Waiting for the right light

Saturday night was a great night! It was the night of the 2nd Annual Celebrate the Summer Solstice, an all night shoot in Washington, DC. We started at 7:30pm, an hour before sunset Saturday evening and went all night until 6:45am, an hour after sunrise Sunday morning. Most of the people who started didn’t make it the whole night. When 6:00am rolled around there were only 6 people, of the 20 – 25 that started the evening,  still out making images.

US Capitol at Dawn
US Capitol at Dawn

I’m glad I made it through the night with a wonderful group of photographers. I hope they had as much fun as I did. It’s not as easy as it used to be to pull an all nighter but it’s still fun! You get tired and you want to pack it in and head home. If you can hold out and keep going, you can be rewarded with some great morning light! The image above of the US Capitol is from 5:18am. Just before dawn when the sky is starting to brighten up and some great colors light up the sky. I’m glad I waited for the light to get like this.

Morning Light
Morning Light

This image was made at the last stop of our journey, the National Museum of the American Indian, just before 6am. I knew that light like this was possible but I was very happy to see just how good the light was. If you know the building, you know that the color of the stone is a golden yellow to start with but when the first light of dawn hits it, it comes alive with color. The angle of the sun has to be just right for the rays of light to get under the large overhang and light these surfaces. With a little bit of planning, being in the right place at the right time and waiting for the right light, you can get some great images!

I have my tripod but…

Have you ever gone out to make some images and were sure you had your tripod with you? Because you knew you were going to need it and you knew your efforts would not be very successful if you didn’t have it. Then you get to the location only to find you don’t have the mounting plate with you? I have to admit that I did this. Yep, I left the quick release mounting plate for my tripod at home! It is bad enough not bring your tripod but it is really frustrating to have a tripod that you just can’t use. André, a photographer friend of mine, and I went to Washington DC to do some night photos near the Lincoln Memorial. When we got out of the car and started getting setup I found that I did not have the mounting plate for my tripod. I had done some photos in my backyard a few days before and I had removed the mounting plate from my camera at my desk when I downloaded my images. My tripod lives in my car so I don’t forget to pack it for a shoot! So, with no mounting plate, I had a tripod that I couldn’t use.

When you forget your tripod, or the mounting plate for your tripod, all is not lost. Be creative, as photographers we are creative beings so don’t let something like wanting to shoot at night and not having a tripod ruin your evening. Improvise, find some way to support your camera so that you do not need a tripod. Leave some home made bean bags in your car to help support your camera. They are dead easy to make. Take a zip-lock bag fill it 2/3 full of coffee beans or some other dried beans and you are in business! You can also use rice if that is easier to come by. They don’t have to be very heavy, they just have to prop up your camera. I told a class about this and one of the students made everyone in class a bean bag. Very cool!

Even without my tripod, and no bean bags, I got several nice images from that night including the one below. I used my lens cap and camera strap to help support my camera. By propping up your camera using just about anything that comes to hand you can get by without a tripod. Once you have your camera stabilized proceed just as you would with a tripod. Use your camera’s self-timer or, if you didn’t forget it as well, your cable or remote release.

Rosslyn VA at night

 
So what did I learn from the night? I learned to keep an extra quick release mount for your tripod in my camera bag and pack a couple of bean bags in my car. The extra mounting plate doesn’t cost too much so having an extra one is not prohibitively expensive. I already had a spare one from a magic arm that has the same sort of camera mount attachment so I had two mounting plates at home and none with me. Yeah, I know…

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