Home at Night


After I’d finished faffing about taking pictures of the moon the other day, I took the opportunity to practise more general night photography around my flat. We live close to the final approach to Heathrow so I thought it would be good to play about with shooting my street in the dark, and try to capture some planes at night (wait, that last bit sounded a bit super-villain. Photograph them, not steal them out of the air).

So, photographs of the moon complete, I turned my camera back towards Earth to play about. My first image was handheld, and so was not all that successful as a crisp representation of my hometown. Unless you are under the influence of certain substances.

Exposure 3.2sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -2.0, 270mm focal length

I will admit there was a lot of deliberate camera movement whilst the shutter was open. I should probably try more of those, however, as I like the result.

Ater a while I tried some more ‘realistic’ photography, and started by pointing my camera at a streetlight reflected in a puddle.

Exposure 1/13sec, f/4.5, ISO 2000, exposure bias -2.0, 95mm focal length

I then tried to photograph some planes. This proved immensely difficult; they were moving objects meaning I had to go handheld, and it was so dark I was constantly fighting with the camera to get the right result. I wasn’t trying to clearly see the whole plane, of course (if I wanted to do that, I’d wait until the sun came up), I was trying to capture the wonderful way the landing lights illuminated the plane. In the end, only one was remotely usable.

Exposure 1/20sec, f/5.6, ISO 2000, exposure bias -2.0, 300mm focal length

Back to the drawing board on that one, methinks.

Having failed to shoot a plane (er, photograph a plane), I returned to my Gorillapod and a more brightly lit scene.

Exposure 3.2sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67, 18mm focal length

Three and a bit seconds is an exposure time I wouldn’t have even considered using a few months ago.

I then did the same to the tower block over the way.

Exposure 10sec, f/3.5, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.33, 18mm focal length

Just behind the tower block is the flight path for planes approaching Heathrow. So I waited until something was approaching and held the shutter open until it had passed (which is slightly tricky as you don’t get a preview of what’s going on when the shutter is open, so you have to guess a bit as to when the plane has left the frame). The combination of landing lights and flashing warning lights made for an interesting result.

Exposure 25sec, f/14, ISO 100, 18mm focal length

At this point I got slightly mental experimental and boosted the shadows as much as Aperture would let me, bringing out the plane’s trail and creating a sort of reverse colour image.

Exposure 25sec, f/14, ISO 100, 18mm focal length

I’m really beginning to enjoy photographing at night. Sooner or later this might manifest itself in me buying a tripod that doesn’t need a tree/fence/postbox/railing to stand on.

4 thoughts on “Home at Night

  1. I like how you are constantly playing with the medium. That will really come in handy when you need to “get the shot.” Funny that 3 seconds seems long. Most of my shots are between 1s and 15 minutes. I have to carry around a reciprocity failure table to make sure I get the timing right. However since my camera doesn’t have a timer past 1s and I don’t have a watch, I spend a lot of time going 1, 2, 3….


    1. I’m never that scientific. When I took that minute-long exposure of the London Eye last month, I used my phone’s stopwatch as I don’t have a watch either. With most of the longer exposures here, there was a lot of *open shutter* *wait* “er, that’ll probably do” *close shutter*. Either that or in a few cases I used aperture priority mode and let the camera figure out the exposure.


  2. This post inspired me to shoot tonight, which is saying something cuz I’m still pretty awful at night photography..guess I just need to get outside at night more often to practice. Got some neat weird stringy wave movement going on from a cityscape over the river. Think it might be my photo of the day. You should definitely post the photo when you get a chance to do the incense project!


    1. I’m glad I’m inspiring people! I had a quick go at the incense project today (only with a match as there’s no incense in my house at the moment) out I think I need to experiment a little more with the setup…


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