Supplemental Lighting

023_YosemitePioneerCabinSupplemental lighting at night goes way beyond the usual fill lighting to which we have grown accustomed in daylight.

Fill lighting a nighttime scene begins with the same goal. We add lighting to highlight missing details hidden in the shadows, or to draw more attention to certain objects or areas of a scene.

Typically, this is done by distributing one or more stationary lights throughout the landscape, enhancing the scene with light that persists during the entire exposure.

But at night, we can also introduce light sources into a composition, something that would have little or no effect in sunlight.

Extra light sources can be hidden to light desired portions of a setting, or displayed in plain sight to grace a scene with additional points of interest.

We can think of our subject as the raw material that we enhance to literally bring our vision to light, a personalized interpretation unseen by the average passerby.

The nice thing about nighttime fill lighting, with lanterns, flashlights or other lighting tools, is that we can see what to expect before we open the shutter.

We already spend a lot of time taking long exposures. We might as well take the time to experiment with supplemental lighting, and get what we want, not just what we are given.

This is similar to selective exposure except we are adding to an expanded moment instead subtracting from it, and creating our own version of the great diversity of light.

IMAGE : Pioneer Cabin, Yosemite, CA

  • Mouse over the image above to view the raw scene without added lighting. If mouse over does not work, go to Supplemental Lighting on my blog.

This is the first cabin built in Yosemite in the 1870’s. It is preserved at the Pioneer History Center in an area of the park called Wawona. This is one spooky place at night. I spent over an hour shooting this cabin. It felt like someone was watching me the whole time.

The setting was lit by moonlight from the upper right and a light to the left. Both created deep shadows. After stacking a bunch of nearby firewood 4 to 5 feet high, I put a lantern on top of the pile to light the sides of the cabin.

I wanted to light the inside of the cabin but it was locked. So I placed a flashlight on the window sill on the opposite side, shining it through the cabin onto the window in the image.

The added lighting gave the cabin a nice sense of moonlight, along with that “someone is at home” look. Without it, the dark shadows convey that eerie look and feel I experienced.

The final image is a 1 minute exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film. It was chosen from multiple bracketing sessions, each with a different combination of lighting.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySeleniumGoldToner

A traditional blend of Selenium and Gold toners was applied to the image to strengthen the look of moonlight pouring over the cabin of yesteryear.

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

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

EXERCISE : Supplemental Lighting

Equip yourself with a small arsenal of lighting tools the next time you venture into the night to photograph. Find a scene that begs for additional lighting, and play with the possibilities.

There are a vast number of choices, so be patient. Explore a variety of ways to add lights and lighting to your subject. Keep it simple, but be thorough.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Supplemental Lighting

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Supplemental Lighting Revisited”


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3 thoughts on “Supplemental Lighting

  1. Dana,

    I loved this image. Why? I don’t really know. To my eyes anyway, you captured something ethereal and multidimensional in the cabin’s image. It could be, yes, that possibly “someone is home.” Or possibly, over time, many “someones” have been “at home” in that space. Or, maybe someone was just passing through, longing to be “at home.” Somehow, the lighting you used seemed to capture all those possibilities, and more. Very nice.

    • Thanks, I appreciate hearing how an image impacts the viewer. I like the idea that the cabin can tell many different stories at once, and entice the viewer to consider more than one possibility. Perhaps the lighting captured not only the timelessness of the cabin, but also all of its stories.

  2. Pingback: Light Painting | The Art of Night Photography

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