Shoot in the dark
A good idea for the summer if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere – the weather is nice, the day is long – get out and shoot after dark.
Shooting at night is one of my favorite things of all. The low light demands longer exposures – especially if you need small apertures. It forces you to slow down and consider your subject carefully. Another major challenge of night shooting is the dynamic range you might have in a particular scene. Street lights are extremely bright compared to areas of your photograph literally in the dark. The contrast ratio is much higher in some cases than shooting in the day and it creates a challenge to start thinking differently and approach your subject with a new, thoughtful mindset.
A good place to start is to try landscape or architectural photographs. As I said, street lights are much brighter than the rest of your scene in most cases and its important to think in those terms. How much of your scene is artificially lit by city lights? Is the moon out? Blown highlights are typically recommended to be avoided, but do they make a bad picture? Probably not. This is where you have to become and artist and experiment. Bracket your exposures – you’ll learn a lot.
Let It Blur
Remember – at small apertures you’ll be dealing with long exposure times. I like to shoot at f11 and set the shutter speed to determine the exposure. And this can be a few minutes depending on the ISO. Remember – to bracket one stop you either need to cut in half or double your shutter time. This will feel extreme. For example – if you’ve got a 10 minute exposure and you want to bring it down 1 stop – that becomes 20 min. Big difference, but you’ll get used to it.
Digital works great, but black and white film can be fun as well. I highly recommend Fuji Acros 100. Its slow but it will let you do up to a 15 minute exposure without any failing. Most films fail with times that long – this means you need to add a stop to the time to compensate. Its known as reciprocity failure. Use Fuji Across and you won’t have to worry much.
Get out, experiment and most importantly – have fun!