If you have followed this blog since its inception, you will have been witness to my flirtation with the many faces of creativity. The truth is, that of all the things I do or try my luck at, there is one that I enjoy more and where I believe I have some potential, and that is photography. Could I say that I have found my passion?
A while ago I got interested in night photography. Ok, I should say I got interested in astrophotography, which, as its name suggests, consists of taking pictures of stellar constellations, planets, etc. If you search Instagram for #astrophotography, you can find examples of what I mean (screenshot below). These pictures are so outstanding! And they require research and lots of dedication: you cannot simply get to your rooftop with your camera, and shoot a long exposure that will show a clear Milky Way. It needs to be real dark. On the website “Darksitefinder” you can find what places on earth have most luminic contamination, and which have least. The idea is to find a corner on earth as dark as you can, and go shoot on a night without a moon. Preferably, you should inform yourself beforehand as to what constellations you would like to photograph, so that you can best choose the location. You often will have to drive for hours until you reach a location that is dark enough to show the stars, which can be quite scary, lonely and maybe even dangerous. If you are after photographing the Milky Way, here is a great article to get a taste of the experience, plus some tips.
When I was in Austria this July, I decided to have my first go at night photography. Where I was staying, the sky was unfortunately too contaminated with light to capture the stars, it was cloudy nearly every night, and to make things worse, my tripod broke down -ok, ok, I lost the mounting piece, happy? Still, I thought I’d give it a try. It turns out I cannot do more than 30 seconds with my Canon 6D but there are tricks. One, for instance, is to use the “bulb” mode (indicated with a B), which means that you can shoot for as long as you keep the shutter pressed (e.g., if you press for 40 seconds, then you will be making a 40 seconds exposure). That, of course, is tricky if you are doing night photo, because the slightest vibration would lead to a blurry image, but it can be solved using remote shutters or maybe even using your smartphone to control the camera -although I haven’t tried this yet.
In any case, despite the lack of preparation, I tried. Here were my first two semi-successful shots! I read on some websites that I should shoot at the maximum aperture possible (e.g., f 1/4). The aperture in a camera basically controls the amount of light that impacts your sensor: the more open, the more light rays go through (simplifying). However, if you want to achieve better focus and a more sharp picture, the aperture should be narrow -also when you photograph at night. I am guessing that as soon as I am able to get all my gear working and I can shoot longer exposures than now, I won’t need to have my aperture so open and I will be able to generate better quality pics. One day I will post about this in detail.
Back in Nijmegen, I signed up for a night photography workshop. The workshop wasn’t particularly about photographing stars, but I learned a few very useful tips. For instance, I learned to play with covering the lens on certain areas during a long exposure (by putting your hand or a paper or filter in front of the lens where you calculate it’s too bright) so that areas that are lighter won’t be over-exposed. I know you could do this digitally afterwards, but the cleaner and the most perfect your original image, the better the quality of the output. Another thing I learned is how to control the aperture to get light-emitting elements (e.g., a lamp, a lit sign) sharply focused. I also learned about affordable large-scale photography printers that I would love to acquire if I had the space at home 🙂
The first exercise was about capturing the light as it looked in reality. It wasn’t fully dark yet but the sun was long down.
See? Here above I put my hand in front of the camera more or less where the building should be, for a few seconds. Once you have tried several times, you start to get a good intuition about how to do this! The building and the bridge are still light but are not too over-exposed!
The sky is WAY WAY WAY too light in the Netherlands. Plus, there are always clouds. Even when you think there aren’t 🙂
Here above I was playing with closing the aperture (f/30). Look at those gorgeous sparkling lights!
Once more, using the “lens covering” technique, I underexposed the bridge as much as I could, so that both the bridge and the bushes in front of the camera appeared similarly lit up!
Finally, I spent some time playing around with the lights. Just because it’s fun!
This is the same bridge you saw a couple of pictures above. During the long exposure I zoomed out, creating the effect you can see! This technique, used in particular settings can give a very creative result.
All in all, I can’t wait to practice more!!
♥ Ingrid ♥