Night Photography HDR

I captured the nice dynamic range in this snapshot yesterday during the early evening. It was taken from the second story of my apartment building overlooking the pool. I decided to test out my camera’s auto bracketing features at night. I started shooting at about 7:30 p.m. with my Panasonic G-2. The slow shutter speed is the key here. I shot this at F5.6 /ISO 100/ SS 1.5 / no flash and I used a tripod. The subject matter and composition are not what make this a good shot, it’s the clarity, and dynamic range that is impressive.

I recently did a photo shoot at night that from a photographic stand point was awful! I was so sad about the outcome, but despite great subjects, venue, and poses BAD PICTURES DO HAPPEN! This time they happened to me. My camera wouldn’t fire! Try as I might I couldn’t get my camera to fire consistently. I would get it to fire but it kept defaulting to a long shutter speed and wouldn’t respond to my attempts at overriding that setting. This just will not work when you are photographing people, and especially with pets. I usually shoot in manual mode, occasionally switching to intelligent auto or program mode. I personally like manual mode because I like to shoot candidly and frequently my shots contain motion. In manual mode I can control the aperture and shutter speeds to freeze the movement. I must confess that I don’t usually shoot at night, in fact this was my first night photography shoot. I thought if I didn’t get the shot I wanted using manual mode , then I would switch to program or IA modes and get the shot. Well I couldn’t reset the camera even by turning it off and on to reboot it. I also couldn’t get my camera to focus in the dim light. I was befuddled.

Nothing helped. I switched lenses, shooting modes, camera settings, flashes, nothing I did worked. I just couldn’t make the camera work the way I wanted it to. I managed to get a few barely acceptable shots which I captured pretty much by shooting blind. I couldn’t see my subjects clearly through the view finder in the dim lights. After being rattled by the camera’s firing delays I was fully concentrating on trying to get the camera to fire at the expense of sharp focus and good composition. I came home disillusioned and embarrassed, but determined to figure out what happened and what went wrong. I immersed myself in reading my camera manual and testing all the settings. Which turned out to be a great learning and discovery opportunity. I explored features and settings that I had no idea were available in my camera. Including three custom settings which I programmed for shooting during the day, at night, and for auto bracketing in burst mode. These settings will quickly override whatever settings the camera is on. This should help prevent the situation I encountered the other night.

The bottom line is that I should have tested the camera and the venue the night before! And I should have a backup camera. I was not prepared with a back up camera! However, I had a great time learning what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. My next challenge is to explore how to shoot people at night with a long shutter speed or using flashes without losing the dynamic range.

Here are some test shots I did at night with no flash. The one of the fort in St. Augustine I took last year at night with my Sony point and shoot and no flash. The others were all shot yesterday afternoon, and early evening.

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