I’ve always enjoyed exploring the country of the night. But even though I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos in my life, I don’t have many that record my travels in that largely unknown land. Unknown to most trekkers, anyway. Of so it seems. At any rate, I almost never encounter other two-legged wanderers on my jaunts afloat (and afield) after the sun goes down.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, now that the balance between the hours of light and dark in my home waters has tipped in favor of the latter. And I’ve been struck by the paucity of night shots in my photo archive. Why is this?
Part of the answer lies in simple laziness. After a long day—a day which sometimes combines cycling, paddling, and walking—I’m usually pretty bushed. Few of my muscles have been idle, and they’re all reminding me that it’s time to take a break. By the time I’ve set up camp, cooked (and eaten) dinner, changed into something comfortable—well, something warm and dry, anyway—washed up, and put temptation out of the way of any nocturnal diners… By the time I’ve done all that, I’ve got just enough energy left to crawl into my sleeping bag. Often, I’m asleep before I can even think about dipping into the book I’ve brought along. (It’s usually one of those books I can’t find time to read at home, either. Oh, well.)
Still, on those rare occasions when I can master fatigue, I enjoy being up and about at the night. Animals that have good reason to fear the sight of humans feel free to move about once we’ve retreated into our own too-well-lighted dens. And then there’s the aesthetic angle. A full moon lights a glittering path on the rippling waters of a mountain lake. Myriads of stars shine forth—stars never seen by men and women who seldom venture out of the reach of streetlights—in a display that no HD screen can equal. Sometimes I’ll see meteorites plunging to their fiery deaths. Or—rare treat!—watch Jupiter keep company with Aldebaran as the pair sweeps westward across the heavens from the eastern horizon to the western.
All in all, the night offers quite a show. And it’s one that Disney hasn’t found a way to copyright and charge for. Yet. But who knows what next year will bring? So I’ve decided I’d better make the most of any opportunities to record the comings and goings in the forests of the night. Of course, it’s not as easy as I make it sound. Laziness isn’t the only obstacle to be overcome. Photography depends on light, after all, and that’s a commodity in short supply at night. But there’s always at least a little natural light to work with, even on the darkest night. The secret to night photography, then? Make the most of whatever nature (or man, if you’re taking photos where streetlights do battle with the dark) provides. And this, not surprisingly, brings us to the consideration of the proper equipment for night photography… Read more…
This article is an update of one originally published on November 8, 2012.
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