Light Sources

005_CampbellTreesOLightOne notable aspect of the night, not seen in the day, is a multitude of light sources.

They draw our eye and add to the visual interest of the night.

One of the great joys of night photography is the opportunity to include light sources in our images.

In populated areas there is a wide variety of man-made light, AKA artificial light. In the heavens there are numerous natural sources of light. Most nighttime scenes are lit by more than just a single light source.

Light sources can play a significant role in photographic compositions. They can be an important part of an expressive image, one that draws the viewer’s eye in an uncommon way. These visual elements highlight the difference between the nighttime and the daytime.

Photographing light sources directly has a number of challenges. We will examine these in upcoming posts, and offer tips and solutions.

IMAGE : Trees O’Light, Campbell, CA

This is one of my earliest nighttime images, taken on a damp winter night. I had ridden this bike path many times in the daylight so ventured out one night to check it out.

The light fog filled the air, diffusing and softening the light. The footlights portrayed the trees as characters on a stage, an effect unseen during the daytime.

I looked and beheld seven Trees, and at their feet, seven Lamps, each giving light to the Tree above. Then I heard a voice saying, “Come and see, for these are the Trees O’Light, each cradling a Mystery within.”

I looked and I saw the Lamps giving shape to the Trees. Then I heard another voice saying, “Come and witness the seven Mysteries sealed within the trees, each illuminated by the Lamp at its root, for these are the Mysteries O’Life that you long to see, and to hear, and to know.”

I looked, then said, “Nah … I’ll just take a picture.”

After bracketing I found that the best exposure was 30 seconds shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GalleryGoldTonerLite

In the darkroom Gold toning creates image hues ranging from light to deep blue. Moderate Gold toning produces a bluish gray hue. This was chosen to evoke a feeling of the cold night air filled by lamplight.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile I generated from my Mac App “SuiteProfiler”. The Profile was derived from the “GalleryGoldTonerLite” Color Map created in SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Light Sources

Take your camera into the night and look for a simple composition which includes one or more light sources.

Pay attention to balancing the light sources with the other visual elements in your image.

Be sure to bracket, not only for exposure’s sake, but also to see how the light sources change in an image as shutter speeds increase.

Be sure to review the “Safety & Precautions” Page.

NEXT TIME : “Framing, Leveling & Focusing”


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