Capturing the Night

To many, the dark may be a sign to close curtains and remain safe indoors. But to more and more photographers in today's era, the darkness is a calling for more delicate and imaginary photographs that capture the eye.

Night photography first became a leading step in the field during the early 1900's. Photographers had begun to see that using light from street lamps and even moonlight gave their developed pictures a more incandescent feel and opened a portal into a beautiful and timeless reality.

Some of the pioneers in this field, such as Bill Brandt and Brassai, first established night compositions within the streets of Paris. They used the city's evocative decadence and somewhat hidden beauty to develop some of the most famous night photographs of all time. Since the early 1900's, many other photographers including American based Steve Harper have set out to establish courses aimed specifically towards night photography (the first of which opened in San Francisco in the 1970's). This boom in night photography interest enlarged what was formerly a niche market and has grown into a very popular form of photography.

There is a vast choice of subjects for night photography including landscapes by bright moonlight, floodlit buildings, bonfires, city profiles, firework displays and scenes by candle light. These in all, create a strong starting point for any enthusiastic photographer whether they are a beginner or an experienced shooter.

But you must all be thinking, how is it possible to take such delicate and evocative photographs in the dark?

The key to this is to use a tripod and larger lens (typically around 180-200mm). As most Night photographers try to capture the flow or movement within an image (for instance, cars passing through a city centre), the tripod is used as a way of allowing long exposure times to take place whilst the viewpoint remains steady. Alternatively, if you wish to take images without using a tripod and the needed preparation, it is often common to change your camera settings to manual as the automated setting tends to create poor images in low light levels.

For the more professional photographer who has a spare €10, it is always a good idea to purchase a shutter release cable of some sort. This will greatly reduce the 'shake' effect of the camera if manually taking a photo. Without this camera shake, more definitive and 'crispier' images can be taken.

If you're beginning to get to grips with long exposure photography then why not try something new? A very common form of night photography which is used widely for commercial imagery is that of bracketing exposures. This process involves separating exposures by using two or maybe even three stops. By exposing the film, then closing and opening the shutter after a short time period, images can gain intensified light and depending on the film used, hazes of greens or commonly blues create a washout effect which is most evocative.

Night photography is most certainly becoming a vast market for consumer buying, so now's the time to pickup these skills and create some stunning photography of your own.

author: Mark Freeman

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