Feckenham Church at Night

(click the image for a larger version)

(click the image for a larger version)

It has definitely not been photography weather these past few days, so when, after work on Friday, there was the chance of some clear, dry, weather. I headed out.

Feckenham church was my location of choice and, when I got there, I was happy to see the lights were on inside – I immediately looked for the stained glass window on the east side as I was sure there was a photograph to be had.

Night photography is easy as long as you remember a few simple rules…

  • A tripod is essential.
  • Focusing in the dark is difficult. The best thing to do is set the focus to manual and then focus on infinity. When you take your test shots – see below – zoom in on the camera monitor to check everything you want in focus is in focus. You may need to make a small number of adjustments to get things right.
  • If you want your stars as points of light (and not trails) then keep the shutter speed to less than 500 divided by your focal length. For example – if your focal length is 18mm, then divide 18 into 500 and you get (checks calculator…) 27.7 – so I would set shutter speed to no more then 25 seconds.
  • Set your aperture to it’s widest – i.e., the smallest aperture number on your lens. The lens I used could be set to f/3.5 (caveat – if you are including something nearby in your image, you’ll have to make a judgement call on what aperture you use – otherwise you could always consider focus stacking).
  • Now set your ISO to give you the right exposure for the shutter speed and aperture values you have just dialed in. Take a test shot at this point and check the histogram and image on the camera monitor. If it’s too dark (underexposed), then increase the ISO. If your image is too bright (overexposed) then decrease the ISO. Repeat until you are happy with the result.
  • If your camera has some form of long exposure noise reduction, then consider turning it on. If you’re not sure, take one image with it switched on, and one with it switched off – compare the two when you get them back on the computer and, in future, use whatever you are happiest with.
  • I normally set white balance to daylight and adjust later when I get the RAW files back on the computer. Your images may look off-colour on the camera monitor, but don’t worry as you can deal with that on the computer.
  • Take warm clothing – it’s always colder than it looks!
  • When you’re done – remember to set all your camera settings back to default.

I knew the window would have a nice glow on a long exposure shot, and there was a strong light from the left from a streetlamp which would give some nice contrast to the scene. This was, unfortunately, the wrong side of the gravestones front of camera, and it left them as dark shadows in my first image, so I took a second image, using my head-torch to cast a little light on the gravestones – it made for a much better image. I used a relatively small aperture to ensure the church and gravestones were in focus – I could live with a little blurring in the stars in this case as they were not the focus of the image – no pun intended.

Photography stuff: 18-70mm lens at 18mm, 30 seconds at f/9.0, ISO 1600, tripod, cable release, head-torch light on foreground