How To Calculate Exposures Quickly at Night Time

Just a quick tip today. We’ll talk about a method I use to quickly determine the best exposure for night photography.

Night photography generally requires very long exposures, often several minutes at a time. To get the best image quality, we need to keep the ISO as low as possible to keep our noise levels down to acceptable levels and also to minimize the occurrence of hot pixels and sometime banding artifacts.

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Newcastle Harbour

There were some pretty dark clouds yesterday evening on the harbour with a little light rain pouring down. But it made for some interesting photos towards the light.

The following shot was made with a 5D Mark II and  17-40 f/4L lens at f/8 with a ND400 filter. Initially adjusted in Lightroom 2 and further edited in Photoshop CS3. The exposure for the water was 2.5 minutes, and a separate exposure blended in for the sky.

Newcastle Harbour

It wasn’t a straight linear gradient blend as i wanted to keep the cloud movement from the long exposure. The only portion of the scene that needed the shorter exposure is the little bright section where the sun is setting, so that is the only part that was blended in from the shorter exposure.

Some colour adjustment was performed also, to give it a little blue colour cast (which it really was blue-ish when i was there).

There was a little drizzle of rain at the time, and while taking long exposures like this, you just have to cross your fingers that the rain doesn’t fall down any heavier while you’re still exposing. Luckily for me, about 30 seconds after i finished the 2.5 minute exposure, the rain started to come down pretty heavy, but my gear was all away safe in the car by then!

Until next time…