A different way to see a Night Scenic

Night Photography


If something appears in the visible spectrum, your camera’s sensor should be able to record it.

Even if  you can’t see it, if in view of the lens, it will show up. 

This is assuming you leave the shutter open long enough.

What your camera can’t do is “freeze” the whole image as a still image.

If either your subject or your camera moves during the exposure, expect ghosting or blurriness. 

Understanding this is key to being successful in your low-light efforts.

With my camera on a tripod and a wide angle lens, I took a drive down Mission Boulevard  to see what I could come up with.

It would have been a lot nicer had I been a passenger instead of being the both the driver and photographer.

I had manually focused the camera on my dashboard, stopped down the aperture on my wide angle to f11  and set a  6 to 8 second exposure, using IS0 100 as a starting point.

Reasons I chose these settings:

  1. I wanted trails of light so I wanted at least 5 seconds that the shutter remained open
  2. I wanted some depth-of-field as well, so I chose f11 and I used a wide angle.
  3. I wanted the instrument panel to light up, so I based my exposure on that.

Since there was no person it the picture and there is such a mixture of light sources, I just set White Balance to Auto.

This picture would have been better had I really secured and immobilized my camera and tripod inside the van but it’s tough driving and taking pictures simultaneously. If you notice the blurriness, it’s because of camera shake.

Next time I will:

  • get someone else to drive
  • use a flash during the long exposure with different colored gels
  • try to include the rear view mirror or the side mirrors in the picture
  • use a superclamp to secure the camera. The tripod, though heavy, wasn’t sufficient

2 thoughts on “A different way to see a Night Scenic”

  1. Terra,
    Thanks for visiting and more importantly, taking the time to comment.

    You are absolutely right that no one gets it right the first time.

    I can tell you the few times I did table top or still life type photography like in this illustration, it took me many hours.

    I had a studio at my disposal and I would fire off a roll, process the film immediately to make sure it was okay before I tore down the entire set.

    It’s a lot easier now with photoshop but the principles are still the same. It’s infinitely better to get it right in the camera than try to fix it in post production.

  2. I really love getting your blog emails. You are crafty and well detailed. I learn so much from your them. The best part is “Next time I will” because this helps me see out of the box and gets me thinking of what other things could have been changed. Also, it lets me understand that everyone doesn’t always get it perfect the first time…making me feel better that it takes me a few tries too many to get it right 😉

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