Photographing in Low Light.


Recently I was asked about capturing images in less than ideal lighting situations. So todays post is inspired by that question, and I am going to explain how I go about capturing images in less than ideal lighting situations.

From day one, my favorite compositions have been night shots. Some of my better known compositions were taken in complete  darkness ,or light that was very dim at best. The technique I used during these night shoots, prepared me for shoots in places like high school gyms, where we have light, but the light is not very well adapted for the camera or the photographer.

This first photo is an example of how we can learn to shoot in low light situations.

Night shot with flash to illuminate the tree

Night shot with flash to illuminate the tree

As a test, I shot this image several times before dialing in the correct settings. As you can tell by the image my only real light source was the full moon, and as most of you know, often times when you photograph the moon, we tend to overexpose causing a blowout in areas of the exposure. We can combat this by bumping down our iso, or using a higher f-stop or cutting down our exposure time. The point is, several steps can be used to control blowout. For this image I choose to illuminate the foreground with a flash to insure my foreground would be visible. My settings for reference. ISO 400 F stop of 10, 15 seconds of exposure, and a first shutter flash. I accomplished my task of fore lighting the tree, but the longer exposure time did in fact cause the moon to be washed out. The composition however proves my point that photographing in low light, is a dialing in process, and often times you will have to take a few test shots to insure your composition. Now what if we can’t use a flash to light up our foreground? I can guarantee you, that if  walk into a high school gym and start snapping with a flash unit, it will be a short matter of time before someone asks you to stop photographing because your flash is distracting the players. So the question is asked what do you do?

This is my technique, and although my camera has some options within its programing to assist the image quality, the suggested methods should provide you with the ability to capture quality images in less than ideal lighting situations.

IF you have the means, I would suggest a lens that has f-stop capabilities of F-1 to 2.8. These wide open apertures allow you to capture all available light, and maintain higher shutter speeds. The issue here is that these lenses are expensive and most people do not own lenses like this. If this is not an option, than it is time to use what we know, and put into place our low light experience.

Although some grain will be present, you will have to bump that ISO setting up. The images below were taken with ISO’s between 5000 and 6400. My f-stop was between 4 and 5,6 and I maintained a shutter of 1/250 and 1/320 of a second. Ideally I would have prefered a shutter speed of 1/500 for action shots, but you have to take into consideration your cameras capabilities and the equipment you have to work with. It also helps if your camera has low light noise reduction software built-in to offer you better captures in your final compositions. I have found that my camera does well in this category and the key to successful captures is the knowledge of your camera’s capabilities. Unfortunately and until camera manufacturers deal with high iso noise issues, it is a problem that we will have to deal with or at least be able to work around.

My shots using these techniques.

iso 6400 @ 1/320 ,100mm

iso 6400 @ 1/320 ,100mm

iso500@ 1/250 100mm

iso5000@ 1/250 100mm

The final images have very little grain present and I used Lightroom to do my editing . Note that I did not use any sharpening or noise reduction in the edits, proving that the camera’s software and knowing its capabilities are key to the capture.

I hope that my suggestions, have helped you with this long-standing problem. If I can elaborate on any of the topics please contact me and I will try to offer suggestions or tips.

Thanks for the read, and remember to shoot the light.

Mike

Cloudy Skies Continue/More Hold Over


Hey mama nature! You are really putting my patience to the test. With cloudy skies ever-present, once again my ambition for the celestial photo is on indefinite hold. With a long over due road trip in process, I spent the day at a place very close to my heart. GilHaven! During the fall of the year, I get to spend time with family members as we share our common love of the outdoors, and the harvest of some tasty venison. The experience of Gilhaven is cherished and my biggest regret is not being able to spend more time within the confines of what I consider this superman’s fortress of solitude. So in summary, I will cherish the time I am able to spend there, and todays shots are just a small sample of the sights of this magical place.

GRAPES OF WRATH

This first shot, I am calling The Grapes of Wrath… Why?  I just like the sound of that title. Also for some reason I had a difficult time capturing this image. The light was not in my favor as what little sun that was available casted some harsh shadows during composition. We waited for just the right cloud cover before snapping.

Soaked MIlk Pod

Next we have a milk pod that has burst through its confines, only to be saturated by the previous evenings rain fall. I often used these little floaters to check for wind direction during the hunting season.

Pretty Chilly Flower

For the most part, flowers like this have succumb to the chills of our fall season, but for some reason this flower seems to be holding on. I felt its presence odd and opted for the capture because it shows the resiliency of nature.

End of the season

Unsure of what this is called, I snapped this shot, simple because I found it interesting. I like the slight arch in the leaves that exist on the base of the wildflower. Additionally I also found the points of the flower to add a sharp contrast to the composition.

FLOWER

On the other side of the lane, I found this bud which is similar to the above but, the color of the flower was more towards purple. What can I say other than I have a draw to purple.

SLOW EXPOSURE RUSHING WATER

Having made my way to the creek bed, I opted to do a little slow exposure photography. Using the settings of ISO 100 and an aperture of 22, I was able to slow my exposure down to 2 seconds. The goal was to make the water appear to be moving within the composition. Using a tripod and getting right into the water, I was able to achieve the appearance of motion in this shot. And yes, I did get soaked as I laid on the ground.

As always I exercised my HDR skill and opted to compose this shot.

HDR CREEKBED

There is something to be said about HDR’s and although I am still uncertain how this shot fits into my likeness scale, I found the contrasts stunning.

My last shot is a redo of a constant within the creek bed. It is an HDR version of what I refer to as the stone that goes unturned.

HDR REFLECTIVE STONE

When last visited, I shot this pic with a Canon xsi camera and my Tamron 18 to 270 lens. Using my 7d and the same lens, I took advantage of the zone focus feature and composed this HDR. Although it is simply a rock in the water, I enjoy the reflection that is ever-present, when the creek is low and small pools of water remain still. This allowed me to capture the HDR version of the stone that goes unturned.

All images were captured with a 7d and or the Canon 100 to 400 L series, Tamron 18 to 270.

Iso’s ranges between 100 and 400 and apertures between 5.6 and f 22. Shot in manual mode shutter speeds varied from 2 seconds to 1/500. Edited with Light room and HDR’s created with Photomatics Lr plugin.

Hope you enjoy, and very soon we will be sharing images of The Whitetail Deer along with various other wildlife species. Until the skies clear, these photos will pass the time until I nail that shot of the Milky way.

My best,

Mike.

M.Sargent Photogaphy

www.mrsargent.com

SOMETHING TO HOLD ME OVER


With my obsession of a Milky way shot on hold due to Mother Nature, I took a little trip about today and decided to shoot around home. Some of my favorite shots are always the long exposure pictures and wanting to give my wide-angle a bit of a test, I settled on a little hidden secret near my home. Many drive right by this little treasure and fail to realize it exists, but I can suppose that the mindfulness of a photographers eye plays a huge part in knowing the location of this small scenic falls.

The terrain is very steep, and the light was harsh along with a stiff breeze but the composition I was looking to capture came to life, as I awaited the clouds to block the sunlight that made certain parts of the photo washout.

I simply took a 1 second exposure @15mm using an iso of 100 with an aperture of 22.

A hidden gem

Hope you enjoy.

Mike

Boom! There it is


Over the past several months, one of my quests in photography has been to photograph the Milky way. Although I have caught a few shots, to date the composition I have been looking for has not been achieved yet. Last night I stepped outside and as I looked up at the sky, low and behold there it was. That distinctive band of dimly lit night sky was staring me right in the eye. From my driveway I grabbed the camera, my tripod and set up for night photography.

As I awaited for cars to go by and motion lights to turn off, I continued to just stare at the stars. There is something that can be said about how a peaceful feeling comes from just simply enjoying the twinkle’s in the night sky.

The setup; A Canon 7d camera and the Tamrom 10 to 24 mm wide-angle zoom lens. Using an ISO of 400 to 800, I achieved these shots by employing an f-stop of 3.5 with exposure times between one and two minutes. Focused at 10 mm in manual mode with an infinite focus, and remote shutter release, I took advantage of the mirror lockup option as I snapped these images.

Under the Milky Way Tonight

Shot right above my head

;

A summary of the eve; Granted and acknowledged, these shots are not what I hope to achieve. They are not as sharp and detailed as you would expect. When the right time and right place scenario comes into effect, the rules and lessons I have learned from past shoots will be applied to achieve the composition so sought after. The rule of 600 has to be applied here, as well as the proper style of tripod and possibly a higher ISO setting than I currently use to get theses shots. If you look closely you can see that the my exposure time in fact caused just a little bit of star tilt in these images. Depending on focal length we can easily correct this problem, by applying a few simple settings and a few mathematical calculations to eliminate the star tilt effect. With the fall season upon us, my time in the woods will be greatly increased,and I look forward to sharing some images of the majestic Whitetail Deer.

This will also be the time of year that allows me to capture the Milky way in all its glory, as my location will be in an area that does not suffer from the light pollution that surrounds my home base. Until that time, my best to you all and thanks again for all of your comments and feedback regarding my recent posts. One last thing I would like to mention. Recently Abe’s of Maine honored me with the selection of the Hummingbird Moth as their shot of the week. This honor awarded me with a fifty dollar credit towards my next purchase, and I would like to thank the team over at Abe’s for this honor.

My best,

Mike

www.mrsargent.com

Shoot the Light

Going Artistic


It was once said that if an artist puts his heart into his passions he will create a true master piece. Well I don’t know about all of that, but I do know that from my perspective, I put a lot of heart into my photography projects and with the wedding season over for me, I am looking to take on other photography projects.

Lately, and on a personal level I have asked several questions regarding my next step in this field, and to date have not come up with too many answers. I do however know that I will be taking my shooting style in a slightly different direction.  It’s time to open the artistic flood gates and join the world of what is visually pleasing to the viewer’s eye. If you look around the web, you will see that any one who owns a camera is a professional photographer, and these days who doesn’t. It does however seem that the photographers who rise to the top, and become heavily sought after, are the ones who expose only their finest artistic shots. These days I have noted a shift in the business. At one time, people hired a photographer  to create images that had an artistic flair,based on the photographers shooting style. This seems to be a fading trend as most want to have images captured on the fly in almost a photo-journalistic manner. Either way and based on the choices of the clients it’s nice to know that either method is achievable through my lens.

Thus we come to this weeks posted images. This first shot was captured using a 7d and the award-winning Tamrom 18-270 lens. I like to call this peaceful childhood. Your feedback and thoughts on this image would be greatly sought after. My personal take on the image is children just do. They learn through observation and it makes you wonder what this little one was thinking, and what she was looking at .

childhood

My decision for black and white, was to enhance the classic style of photograph and to show some detailed contrast within the image. Shot with an iso of 400 an aperture of f8 was used at 1/500 of a second.

The following images were a long-standing project that took some time to actually shoot. I have been waiting for the perfect light and last night that light was cast upon my subject.

HDR of LIGHTHOUSE

With HDR photos a topic in recent weeks I opted to shoot a few bracketed photos and give the HDR plugin a whirl. Overall I was pleased with the images and the experts have called it correct when they say, HDR gives a photo an almost unreal effect.

HDR 2

Seemingly this next shot I really turned up the brackets, and took 9 photos to create this one shot. Once again you can say that HDR gives images a whole new look and at this point I am unsure of how well I like the hard contrasts between the exposures. Your thoughts on this will be appreciated.

As light faded, I proceeded to go to the long exposure settings and started snapping random shots, that I found just interesting.

Jet skier@ sunset

30 sec exposure of light house

one minute exposure

two-minute exposure

 

 

 

 

corn field silo                                                     

 

 

Milky way

as a car went by in the last 15 seconds of exposure    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My last two images are of the elusive Milky Way. This shot has been a bucket list shot and although not the composition I was seeking, It was exposed well enough for me to grab these images.  When I left the lighthouse I noted that I could make out the cluster,but with the lights from the park I felt that they would hinder chances of capturing the image. I parked on a side road and set the tripod up. It was dark but as you can by the light on the lower part of the photo the location was not remote enough as a car drove by in the last 10 seconds of exposure. This ruined the shot, but I will take what I have learned and when the day arrives, and I shoot this image again, It will be a composition rather than a photograph. Until next post, I hope to receive your thoughts on some of the artistic shots. My best to you all, and may your lives be filled with beautiful sights.

Shoot the light

Mike

M.Sargent Photography

 

http://www.mrsargent.com

 

GRAND ISLAND BRIDGE PART2 “THE PHOTOS”


Those who follow and know me personally are well aware of one simply truth. I am passionate about my photography, and with that being said, I recently have been thinking along of the lines of “What inspires me” . I answered my own question with a revisit to a location that proved to be a photo that is one that has always created a great deal of buzz. The photograph at the top of my word press blog was affectionately given the name, “THE GRAND ISLAND BRIDGE”. This shot was originally taken last year during the month of November and it was used in a project known as “Silent Night, Nothings Right”. Although I was happy with the shot, I often regretted not having taken more photos at different angles. On friday evening we righted that wrong, and the MSP Team paid a visit to this iconic man-made structure as we shot the hell out of that bridge.

When we arrived on location I had a fairly good grasp of just how we were going to gain access to the area, and as suspected we were able to set up without any restrictions. Jim and Barb immediately started taken photos as we awaited for darkness to set in, and without getting all mushy, Jim and Barb have simply made me proud with their dedication to a practice in which I am so passionate about. They have excelled and now push me to greater heights because they have become so good at composition.  Although a member of the team joined us late as she had a previous engagement, I anticipate seeing the results of Becky Anderson O”Conners work , as she has a talent for composition unlike any I have ever seen before. Her talents will take her far and it is an honor for me to say she is part of what we are building.

Now that I have had my rant on the subject, let me present to you, The GRAND ISLAND BRIDGE PART TWO.

As we awaited for darkness to set in, I snapped a few shots as we waited. I wanted to show everyone the conditions present at the time. Cloudy skies and a slight haze was a concern, but as the eve set in I was confident that the cool air would eliminate the haze and as experienced in the past, the clouds would add some contrast to the photos once the light faded.

As the light faded

Fading light

Although pleased with these photos I was anticipating the lower light shots. As we progress I will be showing you how the photos changed as we adapted to the changing conditions in lighting.  As we go along please take note at how the photos almost become cartoonish as the vibrance and color starts to take shape. By adjusting apertures, shutter speeds, and focal lengths, you can see a consistent change in the vibrance of each photo. The one constant in all of these photos was my iso setting, which remained at 200 for the length of the shoot. This first series of photos were shot with apertures of f 8 and f10 and shutter speeds were in the range of 1/100 to 1/400th of a second.

These photos were taken as the sun dropped of the horizon. Despite the clouds the colors that are present are definitive of typical sunset shots. The task of eliminating a wash out or a silhouette was easy to accomplish as adjustments were made to apertures and shutter speeds to prevent these common problems from happening.

Using speeds of 1 to 5 seconds worked well as I slowly stepped up the aperture.

 

 

 

 

This next series of shots were taken after the light had faded. This type of photography has long been a favorite of mine and it is something that I have spent a great deal of time in practice learning to do.

The sun makes it exit.

I also decided that this time I would use a flash to light the foreground and although for the most part I used a second shutter flash I did some experimentation with strobe flash. The look I was going for seemed to work as my foreground was exposed as I let the shutter stay open for the ambient light.

 

With strobe flash

Arch with moon

Now with the light gone and full creative control in my hands , I decided to do a little editing on a few shots and play with color.

Color wash on the bridge, and leaving the sky with color

The following photos are what was captured through long exposure and stepped down apertures.

Long exposures

 

 

One last photo for this post is a redo of the original. I decided to shoot this with a longer exposure and an aperture of f 22.

GI Redo

 

As this shoot came to an end, I felt a sense of closure and accomplishment because I was at last able to take a variety of shots from a number of perspectives.

If you happen to stroll by this blog and you like what you see, leave me a comment, or feedback on what we have done here. I enjoy the comments and take your thoughts into consideration every time I shoot.

My best to all of you and thanks again for reading the post.

Michael

M.Sargent Photography