In search of Light

Whilst I have been away from home, I have taken every opportunity to get out with my camera to a) do something I love to do, take photos and b) practice some of the theory I have been learning over the past few weeks.

It isn’t very often that I get out to take photos at night, there are a few reasons for this, firstly it is very cold here in Korea at the moment, so being out in subzero temperatures after dark is not much fun; secondly, I do not have much knowledge surrounding night photography so I feel that I would need to do some extra studying surrounding the subject and at the moment, what with everything else I am doing, I just cannot justify the time and thirdly, being a woman, and being in a strange location, I am yet to feel comfortable going out alone with my nice, big expensive camera – and unfortunately, it is not always easy to convince my husband that I need company doing this!  So, when the opportunity arose for me to head out and take some photos of a nicely lit bridge at night, I jumped at the opportunity.

Looking out of my room, I have watched the Eupna Bridge, crossing the lake every evening.  At first, I tried to take some photos from my balcony, which turned out a little disastrous as I was a little too far away from the structure and I did not have my tripod to assist with the obvious camera shake experienced during the longer exposures needed.  On Thursday evening (15th Feb), just as the sun was setting, I ventured out into the unknown with my camera and tripod, to see what images I could capture.  Of course, it was very cold, so bundled up I reached my first location at around 18:20PM and set myself up.

My first shot was taken at 18:24PM, so it was still quiet light, but as we had good cloud coverage, the atmosphere surrounding my first few images was both eerie and wintery.

Shutter Speed 2/5; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 90mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 2/5; Aperture F5.3; Focal Length 90mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

I was still some distance away from the bridge, and as it was a long structure, I kept my focal length a little short (90mm) so that I could fit as much of it in the frame as possible.  To keep symmetry in the photo, I have cropped it to a panoramic view, which most of the photos hereafter are.  At this point, I did not need to use a terribly long shutter speed, but the speed I have used here (2/5) has given clarity to the lights on the bridge, which breaks up the image through the centre of the frame.

The light was beginning to fade quiet quickly, so I had to move fast to continue capturing the same atmosphere as in previous photos, and as you can see I had the added advantage of the lights changing colour at regular intervals, although this did make it a little difficult at times as capturing clarity was a little hit and miss.

Shutter Speed 10/13; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 210mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 10/13; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 210mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

This shot was taken on a long focal length with a shutter speed of 10/13.  Again, this has been cropped to a panoramic view, as I like the symmetry received from this crop.  I have posted some of these photo’s to Flickr, I am a member of a group that contains other DPP students, and I have received comment back that it would have been nice to see a little more depth in this photo, but I am not sure that decreasing my shutter speed would have helped achieve this, as the rest of the photo would have gone darker too, which surly would have decreased the depth?  Unfortunately I am not in the position to try this again; perhaps I should find another bridge?

Looking at the RAW histogram for this shot, the data has produced a very narrow graph, indicating that there is limited contrast within the frame.

Histogram of Image 4610

Histogram of Image 4610

There is the tiniest spike of white to the right of the graph, which confirms the smallest amount of white present, which can be found in the lights.  We can also see that the tonal range is outside of my camera’s dynamic range, this is not that surprising due to the low-key image I have produced, and finally there is some highlight clipping present in the centre of the bridge, again this is expected due to the amount of light being generated in this one spot.

For this next image, I have decreased my focal length in order to include more of the bridge in the frame.

Shutter Speed 1"; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 78mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 1″; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 78mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

What I like about these photos are the uniform lines and the perfect reflection of the bridge in the lake.  As the lights are changing, it makes each image slightly different, and it was actually quiet difficult choosing which ones I would show in this post.  This was one of the last shots I took before I lost the light (it had set behind me), and the next image is more or less identical, with only the shape of the bridge now visible.

Shutter Speed 3"; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 56mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 3″; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 56mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Perhaps this should have been cropped as dramatically as the previous shot, to highlight the difference in background information.

For completely different reasons, I like the next batch of photos as they are just of the bridge, with no other information showing in the frame.  Now that my shutter speed has increased to 3”, the lights above the water are clear and those in the lake’s reflection are slightly fuzzy due to the slight movement in the water – I like the effect.

The next two images show a variation of the bridge, one taken with the centre column to the right, the other with the centre column to the left.

Shutter Speed 3"; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 145mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 3″; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 145mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

 

Shutter Speed 3"; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 112mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 3″; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 112mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

As the images are now dark, I have again looked at the RAW histogram to see what differences, if any, have occurred.  There is actually a large difference in the data for this image, compared with the previous one we looked at.

Histogram of Image 4621

Histogram of Image 4621

Now the contrast data is really small and slammed up against the left side of the axis.  There is actually a bigger overexposure spike than before, which I assume is coming from the clipped areas of light on the bridge supports.  Although this histogram is screaming that the shot is underexposed, it obviously is not due to the nature of the photograph, and the darkness that surroundings the brilliance of light coming from the bridge.

Wanting to see what other options lie in photographing the bridge, I moved positions and got closer to the subject.

These next two photos are the same, but I have changed the shutter speed to see what difference it would make to the images.

Shutter Speed 5"; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 5″; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

The first photo was taken with an exposure of 5”.  Being closer to the bridge, and having the sensor open to light that bit longer, has allowed for more information to be captured in the image as here we can see more of the bridges underbelly as well as some of detail of the water.

Whereas this next image was only exposed for half the time (2.5”), so less information is available in the shot.

Shutter Speed 2.5"; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 2.5″; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 300mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

It is not until you conduct these types of experiments that you realize what a difference a change in exposure times can make.  In the first image I like the vibrancy of the lights on the bridge, but not the starkness the ‘white’ light casts over things, whereas in the second shot I like the softness of the light, but not the lack of information caused by there being less light – catch twenty-two …

This is the final image I took,

Shutter Speed 8"; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 105mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

Shutter Speed 8″; Aperture F5.6; Focal Length 105mm; ISO 100; Metering Spot; WB Sunny

and it was taken at 19:06PM, so my photography expedition lasted around 40-mins.  This photo was taken with the longest exposure of the night 8”, which has worked well in this instance and I put that down to the short focal length used.  There is enough light to make the structure of the bridge visible, by giving you the ability to follow the lines all the way down to the buildings at the end of the walkway.  The picture is also dark enough to hold an element of mystery, which in turn makes the bridge really stand out within the frame.

When shooting photos at night, it isn’t always prudent to follow what your histogram is telling you, as there will always be an element of under exposure and LOTS of over exposure present in the reading.  I enjoyed my little nighttime photo shoot, it is a shame I do not get the opportunity to do it as often as I would like, as I would like to experiment with this medium a little more.

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2 Responses to In search of Light

  1. Matt says:

    Night photography always brings lots of challenges. Its great to see you’re having a go. You’ve produced some great pictures here. I noticed on your settings info that the ISO is 100 for each image. Have you thought about increasing the ISO? This would enable you to experiment with a faster shutter speed.

    • I really do not get the opportunity to go out with my camera at night that often, so when i do get the chance it is always a little fraught! I had read somewhere (quiet a while ago) that you should keep the ISO low for night photography, as you are keeping the shutter open for longer, there is no need to go higher. I must admit that i do not always remember to change my ISO, but I should as my camera is geared up for it and performs quiet well under those conditions. Thanks (as ever) for your comments, appreciate them …

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