One area of photography that I’m beginning to love more and more is the art of low light pre-dawn imagery. Capturing light colour that is bearly visible to the human eye can create some dream-like images and produce some very interesting and sometimes strange results. But this genre of photography requires patience and attention to detail in your workflow.
|Robin Hoods Bay
ISO100 f/11 194sec
Low light photography requires long exposures often in excess of five minutes so a sturdy well set tripod is a must, set it as low as you can for your composition and bed it in to any soft surface, you could also use a bungee cord attached to your camera bag to give extra stability. The camera needs to be set on mirror lock up as even the tiny vibrations from the mirror flipping up can last for several seconds creating a soft image and ruining your masterpiece that you waited five minutes for. A cable release is also essential to avoid any need to touch the camera during the exposure.
ISO100 f/11 60sec
Metering is a little difficult in low light, most cameras only meter up to a 30 second exposure, beyond that your on your own using the ‘Bulb’ mode. You could use a handheld light meter if you have one or another technique is to use the camera ISO to give you a reading. A technique I learned from read the book ‘Nocturn’ by a master of low light photography Bruce Percy. In aperture priority mode set your required aperture then increase the ISO until the meter reading is within 30 secs. You now need to reduce the ISO back to the original setting i.e 100 ISO taking note of how many f/stops you change it by i.e if your camera said it needed 30 seconds at ISO 800, you have reduced the light sensitivity by 3 stops (800 to 400 to 200 to 100). So now you need to add 3 stops to the exposure time of 30 secs i.e 30s to 60s to 120s to 240s. Once you have this base guide take a test shot and use the camera histogram to fine tune your exposure. Remember to use graduated filters as required to balance the exposure.
ISO100 f/11 301sec
Focus and composition is sometimes difficult in low light situations, often it can be hard to see anything through the viewfinder so careful consideration of the scene is needed and sometimes a trial and error approach is needed. If there is an object in the near foreground you specifically wand sharp you could use a bright torch to illuminate it to allow for manual focusing but I generally find that the infinity setting on the lens yields reliable results and ‘live-view’ is fairly useless in low light
ISO100 f/11 244sec
Getting out there and shooting well before dawn and testing a few different techniques can often give some very pleasing results just remember the flask and warm coat while waiting for those seconds to tick by.
|Runswick Bay 1hour before sunrise
ISO100 f/11 275sec