Let’s wing it!

Night photography is a special challenge: In order to get clear skies you need to find a spot without light spills from big city illuminations. As there is so little light, your exposure times will be extra long and you need a proper tripod to keep your camera still. And if you are as mad as me and my friend-in-photography A___ and attempt night photography in winter, you will also need some thermal underwear!!!

No kidding, people. We nearly froze our arses digits off on this little shoot that we undertook a couple of nights ago. First it took us a while driving out of Dublin to get to a spot where the night sky wasn’t bright orange. 15 minutes of hairpin bending on small country lanes, and we found a dark motorway bridge from which we could attempt our experiments with car trail photography.

Did I mention that I am a believer in the “Let’s wing it”-school of photography? That night was another example. Well, my function on the shoot was as assistant and company, so there was no pressure on me to get any particularly presentable results. Nonetheless, in hindsight, I could’ve thought about the shoot a bit more and prepared myself properly. As it was, I went along and only had my camera with me – no tripod, remote shutter release or any other indispensable accessory to night photography. I was thoroughly impressed with my companion who was properly kitted out and therefore got some pretty good results.

Well, as I was there, I decided to try catch some car trails, too. And it is amazing what a steady hand and a bridge railing can do for you. The above image, ISO 1600 of course (grain, grain, grain), large aperture (f 4.0) and long exposure (1,3 secs), was shot balancing marky Mark from the railings, pointing it at the motorway below me. I love how the ghostly headlights just appear out of nowhere and light up the road ahead. Aiming just for one passing car, I was able to create the impression of an invisible car that is shining its headlights. The white lines are the trails of the headlights, of course.

We messed around on the bridge for about an hour and a half. Focussing the camera was the hardest part. Much of the (good) results owe to fluke and luck. And manipulating the camera in the dark was a bit messy, too. It’s all very well that there is a display on the camera that you can use for setting the settings, but finding the interfaces for remotes etc is mere guesswork. So lesson of the day night: Get the camera out in a dark room at home and try some manual setting, familiarising yourself where the various little buttons are. Could come in handy if you try a night shoot.

Alternatively bring a torch. *doh*

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