Shooting After Dark: Lightning

Lightning

Lightning is another great way to capture powerful images, especially after dark. Although I have shot many images with lightning during the day using my lightning triggers, the most powerful ones for me are right after sunset and well into the darkness. My favorite trigger is the AEO Pro 4 and it is a dream to use. It helped me capture the image below in the Grand Canyon which later became a double page spread in National Geographic. Although I love using my trigger, you don’t need to use one as you can try different exposures until you nail the right exposure. But even using a cable release locked down, capturing lightning might be easier than you think. Exposures can definitely vary, especially on how far away and how bright the lightning is so you have to monitor your results. Quite often, the bolts will light up much of the scene in unique ways that can give you images that just defy imagination. You do have to be careful as lightning can kill, so you cannot be too close.  And sometimes, it can be awesome to capture and other times, not too good but when you capture some great bolts, it really is like nothing else! The following images are from here in Arizona where the monsoon season of July and August, bring some of the most amazing lightning storms that you could ever imagine!  The first two below are in Sedona and the third one is one amazing time shooting lightning for two hours in the Grand Canyon.

Lightning in Sedona

Lightning in Sedona

Lightning in Sedona

Lightning in Sedona

Lightning storm in the Grand Canyon. Shot this image at Morna Point in the Grand Canyon on August 30th, 2013. I was there with my girlfriend and my friend Rolf Maeder, and told them I wanted to stay after dark to hopefully get lucky enough to capture lightning over the Grand Canyon. This was my biggest wish in the world as living in Sedona for the past 2 years, I had been teaching people how to shoot lightning and Rolf and my girlfriend were very excited too. When I saw the first bolt, I screamed to both of them to get their cameras and I lightpainted the foreground for both of them and stayed there for hours shooting that amazing night. This is a single shot where i was able to get three different lightning bolts. I post processed it in raw and used Nik Color Efex to bring out more detail.

Lightning storm in the Grand Canyon. Shot this image at Morna Point in the Grand Canyon on August 30th, 2013. I was there with my girlfriend and my friend Rolf Maeder, and told them I wanted to stay after dark to hopefully get lucky enough to capture lightning over the Grand Canyon. This was my biggest wish in the world as living in Sedona for the past 2 years, I had been teaching people how to shoot lightning and Rolf and my girlfriend were very excited too.
When I saw the first bolt, I screamed to both of them to get their cameras and I lightpainted the foreground for both of them and stayed there for hours shooting that amazing night.
This is a single shot where i was able to get three different lightning bolts. I post processed it in raw and used Nik Color Efex to bring out more detail.

Stay tuned for Part V of Shooting in the Dark!


-BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face

 

Creating a sense of place: Case Study #7

This post is one in a series on how to create a sense of place.


 

CASE STUDY: HIKING IN DUNES

Next time you’re taking photos on holiday or during a celebration, include detail shots to flesh out your story. Details shots, when added together with photos of people, help show the mood of your scene.

Have a look at the images in this case study. They are four variations on a theme: a man in the dunes.

post_7

Do you see how each image is taken from a different angle and distance to the subject? This is how you create an interesting story.

Each of these images is like a single idea, and by combining several, a story is created.

TIPS TO GREAT IMAGES STORIES:

  1. Vary the camera angle in each shot. Shoot up, down, out, across, or through a subject.
  2. Frame your subject tightly to omit clutter. Reveal part of the subject.

 

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Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2

 

No post processing skills necessary for any of Brit’s courses. You may even use your phone!

 

Amazing Travel Photos Made EasyAmazing Travel Photos Made Easy teaches you how to create a collection of images that not only documents your holiday but that conveys how it felt to be there.

This course focuses on the creative side of photography and emphasizes getting all your shots in-camera.

You’ll learn how to get amazing travel photos using any kind of camera!

Learn how to capture these experiences:

  • landscapes
  • seascapes
  • cities & architecture
  • wine & dining experiences
  • nature
  • wildlife

 

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 1 gets you started photographing how you want your life to look and what you want more of in your life.

Ever wonder if the craziness of your life is, indeed, worth celebrating? The answer is a resounding YES!

Start taking images that that look like they came out of a glossy magazine.

This course focuses on the creative side of photography. You’ll learn how to capture images of your everyday life in a fresh and exciting way.

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images Part 2 takes you further by focusing on capturing the essence of your loved ones — think about the little things that you’ll always remember, such as how they hold their favorite coffee mug in their hands!

Do you wish you had images of your loved ones that capture who they are as a person? What about a series of images that portray your life as nicely as a wedding photographer portrays a wedding?

Get ready to have fun creating lifestyle photos that you can’t wait to share with your friends and family.

This course delves into creative ways to capture even mundane moments and beautifully photograph even camera-shy loved ones. They’ll finally stop saying they don’t like seeing themselves in photos!

Get a taste of how Brit will work with you.

You can also work with Brit privately

Mentoring: Schedule a live session with Brit via Skype

Get a private image video review: Private Video Image Reviews

Find out about all of Brit’s courses, including Photographing Fine Art & Craft

Shooting After Dark: Overexposing the Foreground

Overexposing the foreground

Another great way to capture powerful images after dark, especially with the night sky is to do separate shots for the foreground and the sky and overexpose the foreground image. You can also have a sharper image overall by focusing on the foreground image separately before shooting it or even do multiple shots and focus each one separately and then focus stack them. I use the app PhotoPills to let me know what the correct exposure will be for the foreground image, depending on how much I want to overexpose the foreground. Using a layer mask to paint in your overexposed foreground is a great way to eliminate a nice amount of the darkness that can overwhelm large parts of our images. It’s more work, but often it gives a more powerful and realistic looking image. You have to be good at masking and knowing something about channels definitely helps, when you can also use plug-ins like Topaz Remask that can definitely make life a little bit easier. Below are a few examples of overexposed foregrounds that I combined with the images of the sky.

Two images combined in Acadia National Park

Two images combined in Acadia National Park

 

Two row star trail panorama with overexposed foreground

Two row star trail panorama with overexposed foreground

Two images combined in Acadia National Park

Two images combined in Acadia National Park

Other light sources:

Often, you don’t have to worry about light painting or the moon or anything else because there might be nearby light sources such as mercury vapor, halogen, metal halide or other lights that might be in the perfect position to give you some beautiful lighting. I look for this all over the place and often, the light level and color temperature from these light sources can be absolutely fantastic. Sometimes though, they might be a little bit extreme and that’s when you can do a little bit of selective changing of their brightness and color temperatures in postprocessing. But I love looking for these possibilities all over the world and the following images show a few different examples.

The first two shots, on my friends property, were from a very powerful mercury vapor light high up on a post above the property. That huge light lit up all of his antique trucks and vintage gas station, and I was able to balance the exposure with the night sky. I also put a red headlamp inside the gas station on the second image to give a nice glow inside.

Friends’ property in the Palouse

Friends’ property in the Palouse

Friends’ property in the Palouse

Friends’ property in the Palouse

In the next image below, I was on my recent Italy workshop in Venice, where I showed my group how the light from the lamppost, by the gondolas could give a beautiful quality of light all across the gondolas. I told them they could also include the light in the overall composition as sometimes that can at a great focal point. But we really got lucky when lightning started in the distance, and I made sure their settings were set correctly for a longer exposure so that we could all capture the lightning. Was a pretty rare experience for Venice and we were in the perfect place at the perfect time!

Lightning storm in Venice, Italy

Lightning storm in Venice, Italy

In the next two images below, also in Italy, the powerful lights above Manerola in the Cinque Terre and the Grand Canal in Venice, gave a beautiful and ethereal light quality everywhere, but especially in the water. Reflections from artificial light sources can be just off-the-wall gorgeous, especially in unique locations. Scouting out locations is key.

After dark in the Cinque Terre

After dark in the Cinque Terre

Panorama after dark in Venice, Italy

Panorama after dark in Venice, Italy

Stay tuned for Part IV!


-BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face

Shooting After Dark: Lightpainting vs Car Headlights

Car headlights in Jackson Hole

Car headlights in Jackson Hole

Lightpainting vs car headlights

I have experimented with light painting and car headlights for many years and sometimes, the lights from car headlights can be absolutely amazing. Often, while I’m in the middle of shooting a shot after dark, and using my flashlight, a car will drive by somewhere close by or in the distance, and sometimes it can ruin the shot but sometimes you get what I call a “happy accident”.  It can give you a look and feel that you really could not have gotten any other way. Often I hope a car will come into my night shot and other times, I have to have someone drive their car to get the look and feel I am hoping for.

The shot below of the Mormon Row Barns and Tetons in Jackson Hole Wyoming, we were teaching a workshop and how to light paint the barns and houses.  Out of nowhere, a car drove by and his lights lit the bushes and houses just beautifully. He drove towards the homes and then turned left and was out of the picture as fast as he came into it. Although we tried to re-create it afterward with our own car, we could not get the same beautiful look that he had given us by accident.

I love car headlights and sometimes, like I mentioned, I have students or friends drive in the perfect spot or I will wait for a car to drive by, although sometimes you have to wait forever for a car to pass by. But for me, it is worth the wait. The following two shots show the difference between using lightpainting and car headlamps.  The first image below with the Milky Way is one in the Palouse of my friends old abandoned house using just my flashlight.

In the second image below, I shot star trails with my students and I had my friend drive about a quarter mile away and talked to him by telephone,  and guided him to drive to the perfect spot to give me a great light source and angle with his car headlights, all across the wheat fields and the house. We shot that shot first before the star trails and later used that to layer mask it into the star trails final shot.

Lightpainting in the Palouse

Lightpainting in the Palouse

Lightpainting with car headlights in the Palouse

Lightpainting with car headlights in the Palouse

The following image with the star trails was one that I did recently with my students on one of my Italy workshops. We were in Tuscany and I wanted to shoot the Milky Way and star trails over the famous Cypress Grove. I had been lightpainting just the field in some of the Milky Way shots but I realized that I also really liked when cars were driving by on the bridge and their headlights lit up the foreground beautifully. I decided to use one of the headlight images for the foreground rather than my light painting for my final image as sometimes you just can’t be as good as headlights. While we were sitting and talking in the car, waiting for our star trails images, I later found out that I had captured one of the biggest meteors of my life. I wish I had seen it with my eyes but was extremely happy that my camera had captured it. I later put the star trails and meteor in the same image along with the car headlights image as the foreground. Was one fun night in beautiful Tuscany!

Lightpainting with car headlights in Tuscany

Lightpainting with car headlights in Tuscany

Sometimes I really like to use my car’s headlights so give me something special and I place my tripod right in front of my car with my headlights on. That was the case for the following shot when I was shooting the Milky Way with some of my friends above Flagstaff.  I was looking for a perfect road that would coincide with the Milky Way coming straight down. When I found the perfect intersection of the two, I stopped my car and put my tripod in front of the car, between both headlights. I then worked the exposure so that my friend would turn on and off the headlights precisely so that I would get a perfect exposure overall. I could have also tried this with light painting but sometimes there is something just magical about car headlights!

Lightpainting with car headlights in Flagstaff

Lightpainting with car headlights in Flagstaff

In this next image, once again a car did a better job overall then my lightpainting as he drove in from our right and with his super bright headlights, gave me just what the doctor ordered!

Lightpainting with car headlights in Sedona

Lightpainting with car headlights in Sedona

Stay tuned for Part III coming soon!


-BPSOP Instructor: Scott Stulberg

Scott Teaches:

Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face

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