Category Archives: Lenses

Night Cityscape photography tutorial

I have done some research into this and there several approaches to this type of photography.  The following is the way that I do it with my current equipment.

Start by scouting locations in daylight and selecting the areas you wish to shoot from for the composition that you desire; determine if you can legally access the location at night.  Be sure to survey the area for lights nearby that will basically blind the camera to the actual scene that you are looking at.  Take several shots from the area to review for details and potential problems.  Once you have the location, think about the moon and the phase that you wish to have in your image, if any.

Once you have the location and the date for the moon phase you wish, be ready with your equipment and practice setting it up, at the time of the shoot it may be necessary to set up everything in the dark.   Plan the schedule for that night out ahead of time, i.e. arrive at parking area at 9:30pm, setup by 10:00pm, etc.  Use a flashlight as little as possible for two reasons:

1. It takes time for your night vision to work, the light resets that process.

2. Flashlights in areas that normally do not have lights will draw the attention of the local law enforcement and you will have to explain what you are doing.  They may ask you to leave even if you have every right to be there.  If this happens, just do what they ask, otherwise you could end up facing some sort of charges based on local laws.

Once on site and set up, it is time to select the settings for you camera.  My personal choice is to go for good depth of field in the images.  This means a small aperture (the smaller the better), a long exposure and a low ISO for best detail.  Think of it like taking a landscape that needs the close grass in focus as well as the mountains, only at night.  This is where you may need a remote control or a cable release if your camera will not automatically do exposure times that are long enough.  Use your handheld light meter to determine the correct exposure and then bracket as many stops as you feel you need to get the effect you desire.   Note: It is possible to do this without an external meter; however you will be restricted to the programmed limits of time for your exposures.

Spend some time there, wait for the moon to be in different positions, watch the traffic flows; it may be possible to get an image without light trails from cars if you wish.  Do not rush the process and miss the shot you wish because you did not have the patience to wait for the correct conditions.  If you do not get the results you wanted, review the images and determine what to try next trip out.

Once you are back at the computer with the images, remember; work on copies of the images not the original files.  It is easier to start the correction process over from another clean copy of the image than to try to undo everything you did.

These are not processes for the impatient and remember to enjoy what you are doing.  If you are not enjoying it, why are you doing it?

I have a couple of shots I am in the process with and when I am happy with them I will post copies of them here.

I was successful on my Owl hunt

I was able to get some better pictures of a horned owl that lives in the park northwest of UNR.  I found that the time window to get photos of them is not very long, about 30 minutes or so.  I may try to get more pictures later in the spring.

These were taken with my Pentax K-5 and my 50-200mm lens.  I am glad that I decided to purchase this lens instead of an AC adapter for the camera.

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Night photography basic equipment

The Camera

The selected camera needs to have a manual mode that allows control of shutter speed, aperture (f-stop), and ISO (sensitivity).  Some cameras automatic systems can handle the exposure settings or at least start the photographer in the correct direction. An accurate preview system can also be a big help in seeing what you are getting.        A delay timer or a remote release is required to help eliminate camera shake.  It can be surprising what you can capture even the point and shoot digital cameras.  I have taken some very nice shots with my Canon A720IS.


If you are fortunate enough to have a dslr, experiment with your lenses.  This is like other landscape and cityscape photography, look for your shot and think about lens choice.

A Tripod

A solid tripod or another way to stabilize a camera is required.  If you try to hand hold the camera the shots will be blurry, some of the exposure times can exceed 1/10 of a second and it is a very rare person that can hand hold a camera for that long – even with image stabilization.

I will end this post with a couple of images I captured earlier this evening. Both of these were taken with my Pentax K-5 and my 55-200mm lens.

Cross northwest of UNR

Cross northwest of UNR

Downtown Reno from near the National Basque Monument

Downtown Reno from near the National Basque Monument.

Trip to local park

I went to Rancho San Rafael Park that has  a “nature area” yesterday with my wife and another couple to take pictures and allow the other couple to see the area. We spent about an hour and a half there taking photos and exploring the area. This is the same area that I took the photo of the owl posted the other day and seems to be a good area to photograph wildlife.  Since I took that photo I received the rest of the camera equipment I had ordered including the 50-200mm lens and I have been working with the new lens.


Heavily cropped photo of a small woodpecker taken with my 50-200mm lens at 200mm.


I have determined that I will need to pick up a larger capacity SD card to use with this camera since I am shooting most of the images in raw mode and the current 8gb card is filling up fast.  I am starting to look for good deals on 16gb or larger high-speed SDHC and SDXC cards.  I would be interested in hearing experiences with larger SD cards and places that have them.


I received a delivery today!!!

This gallery contains 7 photos.

I placed the order yesterday afternoon and the camera was delivered today, very fast service from and Photos of the unboxing process of my new Pentax K-5 DSLR.  I found two firmware updates for the camera had been released … Continue reading

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