How many times have I tried to shoot at night for this project? And how many times did I shoot at night during 2012’s 365 project? In any of those times, did I ever try to find a manual setting that would capture color and light the way I saw it? Of course not.

So Monday morning, I got in the car, pulled out the camera, and started firing test shots of the dark parking lot. The Sunny 16 Rule says, for a day with bright sun and some clouds, set your ISO as low as it goes (for the D7000, this would be 100), set your shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO (1/100), and set the aperture to f/16, and you’ll have a decent-enough exposure. If it’s darker, open your aperture. If it’s brighter close your aperture. Alternately, you could raise or lower your shutter speed.

Someone with some maths could probably calculate where I need to be for near pitch-black (or as dark as it gets in downtown Dallas), but that person isn’t me.

I knew I didn’t want to go above ISO800, so I set the camera for ISO800. If my maths are correct, this would indicate a shutter speed 1/800th of a second (100 to 800 is 3 stops, and 100 to 800 is 3 stops… :facepalm: reciprocal of the ISO, jerk) in bright sun at f/16. I didn’t have bright sun and was happy to have the 3 stops, but I don’t quite know how many stops it is from bright sun to 5am in Dallas, so I opened the aperture to f/4. This should give a total of 7 stops, if my maths are correct (3 from the ISO, and f/16 to f/4 is 4: 3 + 4 = 7).

I fired off a test shot:

Black Frame.

I can handhold the 30mm at 1/15th (1/10th if I haven’t had any coffee and am fairly relaxed), but I was going to be in a moving vehicle, and so I wanted to keep it up as high as possible. I dropped to 1/50th (1 stop), and opened the aperture to f/2 (2 stops), for a total of 10 stops.

I fired off a test shot:

Close, but way too dark, no detail at all in any but the lightest shadow areas.

Luckily, the Sigma goes another stop to f/1.4, so I gave myself another stop from Aperture and another stop from Shutter Speed (f/1.4 and 1/25th), for a total of 12 stops.

I fired off a test shot:

Very close, but a bit hot for my liking, so I dropped the shutter speed back 1/3 stop, and everything was bang-on.

GoGo. I now had a manual setting for the rest of the week, and all that was left was to shoot, and therein lies the problem. Between work and all the other fun stuff I have going on—I should really write something about all this… Soon, perhaps—I don’t make much time to shoot, especially when it’s dark outside.

But I did it, sort of. I like the colors of the various light sources in and around my neighborhood, the way the light bounces off buildings and the different shadows it casts, but I couldn’t capture it properly from a moving vehicle, and have significant trouble convincing myself to stop the car and wander around for 5 minutes.

The shots I’m happiest with were all shot from a standstill, and they’re mostly sharp and clear, so at least I know a good manual starting point to shoot handheld at night in the city (rather, near the city). And that’s GoGo, methinks.

Everything was shot with the D7000 and Sigma 30mm f/1.4, ISO800, f/1.4, and a range of shutter speeds from 1/25th to 1/50th, and they received minimal post processing (slight tweaks to exposure/contrast/etc., mild (and in one case, extreme) cropping, and the like). Why the range of shutter speeds? The shutter speed dial is right by my thumb, and I tweaked it from time to time…

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