129. Electric poplar, autumn

May 30, 2011 11:20 am

129. Electric poplar, autumn

Electric poplar, autumn. 9.31 pm, 19 May 2011

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust

Out for an evening’s recreation, I soon noticed these poplars on the fringe of New Plymouth. They are lit by the rising moon and distant street lamps, as well as the lights of a neighbouring school, where an evening meeting was in progress.

The challenge was to get the tripod in just the right place to line up the dead branch with the gap in the trees, and then to light-paint the limb to best ghostly effect. Highlighting the foreground interest by waving a torch over it involves Goldilocks timing – you want something not too dark nor too bright. This one is slightly underdone.

The quote applies especially to moonlight photography. New perceptions emerge in the twilight zone from the warmer colour, stronger shadows and greater range of interpretative exposures: night as night? as stronger twilight? as daylight? In terms of composition I’ve used a standard line-up of features near and far, but the extra light source means that “light up” is added to line-up… another reason why night photography offers such creative potential.

Around urban areas there are two types of extra light source: static (houselights; street lamps) and mobile sources (flash, torchlight, vehicle headlights). Even if you are in a remote area for a few nights you won’t need to ration the flash if you carry a solar charger, or one that plugs into your car battery, while an LED torch will go for ages.

After that, however, you must resort to kero lamps, campfires, candles and match flames.  All these have a strong colour cast and go best with an Incandescent light balance. Incandescent will cool the moonlight down yet this effect still works because of a limitation of the human eye. Moonlight is actually full spectrum colour but it always seems blue to us.

28mm; ISO 2500. 30 seconds at f5.6. Vivid picture control

Posted by Barney Brewster

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Categories: Night photography

Barney Brewster – NZ Landscape Photographer

Based in Nelson, Barney loves to capture the New Zealand landscape, mostly through long exposures at dusk or after dark.