Monday, November 13, 2017

"Night Photography" by John Williams

I find night photography to be a very fun way to discover whole new ways of looking at the world through our cameras and it presents photographers with such a great opportunity to capture fantastic images.  Just as with all image making; composition, light, color, contrast, texture and dynamic range are all differentiators.  This is indeed true during the day, but it can really make a huge difference at night. If you want to expand your image palette, there’s probably no better way to do it than with night and low light photography.  No need to travel to distant exotic locations because when the lights are turned on, streets, buildings, bridges and attractions take on a whole new look, what often may be mundane during the day can become fantastic subjects at night.

There are many aspects to night and low light photography!  Getting the right exposure, color balance, obtaining sharp focus, dealing with ultra-wide dynamic range and even seeing your compositions. We’re going to take on this exciting photography subject and dig into several of these challenges in our CAPS Night & Low Light Photography session.

Let’s discuss one aspect of night photography that’s a really interesting phenomenon which can occur when you have a point of light.  This is called Star Effects, or Starbursts we can also include Sun Flares and Sun Stars. The more you know about how these are created, the more you can incorporate them into your photography by intention.
Starbursts are caused by diffraction in the camera lens.  The effect is magnified when you have a point source of light in your image frame, like a spot light, street light, sun, etc.  When light waves pass by an object, especially like the diaphragm in a lens, this causes the light waves to alter their direction and spreads the wave pattern.  This occurs not only with light, but also with sound waves and water as well.

In photography, diffraction occurs differently depending on the size of the aperture opening.  Normally more diffraction is thought to be a bad thing in photography because it is associated with softening the focus of an image.  But, it is because of this diffraction on distant single-point light sources that we get a starburst effect, especially noticeable in night photography.
 
The design of your lens aperture diaphragm and the aperture setting you select has a profound impact on the starburst effect.  You should also know that differing lenses, even within the same brand, let alone altering brands, will have vastly different characteristics to the look of this effect.  If the aperture blades form a perfect circle, you will not get the starburst effect.  Instead, you will have distant highlights producing Airy Discs on your image which may be so small, you may not even see them.

Here are some tips to get you started with Starburst effects in night photography:

Tip 1:  Test and practice starburst effects at home with your lenses.  Use a flashlight to create the distant point source of light.  Set up your camera on a tripod so you can alter your aperture and change your shutter speed to accomplish the correct exposure.  Take a series of pictures with each lens, using f/8.0, 11, 16 and 22.  You will learn very quickly just how differently your lenses create the starburst effect and just how different the effect looks.  Depending on the number of aperture blades, you will see various numbers of points of light. The result of this process will help you to really know your lenses for the ideal starburst effect.

Tip 2:  Use smaller apertures to create more defined points of light. Usually that would mean a minimum of f/11 if not f/16 or f/22.  It’s strange how this works, but technically, if you have an even number of aperture blades, you will get that many points of light.  If you have an odd number of aperture blades, you will get twice the number of points of light.  So, 6 Blades equals 6 spikes of light, but 7 Blades will equal 14 spikes.

Tip 3:  Beware of filters!  Filters over the front of your lens can and usually do cause flare from point light sources.  They can also cause you to not achieve the starburst effect you are looking for.  Try removing any UV or other glass in front of the front element of your lens and you should achieve a much better result.

Tip 4:  Get the right exposure.  Exposure affects the intensity of the starburst effect.  The longer the exposure, the more star effect you will see.  The brighter the highlights in a photo and depending on how much contrast is in the scene will all influence how much you will see the starburst effect.

Tip 5:  Subject to lens distance will influence how large the starburst effect appears.  Often, if the point source of light is up against an object partially blocking it, like a building or bridge, or even the sun at the horizon, this will make the starburst effect more pronounced. Of course, the relative size and brightness of the point source as well as the quality of light overall will have an effect.  Nothing takes out a starburst effect quicker than a bunch of haze, smoke or fog.

John Williams is a passionate and accomplished photographer living in Lake County and a longtime member of the Lake County Camera Club and CACCA community. Modern digital photography presents the perfect intersection of technology and art that John has found totally engaging with his technically inclined interests.  While John enjoys a wide variety of photographic styles and subjects, his favorites include Architectural, Landscapes, Cityscapes, Travel and Night photography. 


John will be presenting "Night and Low Light Photography"  at CAPS-Chicago Area Photography School on Sunday, November 19th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: caps.caccaweb.com or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline




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