Wednesday, January 31, 2007

50 Minute Exposure with a D200???

Digital night photographers have a fascination with taking longer and longer exposures at night. Part of the fascination is due to the fact that if your exposure becomes long enough, the sensor begins introducing noise to the detriment of the image. Prior to a few days ago, I was under the impression that the latest crop of DSLR's were topping out around 20 minutes, which is far cry from my five-year old Canon D60's limit of four minutes.

(photo: Laura Elskan)

Then I came across Flickr user happylaura's image below. As any night photographer will immediately notice from the length of the startrails, this exposure was significantly longer than twenty minutes. Could it have been created by stacking multiple shorter exposures?

Happylaura (her real name is Laura Elskan) took the above image with the relatively new Nikon D200. It was a single exposure, using only in-camera noise reduction. In other words, no stacking of multiple images, and no post-processing noise reduction such as NoiseNinja. The temperature? It was a brisk 30-deg F. Not unreasonably cold for any serious night photograper.

She also told me that she took another image at 109 minutes! It looks like Canon now has some serious competition in the NPy world, now.

If any other night photographers have any experience with long exposures with the D200, please post them to the comment section.

Free Night Photography Introduction

Tim Baskerville of The Nocturnes is leading a FREE introductory workshop on night photography this Saturday night (Feb 3rd) on Mare Island in Vallejo, CA. It's part of the SF Bay Area Flywell Festival. There are only a few spots open for this great opportunity. For more information, and to get on the waiting list for the free spots, follow the link above.

(photo: Tim Baskerville)

I took the full weekend workshop five years ago, and I have never regretted it. I have also photographed Mare Island three times, and I'm still itching to go back again. If you live near Vallejo, CA, I would highly recommend trying to get into this workshop.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Time Lapse (looks like night)

While we're talking about time lapse movies shot with a DSLR, Christopher Drost has created an eery time-lapse film with a DSLR. At first, I thought this was a film of the moon, but it's actually the sun taken in our very cold neighborly Canada.

(photo: Christopher Drost)

Christoper is better known to Flickr readers as Nice+Smooth Ultramedia. He's a photographer and musician with one of Canada's oldest electronic bands Kinderatom, which blends visual landscapes with appropriate soundscapes from the nice+smooth recording label for an "immersive multi-flickr-media experience".

Many night photographers talk about their need to capture the feeling of the night in their photography. But using still-frame night photography to create a time-lapse film seems like it would have great potential to capture that elusive feeling. I expect we'll see a lot more projects like this in the next year or so.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Time Lapse with a Rebel (update)

Sam Javanrouh shot an interesting time lapse movie of a parking lot with a Canon Rebel DSLR. Each exposure was taken 10 second apart. It starts off a bit boring (it's daytime, after all), but it eventually leads to night time. Actually, the more I watch this film, the more I think that the transition to night is one of the best parts of the movie.

(screenshot provided by Nocturnes Night Photography Blog)

Note: The link requires Flash to be installed in your web browser.

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Falling West" Show at Truxtop

Troy Paiva and Bradley Fulton have a new show at the Truxtop Art Gallery in Silverlake, CA. The show is titled "Falling West: Photographs of American Decline". Most night photographers know Troy from his website and book titled "Lost America: The Abandoned Roadside West".

(photos: Bradley Fulton and Troy Paiva)

On the fringes of society in the American West, life often hangs in a delicate balance. Cheap land and the freedom of open countryside lure the hardy and the desperate to settle in remote corners of the high desert. Here, the only means of support are often extraction industries-- mining, ranching, and farming-- or business brought in by the highways.

When mines dry up, the weather shifts, or traffic patterns change, whole communities lose the ground beneath them. What is left behind is a sad, haunting, and poignantly beautiful portrait of the present-day American frontier.

January 17th - February 11th
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 20th. 7:30pm - Late.

2876 Rowena Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Friday, January 19, 2007

Toby Keller

Toby Keller is a photographer from Santa Barbara, CA. He has been posting his night photographs of the Santa Barbara coast to Flickr for quite a while. He recently updated his website, Burnblue, which contains all of his great night photography work.

(photo: Toby Keller)

Toby shares one of my biggest interests in night photography: the ocean. He has also done some great work painting with an LED flashlight within the coastal environment.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Michael Kenna Retrospective

The Online Photographer has a report by Ailsa McWhinnie, of Britain's Black and White Photography magazine, about the Michael Kenna retrospective at the Banbury Museum near Oxhordshire, UK.

(Graceful Oak, Broughton, Oxfordshire, England, 2005, by Michael Kenna)

Michael Kenna's night photography, near-night photography, and long-exposure day photography have been an inspiration for many contemporary night photographers and daytime landscape photographers. Michael's most recent book, Hokkaido, is available from Photo-Eye.

Night Shooting with the EOS 5D

Joe Reifer has posted a great review of shooting with the Canon EOS 5D at night. One of the problems with full-frame cameras is that they often show your lens' shortcomings, especially in the corners. Joe discusses how he solves this problem, as well as a rarely-known, although completely obvious, approach to solving another night photography challenge: focusing in the dark.

(photo: Joe Reifer)

Now, if only he could suggest a better solution to keeping warm at night...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Gyula Halász

The first photographer to produce a really large body of night photography work was a Hungarian photographer named Gyula Halász (1899-1984). Two interesting things about Halasz are 1) he was born in Transylvania (how perfect is that?), and 2) as an artist, he worked under the pseudonym Brassai.

Today, almost everyone knows him as Brassai.

("Avenue de l'Observatoire", by Brassai)

While living in Paris, Brassai was drawn to the night. His most famous work, Paris de Nuit ("Paris by Night") has become a classic night photography book. Published in 1933, it features some of his work of the seedier side of Paris nightlife, as well as night photographs of train stations, parks, and bridges over the Seine.

(photo by Brassai)

Micheal Kenna has cited Brassai as a major influence on his work. He even titled one of his photographs in Night Work as "Pont Neuf (Merci, Brassai)".

A modern printing of Paris de Nuit is available on Amazon for under $40. The original can be had for as little as $1000! More of his images are available on Google.

Also, Robert Winkler has a great article on Brassai's shooting technique titled In the Dark: Photography for Night Owls.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Comet McNaught

This isn't exactly he-man night photography, but neither are lunar eclipses, so I'm posting it anyway...

(photo: Jens Hackmenn)

Comet McNaught is currently visible to the naked eye. It has surprisingly become the brightest comet of the decade (for those of us with creeping Alzheimer's disease, Hale-Bopp was last decade). Its brightness is proving to be difficult to predict, which seems to be working in everyone's favor.

It has become bright because it's very close to the sun (the warmth of the sun is key to a comet's brightness). Unfortunately, that means that it's only visible very close to sunrise and sunset. And you definitely won't see it next to the full moon. But if your night photography has given you even an inkling of interest in astronomy, Comet McNaught should be rewarding. And it may appear even brighter later this month.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Gem

I love this shot of the D.O.T. "Ready Fleet" at Alameda Point (Alameda, CA) taken by Rikki Feldman. Rikki has been shooting with the rest of the scraggly Bay Area night photography crew for over a year. Rikki seems to have an endless supply of great abandoned locations to shoot at night.

(Photo by Rikki Feldman)

Alameda Point was formerly the Alameda Naval Air Station. It has now been turned over to the City of Alameda as a playground for night photographers... No, not really. It's been turned over to the City of Alameda for residential and commercial use. It's open to the public, and it's got some great sightseeing. If you live near Alameda, please check it out before the city builds it's oceanfront shops and hotels and other horrible stuff. You can also visit the USS Hornet; an aircraft carrier that's open to the public.

It seems that the night crew got harassed by security when they were shooting the above location. That seems a bit ridiculous to me because if all of us combined all of our shots of the Ready Fleet, we probably have every possible angle in the collection. Also, it seems that only some people get harassed shooting around these ships. One night that I was there about a year ago, one person in our group got harassed by the security, but the other two didn't.

Maybe the solution is to spread out with lots of photographers, and then all share your shots afterwards :-)

Books for Night Photographers

Before Christmas I had planned to post a few lists of my favorite books for night photographers. I never got around to it. But since books usually aren't time-critical, I still want to go ahead and post them.

There are three seperate lists that I want to talk about: the TOP list, the Nocturnes list, and my personal list.

The first list comes from Mike Johnston, publisher of the wonderful blog The Online Photographer. Prior to publishing T.O.P, he was a regular contributor to the Luminous Landscape. And way back then (in 2002), he published a list of books called Reading for Practicing Photographers. This list contains twenty books that address the aesthetics of photography, the philosophy of art, and examples of great photographs. I've read seven of them, so I have a way to go before I finish the list. I'm sure all of them are just as applicable to night photography as they are to "civilian" photography (just as archery is relevant to all photography).

The second list is primarily for night photographers. About four years ago I began building a personal library of night photography books. I started contacting all of the night photographers I knew to find out which books they recommended. Tim Baskerville then put me in contact with some other well-known night photographers whom I did not know (Rolfe Horn, Todd Hido, Stu Jenks, Michael Kenna and William Lesch), and the list started growing. We eventually collated the results and posted them on The Nocturnes website. With the exception of Michael Kenna, there haven't been very many night photography books published since we compiled this list. So the list is still quite relavent.

(If I could only recommend one book, this would be it).

The third list is my own personal list. After reading many of the books recommended by Michael Johnson, and also those books recommended by other night photographers, I have to recommend the following three books as my all-time most-read, most-refered-to, and most recommended (in no particular order):

1. On Being a Photographer, by Bill Jay. Obviously, the title is a pun on Susan Sontag's landmark, although less exciting, book On Photography. The biggest value of this book is Jay's experience as a professional photographer and his outline of how a photographer should develop and implement their own working plan. He's a big believer in identifying your niche, but not wasting your photographing a niche that you can't excel at.

2. Letting Go of the Camera, by Brooks Jensen. Jensen is the publisher and author of the outstanding black-and-white fine art photography magazine LensWork. This book contains the best, and sometimes the most contrarian, insights into how to be a more effective photographer.

3. Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Irrespective of the title, this book is not targeted for people who are afraid to move forward with their art (personally, I don't even understand that concept... but everyone's entitled to their own neorosis). It's just chocked full of great insights about why people need to create art, and how you can harness those needs to produce more and better art.

All of three of these books are inexpensive, relative short, and very easy to read. They're not scholarly texts. And none of them talk about f-stops, lens comparisons, polarizing filters nor exposure techniques. In fact, none of them even contain any photographs. These three books are about the internal process of planning, implementing and improving your artwork.

At least, they all work for me. Your own mileage may vary.

Happy reading.