Low-light photography: tips for winter seascape pictures

Photo Ideas: shoot seascapes at dusk

With the nights drawing in, photographers can make the most of the low light conditions by getting out with your camera to capture glowing sunsets, inky blue moonlit skies and atmospheric stormy scenes. Below we’ve offered our best low-light photography tips for capturing beautiful winter seascapes.

1. Winter can be great for night photography: often the atmosphere is crisp and clear, resulting in clean night skies. Using moonlight helps fill what can otherwise be a deep, dark sky – but expose too long and your shot may look like daylight. At night you need as much light on your EOS sensor as possible; combine slow shutter speeds with wide apertures and high ISO settings.

2. The essential skill for sunset photography is to ‘read’ the sky – thin clouds above a clear horizon will usually produce great colour. The best time is around 30 minutes after sunset, so make sure you’re in position.

The Auto White Balance setting on your DSLR should give good results, but you can warm up the colours by setting the White Balance to Cloudy or setting it manually to around 6500k to 7000k.

If shooting in raw format you can adjust the colour temperature in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or using other Raw processing software. You can also intensify the colours using the Vibrancy and Saturation sliders found in ACR.

3. Knowing where the sun will appear in your scene can be very useful when planning a shoot. Tools such as Flight Logistics’ Photographer’s Sun Compass (£21, www.flight-logistics.com) show where the sun will set in a given location at any time of the year.

4. ND grad filters balance bright skies and darker landscapes in one shot. They come in degrees of density and transition – a soft edge for use with irregular horizons and a hard edge for straight lines. You can stack filters to get a stronger effect.

5. Capturing a sense of movement from water can really help to bring your landscape photos to life. Look for rivers, streams and waterfalls, and shoot after the sun has set, to benefit from the low light levels.

This will enable you to use a long exposure time to record movement in seas, rivers and waterfalls too – without fear of exposing your shots. Experiment to find the best exposure time to suit the speed of the water. Try 1/8 sec for fast flowing water and up to 30 seconds for slow moving water. If you require even longer exposures to get a particular effect you can use a straight ND filter.

6. It’s sometimes the case that there is only one ideal composition for a particular scene. However, it’s always worth experimenting to see what else could work. Try to incorporate interesting foreground elements, switch between horizontal and vertical formats – or even try creating a panorama by stitching several frames together.

You’ll often find that the panoramic format will work in situations where other formats fail due to lack of foreground interest or a boring sky. Careful setup is essential, and remember to overlap each image by at least 25% to enable the stitching software (such as Photomerge in Photoshop) to blend the sequence of images seamlessly.


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