Closed: The Story Behind the Photo

By Darren Wiedman

Photo of Closed business sign in neon red

Closed by Darren Wiedman

For my 50th year of life, I attempted to take one photo every week and post it on a photo blog. The challenge proved too daunting to do every week, but I was determined to shoot
and post 50 images before my next birthday. By the end of the year, I was a bit behind.

This shot was taken the night before my 51st birthday. I had run out of daylight and still didn’t have that last image (or a tripod). Fortunately, the neon lights near my apartment
were bright enough to register on my DSLR. Since the signs themselves were a little boring, I tried playing with the zoom feature of my lens while the shutter was open. I even had to change the ISO and aperture to give myself more time to create the zoom effect.

I doubt this would win any awards, but I think it does make a statement about the frantic pace of the American work week. It’s a shot I never would’ve tried if my “Fifty Pics” goal had not been set.

Sometimes forcing yourself to shoot can lead to surprising results.

Camera Settings: f/22, 3 seconds, 100 ISO, 55-200mm lens

Shots in the Dark: 7 Tips for Night Photography

Photo of city at night with car lights

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

There is still some time to capture a great image for our upcoming “In the Still of the Night” competition. Seven tips to keep in mind when photographing at night.

1. Find a dark place

If you’re shooting the Milky Way or star trails, pick a date near or on the new moon, and find a dark area using sites like darksitefinder.com.

2. Keep a low ISO

Yes, that’s right. Unless your camera is really good, you’re going to pick up more and more noise the higher your ISO. Keep it low and increase your exposure time to compensate.

3. Don’t lose focus

Your camera will have a hard time seeing at night, so the auto focus feature may not work very well. When using manual focus, it may help to use live view and zoom in on your subject to set your focus. Or use the numbers printed on your lens to determine if your subject is in the ideal range.

4. Stabilize

Obviously, you’re going to need a tripod and a remote shutter release. You can also use
the timer on your camera. Set it for a two-second delay to give your camera time to settle before the shutter opens.

5. Destabilize

For long exposures, remember to turn off image stabilization on your camera, if it has it.
Cameras that don’t may have some type of vibration reduction on the lens. Turn it off.

6. Decent exposure

Use the histogram on the back of your camera to be sure your image is in an acceptable range. It’s better to have spikes on the left side (shadows) rather than the right (highlights). Shadow detail can be salvaged if you’re shooting in RAW (which you should). If highlights are blown out, there is no way to recover that detail in post. If you’re shooting a high-contrast scene, try bracketing to ensure you have everything properly exposed.

7. Things to bring

Remember to pack a flashlight. You may need it to see the camera settings, and you can use it to light paint your subject. Wear bug spray. And if you’re shooting solo, make sure somebody knows where you’re planning to go and when you’ll be back.

Silhouette of man looking at stars

Photo by Klemen Vrankar on Unsplash