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Posts Tagged ‘twilight’

postheadericon Moonlight Photography

The moon simply reflects sunlight, but very weakly. Capturing a scene by moonlight means allowing for the way we perceive it as dark, colorless and mysterious.

 

Photographing by moonlight needs long exposures, even at a high-sensitivity setting, as the intensity is in the region of 19 stops less than daylight. Such shots are generally worth attempting only around the time of  a full moon, with clear skies.

 

A bright full moon is about 400,000 times less bright than the sun. Start with a setting of about one minute at f2.8 at ISO 200, and check the result in the LCD display. Such long exposures make it tempting to switch to a higher sensitivity, but this increases the noise in the image and , as you will need to use a tripod in any case, it may be better just to make a longer exposure at the standard setting. Two other factors come into play. One is that we see moonlight as dim, and to reproduce that impression you should keep the exposure at least an f-stop or two less than normal. The other is that our night vision lacks color sensitivity, whereas the camera’s sensor will pick up color as normal. Consider de-saturating the image, or increasing the blue, for final display.

 

To photograph the moon itself you will need a telephoto lens of at least 400mm equivalent to make a reasonable-sized image. The brightness depends on atmospheric conditions and on the phase. A bright, full moon needs an exposure at ISO 200of about 1/250 second at around f8, but check on the LCD screen. Other phases of the moon and hazier conditions need longer exposures. Apart from the need to avoid camera shake, keep the exposure short because the rotation of the earth causes the moon’s image to  move across the frame. You will usually need to re-frame each shot.

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postheadericon Twilight Photography

With the sun below the horizon, it is the afterglow that lights the scene, often with a surprising delicacy not found under any other conditions.

 

Like the normal daytime skylight, twilight is a reflected light source, but is rather more complex in its effects. It is the light that appears a little before sunrise (“first light”) and that remains for a short time once the sun has set. In a clear sky, the intensity shades smoothly upwards from the horizon, where it’s brightest, and outwards from the direction of the sun. (The studio equivalent is a light placed on the floor, aimed up towards a white wall, and used as back lighting.) The sky, in fact, acts partly as a diffuser and partly as reflector. The actual light levels vary considerably from a just-discernible glow to actual sunset or sunrise.

 

These conditions allow a fairly wide choice of exposure. If you are shooting directly towards the twilight, you can try a short exposure in order to make a silhouette of the horizon and subject. In this kind of back-lit shot, the shading of the sky from bright to dark gives some choice of exposure, particularly if you use a wide-angle lens. Less exposure intensifies the color and concentrates the view close to the horizon. More exposure dilutes the color in the lowee part of the sky, but shows more of the higher, bluer parts. In other words, increasing the exposure extends the area of the subject within the frame. A range of exposures is acceptable, depending on what kind of effect you are trying to achieve from the photograph.

 

Not only does the brightness shade upwards from the horizon, but the color does also. The exact colors depend on local atmospheric conditions, and different light-scattering effects are combined in a twilight sky. At a distance form brightest area-opposite and above-the color temperature is high, as it would be during the day. Close to the horizon in the direction of the light, however, the scattering creates the warmer colors at the lower end of the color temperature range: yellow, orange and red. These merge in a graded scale of color.

 

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