An honorary part of the Cairn Crew, professional photographer Tyler Roemer teams up with us every few months to head out on an adventure and capture sweet shots of the gear from our upcoming collections in action.
Since the days are getting shorter and the nights longer, we asked Tyler to share some of his go-to tips for capturing better images during that tricky time when the sun goes down. So grab your UCO Air Headlamp, and put these tips to use!
1. Scout your location well in advance.
Tyler’s travels have taken him from the big wall climbs of Yosemite, to the desert landscapes of Mexico, to the snow-covered mountains of Iceland and the Japanese Alps. What his experiences in different environments have taught him is that it pays to scout your location long before you plan to shoot. To get the perfect night shot, it can be especially helpful to study a location hours in advance, or even the night before.
2. Get to know your camera’s settings, and experiment to see what works best at night.
For nighttime photography, Tyler suggests shooting in manual and opening the aperture for an increased depth of field. Setting a high ISO (the scale that measures sensitivity to light) will also help you shoot in low light situations.
3. Use a good tripod, rock or backpack—whatever you need to keep the camera still.
One of Tyler’s favorite nighttime shoot locations was in Iceland, in part because the environment posed such a challenge. From its long, rugged coastline, which was harder to fit in the frame, to super windy, exposed conditions that threatened to topple his tripod at every turn, Iceland forced Tyler to get creative - stacking rocks on his tripod helped keep it still for the shot. Bottom line: use whatever you have at hand to stabilize your equipment.
4. Be aware of temperature changes at night, as moisture can accumulate on the lens in humid or cold conditions and ruin your photo.
Whether it’s having a lens wipe on hand to keep the lens as dry as possible before you shoot, or having extra batteries to address the special challenges of nighttime shooting (“Cold temperatures and long exposures will zap batteries”), smart photographers like Tyler are always prepared - mainly because they’ve learned the hard way what happens when you’re unprepared.
5. Start shooting at twilight—and remember to switch to manual focus when it gets dark.
“Some of the best atmospheric shots happen as the sun goes down, just before it’s completely dark,” says Tyler. “Shooting as the sun dips down allows you to experiment and capture a bunch of different looks.” He explains that you can usually get away with autofocus when you’re shooting at twilight, as your camera can pick up on contrast. But when it gets darker, be sure to switch to manual focus.
6. Follow the moon phase—and play with your zoom.
When more of the moon is showing, not only will you see fewer stars, the extra moonlight can make scenes look like daytime. “You also have to worry about shadows (including your own) with a bright moon,” says Tyler.
He prefers to shoot with a new moon to a quarter moon, when more stars are visible. To better capture those, he recommends experimenting with the zoom: “The more zoom you have, the more you’ll see star trails. Wider lenses such as 16mm will show fewer star trails, if used with the correct shutter speed.”
Tyler’s final piece of advice is less a tip than a philosophy: “Patience and practice are key. Experiment with your settings, time of night, and see what works best for you and your camera.”
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