Spent much of the previous week at Cisco Networkers in Cannes, in the South of France. Since I was working during most of the daylight hours, my photography time was restricted to the start and the end of the day. Luckily there was room in my case for my tripod, so was able to get a couple of night time shots of the center of Cannes.
I had the 12-24mm wide angle zoom on my Nikon D200, and this was shot at 22mm, ISO100, for 15s@f16. I could have shot for a shorter exposure at a wider aperture, and due to the large depth of field of the lens, I would still have had enough of the photo in focus, but I always prefer to expose slightly longer to allow relatively fast moving objects (such as cars or people) to fail to register on the sensor, giving a cleaner final image.
Obviously these sort of images would not be possible without the use of a good tripod. But with the accessibility of cheaper compact digital cameras these days, more and more people are expecting their choice of technology to deliver good results, even in the dead of night.
A couple of tips for those people 😉
1) Don’t use flash! The in built flash on the average compact camera will only reach a couple of meters. In the case of the scene photographed above, that would have left me with well exposed paving slabs, and the only part of the background image that would have registered would be the bright lights on the buildings.
2) If possible, use a night mode, manual mode, or bulb mode. The aim here is to get a reasonably long exposure time and a reasonable aperture for the depth of field….
3) USE A TRIPOD! Most cameras these days have a screw thread in the base plate, allowing a tripod to be connected. This will allow the camera to be held motionless during the period of the exposure, which is important in avoiding blur. Hand holding the camera for night photography does not work – even if the image looks reasonably sharp on the camera preview screen, when it is uploaded to the computer, you will realise that it is not.
In choosing a tripod there is no need to spend a large amount of money – for a compact camera there is plenty of choice around the 30Euro mark, and this will be good enough for what you need. It is also possible to find camera supports with extendable legs that are close to pocket size.