Rodney Campbell's Blog

Lighting the Night…

by on Aug.08, 2016, under Life, Photography

Image making out in the freezing cold of the night is one thing but the addition of just a little lighting can go a long way toward enhancing a composition.

I was back out amongst the ruins of the old Glen Davis shale oil works for another evening of fun under the stars. For the second night in a row we had perfectly clear skies. No moon in sight, very little light pollution and a very cool crisp evening with no clouds – perfect.



NIKON D750 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 30 sec at f/2.8, ISO 6400

I’d taken the composition above the previous evening. However I’d bumped the focus ring before taking my shots (pushing the focus past infinity). I didn’t actually notice till I’d moved on to the next composition (a 360˚ panorama) and fixed it. I didn’t however have time to go back and reshoot last night.

Instead as soon as I arrived this evening I went back to the spot and reshot this image. This time with the focus right :). You can only tell the previous nights version is a little soft if you zoom in to 100%. Onscreen with web sized versions you actually can’t tell the difference. However I know! 🙂 so here I present Runaway redone!.

This evening my fellow photographers I was travelling with braved the cold and dark to join me for some astro fun.

Spectral Spaces

Spectral Spaces

NIKON D750 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 30 sec at f/2.8, ISO 6400

I find a little lighting added to the scene via some form of light painting to be essential for these types of night shots. Without the added lighting the foreground and midground would all be just absolute black or black silhouettes set against the night sky.

If the moon was out it would light the landscape for me. I’d also have to adjust the overall exposure to balance the landscape with the sky.

On a clear moonless night with no other light sources – it’s just really really dark!. Without some form of ambient lighting we the photographers need to add something to lift it out of the darkness.

Normally I use my warm LED head torch to do most of my light painting for these types of shots. The first image above is an example of this. Normally I like to do a little cross lighting from the sides (rather than front on which makes everything go very flat). I prefer my Zebralight head torch because I got one with a warm led rather than the normally very cool LED torches available today. It makes a big difference having a warmer light source (more yellow/orange) rather than a very cold blue light.

One other aspect of my torch is that it has multiple brightness levels. From the super bright 1020 lumens down to very low moonlight levels at 3.5 lumens (and even down to 0.4/0.06 and 0.01 lumens).

When shooting the stars at high ISO levels (e.g. ISO 6400 in these cases) you need to use a very low torch brightness setting (I use the low 3.5 lumen level typically). Anything brighter and you’re pretty much guaranteed to blow out whatever you light. Even with this very low moonlight setting you need to be subtle and quick with your lighting. You also need to remember that you need to light things close much less than things further away.

The Red Zone

The Red Zone

NIKON D750 + 14.0 mm f/2.8 @ 14 mm, 30 sec at f/2.8, ISO 6400

I was with some friends who also wanted to learn more about shooting astro and the light painting. So along with lighting with the warm (daylight) light I also did a number of takes with coloured torches.

I’ve included blue and red variants above. One thing to note when using coloured torches is that the different colours have vastly different intensities (even from the same torch at the same power level). Red for instance is very strong and can easily blow out if you’re not careful. You have to be really quick and subtle when using red. I even cover the torch head with my hand and only let some of the light diffuse through my fingers to control the light.

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