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Old 11-07-2009, 05:53 AM   #2
Chase55671
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Now, finally, let's move onto various types of shooting. Overall, I'm personally going to say there are four primary types of night photography. Shooting a stationary subject using ambient light, which I will explain first. Method one would require a tri-pod. A cable release is not a required, but strongly suggested. Second, shooting a moving subject doing a timed exposure. I would consider method number two very pleasing to the eye. In most cases, this method would require a remote cable release as well as a tri-pod. Third, shooting a stationary subject while "painting with light", or in other words, using a lantern, or spotlight to light up the subject while doing a timed exposure. I will explain this method later on in the blog. Method three requires a tri-pod, and some sort of light (2 million candle light power spotlight is what I am using). Fourth, photographing either a moving or stationary subject using flash units, or other studio lighting. This is a rather expensive part of the hobby, but the results can be very pleasing to the eye. This method requires numerous items, which I will describe lightly later on in my blog.

Let's start off with short exposures (not exceeding 30 seconds, for those of you who do not use a cable release). I'm not saying that a cable release is a requirement, as there have been several times where 30 seconds would overexpose an image.

If you have a considerable amount of ambient light, then it should be relatively easy to get a well exposed night photo that does not exceed 30 seconds, providing your aperture is set accordingly (I would say F8 would be decent with an ISO of 100 or 200). Generally, you will have decent ambient light when shooting near a station platform, rail yard, or any other location where street lights, etc. area nearby. Again, remember to use a tri-pod and try not to bump into the tri-pod, as it will cause camera shake which will result in a nasty, blurry photo.

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 274447
Photograph © Chase55671


The above photo was taken at F8, ISO 200, using a 30 second exposure. I relied only on ambient light that a street light provided. This photo received very little exposure increase in post processing software.

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 285436
Photograph © Chase55671


This photo was taken at F10, ISO 100, and 210" (3 minutes 30 seconds) on the exposure. As visible in the photo, I relied on ambient light that a local store offered. Due to the somewhat long exposure, the "streak" in the sky is a star. This is one of the few unique effects that excessive exposures have to offer.

Below are some additional examples of timed exposures using ambient light as my primary source of light.

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 297665
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 298952
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 300399
Photograph © Chase55671


Sometimes, even with the help of photoshop, or another type of editing software, the photo still will appear dark, or in other words, underexposed. This is why I continue to persuade you to purchase a cable release.
Now, If a cable release is present, this is when the hobby can become very creative. These next few paragraphs will discuss long exposures of stationary subjects and moving subjects. In other words, we're basically describing both method one and method two for the next bit, so try to stay with me.
I personally have been inspired by the work of RP contributor, Loyd Lowry. He has numerous photos that were taken at 10+ minute exposures that are beautiful. For more information on Loyd's photos, I strongly encourage you to follow the link below.

http://www.railpictures.net/showphotos.php?userid=18157

In order to be able to pull off the long exposures, little, or in some cases, no ambient light is a priority, or else you will have an extremely overexposed photo. Generally, I will rely on the moon for my only source of ambient light when doing a 5 to 15 minute exposure. Again, this is a part of the hobby that requires some practice. You will have to fool around with various exposures in order to get it just right.

The following photo was taken at F8, ISO 100 and 610" (10 minutes 10 seconds).

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 294151
Photograph © Chase55671


In the above photo, several "star steaks" are visible as well as a beam from the approach aspect. This is something not visible to naked eye. Again, just one of the many reasons I am so fond of night photography. Just to name a few, below are some additional unique artifacts that are caused by timed exposures ranging anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes.

The "Streak". This is something that can only be accomplished at night, or under a dark overcast daylight sky. The reason the "streak" effect is visible is a result of the shutter being opened as the train passed. The image captured the entire train, and the two classy marker lights (in this case) zipping down the mainline and around the curve. This is overall, a neat effect, at least to my eyes.

Below are a few other neat effects caused by an open shutter.

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 300400
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 296017
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 288488
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 288374
Photograph © Chase55671


Now we've pretty much covered both method number one and two, let's move onto method three, "painting with light". This in itself is kind of tricky, in that your subject must be painted equally. Again, as expected, this will require a good bit of practice, but the results can be pleasing to the eye. First off, before you can even consider trying this method, you must have some type of light. I use a spotlight (as stated above), but a lantern will work, as will car headlights (not a major fan of the headlight idea). Second, please find a stationary subject. I do not suggest trying to paint a moving object. It will result in a bad photo, and I'm sure the crew won't be too happy that a spotlight is being flashed in their eyes.

Once your camera is on the tri-pod, your spotlight (or other lighting device) is ready to go, let's try some test shots. Let's put the camera on F8 and ISO 100 or 200. One good thing about this method, is that a cable release is not a priority. Depending on how close your camera is to the locomotive (or other railroad subject), you will want to apply your light accordingly. Obviously, you will want to apply less light to the locomotive (assuming it is closest to you) and more on the train (further distance will require more light for it to be noticed). Also, if ambient light is also in the picture, certain areas may not need as much light since you will have an additional light source.

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 287566
Photograph © Chase55671


The above photo was taken at F16 with a 30 second exposure. This was my first time using the spotlight, but since I am now more familiar with painting with light, I generally keep the aperture at F8 and use a shorter exposure. I would imagine if you paint accordingly at F8 and ISO 100 or 200, you will be able to accomplish a well exposed photo anywhere between 8 seconds and 15 seconds, providing the subject you're painting is rather close to the camera. Remember, if you decide to walk around while painting with light, try to avoid stepping in front of the camera. You can get away with shorter exposures with this method since the subject is receiving direct light, and in some cases, a far brighter light than a streetlight, etc. would provide.

Below are some additional examples at various shutter speeds and apertures.

Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 288277
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 289537
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 293781
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 296216
Photograph © Chase55671


Image © Chase55671
PhotoID: 297308
Photograph © Chase55671


As you can tell, there is a considerable difference between method three and method one. Some people prefer method one (using ambient light), but some prefer method three (painting with light). I suppose it depends on what type of person you are, and your personal opinions on each method. I personally, am a fan of all four methods, but that's just me. I think they all have their pros and cons, but can all be enjoyable, if done correctly.

Now I've pretty much described the basics with method three without getting too in depth, let's move onto the final method of night photography, using flash units, or other studio lighting. This is by far the most expensive method, but as any other method I've described in this blog, it has it's advantages and disadvantages.

When I think of flash units, I think of RP contributor Gary Knapp. He by far has some of the most impressive photos in the database that have been created by the help of Canon, Nikon, and other flash units. I'm not too familiar with this method, but will show off some photos that Gary Knapp has posted to RP, to give you guys a feel for the results that this method has to offer.

Image © Gary Knapp
PhotoID: 262891
Photograph © Gary Knapp


Image © Gary Knapp
PhotoID: 261606
Photograph © Gary Knapp


Image © Gary Knapp
PhotoID: 250352
Photograph © Gary Knapp


Image © Gary Knapp
PhotoID: 215150
Photograph © Gary Knapp


Obviously, several flash units are required in order to freeze a moving train at night. This method is very expensive, and I would highly suggest looking into the specs, requirements, etc. before investing in flash units. A lot of additional add-ons are required for each flash unit, which will generally cost you anywhere from $200 to $600 for just one flash unit.

I would like to thank everyone for taking their time to read this novel, for a lack of a better word. I'm sure there are other methods of night photography, but I personally, consider the above four that I mentioned, the primary types of night photography, that I atleast use, excluding method number four. Any corrections are of course, welcomed. I am simply basing the majority of this blog on personal experiences and habits that I've gathered over the years.

The purpose of this blog, you ask? I was lucky enough to have the help of several RP contributors and other photographers teach me various aspects of photography. I've taken the info they've provided, I've learned a lot over the years, and now I think it'd only be right to share my knowledge for any new photographers in the hobby.


Take Care,
Chase Gunnoe
Chase55671@hotmail.com
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Last edited by Chase55671; 11-10-2009 at 08:27 PM.
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