Fabulous Las Vegas, tips for shooting after dark…

Tourists at the Bellagio fountain at night.People watching was a lot of fun in Las Vegas! I couldn’t resist taking a shot of the crowds watching the fountains dance at the Bellagio. Everyone was taking pictures to bring home great memories. The crowds gather around the fountain each hour to watch the show! We arranged for a private tour at the Neon Museum. Our photography group was able to get some fantastic photos at night. Below is the Sassy Sally’s sign from the Neon Museum where we arranged a private tour for our workshop participants. The signs were great fun to photograph, we stayed until midnight taking picture after picture, no two photos alike!

For travel and nighttime shots like these, a sturdy tripod is a must, along with a cable release and mirror lockup. I’m trying out the new Induro Grand Turismo travel tripod CGT114 which is compact for travel, lightweight but very strong. It was easy to carry with me to all destinations in and around Las Vegas, making shots like these easy and fun! Thanks to Hunts Photo & Video for offering a special 15% off for a limited time,  Induro Grand Turismo Kit 15% off and the Induro BHD2 Ballhead.

Here are a couple of tips for nighttime photography..

  • Use a sturdy tripod, cable/remote release and mirror lockup (self timer also works)
  • Stop down for starbursts for beautiful points of light in an image
  • Set your white balance for the most dramatic color, or use a color enhancing filter such as the Singh-Ray Color Enhancing filter or FLW filter (use Live View to scroll through the various white balance settings to get started)
  • Turn off vibration reduction/image stabilization while the camera is mounted to the tripod
  • Bring a flashlight, it comes in handy to check settings, and for any impromptu light painting (use Rogue gels for a punch of color with Fenix LD 22 flashlight) A flashlight will help establish a point of focus in the dark too.

I’ll keep you posted on future workshops, upcoming presentations, and seminars are listed here… Workshops/Seminars I hope to see you at the NECCC Conference  in Amherst this summer where I’ll be giving a presentation on creative techniques and also infrared photography, and later this fall I’ll be a guest speaker for Nature Visions. I hope to see you at a workshop or seminar!

Sign at Neon Museum at night

Fabulous Las Vegas!

Zoom of Fremont East sign in downtown Las Vegas

I just returned from Las Vegas where I led a Digital Underground photography workshop with co-leader Jason Odell. We had a great group join us, including a couple from South Africa! We took our group to the downtown area, Fremont as shown in the zoomed photo above. We went to the strip which included the beautiful Bellagio fountains, a fantastic ghost town with lots to explore, plus the highlight of the trip, a private tour in the Neon Museum!  We had dinner at the new Container Park,  (oh my goodness, I had chocolate covered bacon) and we had our group picture taken at the Fabulous Las Vegas sign, what fun! I showed some of my students how to make videos, time lapse, and even cinemagraphs! We plan to repeat this trip next year with a few new ideas. Lots more photos to come, I will keep you posted on future workshops through my newsletter and website. You can also follow along with photos on Google+  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, hashtag #digitalunderground and #debafterdark.

Neon Museum in downtown Las Vegas.

During this trip I had the pleasure of using the new Induro carbon fiber Grand Turismo travel tripod. This is perfect for travel photography, light enough to carry everywhere, very compact when inverted and folded down. It’s a good fit for my style of photography, as I carry a tripod everywhere I go. To create zooms and long exposures like what you see here, a steady tripod is essential. I’m also trying out the Induro CT113 and BHD2 Ballhead. Hunts Photo and Video has created specials for these two items for my students, you can take advantage too until May 15. Induro Grand Turismo Kit 15% off, and the Induro BHD2 Ballhead 15% off.

Digital Deb after Dark, capture streaks of light from passing cars…

South Beach Art Deco Hotels at night

One of my favorite ways to portray a creative street scene is to capture streaks of light from passing cars. This can be serendipitous and random, and a lot of fun! In the photo above, Ocean Drive in South Beach was packed with cars during spring break, I had no trouble capturing the many cars that passed with a 10 second exposure. This was photographed with the Nikon D800, 16-35mm lens, positioning the camera to create the most impact with light streaks. Try this a few times, depending on traffic, each shot can be unique. Rainy? Perfect! Rainy nights are a great time to capture colorful reflections on streets and sidewalks. There was hardly any traffic during the hour before sunrise.  I used a long exposure time of 25 seconds to capture cars as they passed by. Have fun shooting!

South Beach w

Deb after Dark, set up at sunset for shooting the blue hour and beyond…

Havana Cuba with a fisheye lens photographed during twilight

To determine the best nightscape composition, and to have a few alternative planned, scout out locations ahead of time. I like to set up at sunset and catch the beautiful golden light, however it’s twilight that I’m truly waiting for. Make several test shots to find your composition during the scouting. It’s much easier to have a plan before it gets dark. The photograph is your story, a visual narration of what you experience, and your interpretation of the scene. Your passion about your photograph is what will make it compelling to others! Don’t hesitate to try an angle or perspective that makes your composition more expressive. I photographed Havana from the balcony of the 24th floor of a hotel that I scouted out earlier that day. I felt the higher perspective and use of a 16mm fisheye lens created more interest, and portrays more of a story about the cityscape of Havana.

El Morro Lighthouse in Havana Cuba

The photo of the El Morro lighthouse in Cuba was taken at sunset, while I was scouting a few ideas for the blue hour. The golden hour is a nice warmup for the upcoming blue hour.  I decided that I liked this composition best, and followed up the shot below.  Scouting locations and setting up at sunset gives you an opportunity to make decisive shots for the blue hour and beyond.

El Morro Lighthouse in Havana, Cuba photographed during twilight


Deb After Dark, a week of night photography tips…

South Beach after Dark.

Since blue hour and night photography are my favorite times to shoot,  I’ll be posting a week of night photography tips, techniques and creative effects with you, called digital Deb after Dark! I’ll be sharing tips here on the blog, on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Hashtag #debafterdark

My first tip is to start with a sturdy tripod, and reliable tripod head. Support is essential to making great photos with exposure that extends from seconds, minutes to hours of time. The support system needs to be rock solid reliable for long exposure, HDR, star sequences, or time-lapse shots shots. As I do much of my photography work with a tripod, it has to meet a variety of height requirements, from close to the ground to capture a low point of view, yet quickly adapt to eye level. It also needs to fold up quickly as I move on to the next destination. Lightweight yet sturdy is key, as I carry a tripod all day and night when traveling.

There’s nothing worse than a tripod head that sags, resulting in blurry pictures, or a stiff, heavy tripod with leg segments that are difficult to adjust. I’m sure we’ve all witnessed photographers struggle to set up a tripod, and attempt to adjust a complicated tripod head to shoot a subject that is by then, long gone. A lightweight, sturdy, easy to use tripod that you can set up quickly helps you create fantastic photographs.

A recent trip to south Florida coincided with a beautiful full moon rising in South Beach, Miami Beach. A vintage lifeguard stand makes an  interesting foreground element along the Atlantic Ocean. 30 seconds of exposure conveys a sense of motion with the clouds, yet allows the stars to shine through. With a full moon and lights from the city, night can look like like day!

On a side note, I’m trying out two Induro tripods that I’m very excited about. One is the Induro CGT114, a lightweight travel tripod, and the other is the Induro CT113 with the BHD2 tripod head. They are similarly sturdy and lightweight with different features. I’ll keep you posted on my experience through photographs as I work with them over the next few months. I’ll definitely give the tripods a workout during the next workshop I’m teaching in Las Vegas!

Have fun shooting!