Important notice: There's been some talk on the DP Review website about the site where this PDF is hosted being one of those that makes copies of publications available for download without the author's or publisher's permission. Rather than encourage this sort of thing, I think it's probably best that I remove the link until it becomes clearer exactly what the status of the free download is. Sorry for the confusion.
|Bar De L'Amitie, Pauligne, France|
It was Phil Rogers (of Herman Sheephouse infamy) who pointed out this free PDF book download to me and I thought it would be good to share it with you if you're a night photography fan or fancy giving it a go. It's called Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark by Lance Keimig and is a good read whether you're a film or digital photographer with much in it for both.
It discusses exposure problems, equipment, materials and has a lot of good advice to get you started. It also goes into a little of the history of night photography as it's always nice to have some sort of context in which to consider these things.
There are warnings in the file that none of it should be published anywhere without permission so I'll leave it to you to make your own way there and check it out for yourself rather than posting some photographs or text from it. I think you'll find it worthwhile.
In a wee email exchange with Phil about the book, we both realised that although we're big night photography fans, neither one of us has done any for a long time. I'm certainly thinking of putting that right and I think Phil is of the same mind. I'm not entirely certain why that should be but I think it probably relates to my switch back to film from digital.
One of my favourite things when on holiday in the south of France is walking the circulade villages (circular villages that spiral up hillsides in the Languedoc-Rousillon region) at night with a camera in hand but no tripod. I tend to travel light on holiday and I've never taken a tripod with me in the past. That's because I was using the Nikon D700 DSLR which has very good image quality at 3200 ISO.
With the 35mm f2 AF-D Nikkor on the camera, I get around 1/30th at f4 which is easily hand-holdable as long as I brace myself against an upright wall or rest the camera on a level surface. After a day in the hot Mediterranean sun (I can't take too much of it) it's great walking the cobbled lanes of the circulades in the cooler evening air.
I've posted some of the pics from my past forays down south here. They're all digital, I'm afraid. The trick is to take advantage of that 20 minute to half-an-hour period just after the sun has gone to bed for the night but while there's still a bit of light in the sky.
Any later and the exposures drop a little and the sky comes out almost black which isn't nearly as nice in my opinion. The only thing that could improve the circulades for night photography would be a bit of mist but you can't have everything.
I haven't had a holiday in the south of France for a few years so the big test for me will be when I go back there. Will I be unable to resist the temptation of taking the D700 or will I just pack a tripod and use film?
There is, as usual, no point in denying the convenience of digital nor its high ISO performance in the case of the D700. But I know from past experience that it's great fun printing night shots in the darkroom so I'm fairly sure I'll be sticking to film.
Ideally, I'd love to use the SL66E with something like Tri X to get reasonable shutter speeds but I'll probably end up using an OM2n which has an excellent meter for long exposures. However, a south of France holiday is a long way of off for me so I'll have to make do with honing my night photography film skills around Carnoustie.
Might even get the Rollei out tonight as there's a lovely light mist out there just now. If it persists until this evening it should make for some moody, atmospheric shots.