Low-Light is a great adventure. Take a photo adventure as the sun goes down. Use this soft low light to accent colors or to extend shutter speeds for interesting effects. Shoot the silky moving water as the light goes low. If you do not own a neutral density filter set, this is the time of day to dial down the aperture and dial in the longer shutter speeds.
This water fall was captured around 30 minutes before sunset. I setup my tripod for the light available was minimal. The image was captured with a long exposure around 20 seconds. I used a small aperture set to f/22.
You may ask why the aperture is said to be small but is written with a relative large number. For anyone new to the concept, The aperture or f-stop of the lens is the size of the opening for light to enter through. Think of the number as a fraction. The larger the number in the divisor, the smaller the value of the equation. Just remember f/22 is a smaller opening than f/4.
Why use a small aperture or is a small aperture required for low- light shooting? The small aperture is not required. I will explain why I choose the aperture f/22. The small aperture served to help create the effect I was after. I wanted the water to be silky. So I needed a shutter speed in a range greater than one fifth of a second. Yes. I could have used a shutter speed around 2 seconds. But, the other effect in the image I wanted was sharp focus from the rock in the foreground to the top ledge of the waterfall. Here in lies another effect that is link to the aperture. As the aperture gets smaller, the area in the image that is in focus grows deeper. This is known as depth of field. I will not explore the technical definition of depth of field at this time.
Why did I want a deep depth of field and what is it doing for me? This waterfall has two ledges and vines growing on its face wall. I definitely wanted the rock in the foreground and the vines in focus. That is easy enough with a medium size aperture, but I also wanted the upper ledge to by partially if not mostly in focus. Using aperture f/8 or f/11 (one of the aperture numbers that falls toward the middle between the largest aperture f/4 for my lens and my maximum aperture f/22) would have been fine for focusing on the front edge of the vines. That would have put the rock, the vines and some of the water in sharp focus. This would have been a depth of field range was from ten feet in front of the camera to near twenty feet. By choosing f/22 and focusing on the front edge of the waterfall, I extended my area of focus (depth of field) to the upper ledge of the waterfall. This depth of field range was from ten feet in front of the camera to near forty feet.
As the light of the sun fades away, the pulse of your city will quicken before you. You will see amazing color open like blossoms around you. You will be witness to people, buildings, traffic, and events; each telling its own story.
The image of the umbrellas shows the exiting play of colors and reflections you find shooting at night. Again, I setup my tripod and the image was captured with a long exposure around 35 seconds. I again used a small aperture set to f/22. By choosing f/22 and focusing on the green umbrella, I was able to get the umbrellas and the building banners in my area of focus (depth of field).
Experiment with the smaller apertures. The results can be surprising. Take time to try both small and large aperture, because sometimes it is the larger apertures that give the scene the right look. Look for a large aperture discussion in future posts.
Equipment recommended for low-light/night photography:
- remote trigger for your camera or know how to use your camera's self timer
- small flash light
- Camera that can use shutter speeds up to or beyond 30 second
- Watch with second hand or a Stopwatch - Used to time shutter speeds in "bulb" mode
More things that add to the adventure:
- Strobe and remote trigger (built into camera or add-on type) - More information on using strobes over at the Strobist Blog.
- friends to share in the adventure