A barrage of questions is hurling my way in the frozen, ink-black night. I'm teaching a photo workshop, and we couldn't resist going out for a light-painting session. The stars overhead are so bright, I feel like I'm in a planetarium, not standing at 9,000 feet by a deserted mine on Red Mountain Pass near Ouray, Colorado.
"I think my battery just died." "My shutter won't fire; I think my camera is broken."
The gauntlet of questions continues in an almost comical scene: 14 photographers stumbling around in the night blinding each other with their headlamps while I run through the scene flashing a red light on a deserted shack. Oh, yeah, the joy of nighttime photography!
Star photography and light painting have become popular, and with good reason. Today's DSLRs have excellent high-ISO noise performance and in-camera settings to help reduce long-exposure noise. In many cases, it's not the camera that performs badly in the middle of a frozen, dark night, but the photographer who struggles to get the right composition and focus.
After living in Alaska for years watching the winter sun set at 4 p.m., I naturally shot a lot at night. I've learned a few tricks for night shooting and found some useful tools to help. Let's answer all the questions mentioned above. Don't put your camera away when the sun sets—grab a headlamp and your tripod and head out for some night shooting!