Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Night Life

This past weekend I made a trip to Duluth for a chance to try out a brand spanking new 5D Mark II.   I arrived as scheduled on Saturday afternoon, unfortunately the 5D didn’t show up until much later.   The weather was not cooperating either.

But, this was not supposed to be about what was not working but rather what did.  After the sun had set for the evening I went down to the harbor hoping for a mix of fog and lights and a great picture…….  Well OK, I went down there because Grandma’s has great food.

Approaching the area I saw that the fog and lights really made for an interesting image.  I got out my camera and tripod and took a few pics.


The results

Lift Bridge

© 2009 Gary Udstrand


The rain had turned to a slight drizzle and the lights combined with the fog made the exposure level challenging.   I set my camera up on a tripod and chose an aperture of f/7.1 to get a decent amount of DOF while keeping the exposure levels at an acceptable level.   The camera was on a tripod, but the wind and rain were increasing so I wanted to keep the shutter somewhere in the 2-3 second range.  ISO 320 put me in the correct range and would also keep the noise at an acceptable level.

A quick glance at the LCD (chimping!) and I could see that the highlights were overexposed.  I dialed in a –1 EV and reshot.  This time the highlights looked good and the histogram, while bunched up to the left hand side, was as expected.   Overall I am very happy with the shot.


Lonely Pier

© 2009 Gary Udstrand

The pier was virtually vacant, myself the only exception, and the deteriorating weather was making me question my decision to stay.    I liked the look of the empty pier and decided to set up for another shot.  Starting with the same settings as the bridge I took the photo and reviewed the histogram.   Since the pier had much less ambient light it caused the highlights to blow even though I was already dialed at a –1 EV.   I increased the EV to a –2 and was able to control the highlights a bit better while still retaining some detail in the shadows.  I liked the balance between the lights and the cold hard concrete, and since the weather was not getting any better I moved along.


The Technique


Night Shooting

I am a huge fan of shooting after the sun goes down, and the shots above are only a couple of many I shot that night.   Too often when the sun goes down photographers pack away their gear which is unfortunate.  Nighttime offers many opportunities for some very unique and wonderful images.  It does take a bit of twiddling sometimes to get everything right, but the results can be well worth it.

When I shoot at night I like to carry a small LCD flashlight to see the camera and settings.  If you do this make sure you get one that has not only white light but red light as well.  The red will not affect your night vision as much and will allow you to go back and forth between the camera settings and visualizing your composition.



One thing that can be difficult when shooting at night is to get the focus right.  To get the focus right I can offer you a couple of techniques.

  1. Try to find a light, or an object that will provide enough contrast to focus that is at the same distance as the subject.   Once you have focus, turn off the auto focus (if you haven’t already) and turn your camera towards your subject and shoot away.
  2. You should always carry a small flashlight when shooting at night.  Not only can it light the way for you back and forth to your subject, but you can also use it to assist with focusing.  If your subject is close enough simply illuminate it with the torch and focus your camera.  Again, once you have focus you can simply turn off the auto focus and shoot away.
  3. If you are shooting a subject that is at infinity, and your lens has a distance scale (surprising how many nowadays lack this useful feature) you can calculate the hyperfocal distance (the subject of a future blog post!  ;-)) and set your focus via the distance scale on the lens.

In all cases you probably will want to set your camera/lens to manual focus once you have it set.  Also, remember to check it regularly to make sure you have not bumped the focus ring.



When shooting at night getting the exposure correct can be difficult.  To ensure you get the results you want it is useful to bracket your shots.   Most cameras nowadays have AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) that can make it as simple as firing off three shots.

    For myself I prefer to use the EV adjustment on the camera.  If you are familiar with your histogram and camera display you can usually tell where your exposure is.   If you need more exposure, dial it up a stop or two.   Alternatively if you need less dial out a stop or two.  Knowing and understanding how and when to use EV will improve your photography overall and not just your images taken at night.

    Aperture Priority

    I prefer to use aperture priority for a lot of my shooting, night shooting included.  I would recommend that you start there or use your cameras manual settings.    While you can shoot at night using the program or auto modes I would not recommend it.  Most often the camera will set the lens to its widest setting and start from there.  Largely, that is not what you want.The sweet spot of most lenses is at a couple stops closed down from the maximum aperture.  There is a reason for the old adage “F8 and be there”.   Start with f/8 and change it as conditions and experience dictate.   The tighter apertures will let the lens perform at its best and will also minimize blooming and fuzziness around brightly lit areas (like lightning).

    In closing

    The next time the sun sets keep your camera out.  Set up the tripod and fire away.  One thing is almost certain, you will have the scenery to yourself..  that is unless I am in the area.  🙂

Summer Whitetail evening


The summer sun was starting to lose its grip, ushered out by a gentle breeze carrying the smell of earth and clover.   The stillness was broken by the drumming of hooves as they landed upon the field with a rhythmic cadence.   At once she seemed to materialize from the grass and with a grace and ease quickly covered the expanse before us.   A moment later the silence returned and she vanished into her surroundings, was she really there?

Greenbush Rodeo 2009

Over the fourth I went to the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo in Greenbush, MN.  It was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed it too.  Not only is it a good time you get to feel good about yourself since a portion of the advance ticket sales go to the local “Think Pink Breast Cancer Fund”.

If you are ever in the area over the fourth I would highly recommend going, it is great entertainment for the entire family.   Below is a slideshow of some of the highlights of the day.

If you were a participant at the event, or you are just interested in some rodeo prints you can save some money on prints.

Highlights gallery

Event gallery

te10for25 – $10 off an order of $25 or more.
te50 – 50% off an order of $50 or more.

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