4 Feb 2012

Experiences with night (and winter) photography

Since winter came finally to The Netherlands and it rather doesn't stay long here, I'd like to take each opportunity to take some winter pictures. This week due to the other assignments I hadn't time to shoot during the day. So the idea was to try something new - night photography. I'll not be writing about the obvious, like: use tripod, take longer exposure times etc. Instead, I'll show a process of getting to the final pictures with some learning moments.
First photo was taken in the city in a park. As one can see, no much color there, so in post processing I added a bit saturation to the greens and oranges to emphasize the tree which is reflected in the water a little bit. Another trick here is a vignette to let the tree come more to the foreground.
Another remark: as one can see the sky is white here. Well, in the real life it is not the case. Nowadays because of using sodium light for the street lighting the sky gets orange-ish color looking pretty ugly (at least almost) if you ask me. In this case simple white balance correction over the whole image solved the issue.
Then another scenery, from last Friday. The snow was fresh, it was cold, there was almost full moon, so probably good conditions to take some pictures. I took two lenses: Tokina 11-16 and Nikons 18-200 with me. Then I started shooting with the Nikon lens:
Original idea was to get a lonely tree in the picture and let the snow be good emphasized. The result is, well, not as I wanted. Then I have noticed a nice cloud formation above the tree. Another lens (switched to wide-angle Tokina), another effect:
Since the photo has been taken at the outskirts of the city, the light pollution effect was much less and I didn't  have to correct it. In contrary, here it worked in my advantage, creating an interesting gradient from dark blue to orange.
Then some learning moments: 
1. Forget the auto-focus (at least it didn't work in my Nikon D80). Manually focusing on something specific is also problematic, because you don't see much through the viewfinder. Then focus on infinity and you should be fine in such situation. But: in which direction should I turn my focus ring? Which brings me to the next point.
2. Know important aspects of your engine. When it's dark you need just to know how to setup basic parameters without having to look too much. In my case I used my smartphone to enlight the lens and choose proper focusing distance. But when you do it at -12 degrees it is not fun. 
3. Take a light source with you. In my case a smartphone was enough

Then another sceneries. This time I wanted to capture the moon:
 Here again the clouds help to make the picture a bit more interesting. And I liked the composition with the power lines (this is something I cannot deny - I like them). Another picture with power line:
Light is coming from a street lantern.
Finally, some shots from the city, at a channel. 
I started with quite wide-angle scene but then I decided to narrow it to emphasize the ship more.
 Last picture I liked because of the mixed colors created by various lights.
 Some last remarks:
After shooting in the snow think about your engine aftercare. Snow is nice, but snow is just water. So unfold your tripod at home, let it dry for couple of hours. The same for lenses and body. Take it out of your bag, put on a desk, let dry. Let your bag open as well and let moisture evaporate.