Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Darkest Hills

This is a post about evening/night photography in 'Los Cerros' Park (the word 'cerros' in Spanish means 'hills'), in Alcalá de Henares (Spain).

Yesterday I took a walk with my Nikon D810, my SAMYANG 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC and my tripod. I started when the light was disappearing. These are some of the pictures of that session.

Firstly, I started in a near area, close to the Henares River. I wanted to explore the silk effect, but it is not maybe the better place for it because of the quality of the light and the serenity of the waters.

In a first moment the night had not fallen yet, so the skies were very clear then. I use for this photography kind a tripod and a remote radio control (you can view more info in 'Gear' section). I shoot in 'Mup' mode (mirror up) and with electronic (no-mechanic) shutter. In this conditions the shot is very stable. Blur images would be caused by the distortion of the lens in the borders or the movement of the light objects with the wind.

The next topic was the old excavator inside 'Los Cerros' Park, a monument about forest reforestation in the area. I had some questions about what is the better shoot parameters in this case.

ISO 100 - F/2.8 - 30s

ISO 800 - F/2.8 - 30s

ISO 400 - F/2.8 - 30s

What do you think? It is an old question (as we commented in the post 'Brief notes about night photography'), and I have not the answer. By one hand, high ISOs with wide apertures and short shutter times produce a large number of punctual stars. If we reduce ISO or close the aperture, we lost stars (because you will not capture the weakest lights), and if we increase the exposition time above 30 seconds the stars will draw its traces and they will be not punctual. By other hand, I've never liked the noise caused by high ISOs and you also should considerate the dependence of the depth of field with aperture. What is the optimum balance of all these parameters?

Due to the first considerations about the number of punctual stars shown, I used a wide aperture (F/2.8), a exposition time of 30s and I experimented with the ISO. The Nikon D810 is a good camera, and it support high ISOs. With a properly post-processing (remember the post 'Noisy pictures and other synaesthesias'), you can have images with an acceptable noise.

For me, the main referral in night photography in Spain is Mario Rubio. If you visit his Flickr page you can notice he has not afraid high ISOs. In this and this picture with punctual stars, he uses a very similar parameters I've used in this session (but with a Nikon D700): f/2.8, 14mm, 30s and high ISOs (even above 2000!). But he also explores star traces and longest exposure shots with narrow apertures.

Our next stage is 'La Casa de los Catalanes', a ruined rural work building close to Malvecino hill (a charismatic hill in the park).

In night photography you can use continuous light (a torch) to colour the scene. I've used that technique en several of these pictures, with the gadgets that I made in the post 'The way of illumination'.

After that, night became cloudy and stars disappeared behind the clouds. It was a good opportunity to show the movement with longer exposure times (2 or 3 minutes).

Finally, night finished in the castle. With a very cloudy sky and a lot of light contamination (hot lights of the city were reflected on clouds making the white balance very complicated).

I hope you've enjoyed!

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