Exploring with a Camera: The Lights of Night

Welcome to December’s Exploring with a Camera! This month we’re going to be exploring the Lights of Night. It’s the perfect time of year to get out and play around with some night photography, since there are such short hours of daylight here in the northern hemisphere and all of these extra holiday lights hanging around.

I’m going to do something a little different this month. Instead of having a whole new Exploring with a Camera topic, let’s refresh on a few oldies but goodies on the photography of night and lights. Be sure to read all the way to the end because I’ve got an extra-special bonus that I want to be sure you don’t miss!

December’s Fog, Benton County Courthouse in Corvallis, Oregon


Night Photography

Tony’s Studio, San Francisco, California

You can revisit Exploring with a Camera: Night Photography to take a look at the basics of night photography. In this article, you will find tips on everything from the blue hour, reflections, and color cast, to handholding your camera for good night shots without a tripod. It’s based on all of my “lessons learned” from wandering at night on our travels around Europe, where I discovered the fun and beauty of a city after dark. These tips are timeless… The techniques I share on getting good night/low light images while hand-holding the camera in this post are ones I still use today.


Holiday Lights

Tree Lights, Albany, Oregon

In Exploring with a Camera: Holiday Lights, I focused in on the specifics of capturing those holiday lights. Revisit this post to get some ideas and tips on capturing city lights, bokeh lights, and twinkle lights. I also take a look at capturing lights in a different way with reflections and shadows, and address the awful “ghost lights” you might sometimes find in your images upon review.


Creative Lights

Exploring with a Camera: Creative Lights will give you a few ideas beyond the basics! Visit this article to learn about layering in and out of focus lights for an interesting view, using zoom to create cool effects, and capturing the funky hologram effect I’ve shown above. These ideas lead you to more abstract creations with the lights of night.


An Added Bonus

I’ve got an added bonus for you too! In my next email newsletter, which should arrive in your inbox on Sunday, I’ll have a PDF with even more tips on night photography. One of the photographers in our local PhotoArts Guild, John Ritchie, is an accomplished night photographer. Take a look at this gallery to see his night photography work.

Last year, John combined his lessons learned on night photography with a tripod and my tips on handheld night photography to create a tip sheet for our guild. He’s graciously allowed me to share it with you all. It’s a fabulous resource! It will arrive with the next Kat Eye News so be sure that you are signed up.


Are you ready to get started? I am! I’m planning to go out in the early hours of the morning this weekend and capture the lights of night. I’ve just purchased a cable release this week and I’m ready to carry my tripod around to play with some new techniques I’ve learned from John.

You can share your explorations with us here through the end of December. Go through your archive, or go out and try something new. Share your city lights, home lights, indoors or out. It doesn’t have to be holiday-related, anything goes as long as it’s the Lights of Night!


The Replicator

We close out Exploring with a Camera: Repetition today. It’s been a fun one! It’s been interesting to see how repetition can be both obvious and subtle. After this exploration, I will be more aware of the subtle repetitions that can really a tie a composition together. How about you?

To finish up our study of repetition, I picked this image from San Francisco. There are two repeating elements in this, both the poster repeated and the repetition of the horizontal lines across the frame. Even with the repetition, there is great contrast in this image too: Triadic color contrast of the purple and green, the vertical lines of the pipes breaking the horizontal lines, and the weeds adding a bit of nature in the urban environment. The combination of repetition and contrast makes an interesting image to me. It wasn’t until after I had chosen the photo that I realized the title on the poster, The Replicator, fits perfectly with the theme of repetition. I love it when that happens!

Today is the last day you can link in and share your study of repetition. You are invited to join us! Take a few moments of your time and visit those who have linked in as well, there are some wonderful examples here. It is always good to see multiple points of view!


Have a great weekend! I'll be off looking for repetition myself, in the form of hot air balloons at the Northwest Art & Air Festival.

PS - Don't forget to enter the giveaway I have going on right now. You have until the end of the day on Monday, 27 August to enter.

Would you help me win a Vespa?

Last year, as I was learning to ride my scooter, I told my husband, “Someday I will have a red Vespa. And I won’t have to buy it either!” He looked at me askance, as if I was crazy, and asked, “How are you going to do that?”

“I have no idea,” I answered, “but it’s going to happen. Wait and see.”

My moment has arrived! Vespa USA is running a contest to win, what else, a Vespa. I’m sure it can be red. And not just any contest, but a photo contest, called “Where would you Vespa?” And not just any kind of photo contest, but the kind you have to get out the vote for.

So, I’m thinking, I have a shot here. What do you say? Will you come vote for me? You can vote for my image here. Unfortunately, you do have to create a login, but after that you can vote once per day. If you don’t see the image right away on the screen, go look for this one of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy:

Island of Stone, Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy

Island of Stone

Scooter Sighters around the world unite! Help Kat get the red Vespa of her dreams!!

Lose the Weight (Visual Weight, that is)

When I was visiting San Francisco, I played around with composing images that look “flat.” My goal with these images was to create a collage effect within the frame with elements that are were not in the same plane of view in the camera. As we discussed Exploring with a Camera: Visual Weight this last week, I realized one of the ways I was creating a “flat” image was by not having a dramatic visual weight difference between the elements.

This image of signs in Chinatown is an example. While there are some differences in visual weight of the elements, due to colors and size of the type, they are quite minimized on the whole. To me, the overlapping elements flatten and you don’t perceive the true distance you are looking through in the image at first glance. It looks like a collage of shapes overlaid within the frame. I could have emphasized that effect by converting to monochromatic, as I did with this image I shared last week.

It’s interesting to discover how visual weight in my images can work for me in more than one way. If I want to enhance a subject and create a clear focal point for the eye, I can use the principles of visual weight to make the subject the “weightiest” part of the composition. If I want to create an image without a clear focal point, I can use the principles of visual weight to even out the elements within the frame.

What are you discovering with Visual Weight as we explore? Please share!


Focus on the Good

“Focus on what’s good,” is the motto of the principal of my son’s new school next year. Last night we went to a parent’s open house at the middle school for next year’s sixth graders. First off, it brought home that my son is getting older. Call me crazy, but tears welled up with my son heading into the world of lockers and changing classes. I’m not typically one to hang on to any stage of childhood, I love to watch my son grow, but ack. Middle school!

But I digress… I was very impressed with the enthusiasm and positive energy that came from the teachers and students of the school. A couple of times it was mentioned how the principal is the fourth one in four years, and how much they like him. It was mentioned that in a time of budget cuts and all kinds of financial craziness, the principal’s motto has been, “Focus on what’s good.” It’s clearly rubbed off. I don’t think you can fake the kind of positive, caring energy I saw in the school last night.

It is a good reminder of a truth I’ve learned time and time again: What we focus on, we get more of. As Christine Kane puts, “Energy flows where attention goes.” If we focus on the good, the positive, the healthy… we’ll align our actions and get more of that. If we focus on the bad, the negative, the damaging… we get more of that too.

As I was thinking about this today, I realized it’s really the underlying philosophy for my Find Your Eye classes. It’s amazing how we look at ourselves or our artistic work and can so easily see what we need to do better. Participants say, “I need to learn more of this” or “I should be trying that.” But what I think matters most, in our photography and in our lives, is to build on the things that are already going well and working for us. Somehow in life we got this idea that we need to be “well-rounded” people. Good and strong at everything. If you believe this, I have news for you. No one can be good at everything. Let me say that again:

No one can be good at everything.

Not me. Not you. We look at other people, compare ourselves and see our own short-comings. What we should do more of is looking at ourselves and seeing where we are strong. Take pride and confidence in those things, and build on them. We do that with your photography in Find Your Eye, but the concept goes well beyond art and into life.

I’m very pleased to have my son heading into a school with this philosophy. In the face of all sorts of challenges, it’s a great attitude and can change the whole environment. It will create great opportunities for conversations between he and I, and will help cement this truth for me as well.

“Focus on the good.” See what’s good in your life and in your art. Build on that.

Today’s image is another market/wheels image from San Francisco. There was a Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building the day I met my photo friends. I was a little early and made a great use of my time. I’m still working on this one, I’m not sure if the cropping is quite right. I love the soft light and the angle on the cart with the crates. I’ll focus on the good in the image as I continue to work with it.