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Night Photography: Finding your way in the dark
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94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2010
I am a dedicated night photographer and photography workshop instructor who has written extensively on the topic of night photography. I own or have read most books published on night shooting, and at long last there is a book I can recommend wholeheartedly -- Night Photography: Finding your way in the dark by Lance Keimig.

This book covers the technical aspects of night photography with great clarity and understanding, and includes many beautiful example images. Lance also touches on the more elusive why of night photography and mentions two key points: night photography is an experience that can lead to a heightened sense of awareness, and is a pursuit that often contends with a great deal of mystery.

Chapter one contains a very informative and well written history of night photography that includes some superb images. Even those of you who know your photo history quite well will likely learn something new and find photographers you'd like to further investigate.

The second chapter proceeds to a discussion of gear, including a list of key digital camera features for night photography. There is an excellent discussion on using manual focus lenses for easier focusing and perspective control. The night photography equipment checklist is a great resource for packing your gear. The tripod section is short, and I recommend Thom Hogan's guide to tripods as a supplement. The chapter concludes with a well-written essay on the important topic of location access issues by my friend and legendary night photographer Troy Paiva.

Chapter three is an overview of the basics of night photography technique, including the most in-depth discussion anywhere on how to focus at night. Focusing is one of the most frequently asked questions at my night photography workshops, and the information in this chapter is superb. Other important topics include controlling dynamic range, lighting types, color temperature, and how to minimize flare.

The next chapter covers film-based night photography, and will be of particular interest to those who shoot black and white. Lance's many years of experience with film are apparent in his excellent advice on film choice, reciprocity failure, and contrast control techniques. The chapter concludes with an essay by Tom Paiva on the merits of shooting color film in a large format camera at night.

The zone system technique of exposing for the shadows and developing for the highlights has strong parallels with digital night photography, which is the topic of chapter five. The explanation of histograms and optimizing night exposures to achieve the maximum tonal range is particularly lucid. This discussion also includes important information on white balance and camera settings for minimizing noise. The chapter finishes with an essay by Christian Waeber on shooting night scenes with people at high ISO settings.

Chapter six covers post-processing, and is primarily focused on Adobe Lightroom. If you use a Photoshop/Bridge workflow instead, most of the Lightroom information can be easily adapted to working in Adobe Camera Raw. The Lightroom workflow contains a nice balance of information that's geared towards adjusting night images.

Chapter seven includes three High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging techniques: manual Photoshop layer blending by Christian Waeber, a overview of Photomatix with HDR expert Dan Burkholder, and a brief look at the Enfuse plugin for Lightroom. Enfuse allows you to create natural looking HDR images right inside Lightroom.

The following chapter covers moonlight and star trails, and is an extremely valuable resource for photographers interested in creating long exposures away from the lights of the city. The discussion of exposure determination through high ISO testing is particularly useful. There is also excellent advice on capturing star trails and strategies to keep noise at bay by stacking multiple star trail images. The final chapter covers light painting and includes some wonderful example images, along with information on light sources, color temperature, and gels.

The night photography book that I always wished I could recommend to workshop students is finally a reality. Night photography: Finding your way in the dark is highly recommended. Congratulations to Lance Keimig, Scott Martin, and the other expert contributors for a job well done.

Note: This review originally appeared on my night photography blog, where additional links to the photographers are included:

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. I also purchased an additional copy for students to refer to at my night photography workshops. I hope you enjoy the book!
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96 of 107 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As an overall read on night photography, it gets 5 stars. As a reference or "how-to" it gets 3 stars. So I rated it at 4 stars.

After reading the first few pages, I found myself thinking "Man, it's night photography, not some mystical, soul-seeking walk-about into the mysteries of the dark side of humankind."

Most books have a single paragraph dedication. The author manages to stretch it to 20 pages with a forward, acknowledgments, biographies, and introduction. Save all the self promotion and congratulations for the back of the book. Between that and some of the other reviews here, one really has the impression that there's a small hard-core community out there that spends way too much time out in the dark :)

When I see a book on photography - any type of photography - I expect to see EVERY photo include a table of settings and a description, enabling the reader to replicate the effect. Too many are just eye candy - no explanation whatsoever. Many have just partial information, for example, just a camera make and f-stop - almost as if they were trying to hide how it was done.

26 pages on the history of night photography, while interesting, could have been compacted down to 5 pages, and the rest used for more practical examples. The author also clearly prefers film to digital, even going as far as stating that digital is better to preview the shot, and film to capture it. That's a personal opinion, not a fact. It all depends on the digital camera resolution / sensor size, and film camera model and film format / size. Then, strangely enough, he dedicates most of the book to digital photography.

The chapter on equipment was well done, and had some great suggestions. Again, a little too much time was spent on trivialities. The history of Canon vs Nikon autofocus, for example.

The basics chapter was one of the best in the book. But I still have to nit-pick. Lots of example photographs. Almost none had shooting details. Where most people would simply state that the photographer should be aware of moon position and fullness, to check the weather, and watch for events, such as meteor showers or eclipses, the author has to go all mystical on us. It's "understanding and awareness of the lunar cycle" and "heightened awareness." I suppose that's just his style, but it becomes overpowering after awhile. Occasionally the author seems to forget he already made a point, so repeats it later. For example, one paragraph begins with an explanation of flashlight use, including details on it being a focusing aid. The same paragraph ends with an explanation that flashlights also aid in focusing. The editor should have fixed these annoyances.

I quickly skimmed the 28 pages on film photography. I stopped using film 10 years ago.

There were 25 pages for digital photography, with a plethora of information. The real meat came in the next chapter, "Workflow" - it was much more than just workflow. Plenty of examples - but it's all Lightroom. If you don't own Lightroom, it cam be a "here's how it's done in software you don't own" example - figure it out for your software. Personally, I think the chapter should have given the same examples in Lightroom AND PhotoShop AND Adobe Bridge.

The chapter on HDR was decent enough, but entirely based once again in Lightroom. TONS of photos. Not a single one had details.

The Moonlight and Star trails chapter was also a great read, but again, all Lightroom. By this time I was getting the feeling that the author really did not like (or know how to use) PhotoShop.

Painting With Light was interesting, but again there were a lot of photos, all without details.

My overall impression is that the book was put together as much as a showcase for cool photos as a reference. If you're looking for a "how-to" step-by-step guide, you'll be disappointed. You'll see plenty of examples but few details.

If you're a digital photographer and don't own Lightroom, you'll still walk away with some new ideas, but will leave wondering why they did not provide the examples for Bridge or PhotoShop. I don't think the author decided on an audience before planning the book. He'll start an area by covering some obvious basics, then assume you can figure out the more advanced stuff for yourself. Others are the opposite. After reading the book (for the 2nd time) I still came away with the feeling it was unfinished with no specific audience.

So who can benefit from reading the book? Anyone interested in an overall picture (pun intended) of night shooting. You'll walk away with plenty of new ideas, some inspiration, and techniques. Just don't expect any hand-holding - unless you use LightRoom.

As an aside, the book is beautifully produced - it's coffee-table book quality with brilliant colors and heavy, high-quality paper.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2010
I have been a night photographer for five years and have been a fan of the Nocturne website and Lance's website [...]. I was a bit apprehensive when I ordered his book "Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark, as I have pretty much every book regarding night photography in my photo library and all of them have omissions in information or are either focused on a photographer's exposure times or exclusively digital. First, I was pleasantly surprised at the dimensions of the book, it is 9" x 7.5" with embossed lettering and a beautiful night image of a scene in Scotland. The size makes it very easy to read or put in your gear bag. Lance begins with the history of night photography and photographers which is appreciable as we all stand on the shoulders of those giants, and some of the more contemporary photographers I was compelled to look up their work.

Lance then discusses in depth the night photographer's gear and the inherent challenges of nightwork (possible trespassing, police, dogs, etc.), in my case in the desert it is scorpions and rattlesnakes.
The discussion then continues to different types of focusing including tips on blind focusing, dynamic range, light sources, flare, temperature, etc.
There is a sizable chapter on film photography which I appreciate as I shoot film. He gives several suggestions on developers and recipes, as well as highlighting Tom Paiva's thoughts on large format color film night photography. Much of the book then progresses to digital capture, RAW workflow, HDR (excellent chapter on shooting the scene and about tone mapping, and Lightroom workflow), moonlight exposure, star trails, light painting, stacking, and interspersed throughout the book are exquisite night photos from a variety of night photographers as well as Lance's distinctive images. I particularly liked Scott Martin's explanation of his shoot of the Pearl Brewery Tanks with the subsequent photos regarding the different light painting setups.

I agree with the reviewer that it would have been a wonderful addition to have a removable night exposure guide that one could keep in a backpack.
However, I do not agree with a reviewer's contention that this book needed to discuss pre-visualization of a night photograph. I think so many night photographers are trying to emulate Michael Kenna but only Kenna can do Kenna. Many night photographers, myself included, scout out possible interesting venues during the daylight hours, dusk, or during a full moon. I bracket a lot and do a lot of darkroom work, and I think it is beyond the scope of any night photography book to theorize night pre-visualization as the effects of night photography are exclusive to the photographer. I think visualization occurs with lots of experimentation with one's camera and workflow, whether it is film or digital. I love the enigmatic nature of night photography and how different photographers express their vision or produce a photograph that makes one wonder how it happened. Case in point, Steve Harper's incredible photograph, "Self, Sutro Bath Ruins" , page 25. Wow.

I think Lance Keimig has produced an excellent reference and resource about night photography, a book I have read cover to cover twice, and just perhaps I will try night time digital again because of his clear explanations and inspiring photos. I don't have a problem with any book discussing Photoshop or Lightroom as those two programs are pretty much de rigueur for any serious photographer, and the programs are always being updated and improved upon.
I also like the fact he gives digital exposure times for Canon and other native ISO 100 cameras and Nikon and other native ISO 200 cameras so one can refer to the chart if they do not own one of those two brands. As a Canon owner I think it's a thoughtful touch. Some books focus on Nikon and leave Canon owners to their own devices and vice versa.

If I could add a couple of things it might be the detachable exposure guide and perhaps a little more on hybrid routines (scanning film for digital workflow especially black and white as I'm never happy with the tones I get from my negatives in scanning) but in conclusion I think this is a well-written and very informative book. If one is a daytime photographer, this comprehensive book will encourage one to explore the nocturnal world and its beautiful mystery, as well as dedicating a gear bag for night time excursions. It's a wonderful thing to be in the dark with only the stars for company, it makes one slow down and think about what is truly meaningful.
As Lance succinctly states "Night transforms our experience of the world from one of routine certainty to one of mysterious unknowing. This is the essence of what makes night photography special". That sums it up perfectly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2010
This book has both the technical detail required to make good night photos and reveals the deep love that the author has for the process. So many technical books offer good instruction but lack heart and soul, not Night Photography. The author's passion for the subject is evident on every page. The writing is top notch and most of the technical aspects of the subject are well detailed.

There are two basic approaches to night photography, considering the low light to be a technical problem to work around or finding the light an opportunity to do something different and special. Lance Keimig's book is strongly in the second camp. The subtitle is "Finding your way in the dark." It could just as easily be "Embrace the night." For addressing the first approach, look to Michael Freeman's book, "The Complete Guide to Night & Lowlight Digital Photography."

Specialty subjects like light painting, star trails and night HDR photography are covered. What you won't find is a thorough discussion of the use of flash. Many night photographers consider the addition of flash to be somehow impure, though the use of continuous lighting in light painting to be fine. Keimig never preaches against flash. He simply gives is very little coverage. That's fine. It's still a great book, though the use of flash can be a nice addition to night photos. However, that subject could easily be a book in itself.

There is some discussion of film based night photography, though the main thrust of the writing is directed towards digital capture. The focus of the book is on image capture and the special problems that photographing at night brings. There is basically no little on post processing of images. That's not a complaint, just an observation. All in all a nice addition to my library.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2012
My old impression of night photography was like many people - a photo of the city at night all the windows in the buildings lit up or freeways with blurry streaks and of course squiggly lines in the air from people running around in circles. Although it was not really my "thing" I thought I'd pick this book up and hopefully get some tips with the idea I'd get a shot of San Diego from Coronado Island. But instead I found something completely different. There were no cityscapes photos like I was expecting and instead were these dream-like images of another worldly place with wild colors and an air of the strange yet familiar. The art of night photography was nothing like I thought it was, nor is the book anything like I expected it to be. Photos so plain yet beautiful, or ordinary yet dramatic....I was hooked.

Moreover, I appreciate that the author wrote this book for intermediate level photographers and not those who have just picked up a camera for the first time. Nearly every book on photography regurgitates the same old tired basics of photography but not here. I am grateful this author avoided this and instead jumped right to the meat of night photography and assumes correctly that all digital photographers are either using Lightroom or will soon gravitate to it. Digital photography consists of two independent halves, one with the camera and one at the computer and the sooner a new photographer learns this fact the sooner he/she will be making quality images.
But what I liked the most is that after only a handful of pages I was outside that night taking images of my backyard and the walkway to the front and surprisingly the look good! Suddenly the uninteresting parts of town take on a new and fascinating aspect when photographed at night. As a result I now see things completely different and am loving it.

Thank you Lance for opening up a whole new world to me. I'm so glad I found your book, it's been nothing but fun.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 13, 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY by Lance Keimig (and other contributors) could be subtitled All You Need to Know About Photographing at Night. It is impressively thorough, detailed, comprehensive and practical - likely to be the bible of the field for serious, technically-minded night photographers. For my purpose, as an amateur nature photographer wanting to gain basic night photography skills, the book provided too much technical information, overloading my brain so that I don't know where to start. But this is not Keimig's fault. Readers simply need to glean what's important to them, and to apply that knowledge out in the field.

The nine chapters cover: the history of night photography; equipment; basics; film-based photography; digital capture; imagery workflow (post-processing); HDR (high dynamic range digital compositing); moonlight and star trails; and light painting (adding light).

The book starts slowly, beginning with history rather than an overview of techniques. Because the chapter on equipment suggested at least a dozen pieces of equipment I do not have and am not prepared to buy, I put the book down and decided to not even try night photography (I don't even have a Nikon or Canon DSLR - but rather a high-end Minolta prosumer digital camera).

However I did return to the book and am glad I did. One need not have all the recommended equipment or be capable of using all the camera settings described in order to gain useful pointers. I do however wish that the author had included a summary chapter (such as, The Twenty Essentials That Every Night Photographer Should Know or Do) for amateur photographers for whom night photography is a moderate interest rather than an all-consuming passion.

But the book is loaded with substance, and the author clearly an expert on the subject. The amount of information, details, explanation and practical tips is impressive - even a few of the pointers may save may frustrating hours and prevent disappointing results.

I found most valuable:
-- advice in regard to exposing to the right, aiming for shadow detail;
-- suggestions for ISO settings;
-- discussion of different kinds of focusing methods in darkness, with flash, with flashlights;
-- the chapter on setup and settings for different kinds of moonlight (e.g. full moon, quarter moon, overcast) and different kinds of street lights;
-- hints for long exposures in the city (e.g. covering the lens when cars pass by).

At least half of the book covers post-processing of camera raw photos and HDR, with the most attention paid to working in Lightroom. As a Photoshop user, I'm aware that Photoshop and Lightroom's camera raw are very similar, so this wasn't an issue for me. Readers who are highly experienced with either program may find this overview to be unnecessary; readers who are not experienced with either may find these chapters both too advanced and too sketchy. Keiming covers a lot in limited space, but all his points are useful and some are likely to be helpful to even the experienced post-processor. For example, I learned about Adobe's bulk DNG converter utility - which means I will no longer have to convert my photos one by one to Adobe's camera raw format.

The HDR chapter is highly detailed, and discusses HDR in Lightroom and Photoshop as well as specialized software such as HDRSoft's Tone Mapper and PhotomatixPro. What is missing here is an introduction to HDR for the novice who is unsure what HDR is, and undecided about making the time and financial investment to master this complex technique. At times, the author refers to or discusses subjects without adequately explaining the WHAT and WHY. For example, he refers to light painting at least a dozen times before defining it and discussing it in detail in the LAST chapter.

This is a physically beautiful book, clearly written, and illustrated with full page examples of night photography. For high level experienced photographers seeking to focus intensively on photographing at night, I give it five stars. For the rest of us, three stars. Final verdict: four stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2011
Many of us have experimented with taking a few photos at night. I know I have, and I have admired the work of some night photography masters as well. From the theatrical images by O. Winston Link of trains at night to the more contemporary George Tice, all have been masters of their medium and I loved seeing their work in books over the years.

The question I needed to answer was how is this done and what does it take to make great night photographs. This book has been for me, the answer and inspiration.

My first impression when I first received this book was the quality of the production, not just the pages and binding, but the work that went into the research - both historical (there's just a little of that) and the technical, of which much of the book addresses. I wanted to know what it takes to set up a camera, how do I make exposures, what do I do under certain types of lighting conditions and how can I then get those images to look great. These to me, were the secrets I wanted to know. I also wanted to know what to do with my images on the computer, which software to use, how will my current software and hardware suit me needs. All this is covered to the nth degree of detail.

I also wanted to know what accessories are required, where do I get them and even... How do I prepare for a night shoot. You'd be surprised how much thought and detail is required to have everything you need and be comfortable to last for several hours in the cold. So detailed is the information in this book, I was delighted to see it all explained with lists and descriptions of everything.

Finally, I wanted to know the real secrets of how to make those incredible, luminous, glowing night photographs that seem to be more beautiful than daylight versions. THAT'S what I really wanted to know and once again, Lance Keimig delivers that and much more. The technical details of digital photography are all laid bare for anyone to understand. Always wondered what a Histogram is and how to use it? Lance makes it clear in plain english and show why it's useful.

There is one precaution I would offer, this book will compel you to spend dreary-eyed nights outside wandering around on open fields, scouting out old cars and busses, wandering off on a full moon and convincing your friends and family you are not really a vampire and of course you might find yourself drawn to other weirdo's like yourself who seem to think that most things worth photographing are in the dark. So be it, throw caution to the wind, empty your retirement savings account for that 24mm Shift-Tilt lens you knew you had to have. And remember, there's no going back, it's just too much fun and well.... the photos are amazing!

One small detail; You will want to be using Adobe Lightroom since most of the computer examples are shown using that software. I am not an Aperture user, but the theory and ideas are of course valid with any product. Yet, as a Lightroom user, I have learned so much about my software environment that I feel much more in control now than ever before.

So don't even hesitate, set the alarm clock for 2:00 am and get out there, just read Lance's book first.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2014
For anyone that is interested in photographing stars this is the de facto bible of Night photography. It has all the formulas and information that will last a lifetime.You will never need any other book.

Even after reading this book I found there is no replacement for getting out at night to photograph. You will learn more in one night of shooting than any book can teach. It's amazing what will come to mind standing by yourself 6 hours into the darkest. :O)

This book will get you up and started and your own creativity will bring you to a new level.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Bottom Line: The author took a large topic and covered it in a way that's both elegant and useful. This is a great book for someone who is already has some experience with photography in general and night photography specifically.

There are some technical details that are assumed. Some omissions are reasonable for a non-beginner book like not discussing the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. Other omissions are not so understandable. Like the reference to using image stacking as a way to remove noise without describing what image stacking is or how to use it. The assumption is you are an experienced film or digital photographer with a good grasp of pre, during, and post processing activities.

There is a very good section on the equipment you might need and some of the items mentioned might not be obvious unless you've had the unfortunate experience of going out at night and *then* realizing something you hadn't thought of would come in real handy. Better to have read the list before hand and save yourself the headache. Other things that are unquestioning-ly useful are a handy table that gives rules of thumb for moonlight exposure, great suggestions for focusing in the (near) dark, and my favorite part, a contributed section on HDR for night photography that is as clear as any description I've seen.

A couple other sections that I was glad to see (though some might not find them useful) were a fairly extensive discussion of the history of night photography and also discussion about taking pictures even today with something called... film(?).
Finally, the production quality was outstanding. The images were reasonably sized, quite clear, and well annotated.

The only issue I had was there are some technical details that are assumed. Some omissions are reasonable for a non-beginner book. For example, not discussing the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. Other omissions are not so understandable. Like the reference to using image stacking as a way to remove noise without describing for another 150 pages what image stacking is or how to use it. The assumption is you are an experienced film or digital photographer with a good grasp of pre, during, and post processing activities.

BTW, I feel that honest, effective reviews take the place of first-hand experiences that are lacking in online shopping. I've always appreciated the help I've gotten from other reviewers and continue to return the favor as best as I can. If you thought this review was helpful please let me know by clicking on "Yes" button where it asks. If there was anything you thought was lacking or unclear leave a comment and I'll do what I can to fix it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2013
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Experienced author shows readers how to see the dark as unique rather than troublesome. The chapters are well defined and orderly, so this is also a great reference book - easy to find what you want. Lovely example photos are in every chapter. There is not much on the use of flash, this book focuses on true night photography. And not just still shots, things like star trails are also included. This book also includes different perspectives written by guest writers. Very comprehensive.

This book is aimed at intermediate or advanced photographers. The author, while very thorough, assumes his readers have acquired basic DSLR skills and are very familiar with their camera and settings.
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