This week, the theme is to:

Photograph nightlife

This week, it’s time to get off our respective sofas, turn off the TV, and head out after dark. If you’re not a natural night stalker, you might be surprised at how different everything at night. If you’re worried about going out alone at night, grab a photog buddy – you can do this challenge together!

When I started doing photography as a serious hobby, I realized how bad my night photography technique was. Most of my travel photography had been done during the day. I guess my hubby and I aren’t much for the tourist nightlife. All I got were blurs and blobs in my photos. Over the years, I’ve practiced my night photography and figured out a few techniques.

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Street photography at night is a whole different experience than during the day. Pay particular attention to patterns of light and shadow.

Photo Chicago Street at Night

Couple crosses under elevated train in Chicago casting a shadow on the wet street.
1/100@f4.0 ISO6400

A higher ISO will help freeze motion at night, but motion blur is nice as well. Point your camera at moving lights, like from traffic, and you can create light trails in your photos.

Photo Chicago at Night

Light trails down State Street, Chicago. In bright city lights, it’s sometimes difficult to have a long enough shutter speed to capture light trails without all the other lights being too bright. That’s what filters are for – too bad I left mine back in the hotel. I compensated the best that I could.
4 sec@f22 ISO50

And if you have a long enough shutter speed, moving people will disappear!

Rainy Bean

There are always about a thousand people at the Bean in Chicago no matter what time of day or night. Using a long exposure makes all but the couple of people who were standing still while the shutter was open disappear.
20sec@f8.0 ISO100

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Night photography, just as any photography, is about light. Find some! The moon makes a great light source, especially if it’s full as do city street lights. Cities have an entirely different look when the street lights come. To your eye, there is sufficient light to see the scene, but your camera may not agree and the photos may be really dark. Night scene photos improve if you can put your camera on a tripod and lengthen the exposure. A longer shutter speed allows your camera to keep gathering light over a long period of time, making the photo brighter.

The tricky part of photographing cityscapes at night is finding the right place to set up. Need a clear view of the city from a distance.

Photo Houston at Night

Houston skyline at night. The tricky part of photographing cityscapes at night is finding the right place to set up. Need a clear view of the city from a distance. Luckily, there’s a park just west of downtown Houston with a clear view.

Most modern cameras have really good high-ISO performance. In general, the higher ISO bring in more grain in the photo, but I have no problem going up to ISO 8000 if I need to and adding a bit of noise reduction in Lightroom. If the scene is moving, for instance if you’re photographing people, or you don’t have a tripod handy, this is the way to go.

Photo Lanternfest

Child ready to loose lantern at Lanternfest near St. Louis, Missouri. Because the lanterns were moving with the wind, I had to keep my shutter speed quick and increase my ISO to get enough light. A quick pass of the noise reduction filter in Lightroom took out the grain that came with the increase in ISO.
1/125@f4.0 ISO8000

If you have a long enough lens, or a superzoom point-and-shoot, you can take photos of the moon directly. When photographing the moon directly, you might be surprised at how much light it’s actually reflecting. To get a good moonscape photo, don’t need to have as long of an exposure as you might think. Easy to blow out the moon and come away with a great blob of light. Dial back the shutter speed and the ISO and try to photograph some of the details on the moon’s surface.

Photo Supermoon over Clark Bridge

A few times a year, the moon will be a “super moon” appearing larger in the sky. The moon is reflecting a lot of light so no need for super long shutter speeds.
2.5sec@f8.0 ISO 100 – on a tripod!

This week, stay up late and explore your area at night.

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