We’ve all been there–you see a fantastic opportunity for an evening landscape shot and you go for it, only to be disappointed by the blurry and underwhelming outcome.
Happily, thanks to Lumia’s famed lowlight prowess, if you’re a Lumia lover these disappointments are few and far between. Nonetheless, there’s a big difference between getting a low light shot that looks good and getting a low light shot that looks amazing. One man who has nailed the latter is Toni García. You may remember Toni from our Around the world in 80 Lumias, where he showed us a very different view of Spain. Now, he’s put together an easy to follow guide, which will help turn your lowlight landscapes into the highlights of your collection. Over to you, Toni!
Night shooting from the beginning
Shooting at night was the very first thing I wanted to try when I first started out in the photography world. Back then, it wasn’t easy to understand all the concepts that night photography involves…and it’s still not easy nowadays. But I’ve got a few tips that I think will help you learn how to take amazing landscapes photos in low light.
When starting out, the first thing that I did was buy a tripod. Not a very good tripod, only “a tripod” to keep my camera steady when the night came. I’d be lying if I said I started shooting at night as soon as I got my tripod. Rather, I tried to understand the theory first. I read books and web posts about how the camera works and then searched for interviews and articles about professional and amateur photographers on the internet. After checking out lots of different photographic styles, some expos and tons of pictures, and thinking about what kind of pictures I’d like to take, after all of that, one then did I start shoot my own. And the first thing I did after that? Throw lots of pictures into the trash bin.
Now, some years later, my thoughts about which kind of pictures I’d like to take change every month. For that reason, this is a journey with a lot of stops but without an ending. Now that you know how I got started, I’d like to share the things I’ve learnt to help you on your photographic journey.
1. Keep your device steady
There are lots of ways to do this. There are tripods at every price, the gorillapod, and all kinds of self-made contraptions that you can find online. But remember, in low light conditions, it’s very easy to hit whatever is supporting your device. The last thing you want to see is your Lumias hit the floor or flying down a mountain, right?
2. Imagine the shot
Low light conditions don’t necessarily mean being in absolute darkness, but the truth is that we will have some difficulties comparing it to day photography. One example is that we can lose the image reference on the screen in low light. Don’t panic! You just need to use what is, in my opinion, the very essence of a good photographer: the ability to imagine the scene before shooting.
Landscape photography doesn’t need to be rushed like other styles such as documentary or street photography. For that reason, I compose behind my Lumia, and then when I’m clear about what I want to shoot, I adjust the camera settings for that condition.
Pétrola Lagoon in Castilla la Mancha.
3. Choose the best hour
…and there’s no better hour for that place than the one that you choose. Personally, I like shooting during the golden hour between sunset and night, even more so if I have a water reference. But I also really enjoy shooting during the night with a few light points, like a lamp post in the distance.
If you are lucky enough to live in a place where the landscapes are full of fog, please take advantage of it! Fog is great for low-light conditions. It expands the light for the whole scene. I’m not that lucky person- where I live there’s never any fog, so if I want to shoot it, I have to drive at least 200 kilometers. So, if you have the chance, find the fog at night and shoot it. The results are awesome.
4. Focus on focus
Focusing through the screen without light might seem impossible. But truthfully, it’s really easy. I never use auto-focus, not even with daylight. If I want the whole scene in focus, I use manual mode and I move the focus parameter near the infinite but without setting it. Try to practice it with normal daylight and see the results.
5. Immerse yourself in editing
I enjoy editing just as much as shooting. I really love that Lumia has the DNG files because I spend my time thinking about how to edit my pictures. The way that I see it, digital photography and editing go together nowadays. You can edit your pictures a lot or a little, and some people use very evident editing with very apparent results. As I said at the beginning, I’ve tried lots of styles, and today I prefer the less showy types of editing. That doesn’t mean I spend less time with the editing tools. In fact, I spend even more time because now I think more consciously about what type of result I want for my pictures. For this, I use both Camera Raw and Adobe Photoshop, just like I do with DSLR photography.
Albufera de Valencia
6. Enjoy yourself
For me, this is the most important tip for those who want to learn about photography and spend their life shooting in any style. I began photography in order to do something new. I didn’t even especially enjoy it when I started! Now I can’t live without it. However, just like anyone I’ve had time where I haven’t taken photos for months and other times where I’ve shot pictures everyday. I don’t have any real goals for my photography, only to keep doing it. For me this is great because it means there is no pressure. Cartier-Bresson said “Your first 10 000 photographs are your worst”. I continue to take my worst and I’m really enjoying doing it, and so should you!
Shot inside an old abandoned factory.
Abandoned disco near Valencia. I really love the darkness and silence of the abandoned places I visit.
View from the top of the Garbi Mountain in Valencia.
The city of arts and sciences, Valencia at night.
Mara’s American food, which actually isn’t that American.
Roads at nighttime provide lots of opportunity to experiement. Here’s one.
There’s something special about mountains during the golden hour, especially during winter.
I took this picture during an expedition I did inside a deep cave near Valencia. It’s not such a well-known place and quite dangerous, but it deserves to be photographed.
Huge thanks to Toni for both his words of photographic wisdom and for his amazing photos. We hope he’s inspired you to get get out there and shoot your own low-light landscapes. In the meantime, why not check out more his magic on his website, Tumblr, and Instagram. And be sure to let us know which of his tips and photos you love best.