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Discovering the Delights of Night Photography

Members of the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club welcomed guest speaker, Nigel Forster, (from his home in the Brecon Beacons and through the magic of Zoom) to hear his presentation on Technique and Creativity in Night Photography.

Severn Bridge Moonrise © Nigel Forster
Severn Bridge Moonrise by Nigel Forster

Nigel’s talk covered the spectrum of night photography pursuits and was illustrated with one impressive image after another. From the urban landscapes of London, Newcastle and Glasgow taken at blue-hour to complement the warm yellows of artificial lighting on buildings and bridges, to the remote locations of Glencoe, the Elan Valley and Hadrian’s Wall, where key features, such as the tree at Sycamore Gap, were silhouetted against a moonlit sky, or a starry backdrop.

The skills required for night photography pursuits are more complex than daytime photography because of the exposure control and accurate focussing, but Nigel explained about the settings he used and the sort of techniques he employed to achieve the best compositions.

In order to capture a landscape, or feature, against the night sky it is necessary to take at least two photos – one long exposure for the sky and the stars – and another to get the foreground correctly exposed. These images can then be merged in post-processing.

The dark night sky can also provide a great backdrop for light trails created by moving vehicles during an exposure of one or two minutes. One of Nigel’s images captured a car’s headlights coming towards him and then the red tail lights of it going away in the horseshoe-shaped Rhondda Valley.

Nigel shared many practical tips, such as the use of a wide-angle lens for night sky photography as this allows longer exposures without creating star trails, or alternatively a telephoto lens and a star-tracker. He also explained that moonlight can effectively light up the foreground if it is behind you, but where this is not possible, you can use a torch to isolate your subject with a narrow beam of light to make it stand out in the darkness – this technique is called light painting.

Fuelled by inspiration and new-found knowledge, members plan to go out and practice the various techniques on a night shoot soon.

If you are interested in photography and like the thought of learning more about it with like-minded people, visit Thinking of joining the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club.

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