Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mountain Photography at Night

92 sec f 6.3 ISO  800
On a recent South Col trek to Nepal I was able to  experiment with a lot of mountain photography at dusk and at night.  I am sharing some tips in this post:

It goes without saying that the first requirement for night photography of mountains is a strong rock steady tripod. Monopods and table top tripods are not real substitute to a good tripod. I know this means lugging up and down the mountain another 1 to 2 kgs of weight but if you need to shoot long exposures then you need the tripod.

If your camera is on a tripod set VR or IS off - you dont need any vibration reduction as the tripod is supposed to be rock steady!

Please do set autofocus off and focus your lens manually - my experience is that with autofocus on the camera hunts for a correct focus point at night!

The newer generation of DSLRs have pushed high ISO performance to 3200 and 6400 with some amazingly good results but I am conservative in this regard – if I can put my camera on a tripod I still prefer the lower ISO settings 200-800 with longer exposures.

I would usually select a middle of the range aperture like f5.6 , f6.3 or f8 unless I need depth of field from foreground right up to infinity. In that case I may even stop down to f16!

After setting the ISO and aperture the balancing factor would be the shutter speed. It is hard to select the shutter speed in low light and make a perfect exposure. There is a lot of black and deep shadows in the photograph and usually the metering is fooled by this resulting in some over exposure. As a rule of thumb setting the exposure compensation to -0.7 and bracketing two stops around the meter reading usually gives one good shot! Speeds can be as low as 15 sec, 30 sec and sometimes even one minute using this bracketing technique.  Most DSLRs wont go below 30 sec so you would have to switch to bulb mode  fire the shutter with a remote release and then close it again. 
30 sec, f7.1 ISO 200 
I usally set the white balance to Auto and keep it that way - in case there is any extraordinary colour shift I would correct it in processing. but this is not usual.

Oh and finally do shoot raw - makes a huge difference to the final image!

For more night photos please do visit   


  1. I have never used tripod, but may be I will get one! Lovely pictures with this post, loved the second one more.

  2. Dear Sunil,

    If you want to do long time exposures a tripod is needed. It will make a huge difference to your photography and open up a lot of possibilities!

  3. I never got any amazing night pictures without a tripod. Great article!

  4. Thank you for the tips! I love your pics of Namche Bazaar with Thamserku in the background at night.

    1. Thanks Shanda.. for more photos please do visit !



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