photography practiced when the sun has gone down.

It can be natural light photography (using moonlight), but mostly it is artificial light.

For this kind of activity, a tripod and a remote release are nearly mandatory. You can make do setting your camera on tables and other improvised things.

In night photography you have to take into account the reciprocity failure and the very low amount of light generally available to you. This usually means exposure times that go into the seconds or the minutes.
Generally speaking, it is not really worth it to use a high sensitivity film, since the times will be very long anyway.

Film is usually chosen depending on its response to artificial light sources. If you experiment a bit with night photography, you will realise that the colors "all come out wrong". This is because color film was not designed to do what you are doing. Not only you will have strong color shifts, you will also get negatives/slides that are impossible to correct, either because you have mixed lighting (very easy: if you have tungsten bulbs and sodium street lights in the same picture, there is no way to use the same filterpack for printing) or because some of the typical night light sources are nearly monochromatic (no blue light in those sodium lamps).

But, IMHO, night photography is not about the faithful rendition of the world: it is more about serendipity, surprises and realizing that your camera may see more than you do.

Besides, at night one is often wavering between the photopic and the scotopic range, which means that the colors you yourself see are kind of debatable. For a suprising experience, try taking a picture of a completely moonlit scene: after development, you will realize that night is not black and white, it is just that your cones shut down at night.

If you do your own printing, night photography will give you really bitchy negatives that almost always need to be burned in, dodged and even printed with differential filterpacks for different parts of the picture.
But after all, if you do your own printing, it must mean you are a glutton for punishment with a passion for pointless precise pursuits, purity in prints and pestilent phluids.

a scar faery curiously asks me if there is any way to avoid massive overexposure in night photography. Part of the problem is that at night the contrast range is often extreme. One easy trick is to try as much as possible to leave the actual light sources out of the picture; or, at least, to have them quite far away. At least for my tastes, small ultrabright points of light are okay, while large washed out areas of the foreground are not.
When photographing streets another useful trick is to use elements of the landscape to mask the exceedingly bright streetlights. And of course, if your picture includes the moon, it will practically always be overexposed, because the moon is lit by the sun and the sun is really bright!!!, if you pardon the platitude.

As an aside, I think that the soft beauty of the american suburbs seen from an airplane depends in part from the fact that the lights are all pointing downwards, and the viewer can appreciate the lit streets without the usual painful glare.


some interesting data to be found under: relative spectral sensitivity of the human eye and Night Photographs (lyrics)

Of course, you may not have a tripod with you sometimes. Since you'll probably only end up with a whole lot of blurry photos without a tripod, you might as well go all the way with this concept (go hard or go home).

Consider doing the following things:

  • Take a photo as you drive thought a well lit tunnel
  • Hold the camera as still as possible as you drive though some traffic lights
  • Pick an on-coming car, and track it's headlights as if you had a video camera
  • Track the car in front of you
  • Violently jolt the camera around while pointed at a light source (not too violent, you could damage you camera)
  • Rotate the camera
  • Move the camera in or out to get a 'zooming' effect
There you go. Now you have some interesting images. And if someone tells you that it's not really photography, you can say that it's "art" and that they just don't understand the deeper meaning of your images.

This is probably best done with a digital camera. Unless you don't have any problems with wasting endless rolls of film.

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