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It has been previously established that I travel a good deal for work. I find myself in some exotic location like Cleveland, but almost always after dark is the first free time I have. It breaks my heart to see folks taking flash pictures at night of beautiful architecture or scenery, knowing that they will get home and just have pictures of nothing, or blown out faces surrounded by shadow. In the case of architecture, you get highlights and uneven contrast.

However, sometimes without a flash and without support, or even with intentional movement, you can get a truly incredible result. This shot has not been altered aside from the image size (click images for a larger view):

This is why I have gotten into the practice of taking night shots with a tripod, no flash and a timer. But since I don't carry a tripod everywhere I go and quite honestly, I wouldn't do that, you need to find a tripod, or camera support, wherever you can. A flower pot, table, railing, pylon, traffic sign or even the side of a building can not only be the first step towards a decent night shot, but lend some interesting angles that you might not otherwise consider.

Once you have found a way to lock down your camera, and sometimes you need to hold it at a slight upward angle, just using the stability of the surface, you have to set your auto timer. You see, the very act of pressing the shutter button especially on a small point and shoot camera, is enough to cause a slight movement in the camera and thus a blurry shot. If you set the timer, you just hold your breath and hold the camera in position and let the timer run out, and take the shot with the least movement possible considering that you are a human being and your body has a slight movement to it.

And of course with a digital camera, you can immediately know if the shot is good. Sometimes the focus is not perfect, but certainly better than the alternative. And sometimes, when I see a young couple posing in front of a beautiful scene, and they take a cruddy flash picture, I offer to take another shot. Actually I demand it and tell them to trust me, I'm a professional. Since all digital cameras work the same way, I turn off the flash, set the timer, find a free traffic cone or planter and have at it. They are usually impressed and thankful. I'm not looking for thanks, just doing my job making the world a beautiful place.

A long exposure can make night into day - I think black and white with a contrast tweak makes this shot work even better:

And here are a few from our trip to Miami Beach:

With a flash, this shot of the Fontainebleau lobby would have lost all its allure:

Same goes for dark restaurants. If you like devil eyes and white skin, use a flash. The macro mode created an interesting effect, enhancing my wife's allure ;)

I thought this bench outside an old photo shop in Delray Beach, FL looked especially lonely, yearning for the days when we took pictures on film and didn't need technology to take pictures.

Thanks for viewing. Now go outside and get shooting.

Mike Cohen

Posted by: Mike Cohen on Oct 14, 2009 at 5:02:42 pm digital, photography

I have a passion for my job, which entails training for medical professionals such as surgeons, nurses and administrators, not to mention various industries.

Technology is great, but how you apply your skills is what pays the bills.

Years ago I canceled my Media 100 support contract upon discovering what a treasure trove of helpful advice can be found on the Creative COW website. I am proud to be a part of this fantastic community.

In my blog I talk a little about media production, a lot about travel and workflow, and occasionally about cooking, nature and my four-legged friends.

Follow me on Twitter: med_ed_mike

I'm also on LinkedIn if you can't get enough of me!


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