Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Lowlight photography

Photography during winter is fun, especially when the mornings are filled with mist and the light is golden. There are long shadows during sunset and frost throughout the day, beautifully formed on spider webs, plants and anything that touches the chill. Then there is snow, which creates its own unique atmosphere. But most importantly, the whole ambiance is a wonderland.

Even though it gets cold during these months, don’t let this put you off photography. Wear suitable clothing to keep warm and capture the beauty of nature in your photography.

In this article I will briefly explain how to take great photographs in different lighting conditions using the ISO, aperture, shutter, and manual mode of your camera.

Morning Photography

Before sunrise, the light reflected from the sky hitting the scene is very soft and diffused, which gives very weak shadows. The colour of the sky will be blue on a clear day and grey on a cloudy day, such lighting conditions can create very atmospheric photographs. This photograph was taken before the sunrise.

Use the Aperture Priority mode; set the aperture at f16 (the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed).

For Manual mode, set the aperture at f16 and the shutter speed at 15 seconds. Use this shutter speed as a guide only, as your exposure time may vary depending on the available light. You may either have to increase or decrease the shutter speed depending on the image produced.

Cameras which do not have the Aperture Priority or Manual mode will often allow selecting different scene settings, such as ‘dusk/dawn’, ‘nightlight’ or ‘sunset’ modes. Please choose which suits you and your camera best.

Here is a photograph taken using Aperture Mode. The exposure will be long, so use a tripod as this will avoid camera shake. In this photograph the sun has just began to rise and you can see how the colours are different in both images.

If you don't have a SLR, it's still possible to get good photographs, just need to understand your camera and its modes. Read more on 'Understanding your Camera'. 

Example of photograph using ‘Dawn/dusk’ mode on a compact camera

During the morning also try to photograph the morning fog, water droplets on spider webs and frost.  To get maximum depth of field, set your compact camera on 'Landscape Mode' (set f16 on SLR - using Aperture mode ) and for minimum depth of field set the camera on 'Close-up Mode' (set f2.8 of f5.6 on SLR - using Aperture mode). The result of using these settings will be similar.

Morning fog (camera set on 'Fog Mode')

The photographs below are all taken with a compact camera.
Dew drops (camera set on 'Close-up Mode')

Night Photography

During total darkness, there is obviously no natural light available. These are perfect conditions to photograph trailing lights from cars, lit cityscapes, fireworks and light movement. 

If using Shutter mode, set your SLR on a slow shutter speeds such as 1/8th, 1/4th to capture movement. If using Manual mode, set the camera at f16 and use the camera’s exposure indicator to set the value on 0 as this will give you the correct exposure.

An exposure indicator is visible through the viewfinder which looks like:

On compact cameras choose 'Nightlight', and the camera will adjust the aperture and shutter accordingly.

Photograph of snow at night using Manual Mode:

It's great to experiment and be creative with photography. Try changing the ISO to 1600 or higher to minimise camera shake and to achieve moody, atmospheric photographs. I also convert my images to black/white to add more drama to it.

On compact cameras choose ‘Nightlight’ and the camera will adjust aperture and shutter speed accordingly.
Example of photograph using ‘Nightlight’ on a compact camera:

Bhupinder Ghatahora