Getting into night time photography


Salzhemmendorf Church at nightI woke up around 3:30 this morning and found myself wide awake with not a chance of going back to sleep anytime soon. So, since the sky was clear, I decided to finally do what I’ve been threatening to do for years, which is getting into night time photography.

Over the past few years I have seen so many great pictures shot at night with available light, and every time I saw a new one I thought, this is something I really like to try, but somehow I never got around to it. This morning I finally took the opportunity. When I realized that the night was clear I got dressed, grabbed my camera and tripod and headed down to the Salzhemmendorf church, which seemed like a good location to try this out. First of all, it’s not very far, and second of all, I like the castle-y look of it. It really fits this type of picture.

The result is far from what I’m hoping to get at some point, but I learned a few lessons. The most important one: Damn, we’re moving fast… No, seriously. The star movement is amazing. Brings to mind Monty Python:

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour
That’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

— Monty Python, “The Galaxy Song” from the movie “The Meaning of Life”

According to Wikipedia, it’s quite close.

So, what I really learned from this is that I need a cable release for my camera, which I ordered already. The star movement in the picture is bugging me; not because you can see it but because it’s not enough. In order for this kind of picture to look really good you have to see either no movement at all or a lot more than this. This shot was taken with, according to EXIF information, 77 seconds (it was supposed to be a minute; I guess I also learned I need a stopwatch as well 😀 ) at ISO 3200. I shot in bulb mode, but I had to keep my hand on the release. While it sort of worked — great tripod and head, nice job, Manfrotto — it’s pretty damn inconvenient.

With the cable release I can reduce ISO speed and use a longer exposure time to get more movement in there. That looks like the way to go, because in order to get no movement at all I would need either more light or a higher ISO / better lens. Unfortunately the latter is not an option. I’m still planning to try the “more light” part. I’ll have to go in the evening when it’s already dark but the street lights are still on. If it stays clear (which it doesn’t look like right now) I’ll try tonight.

This looks like a fun project, that’s for sure.

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