Book review: Night photography: Finding your way in the dark

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 suggest to my 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.

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!