As promised, here are a few photos from the nighttime sessions during our recent Bodie, Inside and Out workshop.
The lighting for each of these photographs was rather complex, and required blending several exposures together. In each case I started with a frame for the sky (my standard pinpoint-star exposure: 15 seconds at f/2.8, 6400 ISO), then used separate frames (at lower ISOs and smaller apertures) to light different aspects of the scene. As I’ve described before, the individual exposures were blended together in Photoshop using the Lighten blending mode, and sometimes adding layer masks to hide stray light.
Often in a nighttime workshop like this several people work on a group project at the same time, exchanging ideas about how to light the subject, and taking turns doing some of the lighting. That group synergy can be helpful, as those ideas can add a lot to the final image; for example, with the photograph below of the blue truck (a 1927 Dodge Graham), before we started I asked the group how they might light it, and someone suggested putting a light behind the two glass tanks at the top of the gas pumps. Great idea!
I’ve included extended captions to give more details about how each image was made. Making these photographs was complex, but also tremendous fun. Adding your own light to a nighttime scene can completely transform it, and when it works can be very creatively satisfying.
— Michael Frye
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Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom 5: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.