Download e-book Seeing the Unseen - How to Photograph Landscapes at Night

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Like all terms, it can only take us so far. Yet for many artists, its boundaries are creative constraints — limits to test, explore and transgress. Looking at three contemporary lens-based artists — Michael Lundgren , Sean McFarland and Anastasia Samoylova — we can see the various ways this broad genre has proven itself both intractable and generous. Stubborn because of what has been done and the vistas well-trodden, but also expansive in its possibilities. Eroding Cinder , from the series Geomancy , Michael Lundgren.

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Yet his unsettling, hallucinatory images dig deep. Geomacy , his most recent body of work, builds off his previous two projects, Transfigurations and Matter , and offers an almost mytho-poetic vision of a depopulated and arid world.

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While Lundgren often visits and photographs prehistoric sites, he just as often seeks out and creates his own. Circle of the Old Ones could be the ruins of the settlement but could just as easily be an abandoned campsite. Often shot at dawn or twilight, his images hover in an eerily temporal space resembling day-for-night shots in cinema. In Eroding Cider , the sky is nearly black but the desolate mine tailings or gravel heaps are evenly lit as if by a celestial light.

The effects are otherworldly.

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We just need to look harder. Whereas Lundgren uses pictorial conventions to explore the landscape and reveal its mysteries, Sean McFarland is more interested in disrupting these very conventions as a means to bring us closer to an experience of place. In this sense, his work is both critical investigation of the landscape genre and its history, but also phenomenological dismantling of it. In A Mountain in the Desert , what appears to be a tear arcs across a conventional desert scene of a mountain.

The rupture reminds us not only of the physicality of the print, breaking the illusion, but also violates the sanctity of the print, thumbing its nose at an otherwise elegant scene. If we can no longer rely on conventional images of landscape to draw us closer to the world around us, McFarland asks us to experience these familiar spaces in new ways, literally opening the images up and putting them back together. Summer 2 , from the series Four Seasons , Anastasia Samoylova.

Using stock images, Samoylova creates abstracted tableaus of the landscape which are then photographed in the studio. Fire off the shutter using a cable release and marvel at just how much unseen detail your camera has recorded.

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If you're looking for a truly cosmic photo, capture the dark night sky instead. The light levels will be a lot lower than moonlight, but you can compensate for this by using a higher ISO setting.


  1. About the Author.
  2. Yeovil Through Time;
  3. Landscapes to Come;
  4. How to easily shoot long exposure photographs at night.

Choose ISO This will record thousands of stars, but don't expect the camera to pick up any details in the landscape, such as a moonlit hilltop. Night photography is all about letting go of image conventions. The light is so greatly reduced that the pictures will consist of photographic taboos, such as featureless shadows, but don't let this inhibit you.

How to Select a Lens for Night Photography

When you begin processing your night photos on a computer, don't be afraid of using noise-reduction software. Most raw converters, such as Adobe Camera Raw, do an admirable job of bringing down noise levels. The Luminance slider provides the best control of noise reduction without decreasing detail.

Try applying the noise reduction in two stages: once in raw and then again using Photoshop CS's Noise Reduction tool, which enables you to tackle the issue in separate colour channels using the advanced options. You'll often find that one colour channel in particular will contain most of the noise. If your noise-reduction efforts in Photoshop prove to be unsuccessful, try taking a 'dark frame' during your next shoot and subtracting it from the subsequent pictures.

Open your dark-frame image and the night photo you want to process in Photoshop. Copy and paste the dark frame into a new layer on top of the image and select the Difference blending mode learn more about blending modes and the 10 best blends for photographers.

Your first shoots may not be successful, but once you gain some knowledge of how and where to shoot, night photography becomes an extremely enriching experience. With good camera technique and careful processing skills, your images can be breathtaking.