Life & Leisure

Night photography and long exposure

Sunday evening was an interesting one. Busy. Sort of. Much of the busy time actually consisted of hanging out at Global City while waiting for Alex who went to see, for the second time, Next to Normal at the RCBC Theater with her friends. Sam was supposed to do a photo shoot (part of a class assignment) while waiting and I thought I’d do the same. Come to think of it, the last interesting night photos I took was on New Year’s Eve. I suggested Global City which was a mere ten minutes from the RCBC Theater and where night lights can be interesting. I figured we could get a table at an outdoor cafe and make it as a base which would be a dozen times more comfortable than walking around with heavy camera bags slung over our shoulders.

My original suggestion was the Bonifacio High Street or McKinley but Alex’s friend suggested Burgos Circle. We drove around Burgos Circle and, surprisingly, it wasn’t crowded at all. Amazing. Saturday evenings at Burgos Circle can be really tight and the thin crowd on Sunday evening made me think I was in a different place. It was almost quaint with all the available and clean outdoor tables. We parked, took a table at UCC Cafe, ordered coffee and I started taking photos.

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The first shots were tentative as I was fiddling with the correct white balance and aperture setting.

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Of course, there were food shots. Macadamia sans rival which was really good…

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… and cappuccino.

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There was a pretty painting on the wall and I took photos of that too.

Then, my eyes turned outward… to the buildings surrounding the restaurants and the prettily lit rotunda.

casaveneracion.com Night photography and long exposure

I wasn’t very ambitious. I didn’t bring a tripod and, in low light conditions, the slightest shake of the hand can result in blurred photos. No, I don’t use a flash bulb. I don’t even own one and my dSLR does not have a pop-up flash. So, I stayed with “safe” camera settings.

Then, Sam said why not just place the camera on the table and take long exposures? She suggested a few camera settings but I was skeptical at first. The table was too low and, at that level, most everything was covered by the hedges that lined the sidewalks. I placed my bag on the table, patted it to flatten as best as I could, placed the camera on top, peeped through the viewfinder and, voila! The level was now perfect. And the long exposure photography commenced. Pays to have a daughter who’ll soon graduate with a bachelor’s degree in photography.

casaveneracion.com Night photography and long exposure

What is long exposure? It means setting the shutter speed so that the shutter stays open for a long time with the result that the static objects in the photo are sharp while objects in motion are blurred. In this series of photos, the buildings and plants are sharp but the vehicles are… well, the red lines that curve in places? Those are the taillights of vehicles going around the rotunda.

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How is that done in practical terms?

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To take photos like these, try the following: Set the aperture at 16 and the ISO at 100. Frame the photo then press the camera button. It will take several seconds (sometimes, minutes) before you hear the click the signals the closing of the camera’s shutter. Make sure that the camera is not moved during that time.

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Everything that passes in front of the camera will be captured in the photo but the moving objects (the vehicles, in this example) will be blurred.

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Long exposure is the technique used to shoot fireworks (see the fireworks photos from last New Year’s Eve).

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It is also the technique used for light painting where a hand-held light is moved around while the camera’s shutter speed is open. See more light paintings from a couple of years ago during a power outage.

Although moving light is the most popular subject for long exposure photography, moving water and clouds, even when photographed at daytime, are also good subjects (see Niagara Falls by night, a coast in Norway, moonlight shadow and luna veil).

Want to try long exposure photography? It’s not overly complicated. Familiarize yourself with your camera’s functions and settings, then practice, practice, practice. :)

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