A SHOT IN THE DARK

Sometimes, the process leading up to a shoot can be much more tedious than the actual shoot.  Although, this shoot in and of itself was memorable for so many reasons. More about that later in the post.

WARNING: Some would deem this post to be to a bit lengthy.  Believe me – I can be pretty “wordy!”  If you’re pressed for time, it’s OK.  You’re perfectly welcome to skip to the photos.  I’m just glad you stopped by.

You may recall about a month ago I posted some photos of my first attempt at night photography.  Of course, I was disappointed.  Night photography is difficult enough, but when you add a full moon it becomes nearly impossible.  However I know photographers who manage to capture beautiful landscapes which include the moon, so I know it can be done.  With that degree of determination, I continue to pursue the secrets that will produce a stunning night landscape.  And, I would love for you to come along!

This shoot started with a month of study and the continuing process of understanding my new camera.  Skipping through the really boring stuff, let’s get right to the immediate prep details.  Two nights prior to the shoot, I spent nearly two hours scouting for a perfect position.  I had come to Big Bear Lake to spend a week with my family and decided this would be the perfect time to make my second attempt at night photography.  I was certain the beautiful lake in the foreground and the silhouetted mountains in the background would create the perfect setting for a magical shot. Well, they did their job!  But, could I be successful at mine?

I found a small area outside of a little mountain community called Fawnkskin that would be perfect.  Arriving about an hour prior to sunset, I grabbed my camera pack and tripod and headed about 200 yards off the road.  Climbing to the top of a small hill, I began methodically setting up for the shoot.  It was the perfect place!  I inconspicuously blended into the mountain landscape.  No one was concerned with what I was doing and that was fine with me.  After nearly an hour of prep, I was ready. This was great – it was getting darker by the moment and no one even knew I was there.  Ah, the surreal sounds of the evening.  It’s so different from the city.  Listen carefully.  That’s the peaceful chirping sounds of the nearby crickets.  Every once in a while you could hear the sound of a fish jumping from the water and splashing back again.  Ducklings were carefully being gathered and escorted to their nest.  Yes…this was going to be a perfect shoot.

Oh yeah, this was going to be a great…  What was that??

Shhh!!!!

Listen…

Did you hear that??

There was a rustling sound not far from my feet.  Now before I go further let me just say that I had packed well for my photography shoot, but I had packed poorly for a night hike! No flashlight.  What was that noise?  An animal?  If so, how big?  And, does it bite?  Do I have anything to protect myself?  Duh…no!  I have a lens cap and a set of car keys in one pocket.  I have an Iphone in another pocket.  I have my wallet – wait a minute, I have an Iphone.  Don’t these things create quite a lot of light?  Let me see (no pun intended), I quickly turned the phone toward the noise.  There it was!  Two tiny reflections in the night – the reflections of two rather small and no doubt beady eyes fixed on my position.  I slowly turned my camera toward the sound and with the night settings already in place, I fired off a shot.  Bearing his teeth in a display of bravery, he was letting me know this was his turf.

Sure I noticed several small holes in the hill as I set up my equipment, but there were no signs of life anywhere.  But, that was in the daylight.  Yes, I had set up on what may now be referred to as “Gopher Hill.”  With literally hundreds of underground tunnels I had intruded into their peaceful community.  But, I would only be there for a brief time.  And, I was determined.  So with some trepidation, I continued.

OK, it’s been a few minutes now – nothing traumatic.  Maybe I had scared “Mr. Gopher” back into his underground home for the evening.  Nothing would deter me from what I had set out to accomplish.

Wait a minute.  What was that??  It moved so fast!  I could only see a shadow, zigzagging as it flew directly overhead.  Is that a…?  No, it couldn’t be.  The altitude would prevent them from living here…wouldn’t it?

AGHHHHHHH!!!!!  IT’S A BAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Zoom!  Dive!  Now, it wasn’t just flying over head – it was diving at me with the intention of scaring the life out of me!  Where’s my Iphone?  I downloaded an air horn app – just in case I ever ran into a bat!  Now Mr. Bat – take that!  And with that, I let out the loudest air horn sound!!  What’s that?  I can’t even hear it!  It sounds like someone’s humming.  Well isn’t that just great??  Could it get any worse than this?

Why did I ask myself this question?  Against the faint grey of an ever-darkening sky I now saw two objects zigzagging toward me!  WHAT?  THERE’S TWO OF YOU!!!!

Steady – steady – they’re more afraid of you than you are of them!  Does anyone really believe that?  I DON’T!!

Gophers at my feet, bats buzzing my head – but wait a minute, why am I here?  Is that a faint glow behind that mountain?  That wasn’t there a moment ago!  It’s the moon preparing to rise.  This is why I’m here and I was going to stick it out no matter what was diving at my head!

This shot was taken at 8:26 PM.

This shot was taken at 8:32 PM.

I feel like these two shots represent an improvement over my last night photography shoot, but there is still so much more work to do.  I’m heading back out tonight to practice.  It may take a while, but I’m determined to get the perfect shot.  Stay tuned.

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~ by photographyfree4all on July 28, 2010.

15 Responses to “A SHOT IN THE DARK”

  1. So beautiful!

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  2. Very cool and good info. Night photography is difficult! My biggest problem is minimizing color noise. It seems the lower the ISO, the better, at least for long exposures. Have you tried doing any long exposure night stuff?

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  3. Oh these are so lovely! Both are good, but I like the ‘blue sky’ effect you were able to catch in the second one.

    LOL! You were cracking me up with the story about the night sounds. And just so you know the bats weren’t attacking you. No! They were after the mosquitoes that were buzzing around your head. No doubt they saved you at least a few bites out there. Did you know that one bat can consume up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour?

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  4. I love how you tell the stories behind your images. It inspires me to try it sometime.

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  5. Too funny! The shots turned out very nicely. : )

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  6. YES! I agree with pixilatedZ…the bats were after the mosquitos. (bats do not eat people!) I understand your squimishness though. I would have cowered their presence as well I’m sure.

    I love your sunset shots. I have not tried night photography. I’d love to though. I kinda think that because I’m on the east coast, I won’t be able to truly enjoy a sunset unless I’m on the other side of the country. Am I wrong in that thinking??

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  7. I find grad filters help if I’m trying tone down the night sky – seems a bit odd but helps bring out details. That and spot metering.

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  8. I like those last 2 photos, especially the last one. I like the twinkling lights that you captured. Very nice.

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  9. Beautiful!

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  10. The moon shots turned out great! I think Andrew is on to something, tho. ND filters may be the way to go with this sort of shot.

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  11. […] Big bear Lake as seen from the summit, 8200 feet above sea level.  The inlet at the very top of the lake was the setting for my night shots of the moon and my encounter with two bats!  Click here to read that adventure. […]

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  12. Thanks to all of you for these great comments. I’m going to have to experiment with the ND filters – that may help. Thanks bloomgal7 and Andrew for that tip! I didn’t really think the bats were after me, but it was still a bit unnerving – and they were coming pretty close! Thanks pixilated7 and Cheryl for the information about the bats! I just wish I would have known that at the time. 🙂

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  13. Beautiful night shots! I have a hard time with night shots, myself… but you did a great job!

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  14. Thanks for the nice compliments, photobyholly. I’m still not completely satisfied with my night shots, but they seem to be improving with experience. There will be more.

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  15. […] in the middle of the night (while chased by two agressive bats) to photograph the moon (click here to see), riding the ski lift to the Snow Summit Resort to shoot wildflowers and insects (click here […]

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