Over the weekend, I went to the opening night of Vivid Festival Sydney with a few friends.
This was my very first time trying out night photography, and it was on a cold, wet, and miserable night. I bought a tripod just for this occasion, so it was also my first time venturing out into the world and using it, which proved...interesting. I distinctly recall discovering that the top of the tripod extended halfway through the night, and smacking myself on the forehead because I hadn’t even thought to try it first.
Having never taken a single night photography class before, I knew I should’ve done some reading up on the subject before heading out. Sadly, I didn’t have the time (I went straight after work on the Friday, so it was already a bit rushed for me), so I braced myself for a night of blurry, incorrectly exposed photos — but it was all in the name of learning, so I tried not to let that get me down too much.
We started by taking the ferry from Circular Quay up to McMahon’s Point, so we could photograph the Harbour Bridge from across the water. While my friends were busy setting up their tripods and cameras, I had a fiddle around with my settings, and a quick refresher of the Exposure Triangle (aperture, ISO, and shutter speed) from a friend (which ultimately devolved into “you’ll get it with practice”...).
To say I struggled would be putting it nicely. One friend recommended I use Aperture-Priority mode on my camera, but that only confused me more than having it on Manual mode, because the information on the display changed, and so did what the dials controlled! Maybe it was just my camera, but I found it incredibly frustrating. Eventually, I scrapped all thought of composition and getting a good shot, and simply focused on figuring out each setting.
Did it work? I’d like to say it felt like it did, but when I went home to view the photos on my computer, most of them turned out just as I’d expected: blurry and incorrectly exposed.
Okay, so it wasn’t all a complete downer. I managed to take some semi-okay shots once in a while, especially once I figured out I could set a two-second delay on my camera to avoid as much camera shake (from pressing down the shutter button) as possible. I also managed to get a couple of passable shots of the display called Entitle, by Amanda Parer.
They’re not perfect, and can do with a little (a lot) of editing — I’m pretty sure some of them are underexposed — but after an hour of taking bad photos, I was more than ready to throw my hands up in despair.
I know the Vivid classes have all been booked out, but if you’re like me and looking to check out Vivid and have never tried night photography before, I suggest you read up about the subject and even take a night photography class (Photoh offers them in all of the major cities in Australia). It will save you a lot of the frustration and confusion that I experienced on Friday night.
Also, try and pick a day when it’s not raining — juggling an umbrella, a tripod, a camera, and a bag at the same time is not fun at all. Otherwise, happy shooting!