If you have not been photographing at twilight or night up to now, you have an exciting adventure ahead. Because cameras have the ability to accumulate light over time, nighttime photographs can seem brighter than they do to our eyes. This means that details are revealed that are hidden from view because of the limitations of the light gathering ability of our eyes, and at the same time the dazzling colors of night add a dynamic quality to the scene. Artificial lights at night are a mixture of neon, mercury vapor, fluorescent, and tungsten, and each of these produce interesting colors. Some are cool, some are yellowish or golden, and some are super saturated, and the combination is really something.
The concept of complementary colors refers to three pairs of colors that artists agree look good together and complement each other. They are based on the color wheel that arranges colors in such a way that the colors opposite each other represent the three pairs. They are red and cyan, green and magenta, and blue and yellow. This doesn’t mean that other colors don’t work together very well, but it suggests that if you use complementary color themes in your work, the images will be visually compelling.
I was privileged to be able to photograph a champion Gypsy Vanner horse, Romeo, with a beautiful model in period costume. I chose late afternoon about an hour before sunset to take advantage of the spectacular backlighting on the blond mane, the tail, and the feathering around the feet. For this particular photo session, I wasn’t able to shoot Romeo in an open field, and the corral fence behind him (#1) bothered me at the time but there were no other options. I knew I wanted to separate my subjects from the background at a later point in time during post-processing, but what makes this breed of horse so beautiful—the long, flowing hair—is a nightmare to deal with in composite work.
It is disappointing when you travel somewhere hoping for beautiful weather, and instead of sunrise and sunset lighting, beautiful cloud formations, and comfortable temperatures, you face a rainstorm, a dull sky, or even a blizzard. While the pictures that you had in mind may not be possible, there are always great photographs that can be taken. It’s just a matter of expanding your thinking.
When we all shot film and our exposures were not perfect, there was very little we could do about our mistakes. All that has changed, and now we can make meaningful adjustments to the contrast, exposure and the color cast. It is a great time to be a photographer.
Digital cameras allow photographers to stretch the boundaries of what we can capture like never before. Using extremely high ISO settings like 25000, in-camera noise reduction algorithms, and expanded dynamic range capability, we can now photograph in low light situations and expect to use shutter speeds fast enough to take sharp pictures. This is truly revolutionary. However, there is a price to be paid, and that price is image quality. You just can’t expect a picture taken at ISO 25000 to be as sharp and to show fine detail with tack sharp clarity like a picture taken at ISO 200. There are limits to what advanced technology can deliver.
Backgrounds are virtually as important as subjects in making a picture work. If they are messy and there is a lot going on, they tug at our eyes and pull our attention away from your subject. Just as you carefully consider your subjects, at the same time you need to carefully consider the background. For example, is it too light? Too messy? Too attention-grabbing? Does it have distracting lines or colors? Is it too sharp or too defined?
One of my favorite times to shoot landscapes is when a thick fog has descended on the land and engulfed everything in sight. It is a magical thing to experience, and for fine art nature photographers it doesn't get any better. We all love to shoot scenes with brilliant, saturated colors and crystal clear air typical of well-known national parks like Bryce Canyon and Monument...
There are many fun and creative images you can create with flash if you allow yourself to think outside the box. In the past when we all shot film, we had to wait until the film came back from the lab to see the results. If the pictures weren’t what we wanted, we’d have to start over and figure out how to improve the images on the next roll of film.
You have several Exposure mode choices on the camera, and they affect the exposures you get when using flash. They even have a bearing on the color balance in your pictures. For example, notice in the picture of my wife and Rexie, our great Pyrenees, that the color of the light in the background is yellowish while the lighting in the foreground is white without any apparent color shift. I was able to do this because I used Aperture Priority to choose a narrower aperture which, in turn, forced the shutter speed to be slower. Av helps to give you a correct exposure not just for the light emanating from the flash, but it helps make the ambient light in the room expose correctly as well. In so doing, it picks up the color of the room lights. In this case, since I was using a daylight white balance (which is the same WB as for flash—it correctly balances light that is 5500k degrees Kelvin) the tungsten lights in the room turned out yellowish.