3 Tips for Low Light Landscape Photography in California

California is a picturesque land that offers diverse photo ops. Landscape photography in California under low light can produce some really awestrucking pictures. However, taking photos during the blue hour or golden hour, when light is beautiful but quite low, comes with its own challenges. You need to learn certain things related to photography’s technical side to make the most of the low light conditions. If there are flaws in your technique, you may face practical issues like high noise levels, inadequate depth of field, and focusing errors.

In this post, we have discussed some helpful techniques for all types of landscape photography in low light. These techniques are applicable for photographs of architectures and cityscapes too captured in low light.

These subjects have something in common – you need to use a low ISO to get good image quality as well as a narrow aperture to get a sound depth of field. So, you have to use a tripod for supporting your camera and slow shutter speed.

Following are some highly useful low light landscape photography tips explained briefly:

1. Purchase a Good Quality Tripod

A tripod is really helpful when it comes to capturing images of cityscapes and landscapes in low light. A tripod’s advantage is that your camera can be used at the lowest ISO setting (leading to good image quality) as well as a small aperture like f8 or f11 (leading to more depth of field).

Shutter speeds would slow down right at these settings. This should be employed to your advantage. Shutter speeds that are slow suit to landscape photography since moving components of the landscape, such as water, emerge as a silky blur.

With a tripod, you can also try techniques such as long exposure photography (pictures captured with shutter speeds within 1 minute and 8 minutes long) as well as painting with light (illuminating a scene using torchlight or flash during long exposure).

Get a good quality carbon fiber or aluminum tripod having a socket and ball head. The tripod should be light enough for being carried around yet stable enough for it to support your lens and camera for shutter speeds up to 10 minutes if you are shooting on a night with no moon, or 6 minutes if you are doing landscape photography in California in the blue hour. More is the weight of your lens and camera combination, the stronger should be your tripod.

2. Utilize Mirror Lockup & Live View

You can decrease camera shake risk caused by the mirror of the camera flipping out of way while taking a photograph, by using Live View or mirror lockup in your digital SLR camera.

In landscape photography, Live View is the ideal mode to use. Looking at live feed on LCD screen of the camera is easier than looking at it through the viewfinder. Additionally, in Live View, mirror is in up position already to let light pass through lens and reach sensor of the camera. You can also view a live histogram with most cameras in the Live View that allows you to see if you have optimal exposure settings.

3. Do Not Underexpose

Landscape photography allows you ample time for working out an optimum exposure. What you need to remember is avoiding underexposure through exposure to the right extent. The reasons you should avoid underexposing images are:

  • If an image is underexposed and then brightened in Lightroom, noise will be added.

  • Images that are underexposed consist of less shadow detail.

These are some of the many effective ways to take landscape photos in low light. Apply these techniques to do great low light landscape photography in California!

If you are not a photographer yourself but love collecting beautiful photographs, you can get some striking pictures of landscapes in California at BK Watson Photographie. Browse through its photo gallery to find spectacular photos of California Wine Country, Pacific Coast, Canyons, Monterey Peninsula, and much more.

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