Tufa and Big Dipper

This is another image from the last Gary Hart workshop that I assisted. In a previous post I commented that most good landscape images are taken within an hour of sunrise/sunset. I do hold to that belief in regard to images made by the light of the sun but that doesn’t mean that you need to put your camera away when the sun goes down.

Our eyes do a very poor job of seeing in the dark. Even poorer than our normal vision is our color vision. The ratio of rods to cones, on our retina, causes us to stop seeing color in low light. That deficiency has a tendency to make us to believe that the night sky is largely without color. There are a number of techniques that photographers use to make up for the fact that the eye and the camera see things differently. Night photography is one situation where the camera exploits that difference. It’s ability to accumulate light over time allows us to capture color that we just don’t normally see.

This image was taken using only the light of the full moon. I made the exposure at f/5.6. Since most of the scene was beyond “infinity” I could have opened up all the way to f/2.8 and used a shorter exposure but my Canon 24-70 exhibits some light fall-off in the corners on long exposures when set wide open.  (Most lenses are also slightly sharper when not at one of their aperture extremes.) The rest of the details are ISO 400 and 30 seconds. My camera requires me to switch to bulb mode for exposures longer than 30 seconds. Just as a matter of principle I try to stay around 30 seconds to avoid that. 30 seconds is also about the limit that you can keep stars acceptably sharp on a wide angle lens.