Night Photography Workshop

We just had our fifth postdoc photo workshop. The theme this time was night photography and the idea was that we would do long exposures and then use flashes to freeze the scene and create a ghostly feel to the photos. Here is a selection of the photos we created.

We met up outside the PdOC Centre on Mill Lane, and started with a briefing about what to think about when doing low light photography. The briefing went more quickly than I had expected and it was not dark enough for night photography, so we took the lift up to the roof of the Grand Arcade, where they have a car park with a nice view of Cambridge, to watch and photograph the sunset.


We then headed to the Old Schools, the location for the rest of the shoot. We had a few other ideas for what we could do also, but in the end we stayed with the ghost theme throughout the evening. The plan was that a flash would briefly illuminate a person who would then run out of the picture. This would create a transparent look where the background would shine through. To make it look good we needed the ambient light to be strong enough, so the first thing we did was take a test shot without any flash to get the background light right, no blown highlights. In the end I went with 5 seconds, ISO 200 and f16. That would give us enough time to run away and let the background build up. To get everyone synchronised one of us counted out loud 1,2,3 and on 3 we all pressed our shutters, on 4 the flash was fired. So all our photos captured the same moment the flash went off, but from different angles.

Here we were going for the good old force-strangulation inspired by Darth Vader. I have done a bit of post processing, toning down a bright lantern that was distracting and adding a texture on top. There is also a bit of dodging and burning (darkening the dark, and brightening the bright selectively in the image) to increase contrast.
Photographers setting up for another shot. Thanks to Martin for taking the photo and sharing it. I’ve increased the exposure, decreased the highlights and lifted the shadows. There is also a bit of split toning added to get the orange-blue tint.
This one is a bit creepy… We used the flash to freeze them in position, then the man ran off while she stayed there. His hands got a bit too strongly exposed. I have decreased the highlights to reduce the shine of the lamp in the background. Also added a graduated darkening filter to the left in Photoshop.
I like the mysterious feel to this photo. We used hand held flashes to create silhouettes. The streak of light you see is a light on the flash that unfortunately was visible. I have desaturated this photo a bit, but I did not want to lose all colours. I have done a tiny amount of dodging and burning, mainly to selectively darken the edges.

It must have looked funny with about ten people standing in a line photographing the same thing. A few of the passers-by stopped to ask us what we were doing. We ended the evening with a dinner together. It was a fun workshop, thank you to everyone who came!

If you want to read more about our previous workshops, then click here.

– Johannes

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