Exploring Night Photography

  By Kevin McElheran

The light at night is amazing especially when the only natural light is from the stars, moon, or just a small flashlight. Other forms of light also add character, deepen shadows and increase visual interest such as light from cars passing by, light pollution from nearby cities and towns that reflect from the clouds, or maybe it’s a single light on a pole in a farmyard several hundred feet away. Light is light whether you can see it or not, and if you’re shooting with a decent DSLR with good glass, the camera’s sensor will record it. If you’re wanting to take your photos to the next level or raise the bar, mastering night photography will certainly do it. The learning curve is a great ride and the end results are amazing!

There are several challenges to shooting at night but a little planning and forethought will help. I like to travel away from the city where it’s dark and quiet. Often times I’m alone so I make sure I tell my wife and family where I’m going and provide an approximate time when I’ll be back. During late fall and winter, it gets dark early so I’m usually out the door at around 5pm and will get back home around 7am. The deeper we go into winter, the darker and cleaner the skies are, resulting in stunning milky way galaxy shots. That being said, there are a few challenges you must overcome for night photography:

  • The most important thing about night photography is being prepared. Make sure you have all the things you need to care for yourself, your gear and others if you’re not alone.

  • Making sure you have all the right equipment, camera and lens gear for shooting at night. A good sturdy tripod and a remote cable shutter release is a must have. Lots of batteries and a good DSLR is also necessary along with a wide angle f2.8 lens is essential if you’re wanting to capture amazing Milky Way galaxy shots.

  • Learn how to focus your camera on a subject at night. This is one of the questions I’m asked quite often and it is a subject I cover in detail in my workshops.

  • Roll with the conditions. If you’ve rented camera equipment for a specific date and the weather is less than ideal, go shoot anyway. Keep an open mind, use what’s given you, adapt with it, and create some photos. If you were hoping for clear skies and it’s all fogged in, snowing, raining, or the light is “bad…” These are all ideal times for amazing photo ops!

If you are interested in exploring Night Photography further, Kevin is offering a Night Photography Field Workshopthis fall. Participants will learn how to compose, focus and shoot long exposure shots of the Davidsburg Community Church with Kevin McElheran. This session is during the new moon which will yield the dark skies of October accompanied by the very bright milkyway galaxy. If skies are cloudy, the light pollution from the city is absolutely beautiful paired up with the old church structure.