Tag: night photography

Epic Polar Lights: How to Photograph Aurora Borealis

I’ll dedicate this topic to one of the most loved phenomenon in landscape photography: Aurora.

Aurora is a natural dancing light in the Earth sky, visible in the night at high latitudes. This is why it can be called borealis or australis.

When I observed aurora borealis for the first time, I was almost crying.

It’s a great emotion and, as a photographer, I would like to give you some advice on how to capture it forever.

What is Aurora exactly?

Before taking shots to a phenomenon like this, you should learn about what it consists and how it works.

It’s very curious to know that the interaction between the terrestrial magnetosphere and the solar winds produces the dancing lights.
You’ll see colored bands or vortices in the night sky (when the lights are visible and bright).

Aurora can be diffuse or discrete. The first seems like a big colored glow; the second consists of spirals, curls or bands and is the strongest.
Its unit of measurement is Kp scale and goes from 1 to 10 (in order of strength).

The colors of the lights: not always green!

The composition and density of the atmosphere and the altitude determine the color of the aurora light.

An excited atom that returns to the ground state sends out a photon with a specific energy. This energy depends on the type of atom and on the level of excitement. We’ll perceive this energy of the photon as a color.

At very high altitudes, in addition to normal air, there is atomic oxygen. Molecular nitrogen and molecular oxygen compose it.
Aurora is made energetic electrons that are strong enough to split the molecules of the air into nitrogen and oxygen atoms. The photons that come out of Aurora have therefore the signature colors of nitrogen and oxygen molecules and atoms. Oxygen emits green and red photons.

lofoten isabella tabacchi aurora

Usually, the green is the main color of the polar lights color mixture.
When Aurora is very strong, you can observe a purple-red band on the highest part of the photon emission.

At the highest strength of the polar lights, nitrogen molecules get a mixture of blue and red emission and create a purple edge at the bottom of the aurora.

So, the polar lights can be not only green. Indeed, the strongest auroras appear in lower latitudes as enormous red glows: the rare “blood auroras”.
Images from the International Space Station show the rings of aurora near the poles: when the polar lights are very strong, the rings expand and the red emission on the top of the green lights comes down to the lower latitudes.

Popular culture believes red lights as a portent of disgrace.

“Blood auroras” are said to have foretold the death of Julius Caesar (44 BCE) and they presaged the American Civil War (1860), the second World War.
A rare red aurora appeared also in November 2003, in the sky of the Dolomites, when I was a child.

Nothing bad happened and you can take a vision of that phenomenon at this link: http://www.cortinastelle.it/aurora20112003.htm .

Where and when?

Aurora occurs usually in the “auroral zone”, above 60° north or south of the equator. Australis are the lights appear in the Southern hemisphere, Borealis in the Northern.

As written in the previous paragraph, it’s very rare in the lower latitudes.

We can mainly observe aurora, for instance, in the north of Norway, Iceland or Alaska in the north of the planet, or in New Zealand, Tasmania in the south. We have always to be in the “auroral ring” around the poles.

But when? Well, usually not in the Summer, when the sky is too bright in that latitudes (the daytime is almost 24h long during that season); the best time frame is from September to April and the highest solar activity is usually during the Equinox time.

During my travel in Lofoten Islands, I’ve found very useful some apps about aurora forecast; you can find them in the App Store (IOS or Android). You’ll get a vague idea about the activity in the evening you’ll plan your shooting.

How to take a great aurora shot

Is not difficult to immortalize a polar aurora (if you are in the best place in the best moment).
The best aperture and ISO sensibility are the same of a classic night sky shot but the shutter speed has not to be too long.

I usually keep it under three seconds, or I wouldn’t capture the shape of the lights movement.
For example, I took this shot in Uttakleiv beach, in Lofoten Islands.

lofoten isabella tabacchi

How to edit an aurora shot in Adobe Camera Raw (Photoshop)

The tastes of the people are various. I can see every day thousand kinds of aurora images post-processed in different ways. I’m going to explain my own method.

Here you can see a RAW file opened in Adobe Camera Raw. This is a discrete aurora I saw in Uttakleiv, in Lofoten Islands. The lights are very bright and the shape is almost great as I observed it that evening, but I’d like to improve the luminosity of the aurora and the contrasts.

aurora processing 1

The first thing I do when I begin to edit an aurora shot, is to go in Camera Calibration section.

I change the Camera profile Adobe Standard with Camera Flat. The lights become less bright and the shadows more open; this allows me to manage the lights, the shadows, and the contrasts better.

aurora processing 2

The following image shows the adjustments I usually set on an image like this.

I usually prefer to give a colder white balance that goes well with the green color.

aurora processing 3

aurora processing 4

But you can also prefer a white balance that shows well the colors of Aurora, like the brown-purple in the top of the green.

I usually decrease the highlights to increase much more the whites. I’ll have a much more contrasted, well shaped and brighter aurora.

I also open the shadows and the blacks a little bit and decrease the exposure to balance everything.

As you’ve just read Aurora it’s not difficult to capture and needs a very soft post-processing. So, plan your travel and reach the highest latitudes; you’ll live amazing emotions.

 

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Things You Should Consider when Shooting Night Events

Photographing night events offers a ton of exciting opportunities, not to mention the chance to get dressed up and attend a party, music festival, concert, or a wedding. However, this opportunity also comes with plenty of unique challenges. Low light, tons of noise, and busy, unpredictable crowds can make it difficult to stay focused and capture some great shots.

To achieve a professional result with your night event photography, you’ll need to keep a few tips in mind as you head out for the evening. Shooting live events at night can be a lot of fun, especially if you’re well-prepared.

Gear Up

The key equipment you’ll need to shoot captivating event photographs at night is a fast lens. Ideally, you’ll use a lens with an aperture of at least f/2.8 or faster. Professionals might have a fast telephoto lens already in their arsenal. But for hobbyists or photographers who are just getting started, a prime lens with a wide aperture might be your best option.

Check out the equipment you’ve got on hand and choose a lens that you know will perform well in low-light conditions – fast focusing, crisp sharpness, and reduced noise. The lens you use will also depend on the situation. For an outdoor wedding, you might want a macro lens that will allow you to tightly frame intimate details. With a concert or a party, a wide angle might give you a better opportunity to capture the excitement and atmosphere of the event.

outdoor concert night photography

Your camera should ideally be able to handle a higher ISO setting, at least 1600 or higher. If you don’t already have a full frame DSLR and you plan to do a lot of night event photography, you might want to consider investing in one of these models. The larger sensors will capture more light, enabling you to use extreme ISO settings without excessive noise.

Get Set

To capture as much detail as your camera is capable of rendering, you’ll want to make sure you’re shooting RAW. That way, you’ll be able to make adjustments to things like exposure and white balance in post-production. It can be difficult to get your settings exactly right at night events where lighting conditions might be frequently changing.

night party photo

Crank up your ISO as high as your camera can handle. While you can clean up some noise in post, there’s nothing you can do with a blurry, out of focus image. You want your shutter speed to be as fast as possible, so a higher ISO setting will help you achieve this, as will opening your aperture as wide it can go.

Be Respectful

As the photographer, you don’t want to be intrusive and disturb the guests who are trying to enjoy the event. This isn’t about you; it’s about a performer putting on a show, a couple getting married, or a ceremony. Be calm and polite when you’re working with the crowd, even if it means missing a couple shots.

monks lighting lanterns photo

Also, some events, like religious ceremonies, and even concerts, will have specific rules around photography. Make sure you know what the rules are so that you can be sure to abide by them. It’s important to make a good impression, as you never know if this event could lead to your next big photography gig.

Find the Right Moments

Different night events will showcase different moments and your job as the photographer is to capture them. If you’re at an outdoor party, find people who are laughing, talking, and engaging in an expressive way. At a concert, look for impressive solos, interesting lighting, and interactions between the band and the crowd. At a wedding, keep your eyes open for emotional relatives or intimate glances and touches between the newlyweds.

bride and groom private moment

These are the kinds of photos that will be captivating, dynamic, and eye-catching, even to viewers who didn’t attend the specific event. If your captures contain vivid emotion, you’ll speak to any audience.

Make sure you’re always aware of what’s going on around you so that you don’t miss any of these key moments. Find locations where you can benefit from a solid vantage point and avoid some of the distractions of these kinds of events, and where you can offer a unique perspective on the scene.

Keep Practicing

You probably won’t have an entire memory card filled with great shots after your first night event, but if you follow these tips, you’ll have one or two solid images that will motivate you to keep working at your new skill. You’ll figure out for yourself what works and what doesn’t the more you practice, so don’t be afraid to take some risks and try new things.

The great thing about digital photography is that you have plenty of room to experiment with different equipment and settings until you achieve the results you’re looking for.

5 Tips to Photograph Parks at Night

Some of the most spectacular scenes you can capture at night will be in parks. We’re not just talking about city parks here, although they can be quite remarkable. Visit National Parks, with their incredibly expansive skies dotted with stars, or check out amusement parks, where you can find bright lights, vibrant colors, and thrilling movement.

While these locations will definitely provide you with some exciting subject matter, you won’t get the results you’re looking for unless you follow a few tips, especially if it’s your first time out. To shoot in these places in lower-light settings, you’ll need a more advanced camera, a solid wide-angle lens with a fast aperture, and a tripod.

With your gear packed and your location scouted, head out and capture some of the most incredible night photography you’ll ever take – by keeping these tricks in mind.

1. Get Your Timing Right

The best time to shoot at night is about a half hour after the sun has slipped below the horizon. You’ll hopefully still be able to capture a bit of afterglow in the sky, but it will be plenty dark to highlight the artificial light in an amusement park. If you’re shooting at a National Park, you’ll have just enough light left to keep some of the details in your landscape and whatever foreground elements you’ve included in your composition.

amusement park night photo

You’ll still be able to get some impressive shots after that vibrant glow is gone, though. The lights on the carnival rides will pop against a velvety black background, and in National Parks, you’ll start to be able to capture the detail in the stars.

2. Adjust Your ISO and Shutter Speed

Increasing your camera’s sensitivity to light will help you accurately capture the details in low light settings, so dial up your ISO to 400 or more. This will depend on the capabilities of your specific camera, as you don’t want to push your sensor to the point where you start seeing a lot of noise.

national park night photography

You’ll also want to switch up your shutter speeds. Using a longer exposure time will allow you to capture some movement, but you’ll need to use a tripod and make sure you’re not jostling the camera when you release the shutter. The goal here is to keep static elements of your composition clear while letting the moving parts blur into a colorful, eye-catching pattern.

3. Try Your Camera’s Timelapse Mode

Since night shooting can be somewhat unpredictable, this is a great opportunity to experiment with your camera’s time-lapse feature. This means your camera will automatically expose a frame every four seconds or so, and you’ll wind up with a very unique selection of different blurs, colors, and compositions.

amusement park blurred motion

This is similar to shooting video in that you’ll have a somewhat ongoing record of the scene, but this way, you’ll end up with a series of full-frame stills, instead of a full recording. This gives you some really interesting results that you can play with later, in post-processing.

4. Don’t Rely on Autofocus

Focusing is an issue at night since it’s hard to see the subject of your photo when there’s very little available light. Autofocus is especially unreliable, so you’ll need to get familiar with the manual focusing ring on your lens. You can also use Live View, if your camera allows it, to have a larger screen to work with as you try to focus your lens.

city park night photo

Try using a lens with a wide aperture, so the depth of field shouldn’t be an issue. You want as much of the park scene to be in focus as possible. Try to find areas where some of the ambient light hits your subject, to create a bit of contrast where you can aim your focus.

5. Composition Matters

Even when you’re shooting in the dark, it’s important to carefully compose each frame. As you would with any other landscape, try to include elements to provide a sense of depth – leading lines, foreground interest, and as much detail as possible.

It’s easy to let the star of the image be the lights from the amusement park or the sparkling stars in the night sky at one of the many National Parks around the world. But if you want to create a truly eye-catching, dynamic shot, you’ll need to be sure that there is more going on than just these special features.

composition night photography

Now that you’ve got some ideas in mind to help get you started photographing parks during the night, get out and start looking for some dynamic compositions. Remember that trial and error is one of the best ways to help teach yourself more about photography – so don’t be afraid to get brave and try some new things. With digital files to work with, you’ve got nothing to lose!

How to Capture Fireworks Photography

Throughout all history, humans have been fascinated by Fireworks, we all like the feeling of watching this combination of colors and explosions. This is not different for photographers, any photographer at one stage or another, dreams of shooting a great firework celebration, and who wouldn’t, so how to master Fireworks photography? This task for many of you that have not tried it might sound cumbersome and difficult to achieve. But don’t believe this myth with a few tips I will discuss in this article you will be set to go out there and start shooting Fireworks with great results.

This task for many of you that have not tried it might sound cumbersome and difficult to achieve. But don’t believe this myth with a few tips I will discuss in this article you will be set to go out there and start shooting Fireworks with great results.

fireworks photographyNikon D3100 ƒ/10 Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX DC HSM t:2s  ISO200

As many of other photographers when starting trying any technique, we try to think the more and more expensive equipment we get, we will get better results, this is not true. Is possible to get great results with non-high-end equipment.

For shooting fireworks you will need just the basics:

So Fireworks Photography How to?

Let’s start by discussing one by one the basic equipment required to go out there and start shooting.

15268271246_029310f947_bNikon D3100 ƒ/10 Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX DC HSM t:10s  ISO200

What Lens to use?

Most of the cases over 90% of the time I would recommend going wide, use a wide angle lens anything from 14mm~28mm.

Unless you plan to shoot the firework event from a really long distance (like a mountain or hill) to get the city skyline, but this brings other difficulties and this would require better and more expensive equipment.

The main approach of this article is based on the basis of shooting fireworks events from mid to close range distance, so go wide.

fireworks photographyNikon D3100 ƒ/8 Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX DC HSM t:4s  ISO200

Believe me, after you are stuck in the crowd looking for a good spot you will need to anticipate how high the fireworks will go over your subject, and you will need a wide angle lens for sure.

There are many wide angle lens that offers great quality for the price and performs great for fireworks photography and also other low light conditions. The first that comes up, if you are on a budget but want to get wide angle lens here are two I have used:

  • Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM (Good wide angle lens, fair quality and good results. Not for full frame sensors, Price range 450€)
  • Samyang 14 mm f/2.8 Aspherical AE AS IF ED UM (Very Good Lens for the price, Strongly recommended if you want also to do some astrophotography. Not AF, Price range 400€)

There is no need to have large aperture lenses used for low light photography.

Is wrongly believed that a large aperture lens f/2.8 or less is needed for fireworks photography this is why most of my fireworks photos are shot in the lens sweet spot aperture around f/8~f/11.

frieworks photography

Nikon D610 ƒ/8 Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR t:4s  ISO200

Tripod

Off course you will need a tripod, but which one? There are many good tripods out there. If you are into long exposure photography, night photography or any other that will need the use of a tripod, I suggest you buy from the beginning (if possible) a good carbon fiber tripod, because these tripods are really light and easy to carry around.

Look for versatility when looking out for a tripod, the different settings that will let you use it in different types of photography. For example, I use a Benro Carbon Fiber tripod that also can be set up as a monopod and different positions.

If you are on a budget any tripod will be good to start shooting fireworks events, remember is most likely that you will be moving around crowds and going light is the best way to go.

fireworks photographyNikon D610 ƒ/8 Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR t:10s ISO200 (not so good location due to crowded show)

Shutter Release

For remote shutter release, as many long exposure photographers will tell you to keep in your bag a wired shutter release. And why is this? from experience many of the wireless shutter release I’ve tried they tend to fail at one moment or another. In fireworks shows is critical you get your camera ready to shoot as soon as you want.

So if you like to carry around cordless shutter release is ok, but soon enough you will know the importance of taking your old fashion wired shutter release.

There are many white brands for any camera cheap shutter release you can choose from.

fireworks photography

Nikon D610 ƒ/8 Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 ED VR t:4s ISO200 (not so good location due to crowded show)

Camera Settings

Contrary to what you might believe, for fireworks, there is not need to have a fast lens (great aperture), you will always try to shoot on the sweet spot of your lens, this is usually f8-f11.

All photographers have their own tricks and you will get yours with practice, here are my favorite settings for shooting fireworks:

  • Always shoot in manual mode
  • Set your aperture in your lens’s sweet spot. I usually use f8 (as you can see in the examples)
  • Use low ISO settings 200-400, don’t go too high usually most bright fireworks with lots of white will tend to blow your exposure.
  • Set your focus to manual and focus at the subject distance, since you will be using a fairly good depth of field focus won’t be a problem.
  • Use your shutter release as soon you see the fireworks go up and hold the exposure until they have exploded.
  • Avoid shooting smoky parts of the show when you get too much smoke mixed with the fireworks is usually a blown out exposure not so easy to manage in post-production.

You can’t go wrong with these settings. Remember always to get really early to fireworks shows to get a good place and plan your shoot. So get out there and start shooting!.

Essential Night Sky Timelapse Tips for Photographers

Some of the most beautiful images captured on film are of the night sky. The night sky is something that is truly beautiful, but we often see it is as something that is static and unchanging. In reality, the night sky is always moving, always changing, even over the course of one night, a few hours, or a few minutes. The best way to see this is through night sky timelapse photos. These photos are not the easiest to capture, but when things line up perfectly, you can get a photo that is truly stunning.

The Right Equipment

The first thing you are going to need to do is get the right equipment for the job. A point-and-shoot camera is not going to work here because long exposure is the key part of capturing the moving sky. In order to get the best photo, you need good equipment, including:

– An excellent DSLR camera

– A wide angle lens

night-sky-timelapse-1

Make sure that your DSLR has a timer on it that will allow you to get a long exposure, usually at least several minutes to even longer. You will also need to have a battery that is fully charged and a lot of room on your memory card.

If you have one, or can find one, get a dolly system that can lock onto a coordinate and move along with the sky. This is good for getting very dynamic pictures, but it wouldn’t get the stars streaking across the sky because it is moving at the same speed as the sky.

Other items to make sure you have included a chair, a backpack for everything you need, extra batteries and a dim flashlight so you can see what you are doing without causing your eyes to constantly readjust.

night-sky-timelapse-2

Think Ahead

Before you head out to capture the perfect picture, you need to have a plan in place. You want to know exactly what kind of shot you are going to get, and what you want out of the photo shoot. Are you looking to capture star trails, the moon streaking across the sky, or are you hoping to catch meteors during a meteor shower? Do you want the Milky Way in the picture, or do you want a clear sky of stars with no Milky Way photography? These are all things to consider.

You should get away from the city because light pollution is going to have a negative impact on your picture. It will prevent you from seeing most of the stars, so you really need to make sure you get out of the city and away from all those lights. The farther away you go, the more clear the sky will be and the more stars you will capture in your picture.

Don’t be afraid to go out to the middle of nowhere to get the picture that you want.

night-sky-timelapse-3

Your Settings

Thinking of your settings, you should have the following settings on your camera to make sure that you are getting the most out of your pictures:

Your aperture should be set to around f/2.8, while your shutter speed can be around 20 seconds to start with. Try setting your white balance to daylight, and an ISO of 2000.

Now, if you do a timelapse where you have pictures that you put into a movie program and let them run together, then 20 seconds for each photo will work fantastically. It will give the impression that the stars are actually moving across the sky in the video. As for creating star trails in a still photo, try a long exposure setting of 30 minutes on your camera. Doing this will give the impression that the stars are streaking across the sky, creating a really beautiful design.

Again, it is about knowing what you want before you go about it.

night-sky-timelapse-4

Putting it Together

If you decide to have the long exposure of 30 minutes, then all you do is press the shutter button and just let the camera do its thing. Once it is done, you can do your post production editing of the photo to make it stand out and give it a bit more dynamic power.

If you decide to go with a timelapse video, then each 20 second exposure will record a slight movement of the stars. Take about 200 of these, and then put it together in a single video in post. With your raw images, you can use Adobe Lightroom to enhance them, then take them into After Effects as a sequence and create the timelapse effect. You can then use Adobe Premier to do the final cut. Once you do that, then each picture represents one frame of the video, creating a movie that tracks the stars as they move across the sky.

night-sky-timelapse-5

Getting some great timelapse photos and videos can be very easy when you go out with a plan to capture the best images possible. Keep going out each night to create the picture you want, and you can expect a lot of people to be impressed with how you have captured the universe through the lens of your camera.

Night Photography: Tips & Tricks

Photography is about light and shadow

, but which camera settings and equipment should be used for night photography when there are low light conditions? To show you how night photography works let me teach you some tips and tricks to get the most out of your shot.

Tripod

A tripod is an absolute must

if you want to shoot in the night because you will mainly shoot with a slow shutter speed and a tripod will avoid camera shake, even the slightest bit of camera movement will result in a blurred picture. So, you will receive much sharper images while using a tripod. Just choose a basic tripod, it should be solid and stable, but it shouldn’t weight too much and it should hold up your camera equipment weight.

A tripod with a spirit level would be a nice extra, but it’s not necessary because every modern camera has a built-in digital spirit level. For example the “Hama Traveller Pro” is a great basic tripod to start with, it has a spirit level and a ball head in order to be flexible. If you, for any kind of reason have no tripod with you, just place your camera on a steady surface in order to take a sharp image, but this is not recommended, so be sure to bring along your tripod when photographing a night scene.

London eye2

Remote Control

Using a camera remote control will make night photography much easier, it will minimize camera motion, despite they are actually not very expensive. While shooting a beautiful night scene, the best option would be to choose a wireless camera remote control to get the best out of your image.

Wide angle lens

I would recommend choosing a lens with a 2.8 aperture, so you can shoot at low ISO’s. Choosing a zoom lens for night photography can help getting better results because you will become more flexible, you can easily zoom in and out depending on the focal length you need. A great wide angle zoom lens for beginners would be the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8, it has a wide aperture (2.8), has an image stabilizer, a good sharpness, the 15mm focal length is very wide and overall range available in this lens is quite useful.

epfl-university

albert bridge

Use live view

If your camera supports the live view function, you should turn it on. It will help you to get more control over focus because you can easily zoom in to test your image sharpness and to see where your focus point is. So in the live view mode, you can adjust your focus point precisely while using the manual focus ring of the lens.

 

The starburst effect

You can achieve the starburst effect by using a narrow aperture, set the aperture at f16 and all the city lights in your image will become nice shiny stars. But mind that you will lose a lot of light while using a narrow aperture, so you have to use a slow shutter speed in order to get enough light.

botta building Vienna

Long exposures at night

Long exposures at night will bring stunning results

, for example, if you photograph a street which has a lot of traffic at night, a Ferris wheel or simply stars which can produce beautiful light trails in a combination of a slow shutter speed and the rotation of the earth. Don’t forget to bring along your tripod, as it is impossible to get a sharp image when you take an image at a slow shutter speed.

arches Lausanne

London eye

White Balance

If you shoot RAW, which I recommend for night photography, white balance actually is not as much of an issue since you can adjust the white balance in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw. Simply use the auto white balance setting if you are unsure about which white balance mode you should choose.

Image Composition

I would recommend studying the scene you want to photograph before it starts getting dark, so you have enough time to decide on an image composition, because as we know image composition is one of the most important elements of photography.

egg-full

We hope you enjoyed this guide! Now it’s time to pack your gear and set off to take some amazing night photographs to dazzle your clients. See you next time!

All images by Phil Davson.