Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Low light photography trials

One of the things that switching to digital photography brought (for me at least) was a complete failure with most attempts at low light or night photography.

It’s taken a while for me to nail the reason, and I’ve also come to the conclusion that there’s quite a few folk mis-reporting the cameras they have used to achieve some shots. I’m pretty sure about this, as I’ve had to opportunity to recreate some sample photographs using cameras which I have seen allegedly producing good night shots. But when I do the same, using the same setting reported… well, all I can say is that I just reach for the Delete button when I see the results.

Now, it could be me, but when I was shooting film, while those around me didn’t seem to be able to produce a usable image past sunset, I seemed to be able to dial just about any exposure setting (within reason) and produce a decent night shot. Most fun was to be had with black & white shots, as they didn’t suffer from the various colour casts and reciprocity failure that could come with long exposures, and the only clue to fact that the B&W prints were actually night shots came from the weird skies, as these often burnt out due to the effects of light pollution if you were near civilisation.

However, I seem to have cracked the night shot with digital problem I had, and I can say it’s not something that’s cheap to do, and because of that, I’m saying no more, since no-one ever told be the secret.

One of the upsides of this is that I get the chance to make grab shots, not only in daylight, but also in the dark, and without needing flash (so long I’m carrying the right kit, of course).

After the interesting van I spotted with a solid row of LEDs set in the grille, I spotted a similar line of light heading along the row towards me a few nights ago, but this time there was no chance of ambling along for a relaxed snap and two or three tries at getting the exposure right. This one was in moving traffic, and was going to be gone in seconds, so there was no time to play.

I managed to grab the camera, zoom in, pan, and snap the shot before it was lost.

For something that took only a second or so (yes, this was with a dSLR, not a compact or bridge), I’m surprised the only complaint I have is of my own performance, as I tracked the front of the car beside the one I was interested in, rather than the one with the LED lighting strip attached:

Nissan LEDs


Not too bad for a hand-held panned grab shot of moving cars at night (in the dark), and where the autofocus didn’t fail completely, and the pic isn’t ruined by noise. On reflection, the focus isn’t much worse than the same shots taken in daylight, when taking a grab shot and everything is moving instead of being given time to stabilise.

Good enough for me to start wondering about the legality of these long LED lighting strips, now that I have seen quite a few of them on the road.

With the current love of regulations and increasing demands on items fitted to cars to comply with various regulations, I’m almost surprised to see this on the road at all.

As of this month, we have a new set of additional requirements screwed into the VOSA/MOT test schedule, to bring us more into line with Europe.

There may be an answer to my pondering about the line-o-LEDs in the notes I saw attached to the news of those updated test. While the legality of the fitment and use of these lights is a matter for the police to deal with when they see them, for the MOT at least, it is the case that if an item is not scheduled in the test, then a car cannot be failed for any problems with that item, as it falls outside the remit of the test.

I used to have access to the lighting regulations and their updates, but no longer – so if anyone who might read this knows the rules, regulations, and law regarding the fitting and use of this sort of lighting in the UK, I really would be interested in knowing the facts… or where to find them.


04/04/2013 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment


%d bloggers like this: