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How to Shoot Landscapes in Low Light

Friday, March 12th, 2010 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography
 
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People often believe that they can’t take good photos after the sun has gone down. However, this is not true. With the right equipment, and some patience, taking photos of landscapes at night, at dusk or at dawn can reward you with stunning pictures you didn’t believe were possible. The most important rule is to have a tripod with you to keep the camera still. Here are some tips on how to practice shooting landscapes in low light, and some ideas to try for creating some amazing effects.

1.Choose your location

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Choose a location at dusk when the light in the sky is fading, where you can compose a photo with foreground, mid-ground, and background to increase the interest of the image. If you are at the beach, for example, try having a palm tree or some large rocks in the foreground, the ocean in the mid ground and the sky in the background. There is always more than one way to photograph the same scene, so try to be creative with your compositions.

2.Choose a Time
Photographs often look best when shot in low light. In the early morning and at dusk when the sun has dropped, the light in the sky becomes very soft and the colors can be warm. On a clear night with a full moon, the soft blue-ish light can have a magical affect on a landscape. If you can, you might like to try photographing the same landscape at all three times of the day.

3.Set up a Tripod
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Make sure you set your camera on a sturdy tripod where it cannot slip or be knocked. You will need to shoot with long exposure times and the images will be blurry if you try to hand hold the camera. If you have a shutter release cable, use this to minimize any shake that could occur when pressing the camera’s shutter button. Take some time to adjust your composition using a wide angle lens.

4.How to set your camera

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When there is not a lot of light in the sky, you will find that your ordinary camera settings will produce dark photos. The camera might also try to use the flash, however the flash is not powerful enough to light anything that is more than a few meters away.

Turn off the camera’s flash, and change the shutter speed to somewhere between 5 to 15 seconds. The longer the shutter speed, the brighter your photos will be. You can also increase the ISO to make the images brighter. Take a photo and see how it looks. Keep experimenting with different exposure times to create different effects.

5.Create amazing effects with long exposures

At the Ocean: At dawn or dusk, when there is only a little light in the sky, set up your camera and tripod where there are some waves crashing over rocks. Point the camera at the waves, but include some sky in the composition. Try setting the shutter speed to 5 seconds and take a photo. See how the ocean suddenly looks misty and mysterious.

Star Trails: Choose a clear night when the sky is very dark, and there is no moonlight. Set your digital SLR camera and tripod to point towards the sky so that there are many stars in the frame. With a cable release, leave your camera shutter open for at least 5-10 minutes. The result will be amazing streaks of color and light from the stars that trail across the photo.

City-Scapes and Traffic: A landscape can also include the city lights and traffic. Try taking a photo of a busy street at night with a shutter speed of 5 seconds while there is traffic zooming past. The headlights from the vehicles will create long patterns of light and color. Another idea is to try the same technique with fireworks. The results can be truly amazing!
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~Zahid Javali

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