So I stopped and went through the setup as laid out in this video. I wanted to try something a little different with the lighting and I think it worked out quite well.
Below are a few shots from the night.
In this episode of How to get the Shot we look at a favourite image of mine. It was shot a couple of years ago while driving home from another location I had already spent a fair bit of time at. I remember thinking that this particular road would be a great place to get a shot of the milky way galactic core rising in the eastern sky just after midnight.
So I stopped and went through the setup as laid out in this video. I wanted to try something a little different with the lighting and I think it worked out quite well.
Below are a few shots from the night.
In this episode of How to get the shot we look at how we go about lighting this old hay shed by utilizing a combination of continuous lighting and flash. Balancing these 2 light sources can be challenging but as we demonstrate it's simply a matter of following the process for capturing a normal milky way shot and simply adding the lights to the foreground one by one.
It's always a lot harder to incorporate people into nightscapes but I reckon it's worth the extra effort. We created some awesome memories and friendships during the weekend and that's what it's all about after all.
This shot was taken during one of our Nightscape Workshops so I've included a few more below from the same weekend.
In this episode of How to get the Shot we take a trip down to the beautiful and iconic Malmsbury Railway Bridge and take a look behind the scenes explaining how to get a low angle image of the bridge, night sky, rocks and flowing water.
It's never easy working in the dark around water, especially with slippery rocks all around but if you take it slow and steady you'll get the result in the end.
In this video I'll explain my techniques and motivation behind the capture. I also demonstrate my light painting process as well as a focus stacking method for obtaining sharp focus across the whole image.
This location is certainly one of my favourites and I go there often to capture nightscapes. Some of my favourites are shown below.
How to get the shot is an exciting new video series Nightscape Images will be posting online to help night photographers understand some of the ideas and techniques necessary to get eye catching photos.
Our first episode features this lovely old trike and shows the location and concept behind the capture of the image.
I always encourage people to de-construct images with the intention of understanding how they are taken ... these videos will make that job just that little bit easier.
The above image was shot with a Nikon D750 camera fitted with a Sigma art 35mm f1.4 lens wide open at f1.4
10 second exposure with an iso 2000 Manual White Balance setting of 3450K
LED Lenser P7.2 torch used to light paint from behind.
I recently went on a night adventure to the Cairn Curran Reservoir in Central Victoria. I must be honest and admit that my reason for being there that night was to try and capture an aurora picture as there had been a good show the previous night. Unfortunately the aurora was a no show so I had to find something else to take whilst I was at this lovely location.
So what do you do when you're all dressed up with no-where to go ... you take a selfie of course. I was all by myself so I had no choice really ... well that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Anyway, I've had a lot of questions about how I put these type of shots together so I figured I'd go back out there during the daytime and re-create the scene, demonstrating the equipment and methods used to create the final shot.
I'm always happy to chat if you have any questions or comments.
Below are the files I used to create the final image:
1 x Background image: Nikon D750 Sigma 35mm f1.4 @ f2.2 10 sec exposure iso2500 WB 3450K
2 x Foreground Images: Nikon D750 Sigma 35mm f1.4 @ f4 10 sec exposure iso1600 WB 5000K
This video explores some of my methods for scouting and shooting subjects with the Milky Way in the background. We look at how to work out where the Milky Way will be positioned at anytime of the year using simple smart phone apps.
We also take a drive into the country as I reveal some of my favourite locations for finding unique and iconic photographic subjects. You'll notice I always mark my specific locations into my GPS for ease of navigating in the darkness.
This is my tried and true method of navigating my way around the Country Victorian landscape so hopefully you can all benefit from the many hours of time I've spent perfecting and fine tuning these techniques. As I've mentioned many times before, you should never leave home to photograph the stars at night without a well thought out plan in place. There are lots of hurdles to negotiate to enjoy this form of photography, so getting off on the right foot at the beginning is vital.
The below images are some of those used in the video. I'd love to hear from you and am always happy to chat and discuss any of the techniques or specific gear mentioned in these blog posts. Thanks for following my work ... it means a lot to me.
For this blog post I've made a video describing the techniques involved in producing images like this lovely old ute taken at a farm at Kyneton in Central Victoria. The glow from Melbourne is in the background as well as the Mt Macedon ranges in the distance.
I describe these images as "Fine Art Light Painted" as I take quite a bit more time to produce them. The main difference between these to my standard nightscapes is that I take multiple images and combine them as layers together whilst incorporating focus stacking techniques to get everything sharp and clear.
This technique helps overcome some perennial problems facing any night shooter .... high iso noise, blurry images & trailing stars.
The above image was created by taking 12 shots. One for the background and the rest for various parts of the ute & foreground.
Background shot: Nikon D750 Nikon 20mm f1.8 @ f2.5 20 second exposure iso2000
Foreground shots: Nikon D750 Nikon 20mm f1.8 @ f5.6 11 x 20 second exposures iso500
As with most of my images, it's the lighting that makes all the difference.
Feel free to ask any questions regarding these images as it takes a fair bit to get your head around the process sometimes.
It's like everything else related to night photography ... practice makes perfect.
Below are some more examples of this technique:
"The Living & the Dead" 14 Shot Panorama Nikon D750 Nikon 20mm f1.8 @ f2.2 20 second exposures iso2000
There are many difficult aspects to night photography and even though it embraces many similarities to it's daylight cousin, if you go out expecting the camera to do all the work for you ... well, you'll be discouraged pretty quickly. Probably the greatest learning curve we face when pursuing this form of photography is getting an understanding of the manual adjustments on our cameras.
For some people this is a daunting task which can seem like a mountain too steep to climb. For others it's a challenge they are happy to embrace with both hands. Either way however, it's not until we develop a sense of what our cameras are capable of that we will see our image quality improve.
When knowledge of our camera intersects with an intuition of how the camera will render the scene that confronts us ... well that's when the magic happens. Let's take the above image as an example of what I'm talking about.
As listed above this is a panorama consisting of 14 individual shots. When I arrived at this location I knew I wanted to capture the full expanse of the milky way stretching across the sky from North to South. To do that I had to calculate which lens would be best to use and the camera settings for each exposure. I decided on the Nikon 20mm f1.8 because this lens is sharp and even though not an ultra wide lens it still gives plenty of scope to overlap the images enough to get a "good stitch" in the panorama software.
Just to clarify why I needed 14 shots to get this perspective because some of you may be thinking why not use a wider angle lens ..?
Well, the reality is that even with an ultra wide lens such as a 14mm this width of shot is impossible to achieve with just one shot. Yes, I could have used a 14mm lens and possibly only needed half the amount of shots to achieve the same image. That would probably work but my experience with extreme wide angle lenses is that they introduce a lot of distortion by nature of the wide optics which can interfere with stitching software. Anyone whose experienced a stitch that just wont join properly knows what I'm talking about. A lot of people use 24mm, 35, or even 50mm lenses when doing panoramas .... like lots of things associated with night photography, it becomes a creative choice but I'd like to emphasise that this choice must come from at least a basic knowledge of what each focal length does to an image.
Anyway, I've included some straight out of camera images (obviously not all 14) below to show you that each shot is pretty narrow when compared to the final compilation. The other thing you'll notice is how much brighter the final image looks compared to these ... thanks to the fabulous Nikon D750 dynamic range. I could have shot these at iso 3200 or even 6400 but I don't really have to as i can easily retain shadow detail in the Nikon raw files and simply bring the exposure up in Lightroom.
I'm sure I've mentioned in previous writings that to be really successful in night photography you have to develop a "sense of feel" for operating the camera in the dark. Yes we use torches and headlamps, yes we have illuminated screens, yes we have all kind of gear to help us, but in the end it comes down to feel. Once again it becomes intuitive and automatic. One thing I'd suggest is practice making manual camera adjustments, in the daytime, without looking at the camera ... because this is exactly what we have to do in a night shoot. It may seem silly to others but it works as we retain the muscle memory for where buttons are located and how they feel to the touch.
Another factor I've mentioned before is the ability to pre-visualise a scene. Most of us tend to do this via a kind of second hand approach .... that is, we look at what others are doing and try to get similar results ourselves. This is a completely valid approach to the learning process and gives us a solid launching pad to understand how to achieve a particular type of image based on tried and true camera settings and techniques.
As an extension of this however I strongly encourage you to spend some time when you arrive at your shooting location and simply look at the scene before you. Let your eyes become accustomed to the dark and soak in every detail. Look at the stars, the silhouetted trees, the foreground objects ... whatever you see. You may well find an opportunity to "improvise" and include elements that weren't in your initial planning. This happens to me all the time, even though I've done a scouting trip beforehand in the daylight there is always something else that will catch your eye under the cover of darkness.
The images above illustrate my point. Spend time soaking in the elements in the scene. Immediately the orange glow on the horizon stands out. Obviously this wouldn't be there during the daylight hours but in this night scene it becomes a lovely point of interest. So my quest to capture a milky way panorama now includes this yellow glow and reflection ... an added bonus, but I had to re-position from my original shooting angle to capture it.
One further point on these shots. To the naked eye the yellow reflection wasn't very bright so I had to dig into my previous experience with such scenes to even know that it would show this way. The camera sensor during a long exposure at high iso is so much more sensitive than our naked eye and it will always capture even more detail than what we can actually see.
Anyone who follows my work will know that I make use of extensive light painting in my nightscapes. This obviously requires a lot of improvising to achieve the image that may have been pre-visualised.
Persistance and determination are the key factors in achieving success in night shooting. There are infinitely more frustrations in this form of photography and these must be countered by a positive, determined approach. This is certainly not limited to the actual shooting on location however. We need to persist in our learning of post production skills as well as a disciplined approach to planning and preparation.
And finally I strongly encourage anyone who takes the time to go shooting at night to enjoy the process. Get the odd selfie, take some food and drink and take in the view. The majority of people living in our cities never get to experience the awesome night sky in all it's splendour. Take some like minded photographers with you .... even if they don't know what to do at first, I guarantee they'll thoroughly enjoy the experience.
So the creative process relies on a number of factors:
* An intuitive understanding of your camera
* The ability to pre-visualise a scene
* Persistence & determination
* A love of what you do
All of these elements are related and revolve around our ability to connect our senses and imagination with the reality of what our camera equipment can technically deliver.
Nothing beats actually getting out there and giving it a go. You can develop your ability in these areas but it will take time. Listen to those who have experience in the field, ask for assistance if necessary. Learn by trial and error, encourage yourself to try something new, it doesn't matter if it doesn't work out the first time ... persist and you'll be surprised at the awesome work you will begin to produce.
Just remember that it's a process, a series of creative/technical decisions that we embed into our minds, into our hands and eventually into our hearts. When the process becomes intuitive yet somehow natural we are well on our way travelling the journey of a lifetime.
Old Truck Mt Hope Victoria: Nikon D750 Nikon 14-24 f2.8 Total of 15 images combined with Light Painted Foreground
When I venture out for a night photography shoot one of my first priorities is to establish how I intend to light my subjects. This isn't as straight forward as you may imagine. Many of you will probably think that you don't need to light the subject at all ... after all, it's meant to be a night image ...? Well my response to that is that whilst the stars themselves give off enough light to be seen in the shot, the foreground usually is captured as a black blob, sometimes silhouetting trees or hills and other times giving the faint outline of a building or perhaps an old car or truck.
The star trail image of the old truck above is a classic example of what I'm talking about. If you look closely you'll see that it is lit from every direction and this is almost impossible in a single shot. To put this into perspective you have to understand that this scene was in the middle of a paddock nestled between two rocky hill faces. There was absolutely no light coming from anywhere except the stars above. See the images below to get an understanding of what I'm talking about.
The 3 images above are 3 minute exposures and are a few of the images combined to produce the star trails in the final picture. As you can see there isn't any detail in the foreground. All you can see is an outline of the roof on the truck.
Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with silhouettes but in this case I reckon the detail in the truck is what makes the image stand out.
So once the star trail images were captured, which involves taking a number of "Medium Duration" shots to be blended into the final length star trails, I then proceed to capture images that show the detail in the foreground. In this case I took particular care and effort to get it right and in doing so captured 6 images lit from every angle, including inside the cabin of the truck.
One other detail which is incredibly important in an image like this is to change the focus point on these foreground images to make the detail in the truck sharp and clean. This is a process known as "Focus Stacking".
Once again I am describing a process that is required to get an image of quality that will stand out as something special. The creative process here isn't simply limited to knowing how to take a photograph ... it extends to being able to pre-visualise what each of these shots needs to look like before you even begin.
Of course when all of these single images are edited they are then carefully blended to create the one final photograph. Is this a difficult process ... ? Not really, but it can certainly be time consuming .... start with a few shots and give it a go. Current software gives us all the necessary tools to achieve whatever we can see in our mind. I'll say it again, pre-visualisation is the key.
Now I must stress that you don't have to go to these lengths with every photo to get something awesome, but there are times when a simple point and shoot just doesn't cut it. As with any photograph taken during the day or night the craft and skill is in how it is lit. Lighting is everything in image making and the more we study how light works and how to create it when it isn't present, the more we will produce stunning work.
The below image is a single shot of the truck with stars in the background with a bit of light painting to bring out some detail. It's a good shot but I think you'll agree that it isn't in the same class as the first image on this page.
If you look closely you'll notice that the focus on the truck is a bit soft. Not such a problem unless you zoom in on the image or decide to make an enlargement of the photo.
With ultra wide angle lenses you can often get away with these shots as the focus plane is very broad. But as the focal length increases the soft focus becomes a real issue.
Nikon D750 Nikon 14-24 f2.8 20 sec exp iso3200
So, as with most of my nightscape photography, there is so much more to an image than initially meets the eye. I'm not deliberately trying to complicate the process, but night photography is not easy and we have to utilise every technique possible to transform the dream into reality. To create a wonderful image there needs to be a delicate balance of creative input coupled with solid technical ability.
I regularly have this discussion with fellow night photography enthusiasts and it becomes obvious that the majority of photographers fall into one of two categories. They are either creative or technical in their initial leaning. During daylight shooting this is less obvious as the camera can make very smart decisions for the photographer and mask a lot of flaws in technical understanding. Lets face it, we've all shot in auto camera modes haven't we ...??
On the other hand there are countless people who can pretty much pull a camera apart and put it back together again blindfolded but when it comes to producing an image of creative beauty they are often left wanting.
My advice is to force ourselves to learn something that we don't know. Initially this can be very painful but in the long run it will pay off big time. Our images will improve technically and eventually we'll begin to "see" things we didn't notice before.
So we began this post discussing light painting, and that's because light painting is one of the most creative things we can add to our night photography arsenal. Is it difficult ... ? It certainly can be. Is it something that requires a lot of practice ... ? It sure does.
But you'll be surprised how a little light in the right places, at the right angles will lift a lifeless image and make it something unique.
Give it a try, you'll be absolutely surprised with the results.
I'll leave you with a few of my favourite images showing the techniques described above. Hopefully you are inspired by them.
Lots of people ask me how I approach a night photo shoot, so I thought I'd go through the process here. The first thing I always do is scout a location during the daytime to familiarize myself with a particular location before I go back in the dark of night. If you think about it there is really no other option ... believe me, I've tried it.
Wandering about in the dark searching for an old car or tree can be a very frustrating experience.
In this post I'd like to walk you through my search and subsequent night shoot of this beautiful old stone ruin on the shores of Cairn Curran Reservoir in Central Victoria.
"The Lake House" Nikon D750 Sigma 35mm f1.4 @ f2.2 10 second exposure ISO 2500