Night photography

I didn’t have night photography in mind when I bought my camera. (If I wanted to do really good night photography, I’d need to spend a lot more than I did.) But when I browsed through the features listed in the user manual, I noticed a section on low-light conditions. I made a mental note to try it out sometime.

Last night I took my younger son to see the annual Independence Day fireworks show at the riverfront. I’ve tried to take pictures of fireworks before, but with little success. Now that I have a digital camera that can be switched into manual mode, I thought I might do better. I had checked ahead of time to find out recommended settings, and I remembered to take my tripod (a GorillaPod that can hold its place firmly on the arm of a camp chair).

Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to practice actually changing the manual settings, and in the dark I couldn’t figure out what buttons to press. (But I found the one for timed delay to allow me to get in my own picture. Several times.) So I had to settle for letting the camera determine the settings. The pictures still came out much better than my previous attempts to capture exploding fireworks. (Last year I used video mode and extracted a few frames. The color was good but the resolution was not.)

Since I didn’t buy this for night photography, I didn’t think about whether a cable release was available. Even with the tripod, the pressure of my finger on the shutter release was enough to cause movement visible in most of the photos from last night. (The trails of light show the downward arc of the firework fragments, but also another small movement at right angles to that arc, presumably from movement of the camera.)

Apparently a cable release is not available, even though the camera clearly is designed with the possibility of low-light photography in mind. (There is even a Fireworks setting in there somewhere, though I’ll have to peruse the manual – which is on CD only – more closely to find it.) However, I have read online about making a DIY cable release that uses the camera’s USB port – I just might try it out.

I still won’t be able to get the kind of quality seen in these beautiful examples of night photography. But they have me thinking about the possibilities.

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