Author Alan Feldman
Most amateur photographers take snapshots during daylight hours with a cell phone, a point-and-shoot camera, or an SLR camera. A desire to take better photos as seen in magazines, galleries, etc., often leads photographers to photo workshops such as those offered by Arizona Highways, where they learn of the “magic hours;” an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset. The results are often nothing short of spectacular. Truly adventuresome photographers often discover the fascination of night shooting where images of Star Trails, Light Painting, Illuminated Signs, etc., can be captured. There is a relatively little known time for shooting that few have discovered. This is the time after sunset.
The sensor in modern digital cameras is able to gather light that is virtually undetectable by the human eye. That, along with the processing capability of the computer in the camera, results in some truly incredible images. This technique is possible with film cameras, but the practical aspects involved make it nothing but an exercise in frustration.
Being able to view the photos immediately, and using the Live View feature, not to mention enormous memory cards so all kinds of settings can be experimented with at virtually no cost to the photographer, make this a relatively easy to master technique.
I highly suggest giving this a try. If enough ambient light is present, Aperture Priority will work. If not, switch to Manual Mode and experiment. Keep the ISO as low as practical to minimize image noise, and the lower the focal length (wider angle) of the lens, the easier it is to achieve good overall focus. Mid range aperture settings will probably work best – you want a nice depth-of-field. Due to long shutter speeds, a stable tripod and remote shutter activation are nearly mandatory.
During a Google search, I found this article on shooting after sunset.
Below are a few photos I captured using the above technique:
The first image was taken at Lake Powell near Page, Arizona. The second at Canyon de Chelly near Chinle, Arizona, and the last two were taken at the White River Lighthouse near Whitehall, Michigan.
Alan Feldman is an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop trip leader.