrying my tripod and sure enough right on time was Mark dressed all in black with a black cap on his head. There was one other girl waiting with her camera and tripod. Mark was very nice and mentioned that we both used the Nikon D300 and the same zoom lens (18-200 VR Nikkor) most of the time. The girl had a nice Canon camera. We waited for about 10 minutes for the other 4 to show up and one lady did finally make it, the others didn't. So the 4 of us walked down the beach area a bit and set up our tripods. It was already past the blue sky stage and quickly moving into the black night sky stage. I usually try and get shots during this blue before black time as that is the best for night shots. The shot above I took before the class. Mark knows a lot about cameras and settings. I think I do but I don't know all the f-stop equivalents and I rely on my meter too much, as I was to learn during this class. We learned that the light meter in the camera tends to under expose trying to make up for the lack of light in the scene. This makes things brighter than you want them to be. You have to adjust for this. Same is true when metering off snow in a winter scene. it wants to under expose to make up for all the lightness.
I did bring my shutter release cord that hooks into the front of my camera so I can take shots without shaking the camera. We shot some photos with the mirror locked in up position, also to keep the camera from shaking. I got most of his questions right...like what f-stop would be best for the night shots. I said f-16. This gets a nice sharp shot and it closer to the sweet spot on most lenses. Some tend to not be as sharp in the wide open or very nearly closed positions. Better in the middle zones usually. Mark also noted that you get a nice "star" pattern coming off the highlights in the scene, the bright light from lights in the scene with f-16.
I also was correct in saying I shoot at ISO 200. 200 is my lowest setting mostly used for bright scenes but I knew since we had the tripods we could do long exposures and thus use any ISO setting so why not use the one that gives you the least noise. The Canon cameras can also go down to 100 ISO. One girl had a very expensive Canon but she had just bought it (so she said) and didn't know anything about it. She also didn't know how to set up her tripod. She was a beginner and admitted so. That's fine we all have to start someplace. Since the class was so small Mark had more time to deal with her issues than he normally would. The other girl was more experienced and had even taken some of Mark's other classes.
I had not shot very much night photography. Only a handful of times did I ever remember to bring my tripod with me. Two or three times I'd go out with a friend of mine Tim Jensen in Seattle and he was a master at it. He'd help me. I got some nice shots of the Tacoma bridge with him on one accession. Last 4th of July I read all about the settings to shoot fireworks and took my tripod and went to the Owensboro, KY (where I was living then) fireworks. I took a nice folding chair, set up my tripod. Followed all the things I'd read and it worked like a charm. My best fireworks shots ever. So it does pay to take notes. Oh, I just remembered that in 2009 I went up in the Space Needle (there on a visit) and took a short tripod and it fit just right on this ledge where I could shoot between some bars to get the skyline of Seattle from the top. I was there way too early and my son Dustin was with me. It took hours before the sun finally started going down. I got plenty of shots before, during and after the sun was down. Worked out great. I really just kept experimenting with different settings, didn't know as much about it as I do now, that's for sure.
We also played around with flash. I'd brought my SB-600 flash and Mark's flash he realized had been on stand-by so long (by mistake) that his batteries were down. So he just used my flash. He showed us some slow-sync flash, and 2nd-curtain flash. Most folks have someone stand in front of some great night scene. Then they blast the person with the flash. The background is all black. You have to manipulate the flash to take in the background as well as evenly light the subject. My little S90 Canon has a setting for this. You'll see it as a flash icon with a person, and the person icon has a star or building behind them. This is forcing the camera flash to do a slow sync to take in the surroundings. Try it if you haven't already. I'll have to experiment more with using my SB-600 as I've only been using it to shoot indoor events.
To see the full skyline stitched together from 6 shots go here: PANORAMA.
We did some fun slow exposure flash shots.....I drew the word PHOTO with a pen light and then posed next to it with my arms folded....all taken in one shot. Mark also tried it and did it the first try.
I can't wait to take another class with Mark!