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Posted: 1/4/2015 8:05:04 AM EST
[Last Edit: 1/4/2015 8:05:37 AM EST by Rattlehead502]
I'm wanting to take up photography beyond point-and-shoots that fits well with my nocturnal work schedule. I'm working on catching-up on the basic reading material, and between where I live and where I work, I can cover a wide range of settings from urban-blight to woodland-wildlife. As a long-time night-shift worker, people are amazed at the things I see at night that most day-walkers never get a chance to see, so I'm kind of using this for a basis for a new hobby.

I'm mostly interested in wildlife and astronomy in ambient-light, although I may mix a little urban decay as subject matter.

Any suggestions on night-specific issues and equipment-requirements that are beyond the basic daylight/studio environments that a beginner would need to know?

Thank you in advance for any suggestions and advice.
Link Posted: 1/5/2015 11:19:52 PM EST
Buy the fastest lenses (lowest f-number) you can afford and a good tripod.
Link Posted: 1/9/2015 12:14:44 PM EST
I've been doing night work for years. Lots of resources on this website, but I haven't been there in a while so not sure how active it is anymore: The Nocturnes Sign up for their newsletter.

I don't know where you're located, so here are some general rules I've always lived by:

1. Get a good heavy-ish tripod. You may even want to hook some weights to the center bar give it a nice low center of gravity. Most of the time you won't need to, but if you want to get some creative shots in water, I highly suggest it.

2. It can get cold sometimes, and humid. Nothing will ruin a good shot like condensation. You can buy a little fan and set it under/beside the lens. Play with it and see if it works. Extra batteries are a given, of course. I always keep them close to my body on cold nights to keep them warm.

3. Use the lowest ISO you can handle and rely more on long exposure.

4. It might be worth it to you to get a couple flashlights. One with a broad (but even) beam and another smaller one. I prefer both LED and tungsten-colored and use a few filters just to add a bit of color sometimes. Most of night-time shooting, you'll be in the area of tungsten white balance, so keep that in mind.

Hope this helps!
Link Posted: 1/10/2015 3:09:43 AM EST
Thank you both for the advice, exactly the type of tips I was hoping for.

I'm thinking a nice brass plumb-bob on the tripod should help steady it and help with terrain-reference. I also have a few spare 120mm 12vdc computer fans that I can rig to run off a small motorcycle battery for those humid nights.

I'll be mainly doing this at night in warmer weather. There's a nice hill I found out in the countryside with minimal light-pollution for astronomy and possibly some weather shots. I will definitely check out that website as it fits my work/career field.

Link Posted: 1/10/2015 7:13:39 PM EST
A camera with the best ISO performance you can afford (w/ extra batteries)
Headlamp (w/ extra batteries)
Remote release (w/extra batteries)
A good camera backpack with tripod straps.
Link Posted: 1/10/2015 7:51:20 PM EST
Hey op. You didn't mention if you were going to shoot RAW or not. If you don't, you should take the leap. There are plenty of post processing options and how to articles on the web.

When I started to dabble in night time star shots, I would look at sites like 500px for inspiration. If I found a shot I liked, I would take a look at the settings the photographer used and make a note of them. When I got out in the field, I would break out the settings and take my shot. It usually worked quite well. Cleaning the shots up in Lightroom were impressive, if I must say so myself.
Link Posted: 1/10/2015 9:43:32 PM EST
[Last Edit: 1/10/2015 9:44:35 PM EST by Durka-Durka]
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Rattlehead502:
Thank you both for the advice, exactly the type of tips I was hoping for.

I'm thinking a nice brass plumb-bob on the tripod should help steady it and help with terrain-reference. I also have a few spare 120mm 12vdc computer fans that I can rig to run off a small motorcycle battery for those humid nights.

I'll be mainly doing this at night in warmer weather. There's a nice hill I found out in the countryside with minimal light-pollution for astronomy and possibly some weather shots. I will definitely check out that website as it fits my work/career field.

View Quote


A plumb might not be enough weight. You might try a 5lb weight. The astronomers I saw last night were using part of a cement block, about 5lb to keep their telescopes steady. Again, probably not needed for wide-angle shooting, but it doesn't hurt to have it on windy days or in places where the ground isn't steady. Just another tool in your bag.
Link Posted: 1/12/2015 11:47:29 PM EST
[Last Edit: 1/12/2015 11:55:20 PM EST by Rattlehead502]
Thanks again for the further tips.

I may start out simple or may go RAW. Not sure on that yet, will need to do more research on that.

I've got a decent tripod for my spotting-scope that I can start with, but I'm sure a ball-head would be much nicer for both purposes. The remote-release sounds great, as I'm envisioning the possibility of more than one camera operating at a time.

This will be mainly a hobby to help me get out of the house on my off-nights from work, so I may start out humble to see if I truly like it.

ETA: I have an idea for modifying an ammo-can with an adjustable cable that might work well for tripod-weight. Plus it would double as storage for gear.

I also like the idea of making up a laminated flip-book with various shots with stated settings as a reference-guide to get started.
Link Posted: 1/13/2015 1:35:57 PM EST
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Rattlehead502:
Thanks again for the further tips.

I may start out simple or may go RAW. Not sure on that yet, will need to do more research on that.

I've got a decent tripod for my spotting-scope that I can start with, but I'm sure a ball-head would be much nicer for both purposes. The remote-release sounds great, as I'm envisioning the possibility of more than one camera operating at a time.

This will be mainly a hobby to help me get out of the house on my off-nights from work, so I may start out humble to see if I truly like it.

ETA: I have an idea for modifying an ammo-can with an adjustable cable that might work well for tripod-weight. Plus it would double as storage for gear.

I also like the idea of making up a laminated flip-book with various shots with stated settings as a reference-guide to get started.
View Quote


The ammo can idea is actually a great one! I haven't had to use a weight in a while, but that seems like it would work great.

Whatever head you buy, just remember it needs to be able to tilt up quite a bit, or at least be able to turn the camera backwards and tilt. You should be able to get by with most types, since nocturnal photography is a slow process and doesn't require quick/convenient/expensive heads.

You won't be able to get truly great shots without RAW, in my opinion.

It's a great hobby. Nocturnal photography always reminded me of the days in the dark room where you could watch the image slowly appear on the paper, except now you're waiting for it to go up on the screen. Just remember to take shots you like, and don't listen to others, because especially in the photography world, opinions really do suck. Some of my favorite night shots have resulted in "meh" from others, but one of my worst got published in a middle-school textbook a few years ago. Go figure.

Start small with wide lenses, then start taking out some flashlights and start painting scenes. Have fun learning the process. And make sure you post results here!
Link Posted: 1/13/2015 6:22:16 PM EST
Discussion ForumsJump to Quoted PostQuote History
Originally Posted By Rattlehead502:
Thanks again for the further tips.

I may start out simple or may go RAW. Not sure on that yet, will need to do more research on that.
View Quote

If you have the space to store them, there's really no reason not to shoot RAW.
If you don't feel like taking the time to process them individually, you can just batch convert them to JPEG and you'll have the same thing the camera would have given you, and you'll still have the RAW files to edit later on if you decide to.

It's a really good idea to use it for low-light stuff, because you can really bring an amazing amount of detail out of the shadows on a RAW file.
Link Posted: 1/19/2015 1:10:27 AM EST
Thanks again to everyone for the advice and tips; after reading the Astrophotography thread that popped-up last week, I'm a bit more understanding of what will be involved. Money, and lots of it...

We'll see where it goes from here....

Link Posted: 1/19/2015 6:35:26 PM EST
Cameras and guns. Neither are a cheap hobby.
Link Posted: 1/19/2015 8:03:39 PM EST
[Last Edit: 1/19/2015 8:06:08 PM EST by Sixgunner45]
Yup, get a good tripod, FAST lenses and if you can swing it, a full frame sensor camera. Full Frame sensors have much better low noise levels at high ISO settings.

ALWAYS SHOOT RAW!!! There is SO much more information in a RAW file compared to any other. You can really change the look of the image with the raw editor. JPG just doesn't cut it.

I love to shoot the night sky, while out camping or where ever I am.


9-Aug-2013-1 by Colorado CJ, on Flickr


3-Aug-2013-2 by Colorado CJ, on Flickr


Guanella-Pass-Ride-Camp-5 by Colorado CJ, on Flickr


29-June-2013-2 by Colorado CJ, on Flickr


22 June 2013 1 by Colorado CJ, on Flickr
Link Posted: 1/19/2015 8:44:43 PM EST
Light painting may interest you.
Link Posted: 1/20/2015 10:52:34 AM EST
[Last Edit: 1/20/2015 11:00:09 AM EST by Durka-Durka]
Beautiful shots Sixgunner. Here in the east it's so tough getting the milky way to show up due to the light pollution. It's possible in some places, just not the way it is out west. It's even tougher getting lightning and stars in the same shot. I think I've only done it once here.

Here's one I shot in the Smokies years and years ago. You can still see the star trails though. I'm pretty sure it was about a 30sec exposure.


Smokies again, shooting in a full moon.


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