Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tokyo X-VARIO: Shooting Light in the Dark

Leica X-VARIO @ 28mm zone focused. 1/60th sec F/3.5 @ ISO 1600. RAW image converted in CS5 and cropped and adjusted in Photoscape. Shot in Sugamo, Tokyo.

I love shooting at night. I know technically its more difficult, but if you can get the exposure right, and you know how to shoot RAW and adjust later in post production, you can capture amazingly moody images of typically normal scenes. The reason? Light. Unlike daylight, where the light is coming from a single point, or on a cloudy day where the light is diffused and flat (and often boring), night allows for multiple light sources, direction, colour and shadows. But how can you use this to your advantage when shooting?

First of all, look for mood. What do I mean by mood? It's hard to describe... for me, it's when I'm in the scene and it feels like I'm in a movie or a famous image. It's usually in the city, and usually there's multiple light sources: a street light, window light, vehicle light, moon light. I like using roads to give a sense of depth, and I like seeing people, cars, bikes, etc. The scene should also tell a story. What's happening? What are the people doing or where are they going? You want to be part of the image. It's a combination of all these things that gives a sense of mood for me.

As I've mentioned in previous posts over and over, shooting with the X-VARIO at night is difficult because of the slow lens, but it's not impossible. Typically if you want to include motion blur, you're shooting at 1/8 to 1/30th of a second anyway, so the slowness of the lens on the X-VARIO shouldn't keep you from getting the shot. You will need to learn to focus by scale though, but shooting at 28mm wide and focusing at 5M, pretty much everything in a city scene will be in focus anyway. 

Another trick is to under expose the image if you want grain and don't want to wash out the brighter details. The above image would have looked brighter if shot at 1/15th of a second, but it would have lost its mood and the details in the truck would have been washed out. I also purposely underexposed the image because I knew I would wanted to push the exposure later in post production and force grain (click on image to see the grain). To do this, learn to shoot RAW so you have more control over exposure, highlights, shadows and contrast later. 

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments section below. If you want to know more details of the above image, again, just ask. Have fun shooting at night.



  1. The Leica grain: a signature thing of beauty.

    1. Lots of people have commented (including Steve Huff) that the X-Vario definitely has Leica DNA. The lens is definitely Leica, the sensor is probably a Sony, but the processing is still going to be Leica. I really like the look of the X-Vario files.

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