Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Low Level Landscape Lighting Tutorial

Low Level Landscape Lighting (LLL) illumination levels compared with light from the stars and the moon. Click to enlarge. Photography by Royce Bair at Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef Nat'l Park, Utah. is a new public service website that Wayne Pinkston and I have created to educated photographers of the benefits of this less evasive and low-polluting form of artificial lighting for starry night landscape photography.

A quick illustration of how LLL lighting compares with traditional hand-held light painting, using a focused flashlight. Click to enlarge. Graphics by Royce Bair

We hope you'll visit the website, look at this style of NightScape photography, compare, and see where your night photography might benefit from using these low level lighting techniques.

Traditional light painting is convenient and portable, but produces much higher light pollution and is very inconsistent compared to LLL lighting. Click to enlarge. Graphics by Royce Bair

Equipment resources for LLL lighting are also given near the end of the webpage. Neither Wayne or I are financially benefiting from this public service website.

LLL Lighting Tutorials can be found on this website and in my Milky Way NightScapes eBook. Below, is just one example taken from page 85 of that eBook:

In this example, I used two F&V Z96 LED panel lights (on tripods), filtered, dimmed (see above) and left on during the whole 30 seconds camera exposure. Click to enlarge. © Royce Bair
Final image after some post processing contrast was added to the night sky. Another advantage of constant LLL Lighting is that you can use this lighting for hours while you do time lapses or star trails. Click to enlarge. © Royce Bair

Please help us spread the word about this website. Why? At least two USA national parks have banned light painting in commercial photo workshops, and we have heard rumors of more bans coming in other parks. Of course, some of you may say that artificial lighting has no reason to be in the parks in the first place. And yes, there are plenty of beautiful techniques for producing wide-field astro-landscape photographs that do not use artificial light. Still, we believe there are benefits to using responsible, LLL lighting.

1) A single 25 sec exposure @ f/2.8, ISO 6400. 2) A 100 sec exposure to increase foreground detail, blended (via Photoshop layers) with the previous exposure of the sky. This is the “natural” method preferred by many, but because starlight comes from overhead and all around, it is like photographing with an overcast day (very flat, with little character). 3) A single exposure @ f/2.8, 25 sec, ISO 6400, with LLL lighting strategically placed. Click to enlarge. Photography by Royce Bair at Chimney Rock, Capitol Reef Nat'l Park, Utah.

Why artificial lighting is sometimes helpful: Compare the above photos. Photo number 2 is the "natural" double exposure blending method for enhancing foreground recognition. We believe there are artistic and foreground recognition benefits to #3.

Please note that #2 could have been done using low angle moonlight (to give an effect similar to #3), but the star and moonlight exposures would have been many hours apart, and there are only 2 days a month where the angle is even somewhat correct at this location. Mixing a twilight exposure would have been a fairly worthless option here because we are facing southeast and a northwestern twilight would have also given flat lighting.

Another reason for allowing responsible LLL lighting in the national parks is that it is much less invasive than the headlamps use to help photographers or stargazers get safely to their night viewing destinations. Compare these two images, below, as proof:

Typical headlamp illumination can be 20-40 times brighter than LLL lighting. Click to enlarge. Photography by Royce Bair at Sunset Arch, Grand Staircase-Escalante Nat'l Monument

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