Photographing Twilight and Night

Go out in the brief period after sunset -when it's neither night nor day, when the sun no longer reveals the hard edges of the landscape, but when there's still enough light in the sky to see - and take photographs. Landscape at twilight is painted with the colors of the sunset, but without the glare of the sun itself. As a result, twilight landscapes are subtle-hued across the whole frame, not just in the sky.

At night it's too dark for our eyes to detect color, so the landscape appears in shades of grey. Photographic film, though, doesn't lose its color sensitivity in the same way, so if you take pictures at night, you may be surprised at how much more colorful they are than the scene you remember.

To use a camera effectively after sunset you'll need some extra support. A tripod is ideal, but you can often improvise by propping the camera up on a wall or a chair. Don't despair if your camera's meter doesn't display a suitable shutter speed after dark: many cameras will function on "automatic" even when the exposure meter appeared quite lifeless.

For less haphazard results, use a separate hand-held meter - these are generally more sensitive than those built into the camera body. You must allow more exposure than the meter indicates, because film speed drops in dim conditions. Film manufacturers supply exact details but, in general, allow half a stop extra when the exposure exceeds one second; one stop extra for exposures exceeding ten seconds; and two extra when the shutter is open for a minute or more.

Twilight exposure

Snow makes night pictures easier to take, reducing exposure times by a stop or two. Just after sunset, you can use your camera's meter to set exposure.

Keeping detail in the moon

In order to keep the moon round make sure shutter speeds don't exceed about 10 seconds with a standard lens.
When the sky is very dark, the moon appears in pictures as a blank white disc. To retain detail, try to take pictures when the moon is just a little paler than the sky.

More about film photography

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