Shooting After Dusk

Many landscape photographers love shooting in times of the day between the dusk and dawn. Lighting conditions that are unusual for our eyes can change any subject to an unrecognized quality. Depending on a medium used, sceneries may be gaining hues and tones that we can't see by us. The element of a surprise is the source of endless excitement for me anytime I have the opportunity to photograph after dusk, especially when using Velvia.

Camera: Mamiya 645 Pro TL, Lens: 35mm, Film: Fuji Velvia 50, Exposure: more than 5 minutes, Aperture: unrecorded, Filters: Singh-Ray Reversed ND Graduated 0.9

This image is couple of years old. It's one of the few from my beginnings of long exposure time and low light experiments that came out nicely. I paid a brief visit to Tuscany in Spring 2006, just few months after switching from digital to film. I felt attracted by the beauty of a cultured land that had a great chance of being combined with a nice sort of the spring lighting and haze. Tuscany, unfortunately, proved to be a landscape of long lenses - my fresh medium format system could not keep up with digital snipers who wore huge glasses to tackle handsome details of this neat land. Well, I actually could only call for rain to escape somewhere else. To the seashore, for example. :-)

My wishes came true and here I was walking on the sand of the beach in San Rossore natural park north of Livorno. The weather could have hardly been any worse - clouds with no structure all over the sky seemed good only for a deep sleep to dream about photographing. I decided to use the time testing how different filters (I was a fresh happy owner of the gold-and-blue one) affect the emulsion of my Velvia 50. In fact, with no presentable result.

Well after sunset and few minutes before the park was closing, a small pink spot appeared just above the horizon. Everything else has quickly grown dark. In an experimenting mood, I realized that I had never tried film in the darkness though I thought of it many times, always after having seen a good night shot obviously. Also, a lone branch boxed in the high tide was asking ‘shoot me’ and so I did having been looked for by guards with flashlights who were trying to lock the park. In a matter of seconds, I set the tripod up and (gu)estimated the exposure time based on my last metering quite some time ago as my spot meter remained completely speechless. Don’t remember how long I had to expose but it was well above 5 and probably less than 10 minutes because I would not stand more of testing my nerves by the fellow-photographer who walkie-talkied many time as he was waiting by the car with guards instead of shooting. After all, I actually underexposed the image because of them that eventually proved to help it hugely.

This scenery was perfect for using the Singh-Ray Reversed Neutral Density Graduated filter that I still own. It's a special one that is darker at its middle neutral density part and gets little lighter towards the upper part. This is where it differs from a classic ND Grad filter. It's best used for straight horizons when shooting against rising sun. The filter is holding the light down at the horizon while allowing 1 or even 2 stops of more above it. Here, it resulted into the light evenly spread throughout the sky.

One thing though I was unhappy about in here is that I inadvertently cut the reflection of the branch in the water. For a simple reason - it was not there when I composed the image. But the moving water during more than 5 minutes exposure created one. Ever since I am lucky to photograph any waters, I'm thinking if there's a chance that similar reflection can appear later on on the film not to repeat the same mistake again...