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Tag: night

Haida Clear Night filter. A solution to the light pollution

As one of the leading industries in photo filters production, Haida always has new ideas to improve the quality of our shots.

A good instance is the new nano Haida Clear Night filter. It was so useful to contrast the yellow light pollution in some places where I created some of my images!

This is, for example, the final result (post-processing included) of a shot taken with that filter in the Swiss Alps.

see filter isabella tabacchi

You’ll think that it’s very easy to have such uniform color of a nightscape with Adobe Photoshop and that the light pollution tint is removable also with some features in Adobe Camera Raw.

That could be true, but the following image shows as my editing work was very short thanks to the Haida Clear Night filter.

clear night with without

This image is composed of two not post-processed shots as Adobe Camera Raw shows them. I took the RAW files with the same white balance of 3700 K (Kelvin).

In the “WITHOUT” part, we can notice how the light on the horizon is strong, yellowish and has its impact on the rest of the sky, even in the mountains.

In the “WITH” half of this demonstrative picture, the light is not only white but even more restricted on the horizon area. Therefore, the stars are also more evident, outlined.

clear night filter haida

This is how the Clear Night filter looks in its original Haida Filter case.

You can notice the light blue color of the glass: this is why the yellowish pollution is contrasted!

The filter contains also a polarizing capability: it defuses light coming into the camera; so, the luminosity and brightness of the pollution will be confined at the horizon, the stars and astro magic like Milky Way will be more evident.

A parenthesis about the nano-coat meaning

The nano coat couldn’t miss in this product.

But, what does “Nano Pro” mean? Well, it’s the extremely thin, nano, a coat which covers the glass surface of the filter.

This is the great innovation of this new product line that makes the difference in comparison to the previous series. It gives resistance to dirt, reflections, and scratches.

Thanks to this coat, my filters fantastically survived sandy, earthy, rocky, icy places.

Furthermore, as a landscaper, I often take shots to waterfalls and rocky beaches where the waves move on the reefs and splash some water on the filter. Thanks to this coat I have just to clean lightly with a towel cause the drops come away very easily.

Another comparison: when the light pollution is very strong

CLEAR NIGHT

This is another “WITH-WITHOUT” image composed of two shots I took during my workshop at Lagazuoi hut, in the Italian Dolomites.

My students and I had the opportunity to immortalize this view of the highest peaks in the Dolomites of Ampezzo coming out from a “sea” of clouds.

Unfortunately, the light pollution of the valleys was reflected in the clouds and at the horizon; but the shot with the Haida Clear Night filter, with the same white balance, is completely different.

All these features help so much the post-processing phase cause we need to do fewer actions in order to delete the light pollution and that yellowish cast.

Where can you buy it?

You can purchase Haida Clear Night filter at Amazon.com.

But are also available on fotichaestli.ch , the Swiss distributor website.

They are available in every size:

  1. Square Glass Insert filter systems. 75×75, 100×100 and the 150 super wide angle systems (you need the holder to mount the filters on the lens).

 

Round filter sizes: 52, 55, 58, 62, 67, 72, 77, 82 m

A little parenthesis about the Haida holder

You have to put the filters in the grooves of the holder to use them. I own the 150 series holder for my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED wide-angle lens.

The support system is steel and very steady and resistant. It consists of the universal holder that supports the filters, the front adapter ring and the rear adapter ring that sustain and connect the holder to the lens.
A little gold nut enables to remove or rotate the holder on the rings to position better the filter, especially if it’s a GND.

There are also two rubber plates (superior and inferior) on the holder surface, near the grooves; they prevent the light to come into the space between the lens and the holder, so the nuisance reflections don’t appear on our shots. You can find also some replacement rubber plates in the holder pack.
I also took many very long exposure shots with ND, GND and both filters; I never saw that horrible reflection (similar to crowns) that appear every time the light goes through the filter.

And of course there are not this kind of problems about the Clear Night filter; in the night the light is very weak, especially when the moon is not visible (except cityscapes).

Conclusion

Haida Clear Night filter is a great choice for a nightscape.

I like the color cast on the glass, cause it eliminates yellowish and orange pollution, even if I know that is a matter of taste (I love cold nightscapes).

The quality is great and the price also. I have to tell you that this idea met my expectations.

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Taking portraits at night without a flash

For many of us portrait photographers, shooting in excellent lighting conditions is an absolute joy. An abundance of light prevents us from worrying about ISO, flash, and the plethora of technical issues most nighttime photographers have to consider. When the sun sets or when the weather worsens, we might be tempted to put down our cameras and wait for better shooting days. However, much beauty can be found in darkness. The artificial light coming from streetlights, torches, and windows is as valuable as sunlight. In addition to being a useful source of light, it adds a touch of mystery and uniqueness to photos, allowing their creators to pour great imagination and originality into their portfolios.

If you’re not sure where to begin then consider some, if not all, of the tips below. They cover important topics like ISO, focus, the desire to experiment, and more. Using these tips, you’ll be able to conquer your artistic fear of the dark and create eye-catching photos in the process.

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Experiment with artificial light

Artificial light is useful for a variety of reasons:

  1. It’s always available; you can always create your own using something as simple as a torch. This gives all kinds of photography enthusiasts, regardless of their busyness, the opportunity to shoot.
  2. Its intensity, color, and position can be altered, even outdoors.
  3. It can be used to replicate sunlight.

As you take all of these points into consideration, embrace the concept of experimentation. If you don’t own expensive lighting equipment, use your phone, torch, or street lights instead. The less equipment you have, the more healthy challenges you’ll have to face. For example, if you have to shoot in complete darkness with only a single torch, you’ll be faced with questions about the light’s position and distance from your subject. Experimenting with this might lead to unexpected shooting opportunities as well as a brighter imagination. Once you do obtain better lighting equipment, you’ll be all the more prepared for challenges, creative ideas, and striking portraits.

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Remember that a high ISO number is your friend

Oftentimes, high ISO is associated with unpleasantly grainy photographs. While this is true if your ISO is at its highest, a lower amount will create a balanced and sharp portrait. An ISO of 1600 is often more than enough to take a clear portrait without accumulating an unnecessary amount of grain.

Get the correct white balance using Kelvin

In photography, Kelvin is a unit used to measure color temperature. In situations when artificial light is too yellow or too blue, Kelvin can save the resulting photos from looking unnatural. The scale itself typically ranges from 2000K to 9000K. If the artificial light you’re working with is very warm, set your white balance to 3500K or lower. If the opposite is true, the color temperature should be anywhere from 5500K to 8500K. Though making these changes takes time, mastering them will give you more control over your photographs and save you lots of time during the editing process. With time, worrying about fixing strange colors in a portrait will cease to be an issue.

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Use a small source of light to focus right

There are times when the camera cannot focus, even though some light is present. For example, if you want to photograph a silhouette set against a bright city, the camera may get confused and focus on the wrong thing. Even if you focus manually, it may be too dark for you to find your subject’s face. Fixing this is very simple: make your subject hold a small source of light, be it their phone or a torch, close to their face. Once your focus is ready, hold it until your subject removes the light and poses again. This will guarantee sharp results.

A few final tips

  • If your camera allows, shoot RAW; unlike JPEG, RAW doesn’t compress files or remove valuable image information. When it comes to nighttime photography, RAW files are of utmost importance because of a number of precious details they preserve.
  • Shooting in continuous (or burst) mode will allow you to take a bunch of photographs in a matter of seconds. This will guarantee at least one sharp shot. If you’re new to nighttime photography, make sure you experiment a little with this.
  • Avoid harsh, direct light. Standing directly under or too close to artificial light will create harsh portraits. Unless you’re experimenting with moody portraits, take a few steps away from direct sources of light. This, combined with the appropriate color temperature, will add softness to your portraits.

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Using some, if not all, of the aforementioned tips, will help you become a better portrait photographer in general, even if nighttime shoots aren’t something you’re interested in. However, allow yourself to experiment with every photography genre – everything you learn will affect your main interests, forming you into a better and more open-minded artist.
Happy shooting!

Night Sports Photography Tips

Being a sports photographer requires some patience and practice, no matter what time of day or lighting conditions you’re dealing with. But, photographing sports at night demands even more. If you’re interested in shooting sports like baseball and football, it’s likely that you’ll have to capture images under the lights, after the sun goes down. While this can be challenging, there are some tricks to ensure you get awesome action shots, even your first time out.

There are several reasons nighttime sports photography is so difficult. You’re dealing with limited lighting conditions and a subject that is usually quite far away, moving at a fairly fast pace. As with most other types of photography, the key to mastering sports photography at night is to experiment as much as possible.

However, there are some things you can do to guarantee a better result. These tips will help you prepare for the challenge of night sports photography. We’ll talk more about the kinds of settings and techniques you can use to approach it.

football night game photo

Use the Right Equipment

Shooting a fast-moving subject in low light will be especially difficult with an entry level camera, particularly if you’re hoping for a high-quality result. You’ll want a camera with a digital sensor capable of shooting usable images with an ISO of at least 1600.

A kit lens also won’t yield the results you’re looking for. For this kind of photography, you’ll want a fast lens. This means a lens with a wider aperture – a smaller f-number, like 1.8 or 1.4 – that will let in more light with each exposure. You’ll be able to use faster shutter speeds at a lower ISO, which will give you much cleaner images. If you have one, use a lens with an aperture of at least f/2.8.

soccer night game photo

Artificial lighting can create all kinds of color temperature issues. Before you start shooting, you should take the time to read up on setting your camera’s manual white balance. Set the white balance so that your camera knows what white should look like. This will save you time correcting white balance in post after the game is over.

Use the Right Techniques

Besides knowing how to use the light, there are some things you can do to get great action shots.

1. Stay Low

Find a good angle and stay as close to the ground as you can, either sitting on kneeling on the sidelines or at the end zone. This offers a better perspective on the action. It also lets you fill more of the frame with the action happening on the field. Your resulting images will be a lot more dynamic than if you had been shooting upright. Plus, it’s a lot more comfortable than standing for several hours while you photograph the game.

low perspective sports photography

2. Learn to Predict the Action

If you don’t understand how the sport is played, you’ll have a much more difficult time capturing interesting shots of the action. You want to figure out which direction your team or players will be moving, and what their ultimate goals are so that you will be ready with your camera when the action happens.

action sports photography

Get to know the players and the way they play to have a better idea of where the ball will go. Keep your eye on the ones who score the most goals or get the most penalties. The best thing about shooting digital is that you can take as many photos as your storage card will allow. So, if you keep at it, you’ll end up with at least one great action shot.

3. Enjoy the Atmosphere

Things like parents watching their kids on the field, cheerleaders or excited fans celebrating on the sidelines, and coaches and trainers calling out plays are an interesting part of the game. These moments can make for some great, unique sports pictures. Don’t be afraid to look around the crowd and see what else you can shoot.

stadium fans photo

Also, try to keep from looking through the images on your LCD screen. Not only does this risk you getting hurt if you’re not paying attention, you might miss out on the perfect shot. Use the LCD to ensure you’ve got the exposure and white balance set correctly, and then leave it alone while you shoot.

Add Finishing Touches in Post-Production

Whenever you can shoot in RAW to capture as much detail as possible. This will allow you to correct things like exposure, contrast, and color without losing image quality. Note that using the sliders will likely increase noise in your images, though, so be careful that you don’t over-do it.

You’ll probably have tons of images to go through, so choose the best ones to spend time on in post-production. Most of them will probably need a crop to focus in on the action and create a pleasing composition, but try to maintain the original aspect ratio to make printing easier in the future.

Night Photography Essentials: Part Three – Special Scenarios

Previously, we discussed what is the right time of night for photography, and how to do it generally (from a technical aspect). Now we will focus on some of the most used scenarios and how to tackle them directly. Of course, you can mix and match the following techniques, and they should serve as a guide. After a couple attempts, you’ll surely make some modifications which work best for you, which is how it should be done. Don’t be afraid to experiment, and don’t be afraid to fail – that is how one learns. At the end of the day, you’ll need to find your own flow.

Night Photography Scenarios

Light Trails

In order to capture light trails (this works for star trails as well, but longer exposures are necessary) you’ll need to use long shutter speeds. In order to guesstimate how long the shutter speeds need to be, you can take some measurements. Using the stopwatch and live view, measure the time a car takes to pass through your frame. Add around 5 to 10 seconds on that value and you are set. Those 5-10 seconds are the buffer you’ll need to activate the camera before the car enters the frame, and to have time to exit the frame if the car drives slightly slower. If you want more light trails on a street that isn’t that busy, photograph several separate cars, one where the surrounding area isn’t well exposed, and one base image where the surrounding area is exposed half a stop under. Then merge them all in Photoshop using “lighten” blending mode.

Big City Lights by Ѕвонко Петровски on 500px.com
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski

Stars

To photograph stars you’ll need to be outside of any area that has lights. That means, get out of the city. Avoid any light pollution since it will mask the stars. Also, you’ll need to pick a clear day (overcast means no stars) that has no Moon. Other than that, you’ll need a fast wide angle lens, and usually, f/2.8 does the job. Following the “500 rule,” the shutter speed needs to be 500/lens focal length = seconds of exposure. Bear in mind that if you are using a crop sensor camera, you’ll need to multiply the focal length by 1.6 for canon, 1.5 for Nikon, and 2.0 for micro four thirds cameras. So if you are using an 18mm lens on a crop sensor camera the equation would be 500/(18*1.6)= 17.3 seconds, and you round that up to the shorter value that the camera goes to (in this case 15 seconds). The aperture is wide open, and you compensate the rest with ISO. Usually, when I photograph stars with my 7D Mark II, the settings range from something like this: 18mm at f/1.8 and ISO 6400. The 500 rule is there to avoid star trails since stars move relative to the Earth (it is the other way around really, but since we perceive the Earth as stationary, they seem to move).

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Moonlight Landscapes

There is no science fiction here, you can use the moonlight to capture landscapes similarly as you would use the sunlight. The only difference is that the Moon produces a mere fraction of the light that the Sun does (in reality it just bounces the Sunlight since the surface of the Moon is quite reflective and it has no atmosphere). Given the fact that it is actually sunlight being reflected off of the surface of the Moon, there are wavelengths of the light lost or subdued in the process. You’ll notice that there won’t be much red and yellow; rather it will shift highly towards the blue tones. Trying to correct that in post process will result in weird looking colors. Embrace the type of light and use it to your advantage. The Moon is white, so calibrate the white balance accordingly and go for it.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

City Lights At Dawn

In order to have the city lit up with all the lights, it has while there is still some remnant of the sunset (after the sun has set of course) you’ll need to do some trickery. First, take the shot without the city lights (a tripod is necessary here), as if you would shoot it normally. Then, wait for the lights to turn on, and photograph it again. Merge the two shots in Photoshop afterward using the “Lighten” blending mode and some selective blending done via masking.

U73A9101
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Night Time Portraiture

You’ll need to be quite smart about this scenario. You’ll either need to use high ISO to have fast enough shutter speed, or you’ll have to use artificial light to compensate for its natural lack. You can do so by using flashes, or you can use lights available around the city. The trick is to find a middle ground between the slowest shutter speed you can use without any issues, and the lowest ISO you can use to have enough light to do so. Aperture is wide open in this scenario since you need the maximum amount of light passing through the lens.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Summary

This set of three articles should serve as a great tool to get you started in some basic and some advanced night photography. If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Night Photography Essentials: Part Two – How To Shoot?

Previously, in the first part of this article, we discussed the phases of the night and how to make sure you are photographing in the right time of the night. In this part, we will make sure that you are technically prepared to shoot in during nighttime.

Besides keeping a tab on the phases of night, it is equally important to know how to operate your camera in these situations, the pieces of gear that are necessary for these conditions, and some techniques that will come handy for better shots in general.

Equipment

DSLR

. Of course, you’ll need your camera. A DSLR camera is recommended (or a mirrorless one of equal grade) but any camera offering manual settings and decent lens and sensor would do. Having manual controls, good lens and sensor (by good I mean at least as good as an entry level DSLR with at least a kit lens), is quite important to nighttime photography due to the lack of light.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Tripod

Since you won’t have enough light for handheld shots 90% of the time, a tripod is something that is considered a must. Bear in mind that while a tripod will remove the shake induced by you, if the subject moves, there is nothing the tripod can do about it.

Remote Shutter Release

Since you’ll be shooting longer exposures most of the time, you’ll need a way to trigger the camera without touching it. This is due to the fact that no matter how sturdy the tripod is, it won’t remove the shake induced by you pressing the button. If you can’t get your hands on a remote shutter release, you can use the self-timer for the same purpose. Depending on the stability of the tripod you’ll need to decide between the two second or ten-second timer on the camera.

Spare Battery

Since you’ll be doing longer exposures, which eat up bigger chunks of your battery life, you can find yourself running out of power faster when compared to regular shooting. Therefore, have a spare battery or two with you at any time. And have them charged, of course.

batteries
Photo by Rob Nunn, on Flickr.

Flashlight

Since you will be shooting in the dark, after all, it would be good if you could see where you are going, or make sense of the camera controls and buttons faster (if you don’t know them by muscle memory). It doesn’t have to be a dedicated flashlight, more often than not the flash on your smartphone will do the job.

Camera Control

Manual Settings

. This is quite crucial since the metering usually aren’t as accurate in low light as they are in the normal light. Therefore you’ll need to control every aspect of the camera yourself. This is also to your advantage since different settings will produce different results for the same exposure.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

ISO

You should have the ISO at the lowest value possible. Especially if you are shooting landscape/cityscape shots, where you can have longer exposures without any issues. In this case set the ISO to the base value which is usually 100, with some older cameras it is rumored to be 200, but you can test this easily by taking two shots at 100 and 200, and compare the noise levels.

Aperture

If you want the light sources in your pictures to have light streaks (looking like stars and such) you should close down the aperture. The more aperture blades the lens has, the more streaks the light sources will have. This phenomenon usually appears after f5.6, or even more with some lenses. However, since you’ll be shooting on a tripod, stop down the lens a stop or two, to avoid the vignetting and softness from a wide open aperture. Somewhere in the range of f/5.6 to f/11 the lens should be the sharpest (also called the sweet spot), but you should test this out for every lens.

Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

Shutter Speed

Having a fast shutter speed in low light is basically science fiction, except if you push the ISO to ridiculous levels, but then the images will look rubbish. If you need to photograph people in low light, you’ll need a flash or another solution to illuminate the people enough so they won’t be dark or blurry. Otherwise, don’t be scared to use long exposures. Even if bulb mode is necessary for exposures longer than 30 seconds.

Tripod

Instead of just having one, you should also be able to use the tripod accordingly. If it is not necessary, don’t raise the center column of the tripod upwards – it is better to fully extend the legs first, and afterward, if necessary, the center column. It shifts the center of gravity and it becomes less stable when the camera is hanging higher than the meeting point of the legs. Additionally, the last parts of the legs, the thinnest ones, should be used only if it is a make or break moment. They are thin, thus they will shake more. That is why more advanced tripods either have two poles per leg or are quite thick even at the thinnest points.

DSK_6089
Photo by Doo Ho Kim, on Flickr.

Remote Shutter/Timer/Mirror Lockup

In order to get the sharpest image possible, you need to minimize camera shake. As mentioned before, you can use Remote Shutter release or the built-in self-timer. As an additional measure (especially on full frame cameras) you can use mirror lockup mode. This basically lifts the mirror up before taking the shot, leaving time for the camera to stabilize from the vibrations. It also works with shooting in live view, since the mirror is already up.

Image Stabilization

If your lens or camera has image stabilization, and it is set on a tripod, it is wise to turn it off. The tripod is stable, and having the lens elements magnetized into a float position can induce motion where there isn’t any. Especially for Nikon users, since Nikkor recommends this in some of their lenses.

Summary

Now that you know what you need and how to control the camera in situations like these, you can get properly started in photographing at night. I am going to say it again: don’t fear the night, if you know what you are doing, and if you are doing it correctly, you’ll be able to take great shots after the sun sets.

In the third and final part of this article we will discuss how to handle specific scenarios using the information you’ve read so far.

Night Photography Essentials: Part One – When Is The Right Time To Shoot?

Night photography is fun – it can produce magnificent results, but it requires skills and trickery. Photography as an artistic form is mainly limited by light. The light that is captured onto the sensor of the camera produces the picture, and of course, the more light there is, the easier the job for the camera. At night, that poses a big problem since light is scarce, so the sensor struggles with obtaining enough light to generate enough signal so it can make a good image. A good image in the technical, not artistic sense of the word.

There are three ways we can solve the light problem: by increasing the duration of the exposure, increasing the width of the aperture, or the “fake” way of increasing the sensitivity of the sensor. I called that “fake” because it doesn’t allow for more light onto the sensor, instead, it just boosts the signal, thus introducing noise as well.

In order to be able to make great photographs at night you need to be quite handy with your DSLR, you need to know the phases of the day, and you’ll probably need some accessories.

Phases Of The Night

After the sun sets, there are several night phases. The phases are seen from both a scientific and a photographer’s point of view, and the difference between both is generally in the naming. From a scientific standpoint, the phases of the night go like this: sunset, civil twilight, nautical twilight, astronomical twilight, night, astronomical twilight, nautical twilight, civil twilight, sunrise. Each of the twilight lasts for about half an hour in most countries. As long as the day is in the “twilight” phases, there is some remnant of the sun in the atmosphere. You can see that in the orange cast on longer exposure shots (even though sometimes the human eye won’t pick it up).

opera_2016-07-17_01-23-24

From a photographer’s standpoint: Golden Hour, Blue Hour, Astro, Blue Hour, Golden Hour.

Basically half of the civil twilight, nautical twilight, and part of the astronomical twilight are the “Blue Hour”. The “Golden Hour” is during sunset and half of the civil twilight; same goes for sunrise just in the opposite direction – half of the civil twilight and the sunrise. These are rough measures, there isn’t an exact time span per se. And it doesn’t mean that they last for an hour. Depending on where you live and the length of the day in your timezone, they can last from around 30 minutes up to 3 hours. But for most countries they are usually an hour or so long, hence the name.

So what does all this information mean to you? Knowing this, and practicing it, leads to better photography. For example, during sunset, civil and nautical (if you have IS) you can basically shoot handheld, however handheld falls out of the equation in astronomical twilight and in the night.

sunset
Photo by Tom Hall on Flickr.

The aesthetics of the pictures as well are dependant on the night phases. If you are going to shoot stars, Astro (or pitch black night) is the time of day for you, otherwise, stick to the Blue and Golden Hours. Golden hours are good for both portraiture and landscape, while Blue Hours are more convenient for landscape, especially cityscape shots.

When Is The Best Time To Shoot At Night Actually?

There is no “best” time to shoot. It all depends on what you want to shoot. For example, if I were to shoot light trails made by cars on a busy street, I’d probably pick Blue Hour to do so. If I were to do it during Golden Hour, the light from the sun would be significantly brighter than the light from the cars, and I wouldn’t be able to do longer exposures. Astro wouldn’t work as well since the sky will either be pitch black, or it would receive faint color from the street lights. Therefore, blue hour is the right time to do so.

Big City Lights by Ѕвонко Петровски on 500px.com
Photo by Dzvonko Petrovski.

If I were to shoot some stars, I would get away from any artificial light source, usually some mountains away from the city, and I would shoot during the Astro part of the day (it is called astro for a reason). But I would have to make sure that the Moon is away as well, since the light from the Moon would obscure the stars.

Say I want to shoot a portrait on moonlight (of course, with slight artificial light) – I’d do it on blue hour, with a full moon. The blue hour will give enough color so the background isn’t boring, but the flash would also serve me well enough.

Golden Hour is great for sunsets, sunrises, portraiture at sunset and sunrise, since the light is angled and diffused, it is basically an equation for success. That is why most of the photographers shoot mainly at that time of day.

The moral of the story is to basically go out, test each phase of the night, and then you’ll know which phase is right for your next project. These examples will serve the purpose of rough guides.

Summary

Learning the phases of the day, or should I say night, is imperative in order to get started in night photography. Knowing how much, and what type of light you’ll have at a given time of night is crucial for a good shot. Being 15 minutes late can literally make you miss the light you needed to do what you needed to do.

Stay tuned for part two of this article, in order to learn some tips and tricks about shooting at night.

Bokeh Photography for Beginners

Holidays are a good chance to get great color and lights in your shots. Winter, in general, is a great time to go out and experiment with ways of shooting scenes that are not always at your disposal. With all of those lights and colors for the holidays, also comes the opportunity to create some awesome bokeh. Essentially, bokeh is the way the lens renders out of focus light. It is circles of light like in the above image or the creamy background in portraits if taken with the right settings. Aside from having a nice out of focus bokeh in portraits, there are tons of objects you can use to create some great bokeh by holding objects in front of your lens. Incorporating out of focus elements can enhance your images and give it a mood you otherwise would not have.

1 – Starting Point

So what do you need to know before taking photos, and how to achieve bokeh in your images? Well, the biggest things that go into creating bokeh are the lens choice and the aperture you shoot at. The shape of the bokeh, a lot of times, is determined by the aperture blade amount. Generally, the better the lens the more blades (around 9), while the lower end lenses have about 5. The higher amount of blades creates more of a circle which creates the bokeh, more creamy and soft, where the lower blade count will create something like a hexagon. I tend to prefer the more round bokeh, but that is not to say that the less circular ones are not good and should not be done. Everyone has a preference but it is good to know the difference of why the bokeh might look different from lens to lens.

2 – Prep

If we look at one of the images I started with, we can gain a lot of information by looking at the histogram below. I mentioned above that aperture also plays a role in creating bokeh. One of the things to keep in mind if you are trying to get nice bokeh, is shooting around f 2.0 or wider. Having the lens open wider allows for a smaller depth of focus, thus giving you the out of focus bokeh in your images. What you generally see in portraits is that the subject is in focus and the whole background is out of focus. In the images I shot, I used the foreground as a framing device and made that the out of focus part. So in my image, I made the foreground out of focus and used that as a nice way to introduce some interest in my image. Going, either way, works (either creating the foreground/background out of focus), just as long as there is enough difference in the field of focus to get one of the elements to go blurry. As an artist, that is up to you to decide on how you want to incorporate things being out of focus into your images.

Arnel Hasanovic Bokeh Tutorial

3 – Shooting Bokeh

So, once you have in your head what you want the subject to be and how you want to incorporate bokeh into your shot, you then experiment! When shooting out of focus especially with the object almost touching your lens, it is often unpredictable and fun to see what slight movements will do with the light. In my case I kept adjusting, moving from angle to angle, making minute changes, to get something that looks like the image below. One thing to remember is that the color of the object out of focus can play a big role in helping you get a nice clean image. Before getting this shot I was using some more green light that did not look good against the color of the building, so I moved over to the more red holiday lights and that made all of the difference.

Arnel Hasanovic Bokeh Tutorial

4 – Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

Did I mention experiment?! Trying out new things and making slight changes with your camera will yield two great and unexpected results that you can learn from. Shooting at night is not something I do a lot of, so when I get a chance to do something I do not normally do, I play around, knowing that there is no consequence for failing. Below is a small sample of the different angles and changes I made along the way to getting the image above. If you notice, a lot of the images look the same in a row, but one move up or down changed it. When working with light bouncing around your lens and it is so close that it almost touched the lens, the smallest change can get you to a winning shot.

Arnel Hasanovic Bokeh Tutorial

5 – Conclusion

Shooting bokeh can be a lot of fun and there are a lot of different ways to incorporate it into an image. Sometimes used just for fun, and other times to hide distracting objects. Whatever the case may be, it’s fun to take a time to try new things and play around.  Below are some other images and uses of bokeh during the night.

Arnel Hasanovic Bokeh Tutorial