Why I Seek the Night

Why I Seek the Night

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The biological Circadian Rhythm of human beings dictates that we should be alert, awake, and productive during the day, and rest at night. As a photographer, the majority of my photographs have been taken during daylight hours. However some of my favourite images have been created while most people have their heads snuggled into a pillow. When the world sleeps, I make photographs. It may seem unorthodox or fruitless to take a camera out at night, but I promise you that it can be an exhilarating experience. We have all tried to take photos in the dark with our iPhones, and with our real cameras. The results are usually unspectacular, but we soldier on and as technology improves so do our (slightly less) grainy and shaky photos. What if I told you there was a different way to photograph at night? When properly used, even a basic DSLR or mirrorless camera can create exposures at night that are far beyond what our fleshy eyeballs can see.

 

During the day long exposures blur clouds and water, creating contrast and revealing the majesty of still mountains in the distance and the details of bold rocks as foreground subjects. Tromsø, Norway November 2015

During the day long exposures blur clouds and water, creating contrast and revealing the majesty of still mountains in the distance and the details of bold rocks as foreground subjects. Tromsø, Norway November 2015

 

The human eye has a sensitivity equivalent to about ISO 800 on a camera. In 2016 we often use ISOs as high as 6400 and beyond on our cameras to see what our eyes are missing out on, so the idea that our cameras and lenses can see more than we do should not be a big surprise to anyone. Yet there is still more to the story. Cameras also have the ability to record images at much longer durations than our eyes. This is self evident in long exposures during the day. You have seen them before in landscape photography. The beauty of flowing water being turned into mist or clouds melting into flowing lines in the sky. At night long exposures (combined with high ISO settings) also reveal something else, the stars and the wonder that is our universe. The very fibre of our existence can be seen in photographs. While there is a slight learning curve to all of this, I can help you. I enjoy selling my night time long exposure landscapes, but there are no secrets. So I want to help you learn to take better night photographs. Here is a link to a post I made on my personal site, on this exact topic. Please know that I am happy to answer all questions pertaining to it, as I am fully aware that there is a lot of technical information and things that aren’t just “common sense” when it comes to long exposure night photography. Feel free to ask me anything in the comments and share your night time photographs with us at the Photo Sanctuary!

I am teaching a class at an amazing workshop called The Photo Rehab in Moab, Utah. You can check out the details on that here.

The same exact location photographed many hours later deep into the night. Not much foreground detail is present, but the mountains provide a nice reference as to just how grand and spectacular the Aurora Borealis is. Tromsø, Norway November 2015

The same exact location photographed many hours later deep into the night. Not much foreground detail is present, but the mountains provide a nice reference as to just how grand and spectacular the Aurora Borealis is. Tromsø, Norway November 2015

Mike Zawadzki
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