KEN'S PHOTO TIPS

EPISODE 12

YOU DON'T NEED A FLASH TO GET GREAT PHOTOS AT NIGHT

This is a very common misconception. To be fair, it is tricky to get good photos at night. It's only in the last couple of years that I have finally figured out a method that works for me. 

You need a moderately to very bright spotlight. These are easy to get and pretty cheap these days. My personal favorites are Fenix lamps. When you have spotted something to photograph at night, turn the spotlight onto maximum power. Normally this tends to "blow out" your subject, so you need to use exposure compensation in a drastic way, sometimes as much as three stops down. This huge exposure compensation will give you a reasonable shutter speed, allowing you to get a crisp photo, at least of a subject that isn't moving much. 

If you're holding the spotlight yourself, first of all it's physically tricky, and secondly, you tend to get unpleasant "eye shine" from your subject. But if you're in the field with someone else, there is an easy solution. Ask your companion to keep the light on the subject, but walk about two meters (six feet) to your left or right. This will nearly always eliminate "eye shine", and give the eyes a natural look. 

The last thing I'll mention, is that this method definitely works best with a mirrorless camera setup. This is for two reasons. First, the image stabilization on these (such as my Olympus OM-D EM1-mark I) is amazing, and adds a couple stops of stabilization. Second, the "live view" on these cameras allows you to immediately judge the effects of your negative exposure compensation, and quickly and properly adjust it. Doing the same with a DSLR will require a bit of experimentation, checking the results each time. 

Purists will continue to photograph at night with proper flash setups. But naturalists like myself can still get great photos with nothing but an LED spotlight, and ideally, a friend to hold it!

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Northern Giant Mouse Lemur, Benavony, Madagascar

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Oustalet's Chameleon, Bongalava Forest, Madagascar

Boophis marojezensis_fb.jpg

Goudot's Bright-eyed Frog, Bemenevika Forest, Madagascar

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Undescribed Mouse Lemur, Bemenevika Forest, Madagascar

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Sambirano Dwarf Lemur, Benavony, Madagascar

Lots of things you could do with this photo, but 4:3, along with a bit of creativity in the placement of the bird and the termite mound, ends up working well.

Red-and-yellow Barbet.