June 10, 2016

A tour around UCT at night

After watching a couple of YouTube videos on Long Exposure photography, I was really keen to try it out myself. So just before a hectic test week (Yeah I was that keen!) I decided to pack up and go on what was supposed to be a short tour of about an hour around UCT, trying out some of tips and tricks I got from the YouTube videos. In my bag I had:

  • Canon EOS 500D
  • Canon EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 III
  • 1.2m Tripod
18-55, 500D, tripod

Kit used to the night expedition

Not much equipment needed, just a LOT of patience and I learnt this the hard way. The first few pictures I took were a bit disappointing. I was expecting some breathtaking splash of colours but instead I kept getting noisy images. After some time tweaking the exposure settings, I realised that I didn’t need to use such a narrow aperture. I was using the narrowest aperture size of f/22.0 which gave me great depth of field but at the expense of sharpness and longer shutter speeds (to keep ISO low at about ISO 400) Long shutter speeds also mean that thermal noise will come into play because the camera sensor will get hot the longer it is open.

Walkway past Immelmann Library

A narrow aperture not only gave a large depth of field but also made the lights appear with “stars” (or twinkles?)

Anyway back to less technical talk. I made some adjustments and took less noisy pictures toward the end of the “short” expedition. Luckily a few of the images were still usable after I used the noisy reduction tools in Adobe Lightroom (this is when I discovered the power of post processing).

View from Jammie Plaza at Night (University of Cape Town)

View from Jammie Plaza at Night (University of Cape Town)

Long exposure photography requires a LOT of patience.

I discovered this the hard way. It can take several minutes to take one image. You take a 30s exposure image only to notice that the exposure isn’t quite right, or the white balance is way off (it can be corrected in post though) or maybe something moved. The more long exposure sessions I had though, the better I became at minimising the time spent taking pictures.