Low Light Photography: Life in Bokod

Life in Bokod or a night and day in a bunk house, because that’s exactly my subject for this another series of Low Light Photography. I use low light shooting as a way to improve myself in familiarizing the exposure triangle. Exposure triangle, if you are not familiar with, is the term used to define the three fundamental exposure and how it affects your camera settings. These are; aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

I’m not going to discuss that here since there’s already a lot better information out there that can better train you in understanding The Exposure Triangle. For now, just showcasing some of my shots and making a statement and comparison of my work.

Creating a proper exposure using the aperture, shutter speed and ISO is a juggling task. That making a decision for one element is a compromise with another. The trick to balancing is to get all exposure elements working together so that you can have the results that you want.

To register the smoke in this image, I set my Exposure Triangle to ISO 400, f/2.8, and 1/50 shutter speed at 42mm range. Note that in order to capture the smooth blend of the smoke against the light, you need a low shutter speed. As I’ve said, there will be a compromise with another element, so I decreased my aperture to f/2.8 and bump the ISO a little to compensate.

It may sound a little out of logic and stupid for bumping the ISO when my aperture is already wide open, but the reason is because I’m already at a low shutter speed and we only have the headlamp as our source of light. Using slow shutter at a low lit environment can produce a blur specially if your subjects are moving so to avoid it, I adjusted the aperture and ISO up to get more light in to our image.

I used a 15-50mm f/2.8 Tamron lens attached to Nikon D7000. It’s quite good and takes real nice sharp pictures with just the right amount of color balance. A fast prime lens at f/1.4 or f/1.8 at 50mm could be much better but I don’t have one. I’m actually eyeing the Yongnuo 50mm f/1.8 clone of Nikon 50mm f/1.8G but for a fraction of the price, currently selling for $84 at B&H Photo. That one should be a faster and take a lot better low light photographs than a zoom lens, but of course, mind what your camera sensor is, whether you are using a full frame or a crop sensor so you can better pick what focal length is suitable.

Taking photos in a low light is a challenging proposition for many photographers, because with less light, you have to work and put a lot more effort with what you are doing. You have to work a little harder with the camera settings but when you’re already familiar with the the three elements then it won’t be much of a problem.

Shooting low light doesn’t necessarily mean at night or total darkness. You can capture low light images on places where there are limited amount of light, or your subject is not where the source of light is.

The extra level of work will certainly benefit us in the end because mastering the manipulation of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO not only helps you photograph scenes in low light but also helps you better understand how the amount of light affects your shot, and overall gives you a solid idea of shooting scenes across all levels of lighting.

Again, I really believe that the more you practice manipulating your camera’s settings, the more natural and easier those adjustments will become. It just takes time and a lot of practice to perfect what you wanted your image to look like, and a matter of allocating time and making something out of situations you thought are impossible to make good photographs. Mind work and imagination certainly helps.