After posting this photo on my Facebook page, a few have asked how I took this shot.
This photo and a few more that you’ll see a little later in this post were taken in the dark. Because the light is too harsh in the middle of the day, I like to use that time to scout out my next mornings shooting location. I do that because it will be totally dark when I arrive at the location and I want to have a good idea of where exactly I should be and how to find it in the dark.
Taken in the dark
While you might get some of the same effect in the evening after the sun goes down, I prefer early, early mornings. Most of the time no one else is there to spoil this quiet peaceful time. While setting up to take this shot, I heard a couple of elk bulging and had two beaver swim right in front of me. The only noise was that of the critters. There was no wind. Talk about a time to reflect. Yes, I know, I know! I’m in bear country, by myself, in the dark….. but ….. Hey ………… I have my bear spray!
The technical part of this type of photography is quite simple. You’ll need a sturdy tripod, a wide-angle lens (I use a 16-35 mm), your camera turned to manual mode, the shutter to bulb mode and a remote shutter release. The remote shutter release is important because the shutter will need to be opened for more than a minute. Any camera movement will cause blur in your image during that time. The photo above was taken at 78 seconds. The ISO should be at the lowest native setting, typically 100 or 200. Oh yea, you’ll need a flashlight. I use a head lamp on red. The red light doesn’t affect my night vision.
After you’ve hiked to your spot and set up your camera on the tripod, do your best to compose the shot in the dark. One you’re all physically set up, set the aperture in your camera to a high f-stop number like f-19 or f-22. set your focus to the infinity indicator on the barrel of the lens. Be careful not to go past the infinity mark as some lens will allow you to do. That seems to cause everything to be slightly out of focus. I don’t know why it does so but……..
Now comes the fun part. In bulb mode, the shutter will remain open once it’s activated and close when you release the shutter button. Using a remote shutter release allows you to trigger the shutter without touching the camera. Depressing the shutter button on the camera can cause the camera to move which will cause blur. Hold the shutter release button on the remote, then start to count. As stated above, the first photo was taken at 78 seconds. Once you release the shutter, look at your LCD to see how the photo looks. If it’s too light, time the next shot for a few seconds less. If it’s too dark, hold the shutter open a little longer. Keep doing it until you’re satisfied with the results. That’s it…. Almost!
It’s only ALMOST done because it’s dark and sometimes when you’ve composed the shot, you may have some distractions in your photo that you didn’t notice while composing it. In my first photo, you will notice some grass in the bottom left area of the picture. I didn’t see it because it was so dark out. It took all of 2 minutes to get rid of them in post processing.
Don’t be discouraged if after all your planning and scouting for your location, you wake up to find fog has rolled in. Don’t go back to bed! ….. Don’t do it!
The fog had rolled in on the morning I had planned on getting some brilliantly colorful shots of Oxbow in the early morning glow. Because I was there before everyone else, I got the blue light photos you see above. Then, I waited. Before the sun had burned off the fog, a lot of the photographers that had showed up left because they knew the light would be harsh once the fog lifted. I’m glad I stayed!
By using the same technique, but not holding the shutter open nearly as long, you can get shots like these. While I didn’t get the photos of Oxbow with the billion colors of early morning light, I’m still happy with what I did get. All in all, it was a terrific morning!
I hope this tip gives you something to try…… but ……. remember, you’ve got to be patient and you must get up before the sun to get these types of shots.
I know, I know………… But It’s DARK OUT!
Thanks for stopping by!