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Thread: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

  1. #11

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by manfrominternet View Post
    I wonder if I should carry a small can of pepper spray...
    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Gebhardt View Post
    Iíd worry about angering a group with pepper spray and getting hurt badly instead of just losing a cheap camera. Honestly same with a gun. But thatís all a personal decision and you will probably get a wide range of answers.
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    As Larry says better is not taking personal risks, but you can always hide a mini gps tracker ($35) in your equipment, so police would have an easy&funny job, also make marks in your equipment (some hidden) and have gear's photographs and tracker pasword in the cloud, as phone can also be lost.

    I'd use pepper spray only if you (or another person) are in serious danger and the spray allows you to run, not for defending your gear. If your environment is problematic, before using sprays, etc take a self defence seminar that it would tell you good safety recommendations, think that if there are more than one robber then surprise factor may work with the first one only. First is the personal safey of you and of people that are with you. Even if you are stronger you (or other with you) can lose a lot, your priorities are clear, a robber with abstinence syndrome has other priorities.

  2. #12

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Gebhardt View Post
    I would take a minimum of equipment. I’d also bring my old ugly Burke and James instead of the nicer looking camera.
    This isn't bad advice, to be sure, but if some part of the fun of photography involves using your gear of choice -- and truth be told, for me, it does, because much of the gear I use has been modified to suit my needs by yours truly -- then you might choose to insure your gear and take your chances instead of using less valuable gear and reducing your enjoyment. That's the decision I made, anyway, but as always in these matters, YMMV!

    You can possibly get away with a viewing hood (flaps the shade the ground glass) instead of a dark cloth.
    If this is a possibility, I would strongly encourage it. Because any time your head is buried underneath a dark cloth, your personal safety is compromised, so the less time you do so -- if at all --the better!

    I’d worry about angering a group with pepper spray and getting hurt badly instead of just losing a cheap camera.
    If a situation ever reaches the point where your acts of self-defense go beyond making verbal statements, you should immediately beat feet and get the f*ck out of there ASAP in order to minimize any chance of second attack!

    Honestly same with a gun. But that’s all a personal decision and you will probably get a wide range of answers.
    Indeed. If you're uncomfortable with any of the decisions you've made about preparing to defend yourself or how you will respond in the (unlikely) event of being attack, then by all means make new decisions with which you are comfortable. Because you absolutely don't want to be second-guessing yourself in the heat of the moment!

    Where I live, both open carry and concealed carry are legal without a permit and on occasions, I do carry a gun with me. And when I do, I always open carry because I want the gun to be visible so it can act as a deterrent (which is also the reason why I carry a six-shot stainless steel revolver instead of a 15-round semi-auto pistol, because it's shiny and clearly visible in its holster on my hip.) In my personal experience, there's absolutely no doubt that carrying a visible gun will go a long way toward causing harmless homeless people from approaching you for spare change, etc., but I'm not as convinced it will have the same effect on a non-homeless bad guy who is intent on ruining your outing. In the case of the OP, though, it's highly unlikely this is an option for him, because California's gun laws are far more restrictive than Arizona's.

    Pepper spray might be a useful alternative -- I have no experience with carrying or using it, so I really have no idea -- but since you'll be carrying a flashlight, I strongly encouarge you to make sure the one you choose can do double-duty as a self-defense weapon. There are a variety of "tactical flashlights" available these days and the small one I carry in my pocket while I'm in the field falls into that category. But my other flashlight is a six D-cell Maglite and if push ever comes to shove, it will serve nicely as a self-defense baton or club.

    Of course, the best option is always to avoid confrontations whenever possible. And while I will absolutely stand my ground against a homeowner who complains about me photographing his neighbor's house across the street from his without permission (despite the fact he has three security cameras mounted across the front of his house doing exactly the same thing 24/7 and I'll bet he doesn't have his neighbor's permission for that!), I'll also leave an area without hesitation and photograph somewhere else if I have even a slight inkling that my personal safety and overall well being might be at risk. But, once again, these are decisions you have to make for yourself and what works me or anybody else has no relevance to you and your decisions.

  3. #13
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    To me, shooting at dusk while there is enough sky light to define the edges of buildings is more pleasing than the murky shadows of total darkness. In the old days of uncoated filters, they sometimes reflected bright lights onto the image. Even now I don't use any filters when shooting into bright lights.

  4. #14

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Jones View Post
    To me, shooting at dusk while there is enough sky light to define the edges of buildings is more pleasing than the murky shadows of total darkness. In the old days of uncoated filters, they sometimes reflected bright lights onto the image. Even now I don't use any filters when shooting into bright lights.
    This raises another important issue, which is effectively shading your lens. To that end, I always wear a large hat when I'm photographing and I also carry in my car a piece of black foamcore board I can use as a gobo when necessary.

    And if I've wandered too far from my car to make retrieving the foamcore board a practical option when I need it, I'll scrounge up suitable replacement for it from a trash can or litter in a vacant lot or alley.

    Even with modern lenses, it can make a significant difference!

    As for shooting at dusk, that's usually not an option for me due to excessive traffic and the presence of people, but shooting before sunrise is another option (and as it happens, I've just returned from an outing that started when my dog and I left the house at 3:47 am this morning.) I also try to do at least one outing in the days before, during, and after a full moon, because the extra light it will shine on a seen can make a huge difference when it comes to balancing your exposure between the highlights and shadows contained in a scene. In fact, the stage of the moon is is a factor I consider for every photo I take and sometimes, I will skip a photo today in favor of returning later when the moon is full or, in a few instances, not visible at all.

  5. #15

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by manfrominternet View Post
    This is all terrific advice! Thank you much for writing this up. I really appreciate it.
    You're welcome and I look forward to seeing your results. Personally, I have really come to enjoy being out photographing late at night / early in the morning, as there's a zen aspect to the experience and everything looks so different at night compared to how it looks during the day. The truth is that as much as I enjoy doing photography, I also enjoy the experience of walking around the areas where I photograph late at night / early in the morning, when they are -- by and large -- peaceful and quiet.

    I live in Los Angeles and do want to photograph both the affluent neighborhoods and the not-so-affluent neighborhoods, so your advice comes in very handy.
    In the rougher parts of town, self-defense means physically protecting yourself and your property; in the affluent parts of town, though, self-defense usually means being able to verbally defend yourself and your actions.

    I'm a paralegal, so I'm very familiar with and conversant about the laws that govern photography in public places. You might wish to familiarize yourself with them as well, so that when a cop threatens to cite you for, say, obstruction of traffic merely because your tripod is setup in the street, you will know when he's blowing smoke and when he's not. (Hint: At least here in Arizona, in order to be guilty of obstructing traffic, at a minimum, there has to be traffic present for you to obstruct, which is very rarely the case at 2:00 am in a light industrial park. Also, a posted No Trespassing sign only has legal effect for the property behind it and not in front of it, so if one is posted on a fence 50 yards from the entrance of a parking lot open to the public, you're not actually trespassing until you have been asked to leave (and only then by someone possessing the appropriate authority, of course, which may or may not include a cop, believe it or not) and refuse to do so.

    Since I've been photographing in urban and suburban areas at night since 2008, I could literally regale you with anecdotes about my many experiences -- most of which are good and a few of which are bad, such as the time I was arrested by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad police for unknowingly trespassing on their property -- for pages and pages in this thread, but I won't because none of them are likely to apply to you. And while I'm comfortable pushing back against those who challenge me -- including police officers and others within the law enforcement community -- that's only because I know the relevant laws inside and out and am comfortable addressing these matters. If you are not comfortable with this -- and most people who have other professional backgrounds are not -- then you're not very likely to be successful if/when you try to do the same.

    You need to figure out what your comfort level is and where you are willing to draw the lines, because if you haven't done so in advance of needing to do so, then the situation you find yourself in when you finally do put theory into practice is very likely to go pear-shaped in a hurry.

    The only other caution I'll offer has to do with photographing in sketchy areas, because sometimes you might be photographing illegal activities without realizing it. I was photographing an alley scene once and at the far end of it -- two blocks away, hidden from me in the inky black shadows -- a drug deal was going down. I couldn't see it happening, but the participants had no such difficulty seeing both me and my camera pointed at them ... oops!

    I'm extremely worried about theft. While I'm in no way, shape or form, wealthy, my camera may make my financial situation look otherwise. (I worked really, really hard to get all the equipment I have.)

    Have you ever ran into anyone who wanted to steal your camera/gear? I wonder if I should carry a small can of pepper spray...
    Personally, I would just insure your gear, prepare to be out the deductible if it's ever stolen or damaged during an outing, and then put all of this out of your mind. To answer your question, though, No, nobody has ever tried to steal my camera gear. I did have one homeless person to whom I gave two bucks (pulled from my front pants pocket, as I suggested previously) take two steps away from me, realize I gave him only two bucks, then turn around and walk back toward me while demanding my wallet so he could prove I could afford to give him more money, but that's the only close call of that I've had.

    FYI, the biggest, scariest threats I've faced to date have all had to do with me unknowingly witnessing and/or photographing illegal activities or being perceived to have done so.

    Everything else -- and this includes dozens of incidents over the years -- falls more into the category of being a nuisance or an inconvenience than an out-and-out threat.

    Still, it pays to be prepared for anything and I like to at least believe that I am...

    For grins and giggles and to give you a general idea of the type of nighttime photography I do, here's a photo I took yesterday morning at ~4:15 am while I was walking around my neighborhood with my camera and my dog:


  6. #16

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Audii-Dudii View Post
    P.S.: Don't let security guards intimidate or scare you from photographing a scene. In my experience, the vast majority of them have no clue about the relevant law and like to use their presumed authority to bend people to their will. They have no more legal authority than any other non-law enforcement person and so long as you're not trespassing, you can pretty much just ignore them, which will usually have the effect of pissing them off and/or inciting them. I've called the police on security guards more often than they've called the police on me, so be prepared to deal with them as well.
    So true! I used to work as a security guard when I was a student. I quickly discovered that humanity divided neatly into two groups. Group 1 was people who thought you were a police officer. Group 2 (much larger) was people who realized you were a minimum wage earner carrying a big flashlight! It was very important to guess correctly which group the person you were about to accost was in before you started the encounter...

  7. #17

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by manfrominternet View Post
    This is all terrific advice! Thank you much for writing this up. I really appreciate it.

    I live in Los Angeles and do want to photograph both the affluent neighborhoods and the not-so-affluent neighborhoods, so your advice comes in very handy.

    I'm extremely worried about theft. While I'm in no way, shape or form, wealthy, my camera may make my financial situation look otherwise. (I worked really, really hard to get all the equipment I have.)

    Have you ever ran into anyone who wanted to steal your camera/gear? I wonder if I should carry a small can of pepper spray...
    If you're going to pack pepper spray, carry a large can.
    Better than pepper spray, bring a couple of High School line backers for your photographer's assistants.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  8. #18

    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    I'd take off the filters and use a rubber lens hood. as long as you're not using front rise a bunch that can cause vignetting early.

    All the stuff people have said already about personal safety is worth considering, but speaking from some personal experience doing this in urban areas, I think I've found found that generally being nervous about photographing outside at night is in my own head way more than me ever being actually threatened. I'd agree about getting the gear insured for piece of mind, I've never carried anything protection wise but I guess that's a personal decision....I'd echo Audii-Dudii's experience about unintentionally photographing or having people think you're photographing, illegal activity. And also that I've had a way more unpleasant experience with a suspicious homeowner than anyone ever attempting to rob me.

    Your phone is probably a more attractive target then your linhof. Not to knock your choice of film, but shooting Portra 400 would give you way more dynamic range stops of latitude to work with for color... also I found I needed to upgrade the sturdiness of both my tripod and tripod head once I started doing exposures over 30 sec. Lastly in case it's useful, I always use 'T' rather than 'B' and count to 60 one thousand in my head three times, I don't carry a meter and that seems to always get something on the film.

  9. #19

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    Quote Originally Posted by Audii-Dudii View Post
    You're welcome and I look forward to seeing your results. Personally, I have really come to enjoy being out photographing late at night / early in the morning, as there's a zen aspect to the experience and everything looks so different at night compared to how it looks during the day. The truth is that as much as I enjoy doing photography, I also enjoy the experience of walking around the areas where I photograph late at night / early in the morning, when they are -- by and large -- peaceful and quiet.

    For grins and giggles and to give you a general idea of the type of nighttime photography I do, here's a photo I took yesterday morning at ~4:15 am while I was walking around my neighborhood with my camera and my dog:

    Thanks so much again for the extra advice!

    I also know and experience that zen aspect that you mentioned. There's something magical about the night that really wakes me up, which is probably why I'm a resolute night owl. In a strange way, I kind of feel safer photographing at night, and while I still haven't yet done any night photography via LF, I suspect it too will become something I become addicted to.

    Btw, that's a gorgeous photograph. Was this taken digitally? I only ask because of the aspect ratio.

  10. #20

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    Re: Do you have any tips/techniques for Night Photography?

    I don't mean to cross-pollinate with my other thread, but do any of you guys use UV filters to protect your lenses, or do you think it's a waste of money?

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