nighttime photography

BAT IN FLIGHT AND GECKO ON WALL PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE DARK

If you want a massive photography challenge, then attempt capturing bats in flight, taken in the black of night.

The following is my first ever capture of a bat in flight, and as an added bonus, a Gecko lizard wanted to get into the photo to add extra interest. I am a little freaked out about the white bat eyes…is that like the “red-eye” effect in humans and other mammals when taking direct flash photography? I’m not sure, but maybe it is.

BAT and Gecko

Copyright 2018 Nawfal Johnson

All Rights Reserved

———

Bats are fast—REALLY FAST!

To take this, I set my Shutter Speed to the quickest possible to still use with synchronized flash: 1/200th sec. I needed a medium Aperture setting to get a medium depth-of-field (maybe around f.13) to capture my “targets” in relative focus. Objects a few inches in front and behind my prearranged, manual focal point, were in pretty good focus. The Internal Flash was set at +2.0 increased power.

Then….Wait….wait for any bats to enter the frame of the camera’s viewfinder. They are so fast, however, YOU NEED TO START SENDING THOUGHTS OF PUSHING THE BUTTON BEFORE THE BATS ENTER THE VIEWFINDER to HOPE to capture the bats in a photo before they leave the frame!

“Click! Drats! Click! Damn! Click! F!”

“Would you slow down already. Can’t you bats see I’m attempting to take your pictures!”

They failed to slow down. After about five, 10, maybe 15 shots, this was the best I could get.

I thought it was a good exercise. If nothing else, it was good practice using mostly manual settings, and shooting in the dark.

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My BEST Advice for Nighttime – Low-Light Photography

"My BEST Advice for Nighttime – Low-Light Photography"

ANSON ROAD AT NIGHTTIME, Edit B, 10 Dec 2011, Copyright Nawfal Johnson Nur

"Anson Road at Nighttime, Edit B"
10 Dec 2011
Copyright 2011 Nawfal Johnson Nur

MOTIVATION:
Sometimes, I study the search terms that people use to get to my blog, "Behind the Lens," and then I attempt to write something useful to help out people who are searching for specific bits of advice.  In this particular case, someone had searched for "how to photograph at night".  Thus, I will mention my BEST advice for nighttime / low-light photography:  My advice to anyone wanting to photograph in near dark conditions, with only nighttime lighting (e.g. street lights, vehicle lights, etc.), is to use a tripod.  Nothing will mess with you more than unintentional movement of the camera during long exposures.  By ‘long exposures,’ I mean any shutter speed that is more than 1/15th second.  Maybe I’m not the steadiest shooter in the world, but I know that my heartbeat will certainly move the camera as blood pumps through my arms and hands.  Any movement during extended shutter times will create nice blurry photos.  A good, heavy, sturdy tripod will help create a steady platform for your camera.  So there you have it – Use a tripod is my BEST advice for nighttime and low-light photography.  My second best advice is experiment a lot.  My third best advice is shoot a lot.  My fourth best advice is try NOT to get hit by cars when taking photographs of traffic at nighttime.  I tend to set up shop in the street which has its own hazards. 

This is BEST Tree

This is BEST Tree, Copyright 2011 Nawfal Johnson Nur

"This is BEST Tree"

10 Dec 2011
Copyright 2011 Nawfal Johnson Nur

MOTIVATION:
It was nighttime.  I had my camera.  There was my favorite Penang tree.  I needed no other motivation.  This is a long exposure, about 20 seconds worth of time.

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RELAXING UNDER THE NIGHT SKY

Relaxing under the night sky

"Relaxing Under the Night Sky"

6 Dec 2011
Nighttime long-exposure photograph.
Copyright 2011 Nawfal Johnson Nur 

Motivations:
I was outside already shooting the nighttime sky, and my assistants were ‘busy’ helping out, as you can see.  So, I thought I would capture about 30-seconds of their busy-ness.  The bright rectangular items in the photo are cell phone screens.

ANT Apartment in the Sky!

This is a post that combines Photography and Entomology: The Entomology part of it I don’t know much about, but I’m curious about Ant behavior nonetheless.

Anyone besides me, and others of my generation, familiar with the TV sitcom, “The Jeffersons”? You know…”Movin’ on up, to the East Side, to that deluxe apartment in the sky…”

Well, George and Louise have nothing on the ants that have made a home out front, in my yard. Well, not in the yard, but high above the ground. OK, not so high, about two feet off the ground, but in Ant-size measurements, that is a big distance upward to construct a hanging ant apartment!

BLACK ANT HOME ABOVE GROUND AROUND CANS-Edited-March 05, 2009, btl

[Above Photo]: An engineering masterpiece. A colony of black ants (I don’t know the species) have outdone themselves with a hanging nest. From a framework of several aluminum cans hanging from wire (attached along the fence), the ants have carried up the fence various natural resources to construct their nest, including sand, dirt, leaves, grass, and yes, dead ants and other insects. They have plastered the materials all around and underneath the cans. This construction is how they have made their home in the sky.

This ant apartment is literally defying gravity. The mortar holding their home together is strong enough that the vast portion of the nest is hanging securely from underneath the cans. The ants have created numerous holes in the soil for entry and exit points. It appears most of the activity in the nest is from the holes in the nest’s soil, not the aluminum can holes. [See Below]:

BLACK ANT HOME ABOVE GROUND AROUND CANS, No2-Edited-March 05, 2009, btl

In my humble opinion, this species has done something quite ingenious:  Hanging above ground their home is completely safe from heavy rains (floods), and that is ‘naturally’ important because this is the tropics. A very big Neem tree provides much of everything these ants need, including shelter from heavy rain, and resources for building, and maybe as a food source.

I have observed the colony in the daytime and nighttime and they are always busy working. The next several photographs are from my nighttime observations.

Maybe ants build nests above ground all the time and I was never aware of this marvel. However, this is the first time I’m seeing something like this, where ants have used aluminum cans to secure an earthen fortress, strategically hanging above ground under a huge Neem tree.

There are several questions for which I have no answers…yet:

  1. What ant species is this?
  2. Is this behavior peculiar to this species?
  3. Is this a survival strategy…to keep the nest off the ground away from other competition (earth diggers), and also protected from natural elements (i.e., Rain)?
  4. Was this construction purposeful or just a workable accident?
  5. What does this ‘Ant Apartment in the sky’ look like on the inside?
  6. Do the aluminum cans provide more purpose than just as a  sturdy and hollow construction material?
  7. If the colony increases, will the size of the sky apartment increase?  Will the ants build further downward, or outward?  Or, will the ants abandon the nest?
  8. It looks like these ants have used their own dead as part of the mortar: Is the “recycling nature” of using dead ants as part of the nest mortar a common thing, or unusual?

Well, so much for Ant Sociology & Ant Engineering:  That’s all I have for the moment.

I find this hanging nest quite interesting.  I knew that ants were great diggers, but now I also know they are skilled engineers as well.

BLACK ANT, no1-Edited-March 05, 2009, btl

This ant (above) stopped and tried to look menacing at the camera when I accidentally touched the can it was sitting on. It is all important to guard the nest.

BLACK WORKER ANT AT NIGHT 7418-Edited-March 08, 2009, v2,BTL

[Above]: An ant carrying…ah, something…not sure what that is, maybe food. Anyway, he’s heading back to the sky apartment with this “thing”. This is a nighttime shot.

Black Worker Ant at Nighttime 7419-Edited-March 08, 2009

Here’s another ant with another one of those ‘things’ (hummm…could it be a weird egg sack, but I always thought ant eggs were more smooth and whitish…). This is also a nighttime photograph.

Black Ants at Nighttime, IMG 7426-Edited-March 08, 2009, v3, btl

[Above]: Nighttime activity all over the aluminum-earthen ant apartment.  The best I can guess, this nest is about 4 weeks old.  At least, I first noticed it about 4 weeks ago.

Old Wood House at Night, v.2c, & Original

The bottom image is the original shot. The top image is the edited version. The top version is also the one the B&W image came from.

Photographed by Nawfal Nur

It is like Day & Night. Sometimes, you just have to work with the original to get something that you can be happy with.

You go out at nighttime, let’s say, and you see a scene, and it may not be ideal, or the circumstances may not be ideal, but you see potential. You grab your camera, you set it on your tripod, and you take the photograph. With limited time and working with the existing lighting, you take the shot: The “original photograph” is like the clay a potter works with to create a piece of art that is previsualized in the artist’s mind.

As a photographer and artist, you start working with the original image making the artwork come to life; it starts becoming the image you saw in your minds eye.

For me, I like this process, working with the original and then molding and shaping it until it becomes the image I saw in my minds eye, as I said, a work that I can be really happy with.

If I have a choice, I prefer to get the photograph as close to my vision as possible, with the original. However, this is not possible all the time.

This scene was photographed at around 11PM, and the only lighting was a single HPS (high pressure sodium lamp) street light, which for photographic purposes, is a very weak illumination source. Various other urban light pollution was around, but definitely not helping the photographic situation. What drew my attention to this scene was the texture of the materials in the house, the spookiness of the environment, and the possibilities I saw in my minds eye. That was enough for me to take the effort, and make the exposure.

Old Wood House in the Dark, v.3

Time Taken: About 11PM.
Location: Jelutong, Penang.
Available Light: One Street Light.
Long Exposure.

Photographed by Nawfal Nur

An example of what you can do with nighttime photography, with minimal equipment, and working with the assistance on only a single street light.

The Aperture was set at f/5.6.
The Shutter Speed was at 6 Seconds.
Time Photo was Taken: Around 11PM.
Location of Shot: In Jelutong, Penang, Malaysia.

And the most important piece of equipment…

My SLIK: ABLE 300DX Tripod.

Happy New Year – 2008!

Well, it’s 2008! How was it…ah, I mean 2007? Time for a postmortem, or shall we just let 2007 be? I am so, so positive that 2008 is already great – and it rhymes too! So it’s got to be great!

Just wanting to wish all my readers and visitors to my Photo-Journals, a VERY Happy and Prosperous New Years – Make it Great because no one else will for you! Right!

OK then…Now the photo below (if it shows up…LOLOL). Just as in the previous entry, I said, “give shooting in the rain a try”…so, “give shooting at nighttime a try too.” What’s the worst that can happen? Well, OK, let’s back up the truck…lots could happen, so bring someone you trust to “Watch Yer 6!” That will allow you to concentrate on photographing.

Door & Window at Nighttime, v.1, Jalan Kajang

Be Safe! Have Fun! Enjoy 2008! Door & Window, Exterior Photograph taken at nighttime, along Jalan Kajang, Penang, by Nawfal Nur

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Lanterns, Flowers and Fountain – Nighttime Botanical Gardens Image

Lanterns, Flowers and Fountain photograph by Nawfal Nur

 

The image above was taken at the Penang Botanical Gardens during the Annual Flower Festival (2006), and I felt this was maybe a better image for the Dreamscapes category. Please have a look and vote for my image if you like it – thank you!

 

Aluminum Queen at Nighttime

Aluminum Queen at Nighttime, by Nawfal Nur, submitted for 11th Issue of JPG

This image is titled, “Aluminum Queen at Nighttime,” and I have submitted it to the 11th Issue of JPG Magazine for their consideration.  Part of the choosing process is by votes – so, chances are if a photo gets a good number of votes, it has a better chance of publication.  That being the case, if you get the opportunity to go see the bigger view of my image, and you like it, please vote for it as well, (click on the image above to see the larger view).

I submitted this image to the “Dreamscapes” theme as I thought it was appropriate.

This sculpture, made of recyclable aluminum cans and bubble wrap sheets, looks sort
of eerie against the very deep blue, nighttime sky.  This look was created with a long
exposure (30 secs approx).

It looks like the “Queen” is reaching out to grab someone, and I guess this scene could,
mind you, be conjured up in some nightmare.

Thanks for having a look and voting!

Orion’s Belt & Coconut Tree

Orion’s Belt & Coconut Tree by Nawfal Nur - 2007

 Title: “Orion’s Belt & Coconut Tree”
© 2007 Nawfal Nur
All Rights Reserved
Location: Penang, Malaysia

Wide Field Astrophotography of Orion’s Belt, and a coconut tree.
“ζ Ori (Alnitak), ε Ori (Alnilam) and δ Ori (Mintaka) make up the asterism known as Orion’s Belt: three bright stars in a row; from these alone one can recognize Orion.” [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_(constellation) ]

Film or Digital?

Burnt out Car, v.5
Title: “Burnt-out Car, v.5”
Creation Date: 3 Mar 07
(c) 2007 Nawfal Nur

See Other Images from this Outing!

 

Film or Digital?” At this point, some people might say: “Who Cares!” And at that point, I guess I would have to say: “Well, it’s not so much that I care about it or want to argue either side; nevertheless, I may want to say something about what I have learned.”

If you want to read the “argument” (mainly pro-film) side of this well-tenderized debate, there’s a good thread at Lightstalkers.

Why not use both? I like that idea.

Often, I think a client may have something to say about whether a job is to be shot with film or digital. In this instant gratification world we live in, digital appears to be the winner. That’s not to say that you can’t jump back into the film-saddle again for personal work…if you want.

The other night, March 3rd to be exact, I decided to shoot some 35mm film.

The digital side of my brain was telling me: “Nawfal – you must be MAD…WHAT! Are you CRAZY…LOCO…GILA! Why do you want to be so ‘wild’? You know digital now…no need to risk so much by reverting back to film…NOoooooooooooo!” Well, it didn’t go exactly like that, but sort of.

Of course, the analog side of my brain was telling me, “Good Nawfal…you can do it, you shot film for years before you became so dependent on LCD screens to edit each shot and to do that nasty ‘chimping’ thing!

So, what did I decide to do?

I took my NIKON F out of my dehumidifier box, switched out the Nikkor 35-70mm zoom for my SIGMA 24mm f/2.8, and loaded up the camera with some Fuji Superia 200 ASA film.

To add to the difficulty factor, the power cell in my “F” was dead, so no metering…every exposure would be a guess . To top it off, I decided to go out for some nighttime shooting, just after 10PM.

OK!

Here are the circumstances of this shoot, summed up so far: I was shooting film with a 35+ year old camera with no active metering system, using a newer lens not specifically made for the Nikon F, and trying to rekindle my respect for film by shooting at night.

The only other pieces of equipment I took out were my tripod, a Bogan Pro 3001 with Manfrotto #352 Ball & Socket Head; and, a Vivitar 2800 Auto Thyristor flash, which is probably as old as my Nikon camera, but it works beautifully!

Finding subject matter was not the issue; once I was out and about, all kinds of ordinary subjects were popping out at me and just waiting for their photo to be taken.

It was that moment when I put my tripod down in front of the Burnt-out Car, that I began looking at the subject and the lighting and the environment, and realized the effect that digital photography has had on my photography: I had become complacent!

I had become nearly reliant on digital technology to instantly show me the results.

With digital photography, of course, I still have to think about the shot, but with analog, I REALLY have to think about the shot before I take it.

For the obvious reasons you have to meticullously consider all aspects of a photo session when shooting film. Film is not so cheap in the long run; and, waiting for the photo lab to process and print your photographs can make for a stressful day, especially after you have become accustomed to seeing your photos instantly on an LCD screen.

Well, the car was not going anywhere so I had the opportunity to carefully consider the exposure combinations. I experimented with aperture settings ranging from f/16 to f/2.8. Shutter Speeds varied as well, from 1 second to 2 minutes. Basically, each shot was an educated guesstimate.

I went through the 24 frames within a couple of hours, but the time seemed to move faster than that – I guess I was enjoying myself, getting familiar with photo equipment I had not used in years.

The next day, the film was dropped off at the photo lab; however, because I wanted the technician to take time inspecting the negatives, and only to make prints from “strong” looking frames, the process took a couple of hours.

21 of the 24 shots were printable. Of the 21 photographs, I really liked the results of six images, and four of these shots can be seen here. In terms of film usage, and considering that all the exposure settings were educated guesses, the percentage of shots that I “liked” is pretty good.

After this little exercise, I’ve realized a few things about myself, and in general, about the use of film for photography.

  1. Film and development can be a bit expensive compared to Flash or SD memory devices, that is, in the long run.
  2. Film cameras can last you decades of use without needing to upgrade; whereas, every two or three years digital technology seems to become quite dated and needing upgrades.
  3. Film cameras, such as my trusty Nikon F, can be used in ANY circumstance and without the need for batteries, wires, computers, or electricity.
  4. I can’t say that digital photography has made me a better photographer. I think that it has made me a more complacent photographer by depending on the technology a little too much. That’s not so good, but it’s not so bad either – it’s just a different way of photographing – perhaps digital has made me a little less instinctive in the ways of photography.
  5. Last, and I’m sure not least, is that no matter how hard I force the negative, slide, or printed photo into the floppy disk slot, there is no way in hell that they are going to show up on my computer screen, or on the WEB, without me first digitizing them. And let me add, there is no way I was going to get rid of those pesky dust marks without using photo editing software.

So, ho-hum! Film images still end up needing to be in digital format for their use in the digital world.

Nevertheless, if you are strictly a digital shooter, give a roll of film a try, that is, if you have a film camera around. The experience can be a real eye opener, and a pleasant one at that.