Shades of Night

Home in Governors Club February 10, 2006 featured in Clarolux ADDY winning catalog. 30 sec at f/22 17 mm ISO 200 Nikon D100

Do you remember the Platters and their song, Twilight Time?  It started with “
Heavenly shades of night are falling, it’s twilight time…”  Twilight time is the best time of day to photograph night scenes.
When you come home at night or visit a friend at night, it is inviting if the house is surrounded by light. It is also safer.

Steve Roberts started Carolina Outdoor Lighting and needed photographs of his work to use as examples for homeowners of his night lighting system.

Steve’s requirements:

  • His lights to appear without a yellow cast
  • Balanced lighting without glare
  • Shots should be dramatic
  • Most of all, photos should represent a nighttime scene

Ok, so some of this is easy, reduce the yellow cast by shifting the color balance below daylight color of 5500 Kelvin (I usually set just below 5000); however, photos of houses at night, while dramatic, will be too dark if the lights are dark enough to prevent binkies (binkies are blown highlights or areas that exceed the maximum light capacity of the sensor).

To solve the problem, shoot the house at twilight time.  Just like the song, this time of day provides enough ambient light to offset the landscape lights but I dark enough to appear as a night scene.

So when is twilight?  Well, that depends on time of year and which twilight.  There are three levels of twilight:  Civil twilight is just after sunset or just before sunrise and by this light, you can read a book.  Nautical twilight is the between twilight where you cannot read but you still can see light.  Astronomical twilight is, well dark.

The best time to take nighttime photos is at civil twilight.  Photographers Ephemeris (refer to the software page for more information about this application and app) provides information for any given date and or location regarding sunrise, sunset, and twilight times.  The absolute best time is within five minutes of civil twilight time.  Of course, you can experiment with earlier or later times but I have found that this is exactly when ambient light will most closely match artificial light.  The actual time of day will be impacted by of orientation of the photo.  i.e., shooting directly into the direction of sunset will incur a brighter sky while shooting directly into the direction of sunrise will result in a darker sky.

I usually set my exposure using my spot meter, checking the meter against the brightest artificial light, and then adjusting the exposure by increasing the exposure time by seven stops. 

 

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3 Responses to Shades of Night

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  2. Cialis says:

    Hallo man! I totally agree with your tips. Thanks for having written this.

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