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Camera Tips for Low-Light Photos

Long exposures gather the light and show your favorite low-light travel sights for what they are.

Using a camera in low light is a challenge for travelers. You might wind up in places like dense rain forests or – like in my last post – a lava tube deep underground. After I finished the last post, I realized it could also illustrate some good low-light photo tips.

Let’s say you’re headed out for an epic vacation, and all you plan to take is a camera. But you don’t want to miss a shot. Here’s what you need to know.

Pick Your Camera

You don’t need a pro-level digital SLR. But you need a camera with manual controls. You will absolutely need to maintain some sort of control of your shutter speed. I’d also recommend a camera that allows you to select ISO.

Live off the Land

You probably don’t have a tripod, so you’ll have to innovate. Look for a stable place to plop your camera … someplace flat and secure. You’ve just found yourself a “field tripod.”

Pick your spot for a makeshift tripod and make some photo magic,

Set Your Camera Up

The fun start now. Experiment with 5-, 10-, 20- and 30-second exposures. But even before you get there, set your camera so that it delays before opening the shutter. The longer you give yourself, the more time you have to compose yourself in the photo. Or keep it quick – 2.5 seconds or so – if you are just going for landscape. But do use a delay: If you just click the shutter, that can be just enough jiggle to ruin the sharpness of your shot. Hello, accidental and unwelcome blur.

A slow-shutter look at Majanngul Lava Tube

Get Ready for Surprises

You’ll get interesting effects from long exposures. I love the ghostly images of people walking through long exposures, especially against a sharp, focused background.

Stay Energized

Holding the shutter open can sorely tax your battery power. Carry lots of extras.

Don’t be a Flasher

A flash can work wonders used properly in a cave, a canyon or some other dark environment. Pro photographers and their gear and knowledge amaze me. But if you’re traveling, chances are it’s just you and your camera. Your flash will add harsh, unnatural light ot only the foreground of your photo. It will obscure everything behind. And isn’t capturing that cool background the whole point?

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