Dark scenes

Equipment Needed

Camera
Tripod
Remote Shutter Release (or timed delay)
ND Filters - solid and graduated

Introduction

The midnight sun – Iceland – where we’re treated to 3-4 hours of sunset each night.

When shooting in low light, we don’t necessarily need a filter in order to extend our exposure time – but in this case, we need a mixture of natural long exposure, combined with two filters to really make the image work. One to extend our exposure time a little more (a solid ND8 filter) and one to darken the sky to allow the shadows in the waterfall to be visible (a graduated neutral density filter – 3 stops/GND8).

01

SETTING UP THE SHOT

We’re going to load in a graduated filter first of all, to allow our exposure to be more balanced – allowing the camera to see deep into the shadows in the foreground at the same time as not overexposing the sky where the sun hits the horizon.


With that filter in place, we’ll look at our exposure time for our desired aperture. For fast-flowing water, any exposure longer than half a second will show that movement, but in this case we also want to blur the movement in the rough water in the lake below – as such, we’ll add a solid ND8 filter to slow things down even more, allowing for several seconds of exposure time to get the perfect smooth look.

02

CAPTURING AND IMPROVING THE SHOT

Experiment, experiment, experiment!


There’s a fine balance between enough time to smooth out the water, but not so much that our clouds blur (and not in a good way). Try longer, try shorter, and experiment with the graduated filter’s coverage too.


When using a GND filter, remember to rotate the filter to follow the line of LIGHT – not just the horizon – to get the right look.

03
POST-PROCESSING

With stacked filters, there is a risk with some manufacturers that “color-cast” is introduced (from green to magenta).


In this case, you’ll need to adjust the “tint” in Capture One to correct for this, getting back to what you saw.


Also, you will want to check for water spots on your final image – spray has a habit of landing on filters and lenses, a quick dust removal tool will fix that right up.

Compensating for differing light across the frame

Astrophotography