"I often think that the night is more alive
and more richly coloured than the day."
~ Vincent Van Gogh
How did it start?
I've been a night owl since my early teens so it only seems fitting that I found my passion in night photography. It was quite by accident and came at a time I was not thinking about taking up photography as a hobby.
Photography was changing and DSLR camera prices were dropping making them more affordable. My youngest child was in her last year of school and I was regaining time for myself. I had just joined Facebook and the world was becoming digitalised.
Eight years ago I had no idea what I was doing but while at South Bank one night, I took a photo of a storm rolling in with my little point and shoot. I thought it was marvellous with the colours of the night lights contrasting with the dark grey clouds. I posted it on Facebook and got lots of compliments. This was just what I needed to boost my confidence and motivation. I cringe when I look back at the photo now because it was terrible!!! It's definitely not something I would post today but I’m glad I did because it changed things for me.
After a couple of camera upgrades and tons of hours watching YouTube tutorials, I slowly became hooked. YouTube became my friend and I watched tutorial after tutorial on how to use manual mode, working with light, long exposure and understanding ISO, just to name a few. I did a few workshops, one of which was a night photography workshop. I found my passion and there was nothing to hold me back. I tried different genres and even had a go at starting a family lifestyle photography business but photographing people only made me anxious. With an already stressful day job, I needed something calming.
Somewhere down the track I lost sight of my initial goal and it morphed constantly as my ideas changed. 2020 has been a year of reflection and I have done a full circle and have come right back to where I started eight years ago.
"At night, when the sky is full of stars and the sea is still you get the wonderful sensation that you are floating in space." ~ Natalie Wood
What is it about night photography that is so intriguing?
A scene shot in the middle of the day can look dull and ordinary compared to the same scene shot at night. The camera captures the wonder and colour of a scene in a vastly different way than our eyes see it. The colours are rich and vibrant making the images much more interesting, magical even, and I love the contrast of light and shadows. Taking photos in RAW will allow you to extract those colours in post-processing.
Night photography requires planning and patience as the camera works in small that space of time and for me there is some kind of comfort in waiting. In a world that moves too fast, it's a welcoming pause. Unlike family lifestyle photography which is fast-paced, long exposure gives you time to reflect. One photo could take anywhere between 15 seconds to an hour and sometimes you come home with only a handful of images compared to 1000 images from a family shoot. It slows everything right down. Then there is the night itself. It is quieter and the world seems to shut down for me, even if I'm smack bang in the middle of the City on a Friday night. I can shut myself off.
What kind of gear do you need?
The essentials for night photography are basic and you don't need to spend a lot of money. My motto throughout my life has been KIS (keep it simple) and I also apply this to my photography. When I first started, I had a basic DSLR (Nikon D5100) and a 50mm kit lens. I captured some amazing shots with that camera and lens, some of which are on my website. In time you can look at upgrading your camera and lenses if you want to but I found that night photography is more about technique rather than the gear you have.
You will need a DSLR camera and lens of course, a tripod and remote shutter release cable (or you can use the timer on the camera). Some additional items are a torch, a lens hood and always, always extra batteries and SD cards. I don't like to take any chances. Being a minimalist, I don't carry around a bag packed with gear. I'm getting far too old for that.
Can an old dog learn new tricks?
Yes, this one did! It doesn't matter whether you're young or old, anyone can learn. There are thousands of photography websites and YouTube tutorials you can access for free. Learn the fundamentals and how to get off Auto. I would suggest sticking to reputable groups such as Creative Live, B&H, Digital Photography School, Fstoppers and SLR Lounge. Some of my favourite photographers are Sean Tucker, Chris Bray, Matt Kloskowski, Zdenka Darula and Attilio Ruffo. If you are a hands-on person then there are plenty of affordable workshops held in Brisbane and other major cities. Hopefully we will see these opening up again in 2021.
I have sold images to corporations, advertising companies and individuals but overall it is the experience that I enjoy, from the very first camera click to post-processing. If you have an interest in a particular genre of photography, learn what you can and have a go. Find your passion and do what you love. You never know where it may take you.