Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Equipment

I've been going out rather frequently over the last little bit, taking pictures at night.  Because of the significantly shortened days, it is only light when I am at work, so night time photography has been my one option.  Typically I'll get three or so pictures I consider worth posting from a trip (normally lasting 2 or 3 hours).  Ideally it'll be all on foot, but as I keep shooting I run out of places close enough to walk to.  More and more I take the car, park and walk.  Often I like to incorporate other trips with shooting.  Volleyball, Church, this sort of thing.  I'll look for a place on Google Earth that's vaguely on the route back and then stop off.  Though it's dark very early, I still prefer waiting until late at night to go out, reducing the number of people and ambient lights (light pollution is one thing, car headlights pointed at the camera is quite another).

I've come to a rather constant outfitting.  First the mp3 player goes on (you need good music for good pictures, for me it's normally Wagner).  I wear my very big, very high-quality headphones.  Besides bringing with them infinitely better sound, they're padded and serve quite well as ear-muffs.  Those go over my baseball cap, as it's still far too warm for a winter hat, and over my headlamp which I've come to regard as indispensable even on moon-lit nights.  The final bit of warmth is my raincoat, which in keeping out the wind does more than enough to provide warmth.  Perhaps at some point it'll get colder and I'll need more.  For now the only addition I'll sometimes make is some light-weight, liner gloves.

Then comes the photographic equipment.  First there is the tripod; I've just got the one but I like it.  Ball-joint head on a lightweight aluminum body.  I guess something more heavy duty would be considered better but I like the portable feel and I haven't had any real trouble with camera shake on it.  If I'm going for a longer walk, it comes in a case I'll sling around my shoulder.  With it I bring a secondary lens, my 'nifty fifty' for shooting telephoto shots and because of it's great glass and very wide aperture.  However, the main work gets done with what has become my primary lens: a zoom 10-22mm, super-wide which I love.  I keep that attached to the camera body when I go out (a Cannon 550D) and normally shoot at 10mm.  I keep my remote with me for bulb shots, which I do a lot more of (for obvious reasons) when there's little or no moon.

The totality is still reasonably light.  Not something I'm going back-packing with, but I can keep up a healthy pace for miles without slowing down or needing to bring water or food.  Ideal for night strolls through the area.  And the equipment is versatile enough I've never felt like I missed a shot due to lack of equipment.  I suppose the big end missing is a true telephoto (rather than my 55mm).  I do have a zoom that goes out to 250, but at night, in flat, flat Wisconsin I have little to no call for it.  Maybe in the summer when it stays light later, I'll try some wildlife shots.  But until then, I've been satisfied with what I bring.

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