Monday, September 12, 2011

Night Shooting With Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3

 Now that's a strange title.  Ya don't "shoot" anything with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 or any other Adobe product.  Adobe makes applications to finish or manipulate shots or artwork after the click of the shutter.  There is a relationship between the small image on the left and the larger one on the right.  You might want to click on each one to enlarge them and take a closer look.  A general observation might be that one looks a little over exposed and the other a wee bit under exposed.  If you take an even closer look (just observing, not enlarging) you'll see that I was either extremely accurate in the placement of my tripod, the height of the camera and the zoom of the lens or there must be another explanation.  To find out which is the case, hit the "Read More".

The truth is --- it's the same shot.  The exposure on the image was 30 seconds at F6.3 at an ISO rating of 3200 at about 10:00 PM.  One of the things I found surprising was the lack of noise at that sensor setting.  A young fellow walking through the park happened by and saw the view of the image on the LCD and asked how it could look like a daylight shot when there was no light.  I explained that there was a lot of light and that I had captured it.  He didn't "get it".  He had a bottle of water with him, so I used it to simplify what was going on.  I asked him what would happen if he turned the open bottle on its side.  He said the water would spill out.  I asked if he would have any of the water that spilled?  He said "no, it would be on the ground and gone".  Right, that how we see.  Whatever light is there is passing before our eyes.  Then I asked him what would happen if he put a glass in the arc of the stream of the water?  He said he'd end up with a glass of water.  I told him the same thing was going on in the camera.  A small amount of light was going through the lens to the sensor for a long time.  While we can only see in the instant, the sensor can keep gathering light for as long as the shutter is open. 
The shot was a "test shot" to determine exposure.  Once the proper exposure was determined, the ISO was brought down four stops (to 200) and the exposure time increased by almost four stops (to about 7 minutes).  The reason for shooting such a bright exposure for a night shot is to get detail.  Had the sky been exposed as it looks in the larger version of the image, there would be no detail in the trees.  You wouldn't see the shadow of the tree in the lower left side of the image and you probably wouldn't have as nice a gradient in the sky.  By exposing the histogram to the right (more toward a brighter exposure)  you get all that detail.
After bringing the image into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3, the exposure was brought down to reveal the night shot.  If you look in the sky you can see that the cup of the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) was captured.  Just a bonus by pointing the camera in the right direction.
Night photography can be done at any time of the year, anywhere.  In the case of today's image we were in an urban park.  You can see the light trails from the cars just below the centerline of the image.  The big "trick" to night photography is to over expose and bring it down in your image editing program.  If you expose for the sky, the details on the ground will be blocked up and the only thing you'll have is black blobs.  Go out and shoot something (photographically of course).  Put the fun back in your photography.