Night Fire

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A few nights ago the Field Artillery guys had a night fire mission.  I tried to take pictures, but I did not have much success.

I have never really tried to take night time photos before, so I had no idea how to do it right.  I think if I would have had a tripod it may have worked, but I did what I could without one.

I took several hundred shots over the course of a few hours and I am not very pleased with any of them. I tried just about everything from using all manual to use full auto on the camera and still just could not get a decent shot.  There must be a secret that I will need to learn so I can take decent night shots.

These 6 are a pretty fair representation of how all of them turned out.  Not a total loss, but certainly nothing print worthy.

Any tips are welcome.

Thanks for looking!

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28 responses »

  1. Reggie says:

    Capturing the fire from that gun sounds like a very tricky exercise, Dan. I’ll share my own experience with you, in case it helps?

    Two years ago, I took some photos at the Cape Town Military Tattoo 2010, when the 25-pounder G1 guns of the Cape Field Artillery fired in sync with the 1812 Overture (

    It is a night-shoot, so I knew I absolutely would need a tripod – the blast from those guns, the thunderous echo from the castle ramparts, and the thump it gives in the chest makes it impossible for me to try hand-holding my camera.

    I played around with my ISO and shutter speed – 1/100 and ISO 800 were far too low, though I did get some nice ambient light. 1/3 seconds and ISO 3200 caught the billowing smoke but was a bit grainy.

    Much to my surprise, an aperture of F/3.5, a shutter speed of 5 seconds and ISO 100 got me my first ever in-focus blast from the 25-pounders.

    I had assumed that a fast shutter speed was necessary to capture The Moment – but actually, realised that a slower shutter speed was needed, because there was no way I could sync my pushing the shutter release with the actual flash from the guns.

    I hope you get another chance to play around with your settings – but seriously, I can’t imagine doing it without a tripod (and earplugs ;-)).


    • danbohmer says:

      Thanks reggie, those did turn out great. Without a tripod, I just couldn’t get a long shutter speed to work. I must get a tripod!

      • John says:

        I can donate my old one when you get back. It is stored away right now but by the time you get I will hopefully have it out.

      • danbohmer says:

        that would be nice. I have a couple of the little flimsy cheapies, but I do not trust my camera on them so I left them home & never use them. thanks – see you soon!

  2. John says:

    Dan, the pictures are great! Although a tripod and long shutter speeds would have created a different result the pictures you have work well too – not every picture has to be crystal clear to be effective. They have a surreality that reminds me of some sort of galactic battle. The motion of the soldiers, color quality of the light, and the barren landscape give a sense of chaos.

    I did a lot experimenting with low-light conditions before but none with modern digital cameras. Back in the olden days I had to ‘push’ my film to a higher-than-rated ISO setting where I underexposed and over processed the film. The results are grainy. Based on the previous discussion it seems as though a similar phenomenon occurs with the digital cameras. I have taken pictures with and without tripods but I always liked the challenge of hand-held shots with slow shutter speeds. I got some very cool pictures in Korea and Sarejevo.

    I guess it all depends on the effect you’re looking for as to what equipment to bring along. Unfortunately, you probably don’t have an assistant that can carry all your equipment for you so you’re prepared for every situation.

    I just remembered that I might have one of those tiny fold-up tripods in my camera bag. I’ll look later today and if I do I’ll send it over. It’s only about 6-7″ long and about 1.25″ in diameter. Small enough to tote around, if you’re so inclined.


  3. doug clark says:

    Dan, Nice work under those conditions. If you’re allowed, a flash might make a little difference. Increasing your ISO will work, but it will make any prints look grainy. Lower ISO with a longer exposure is the best but it does necessitate a stable surface or tripod to anchor the camera. Without the tripod you could set it on a table etc and use the 2 second timer so you wouldn’t physically be holding the shutter down.

    • danbohmer says:

      thanks, I considered that, but didn’t know how to ccordinate that with the shooting…now that I think about it, i bet there is a way to set the camera to take a series of shots…that would have worked…

  4. All i know about photography is whether or I like it or not and I always love your pictures.

  5. Audrey says:

    You might not be thrilled with all of the shots you got, but the ones you posted are impressive! Capturing those bursts of light when it’s so dark out isn’t easy but they turned out great! Thanks for sharing this.

    • danbohmer says:

      thank for your nice comments!

      • Audrey says:

        I’m a fan of the blurred action shots. 🙂 It lends an artistic flair!
        My little bro just shipped out for his second tour of Afghanistan and I’ve loved getting a glimpse of his world through your lens.

      • danbohmer says:

        yes, I understand…I guess I just need to accept that is how tehy are suppose to be. Thoughts & prayers for your brother on his time over here.

  6. i think they are actually pretty awesome shot…like action shots!

  7. I don’t any photo tips. Sorry. I click and hope for the best. I think Picture #3 turned out quite nice. I usually have to take quite a few photos before I come up with one I like.

  8. Seriously, I actually really like the image where the fire is on the left of the frame… because even though it’s a little blurry, it conveys a lot of movement, urgency and action to me… so I certainly wouldn’t consider them failures… I like them 🙂

  9. Jeremy says:

    Like lots of people have said, a tripod is essential. But out there, setting your camera on a sandbag can do much the same thing. Or get a screw (1/4-20 thread), tie a string around it. Thread the bolt/screw into your tripod socket in the camera. Make a loop at the other end at the proper length to go around your foot w the cam at eye level. Pull up slightly when you shoot. It isn’t a good a a tripod, but works better than none!

    Also a low ISO, slower shutter, and f/stop to match might help. I do a bit of night shooing and almost always use a tripod and either a cable release or the 2-sec delay.

  10. I’m sure plenty of people have already helped you on night shots. It took me a while to figure it out haha! But it’s really easy once you get a hang of it 🙂 For me, i just set my ISO very high, it takes away the blurriness and it does give you more grains, but something you can edit out later if you have the program to do so 🙂

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