Photographing The Big Tree At Night


Night photography recording car lights in Clifton Hill, Melbourne.


Don’t you love the night? Often quite and still, it’s like another world where time seems to move at an altogether different pace to what we’re used to during daylight hours.

This is particularly the case when we’re outside.

The World Awakens While We Sleep

Have you ever noticed how differently things smell when there’s a bit of moisture in the air?

It’s particularly pleasing when you’re in the landscape. Plants and grasses really seem to become alive at such times.

And don’t animals like dogs and cats understand this so well.

Light Brings Life

Without light, there is no color.

That statement is particularly true at night. At least in the way we see the world.

Have you ever taken a walk in your neighborhood at night and been drawn to a building or tree that’s illuminated?
There’s no doubt about it the night can be a mysterious, eerie world. But introduce light and everything changes.

  • Trees and buildings become alive

  • Street lights come to life with the light they project

  • Colors are revealed and saturated

This photo was made less than 200 metres from my place of abode.

The overhead lights are a relatively recent acquisition and allow for local soccer teams to train for a few hours after sunset.

It must be a great thing during those long winter nights.

I’ve noticed how incredible the tree looks when illuminated at night. I headed out to photograph it, only to be plunged into darkness when the lights were turned off a few seconds before I was ready to make the image.

I made sure I headed out a bit earlier, for my second attempt, and was happy with the resulting image.

Practice Makes Perfect Photos, Eventually

The trouble is I was standing outside of the light, in relative darkness.

I had my then brand new Sony a7Rii camera for a week or so and, after a few days practice, I was quite comfortable locating and operating all the buttons and dials in the dark. It’s simply a matter of practice.

As the camera was new I had a particular incentive to use it just as often as I could. But life and work commitments were such that I was prevented from getting outside and making photos.

So I did the next best thing. I spent twenty minutes or so, three or four nights in a row, messing around with the camera indoors so as to familiarize myself with it.

By the final night I was so familiar with the camera that I was able to find all the buttons and dials with my eyes closed.

This gave me the confidence to ensure I’d be able to operate the camera under extremely low light conditions. I’d need to be able to do just that to successfully photograph outside in a suburban street at night.

It’s amazing how a relatively tactile experience, like handling a camera, is improved when your sight is removed.

Good Eyesight Helps

Years ago I went through a long process of injections to help desensitize me to dust mite, certain grasses and a selection of things that brought on an allergic response such as dogs, cats and horses.

For many, many years I had to avoid contact with these things and take medication (i.e., antihistamine) everyday of the year.

Finally this year I found the right specialist who was able to replace that medication with a much gentler medication that works at least as well. What’s more I only need to take it occasionally.

What a relief!

I can remember, all those years ago, when I went through that two year long desensitization process. My eyesight seemed to dramatically improve towards the end of it.

If I’m correct it might be some kind of built in defense mechanism as the body compensates for what it believes is a diminishment of one of its senses by appearing to strengthening that of another.
By closing your eyes you’ll find that you're more acutely aware of your sense of touch, which is what you’ll need to navigate your way around your camera under very low light conditions.

We are a very adaptive species and I think that’s a fact worth remembering.  

You’ll Never Know If You Never, Ever Go

It’s wonderful to know that, despite our busy lives, we’re able to make interesting photos very close to home.

What’s more we can do so at times of the day we might not have thought would have produced a good result.

It may not be as exotic as travelling abroad, but it’s a heck of a lot cheaper.

Making images like this will give you the practice you need to be able to photograph stunning scenery at night in more exotic locales.

What’s the point of going to Paris, the city of light, if you don’t get out and about and experience that city by night.

And when you do, how wonderful would it be to be able to record your experience and then to share it with the wider world.

So how do you make great night photos?

Dare I say it’s through practice, practice, practice.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru