Night Photography - Abhi Madangeri

Heavy rains had stopped, darkness had engulfed the coffee estates and the jungle around, I was sitting in the verandah sipping hot coffee with sadness slowly creeping in because I had missed my evening session of birding due to rain. With photography gear packed up, the light drizzle with an occasional lightening was all that I had for company. All of a sudden, a lightening struck so hard that everything around turned visible, and that exact moment a thought crossed my mind too, 'Why not capture lightening?. Yes! I need not be sad, I can try my hands at capturing lightening'.


I ran inside to get my camera with the kit lens, along with it I picked up the tripod, remote trigger and the poncho. Climbed a few steps to reach an elevated open space which was used for drying coffee beans and set up my gear. The poncho kept me and my camera dry, but the lightening kept eluding us. At last, after getting drenched for 2 hours in the rain, I finally managed to get a shot that I wanted and thus began my tryst with night photography.

Every time I visit Coorg, I spend time photographing the night sky. All my attempts at night photography have been with stars and moon, but I had never experimented with it differently. During our 8th meet at kaTTe, we had to plan the topic for the next session, and having seen the work of Sobin Ahmed, especially his street photography and portraits, I thought he might be the best person to take over the assignment for our next session on Night Photography. During the 9th meet at kaTTe, Sobin came up with a series of images, I would say, a series of experimental images covering different styles/ideas of night photography, which left us spellbound. Here are a few images presented by him with ideas, tips and tricks discussed at kaTTe.

All images shot by Sobin Ahmed using Sony SLT-A57 and 18-55mm F3.5-5.6. Details of the shot has been mentioned to give an idea of what settings were used to create the image.

Light painting done using single LED torch.
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
Aperture: f/4
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 26mm

For trails, be it star or traffic, a tripod for support is a must.   
Shutter Speed: 20 seconds
Aperture: f/13
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 20mm

Thin steel wool lit and swung around using a rope.  
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
Aperture: f/14
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 22mm

Torch with 5 LED used to write with light.
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
Aperture: f/4
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 18mm

Smoke lit by torch and shot at slow shutter speed to get the feel of a smooth flow. Keeping the source (candle, lamp, etc) in frame can help create different compositions and also act as a point to lead the eye towards the smoke trail.
Shutter Speed: 30 seconds
Aperture: f/14
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 22mm

Few tips for getting started with Night Photography:

  • Tripod is the most important accessory for night photography.
  • Use self timer and remote shutter release to minimize blur due to camera shake on pressing shutter button.
  • If your camera has mirror lock-up, use it to minimize shake due to vibration.
  • Dark areas always produce lots of noise, so for night shots play with very low ISO to get high quality images.
  • Most cameras have a maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds, use bulb mode for longer exposures.
  • Pre-visualize and Pre-plan your shoot. If you have a particular scene in mind, set up your camera, compose your shot and be ready before the light fades.
  • Always keep a torch with you.
  • Focusing is difficult during low light, so shift to manual focus.
  • Use manual mode for shooting, it gives flexibility to set ISO, shutter and aperture.
  • Different sources of light may affect the image colors, so try changing the white balance to get a feel of final output.
  • Shoot in raw, it gives the flexibility to change White Balance during post processing.
  • Don't just depend on the image preview, use histogram to check the exposure.


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