It Was a Dark and Not So Stormy Night

“I love Christmas, not just because of the presents but because of all the decorations and lights and the warmth of the season.”— Ashley Tisdale

Today’s Post by Barry Staver & Joe Farace, Image by Barry Staver

Working under available light, unavailable light, available darkness, or low light—it doesn’t matter what you call it—can also produce some of the most rewarding photographs. First, there is the thrill of overcoming the technical obstacles that normally prevent you from capturing a well-exposed image. Next, photographs made under conditions different from “normal” have a more eye-catching look. Most importantly, taking the time to search out dramatic lighting conditions let you produce photographs that are different from the rest of the pack. The ingredients for making images under less than ideal lighting conditions are well known. You use a tripod-mounted camera with high ISOs and slow shutter speeds to create timed exposures that create images that overcome the cliché and can, if you’re lucky, produce art.

Scenes that contains an extreme rage of brightness and darkness can give a light meter fits and nighttime holiday lighting is a perfect example. The human eye easily adapts to the colorful lights hung on buildings and trees, but your camera’s meter generally reads the larger dark areas and instructs the camera to expose for a lack of light. The resulting image will be overexposed and the brightly colored lights will lack detail. You can overcome this problem by taking a meter reading from an area that is well lit by the lights. Move in close and meter it, using a hand-held meter or locking the reading into your camera’s built-in meter. You can also put on a longer lens and take a closer reading from camera position. This produces the same result as the first suggestion without having to move in close—which isn’t always possible. Another method involves bracketing several different exposures of the same scene.

Denver’s City and County Building has traditionally been illuminated at Christmas with a striking lighting display. Due to the size of the large building, most photographs made of the building are taken from a distance. This photograph was made on a ledge outside a window on one of the building’s upper floors. To make this photograph, Barry asked for and was given permission in advance and an escort accompanied him and remained with him throughout the shoot. A Gitzo tripod-mounted Nikon camera with a 16mm fisheye lens was used to capture the entire building. Exposure was five seconds at f/8 and ISO 400. Barry Staver and Joe Farace are co-authors of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s out-of-print with new copies available from Amazon for $19.95 (non-Prime) or used copies for giveaway prices, $4 as I write this. You won’t find a better deal for a Christmas gift for your favorite photographer, or yourself.

Author: Joe Farace

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