Shooting In Low Light – Hand-Held

An old weathered basketball hoop stands witness to a sunset.
Spring Valley Evenings

Spring Valley Evenings

Low Light and Slow Shutter Speeds Equals Blurry Images…But It Doesn’t Have To Be

Late summer evenings can be a magical time to take pictures. Even after the sun drops below the horizon the sky can remain drenched in deeply saturated hues of fiery reds to intoxicating purples. Having a sturdy tripod is always preferred over going the hand-held route…but what if you’re caught without your trusty sticks?

More often than not, my tripod is leaning in the back corner of my closet because it was, “too much trouble” to unbury it. Shame on me, yeah I know, I should practice what I preach, huh?

Overcoming the challenges of the rapidly changing light evening throws at you is well worth the effort. You will be rewarded with a nice collection of dramatic images.

Believe It Or Not – How You Breathe Matters

One of the easiest ways to make a shot blurry is to press the shutter button in the middle of a breath. Holding your breath isn’t much better. I’ve developed a technique that works for me, which is to slow my breathing, when I am ready to shoot, I press the shutter release just after calmly exhaling; and before taking in another breath. Essentially I shoot between breaths, which forces my body to relax.

If I’m standing, I’ll put my left foot in front of my right about shoulder width apart, distributing my weight evenly. My right hand is gripping the camera body, and my left is supporting the lens from underneath. My elbows are tucked into my ribs to form a rigid platform for the camera.

If I’m using a long lens, while gripping the camera with my right hand, reaching across my chest with my left hand, placing it on my right shoulder. When I’m composing the image through the viewfinder, the camera body and lens easily rests on my forearm. This hold is surprisingly stable, and one I use frequently.

Evening Sky Hoop

Using the above shoulder holding technique, I was able to take the shot below. Here are the settings:

  • ISO – 800
  • Aperture – f5.6
  • Shutter Speed – 1/25 sec.
  • Lens – 50mm f1.4

So there you have it, a couple of tips for those tricky ever changing low light situations and slow shutter speeds. Oh, one last tip, I tend to shoot in three shot bursts, I almost always use the second image because the first and third ones are too blurry.

An old weathered basketball hoop stands witness to a sunset.

Evening Sky Hoop – HDR

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A Quick Tip For Better Sunset Shots

Huntington Beach Pier

Sunset Shots Made Easy

My favorite time of day has always been when the sun starts heading towards the horizon. Especially when there are swirling clouds in the sky to add some color and drama. You can make the scene more dramatic by making a few simple adjustments in your camera. The next time you’re enjoying a sunset take a few shots with different exposure settings. We’ve all taken pictures of sunsets, and I’d wager you were disappointed with the results from time to time. If you let the camera do the work for you, your image may look flat and uninspiring. That’s because the camera did what it’s suppose to, which is to get as close to an even exposure as possible, resulting in dull, unsaturated colors. Take control of the situation, and rescue your next image. I’m not saying you need to go to full manual mode, here is a much simpler solution. Turn your camera dial to aperture priority mode. The meter in the viewfinder or LCD will usually show a little graph ranging from -2 to +2 in increments of 1/3 or 1/2 stops depending on the camera and its current settings. Zero is considered (by the camera) to be the best, or correct exposure. Now find the exposure adjustment dial, and flick it a click or two so it reads a negative value. This is Exposure Compensation, you’re  telling the camera you don’t want to have it decide what a good exposure is. Take the shot, you should see a difference between the shot set at zero, and your new adjustment. The colors in the sky are more saturated, but watch out, if you adjust too far, the image will become too dark, especially below the horizon. Land features like hills, trees, buildings will begin to silhouette below around -1. Sunsets where there is water like a beach or lake are a little more forgiving because light will reflect off the surface. That’s it, now go out there and capture some great sunset shots, but first, take a look at a few examples.

Huntington Beach Pier At Sunset

Huntington Beach Pier At Sunset

Channel Islands Sunset

Channel Islands Sunset

Across The Valley

Across The Valley

Desert Sunburst

Desert Sunburst

Brooding Sunset

Brooding Sunset

 

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Eric + Laurisa’s Engagement Shoot

Eric + Laurisa Engagement Session

Eric and Laurisa were on vacation when I met them. They were a long way from their comfortable home in Canada, staying in a hostel in the Gaslamp District when not out exploring San Diego. What’s more, they had just gotten engaged a couple days prior, and were eager to get some engagement shots. After chatting with them for a spell, we decided Ocean Beach would be the perfect place for a shoot.

Their time schedule was rather tight, and wanted to have their images within a couple of days before they flew off to Los Angeles; their next stop . I was only too happy to oblige; while we nibbled on an appetizer platter I sorted through their images, giving them a hand full of images to show off to their friends back home, and brag about their tans in the process.

Congratulations Eric and Laurisa, I wish you the best, and a lifetime of happy adventures together.

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Regulars at Mission Beach

Gull Sunset

Every time I’ve gone to the beach, I’ve seen these guys milling about, and never paid them too much attention, unless they were lining up to bomb me like some strange Mel Brooks ‘The Birds’ parody. Luckily, I’ve only been hit a couple of times in my life, which is really saying something considering the number of times I’ve visited the beach. Anyway, here are a couple of images featuring sunsets, and seagulls.

Take Off Above the Waves

Take Off Above the Waves

Waders

Waders

Gull Sunset

Gull Sunset

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Beach Volleyball Sunset

At Play One Foggy Afternoon

When the combination of volleyball players, the setting sun, and a healthy dollop of fog come together, to not take a picture is almost a sin.

At Play One Foggy Afternoon

At Play One Foggy Afternoon

 

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HDR Sunset Dedicated to My Love

Mission Beach Sunset

Today is a special day for me and my girl…this sunset is for you, extra special like.

Mission Beach Sunset

Mission Beach Sunset – HDR

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Resurrecting the Daily Quick-shot

Dragged out to sea

Yeah, I know, I’ve been slacking in this department…not any more. I’ve got a ton of images just piling up that I’m itching to share. Today’s daily quick-shot is a personal favorite, me (my arm anyway) and my daughter at the beach.

Dragged out to sea

Dragged out to sea

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Adam + Desiree’s Engagement Shoot

Desiree and Adam

Venice Beach provided the perfect location for Adam and Desiree’s engagement shoot last weekend. We spent the afternoon shooting away, and as the sun began to set, the sky exploded with color, giving the couple a spectacular sunset to cap off the session.

Adam and Desiree

Adam and Desiree

Kissing at the Beach

Kissing at the Beach

Desiree and Adam

Desiree and Adam

Just Beyond the Wave

Just Beyond the Wave

A Stroll at the Water's Edge

A Stroll at the Water's Edge

The Carry and Kiss Move

The Carry and Kiss Move

Held By the Collar

Held By the Collar

Watching the Setting Sun

Watching the Setting Sun

 

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