Night Photography In Namibia
A once in a lifetime photo safari isn’t complete without a diverse set of photographic memories. A truly complete album should include shots taken at all times of the day, in differing lights; the same image will look very different. Although awkward at first, night photography in Namibia provides extremely rewarding results.
How Day and Night Photography in Namibia Differ
What might seem a standard shot of an everyday scene transforms as the sun sets, the light diminishes, and the shadows start their dance. Capturing the best image requires a little extra technical know-how, but the photos are well worth the effort. When working with reduced ambient light, a quality DSLR camera with a high ISO range is a must. A wide dynamic range ensures that none of the finer details get lost in the shadows. A large sensor captures as much ‘good’ light as possible while avoiding noisy images.
Best Settings for Night Photography
Auto-focus is perfect for daytime photography but confuses the camera at night. Manually set the focus to suit the situation so that the camera knows the exact area to target.
Use a wide lens to let in as much light as possible. An f/2.8 is ideal, as are f/1.2 or f/1.8.
Start as high as 3200 and take sample shots. Go as low as the light conditions will allow.
Slow shutter speed
The best shutter speed depends on 3 factors;
- what you’re shooting
- available light
- the effect you’re hoping to achieve
For instance, the night sky requires 10-seconds or more, but an urban scene needs between 2 and 10-seconds.
Pro-Tip Use the 500 Rule
To capture an in focus photo of the stars, you need the right shutter speed. Your shutter has to be open long enough to allow sufficient light into your camera. However, if you leave the shutter open too long, the stars will move with the rotation of the earth and therefore be blurry or out of focus. Unless you are shooting star trails, but that a different topic.
I use the 500 rule every time I’m out shooting the milky-way or stars. The longest shutter speed you should use is equal to 500, divided by your lens’ focal length. If your focal length is 20 mm, your maximum shutter speed is 25 seconds, (provided you’re using a full-frame camera). its basic math. If you need help with this I would suggest you look at the app called PhotoPills
The Equipment Needed for Night Photography
There is no need to splash out on an additional camera just for night shots; all high-quality DSLR models are loaded with enough settings to get the best pictures after sunset.
- Sturdy tripod.
Dark conditions require long exposures with shutter speeds of 15-30 seconds or more. Perfect images rely on the camera being steady for long periods. Aluminum or carbon fiber tripods are light and durable. Mini tripods help to capture the sexiest images in tighter angles.
- Wide-angle lens
The largest maximum aperture possible is best for shooting after dark; 14-24mm is best. An open aperture like f/2.8 lets in most light.
- Natural light filter
Although not a necessity, images are crisper as it reduces light pollution.
- Powerful headlamp
For obvious reasons, you will want to pick out the best shots and check out the surroundings.
- Extra batteries
Take a couple of batteries in your pocket. Who wants to run out of power in the middle of photographing in the dark?
The Best Things to Photograph at Night in Namibia
There is so much to see in Namibia, so many beautiful sights, that it is almost impossible to take a poor photograph. Shooting at night adds an extra dimension with contrasting light and shadowy patterns.
Deadvlei – Catch the last running shuttle bus to make it to Deadvlei in time for the setting sun. It is a specular site when bathed in glorious sunshine, but as the light fades, the opportunity for stunning pictures increases. They are amongst the tallest dunes in the world, set on a white clay pan. The skeletal remains of the camel thorn trees make the eeriest yet most spectacular shots when set against the backdrop of the night sky.
Spitzkoppe – A series of stunning granite peaks that have stood for 120million years. There are few more amazing photographs than those of the milky way captured through the natural wonder of the stone arch of Spitzkoppe.
Windhoek – Namibia’s capital city is packed with photo opportunities; it comes to life at night. There are multiple bars where outdoor dancing and music playing result in vibrant images, or Parliament Gardens where the shadows cast against the night sky look amazing. Even statues and memorials come to life with a backdrop of the star-filled night sky.
Kolmanskop – Just one of the many ghost towns of Namibia that provide stunning settings for pictures. Kolmanskop is an old mining town, deserted since the 1930s. It makes for stunning photographs by day and spectacular ones by night.
Okoukuejo – Just one of the impressive watering holes of Etosha National Park where you can capture silhouetted images of magnificent wildlife as the sun sets and the moon rises. It is a favored drinking spot of rhino, elephants, and giraffes. It has a nearby campsite, allowing you to photograph well into the night. Raised platforms and floodlights provide the perfect lighting and angles for night photography.
The best advice that we could give anyone for night photography in Namibia is to take hundreds of shots, even of things you think look ordinary. With the best settings and stunning scenery, you will be delighted with your photographs and maybe that will impress the professional photo friends!