Why Should You Do Night Photography When It’s Cloudy?

It’s the weekend. You’re finally have some time away from your job. You’re ready to hop in the car with your camera gear, ready to drive a few hours at night listening to weird music and get good and dusty. You’re ready for night photography.
But it’s cloudy.
Should you pack it in and fire up Netflix?
Maybe not.
Clouds can add immense drama and interest to your photo, and can sometimes make a night photo better. They can frame your subject or add interest to the night sky or glow from the moon or even light pollution. They can add a beautiful mysterious glow to the stars. Moon or no, clouds can look magnificent. Just as with day photography, they can add interest, so it is with night photography as well.
For long exposures, it’s usually best when they are moving a bit and not completely covering the sky, although even then, it’s possible to get some good photos.
Let’s look at a few photos.
The photo above has quite a few clouds. I checked my app, Clear Outside, and it stated that that the sky could be as much as 100% total cloud cover. The app does describe whether the clouds are high clouds, medium clouds, or low clouds as well as giving total cloud cover, so you can tell the character of the clouds, which is rather useful. Additionally, the app gives other information, such as when the International Space Station is visible, visibility, fog, rain, and wind. On this particular night, I saw that there was some wind and that there was between 80-100% high clouds. This sounded grim. And it was a long drive to this location. But we had received permission, so we perservered. We were rewarded with beautiful dramatic skies that glowed profusely from light pollution, streaked wispily across the sky, yet revealed the glorious Milky Way over head. In this photo, I quietly observed which way the wind was blowing so I could pre-visualize how the clouds would look. I knew that they were sort of coming toward the camera and would dramatically bracket the airplane in the foreground. And here, because these clouds are higher, wispier clouds and because they are moving from wind, they don’t completely occlude the stars, but add a gorgeous, diffuse glow.
The next photo, shown above, is absurdly cloudy. It was initially somewhat clear, but as the sun melted into the horizon, more and more clouds appeared until finally, almost the entire sky was covered. Initially disappointed, I began to realize that the clouds might add a certain eeriness to some of the photos of houses buried in sand. Here’s a photo in which I actually desaturated the photo slightly to go with the cloudy feel and exaggerate the already eerie feel.
Partially cloudy skies work as well, even when the clouds are low, as with this photo above, taken in Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. The blurring of the moving clouds adds drama and movement to the composition, and bracket the rocky foreground, adding to the already surreal landscape. Although this would be more romantic if we knew the glow were from a setting sun, the reality is that this is light pollution from Coachella Valley.
The above photo, also taken in Joshua Tree National Park, shows quickly moving low clouds, and again, the long exposure adds a sense of drama and movement. Here, an almost full moon backlights the Joshua Tree and adds a beautiful glow to the clouds.
This last example of night photography with clouds is admittedly more obvious since it’s accompanied by the additional drama of a lightning storm. This is of course the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I was doubly lucky because to the back of me was a full moon that was beautifully illuminating the canyon below, with the Colorado snaking through the rocky terrain. Here, the clouds are also in movement, coming almost right toward the camera and adding, once again, drama and movement to the photo.
When you see clouds before going out to photograph, remember that this doesn’t mean you are automatically hosed. Sure, maybe it may block your Milky Way. But maybe it won’t. And maybe, it will add drama to the night sky that you never even imagined possible. I hope this was helpful or inspiring. Please share if you like it, and please leave a comment below.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

 

My “Abandoned Southern CA” book featured in Business Insider!

Hello, I was recently interviewed by Business Insider journalist Erin McDowell for my new book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing Of Time” (America Through Time). Click here to see the article and 25 night photography photos!

Here’s some photos from the book, available on Amazon and kenleephotography.com. Thanks so much for looking.

 

How I Pack For Night Photography

How you pack and organize your belongings directly impacts your experience. This is true of all forms of photography, but perhaps especially night photography. After all, you will need to access your belongings repeatedly in the dark. I am going to describe how I am currently packing for my night photography trips. And probably like you, this will change over time. Even if you don’t do night photography, you might find much of this useful as general organizing and packing tips.

 

We’ll start with the bag. There’s no such thing as a perfect camera bag, of course. But so far, so good with this Tenba Solstice 20L bag. It’s comfortable even despite the weight, has sufficient padding to protect the gear well, and is logically laid out. It also stands up easily on its own, as the bag, like many Tenba bags, holds its own shape due to the padding. It’s also water-resistant and even has a waterproof bag inside the top compartment, should you need to use it. As a bonus, it doesn’t scream “I am a camera bag” to others, although it does look like an extra nice backpack, something the average person might not use for muddy socks and underwear.

It also has deep side pockets for drinks or other gear. Most of the places that I photograph are in the desert, so it’s good to have lots of drinks. I can easily fit two 32-ounce drink bottles on my backpack, one in each side pocket. I usually keep drinks in the side pouches because if there’s a leak, it won’t leak into my gear. If I only need one bottle, I will sometimes keep a roll of orange gaffer’s tape in one of the side pockets.

To the right in the photo above, you can see an attached tan-colored side pouch. That is for the ProtoMachines LED2. The ProtoMachines is a high-end handheld light painting device that is capable of producing all colors of the RGB spectrum, also giving you full control over saturation and brightness. It also allows you to store eight presets and has a timer. I use the timer sometimes, although I do still count to myself when doing light painting.

 

I prefer to have a camera backpack that opens from the rear. This is so if it is muddy, I can access all my gear without taking off the backpack. If my waist strap is on, I simply take off the shoulder straps and turn the backpack around so it is facing me and then access everything from the back without having to take the backpack off and put it on muddy ground.

 

With the back open, you can see that I have two cameras. On the left is the rather large and heavy Pentax K-1 with an attached Pentax 15-30mm f/2.8 lens. On the right is a Nikon D750 with a Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 lens. Above the cameras is a large microfiber cloth, and to the right of that, two Vello Shutterboss II intervalometers. One of them is for the Pentax since its connector differs from Nikon connectors. To differentiate, I have this labeled with orange tape that says “Kentax” (see what I did there?). Above the cloth and intervalometers is a thin yellow bag. That is a small emergency first aid kit. And above that is a Think Tank pouch with chargers and random things.

 

This is a view of the bag looking down. I have removed the gray Think Tank bag for this photo. The idea of the Think Tank bag is that I keep all my belongings that I ordinarily don’t need out in the field, such as battery chargers, USB cables and various other accessories. I leave these in the car or in the motel room.

After I remove the gray Think Tank bag from the camera backpack, I have lots of room. Right now, I have the yellow first aid kit, a Nikon body cap, and an extra LensPen. This hardly takes up any space. What I usually place in here when I am about to photograph are things like snacks and an extra shirt or jacket and a beanie.

Sometimes I put a roll of orange gaffer’s tape inside as well. Gaffer’s tape makes everything right. You can tape down the focus ring of your lens, tape cables to keep them out of the way, keep a broken battery door from flapping open, or a thousand other uses. It’s the secret weapon in your night photography bag, the tool that makes everything alright.
Inside the zipped pouch you can see a yellow Allen wrench, a spare remote shutter cable release, and a small microfiber cloth. You can never have too many microfiber cloths. I keep these here because I may need to access this in the field, but it’s not something I really need unless something on the tripod loosens or some other emergency.

 

Speaking of those side pockets – or at least what’s right next to them – is am Army holster that is used to carry pistols. I use mine to carry a somewhat pistol-shaped piece of gear, the ProtoMachines LED2 light painting device, seen here in all its beautifully taped glory. The white tape is glow-in-the-dark tape, while the orange tape is just some crappy looking gaffer’s tape that I should remove but have not. This is the light painting device of a working night photographer. It ain’t pretty, but it’s functional and harder to lose in the dark.

I keep pepper spray inside the Army holster as well. I like stuff like this to be within quick reach. I sometimes remove the holster from the backpack and wear it on my belt if I am not going to have the entire backpack with me. I’ve never had to use the pepper spray, and hope I never will.

 

Finally, a view of the front compartment of the Tenba bag. Here, I keep a plastic cover for the camera if it begins sprinkling or if I am doing photos near a waterfall or the ocean. Salt water and electronics do not mix. You can see the white string of this bag peaking out on top. Below that, you can just barely see some orange battery holders. I use these for storing extra batteries for the ProtoMachines and the intervalometers. Easy access. And in the innermost pocket at the bottom of the photo, you can see several battery organizers, one for the Pentax K-1, the other for the Nikon D750. I like having lots of extra batteries because you never know how many batteries you are going to plow through on a cold night. Better safe than sorry. I prefer these battery organizers because it keeps everything neat and accessible, but also because the contacts of the batteries never meet. Also inside is an SD card holder, which you can barely see…you can see the thin yellow stripe.

When I am doing night photography, I usually simply carry the tripod. If I wanted to, I could attach my smaller tripod to the side pocket and strap it in or use straps and strap it to the front of the backpack. However, in practice, I rarely do this. If there is one weakness of the Tenba Solstice 20L, it’s that it is not the best backpack I’ve had for attaching tripods. Yes, you can do it, but it’s better if the tripod is small. Anything more, and it’s really not ideal. But the upside of this is that I can carry all the equipment you see here, but still be able to slide it underneath the seat of an airplane. I’ll live with the trade-off.

Everything here is organized and easily accessible even in the dark. If I don’t want to blow out my vision because it is dark and I am trying to photograph Milky Ways, I can still access my belongings without turning on my headlamp.

I hope this gives you some ideas. How do you pack for night photography? What would you do? Feel free to start a conversation below in the comments section. Thanks for reading.

-Ken

 

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

BOOK AUTHOR EVENT MARCH 22 2020:
And hopefully I will see you March 22nd 2020 at 5 pm Valley Relics Museum for a brief slide show and presentation for my new book “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time”.  Get there early to check out the museum.
Address: 7900 Balboa Blvd. C3 & C4 Entrance on, Stagg St, Van Nuys, CA 91406

 

 

Interview On “Behind The Shot” video podcast!

I AM INTERVIEWED ON A PODCAST ABOUT THE COVER PHOTO FOR MY NEW BOOK:
Please join me on the latest episode of the Behind the Shot podcast as I sit down with Steve Brazill to take a look at how I created the image that graces the cover of my new book “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time”. There is a video podcast, but you can also download an audio podcast as well. Either way, it promises to be good fun. Watch, listen, and subscribe here: https://behindtheshot.tv/2020/02/13/capturing-the-slowing-of-time/
LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE RAN A SHORT STORY ABOUT MY NEW BOOK:

https://www.lamag.com/article/abandoned-southern-california/


BOOK AUTHOR EVENT MARCH 22 2020:
And hopefully I will see you March 22nd at 5 pm Valley Relics Museum for a brief slide show and presentation. Get there early to check out the museum.
Address: 7900 Balboa Blvd. C3 & C4 Entrance on, Stagg St, Van Nuys, CA 91406

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

How I Find Interesting Foregrounds and Abandoned Locations

Especially since my first book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” was released, I have been asked how I find interesting foregrounds and abandoned locations a couple of times lately, and thought I would answer in my blog, which I’ve resuscitated to go along with my shiny new Ken Lee Photography website.
My philosophy is that regardless of whether it you are photographing the night sky or not, it’s all about the composition, where the subject matter still counts. And rarely for me is the night sky the subject matter. I’m particularly fascinated by the marriage of sky and earth. Astrophotography and deep sky photography hold less interest for me personally.
Ideally, I hike around the area during the day and return at night, although that doesn’t always happen due to time constraints or life throwing one challenges.
I photograph a lot of abandoned items that I found interesting, but really, anything that’s interesting is something that I love to photograph, including fantastic natural landscapes or unique features. Often, the weirder, the better. When I’m in the area during the day, I usually try to make notes about where the moon might come out, how the foreground subject will be illuminated, or where the Milky Way might be, things like that. I use apps such as PhotoPills to help determine things such as this. I also look to see whether there might be streetlights in the area or there might be some danger in walking (sharp cactus, floorboards that are about to give way, possibility for animals or people, homeless encampments, whatever). And of course, I am always thinking about how I might “light paint” the foreground so that I can create visually strong and creative images. “Light painting” is illuminating the foreground while the camera shutter is open, acting almost like the director of a movie, determining what to illuminate, and what to keep in shadow. This helps the image to tell a story about the place.
I devote quite a bit of time to finding interesting areas. When researching new locations and determining how to approach photographing them, I use a combination of Google Maps, the history of a region, looking at old photographs, driving around the area, other photographer friends, blogs, old maps, and Facebook groups about a particular subject matter. If I think there are some ghost towns or abandoned houses in a particular region, I’ll also try to see if I can find abandoned places on Google Earth.
I try not to copy other people’s photographs. Also, I don’t actively seek to photograph some locations there despite it having great subjects if 1.) I feel like I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said before, and 2.) they are too crowded, which isn’t the sort of photographic experience I’m after. Locations like this would include Mesa Arch at sunrise, Kanarra Creek Canyon, the sun shining on Horsetail Fall in Yosemite in February, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon. This is not a condemnation of anyone photographing these locations. They are stunning locations for photography. Because of #1 and #2, they simply hold less interest for me.
Finally, I am working on two more night photography books on abandoned sites, both of which have themes. Themes are fantastic because they drive me to seek out these things more, and make it a lot of fun! I also record music this way by having this sort of theme, and it serves as a guidepost for what one seeks out or does. I often find myself thinking about the approach in novel ways, and that can create additional creativity.
What foregrounds interest you? What methods do you use to find fascinating foregrounds and cool abandoned sites? Let us know in the comments section!

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

Abandoned Southern California book and book signing-CANCELED!

BOOK EVENT CANCELED:

Well, this is very frustrating. Like the NBA and Disneyland, we too need to close the doors to events. This is the second time my book event has been canceled. Puhhhhh.

There is currently no date for a future event. We live in strange, strange times right now, and most anything that has a decent crowd has been canceled. Thank you so much for your patience.
Since everyone is hoarding toilet paper in preparation for the impending virus, I would encourage all involved to also hoard copies of “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time”. If people feel they will spend that much time on the throne, they deserve good reading material. I’m here to help. www.kenleephotography.com will get that done.

Please let other people know that it is canceled. I really try my best to let everyone know, but it is so hard to do.

Thanks!
“Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” @ Valley Relics (Sunday March 22nd is canceled).

 

NEW BOOK: I’m going to start this blog again after taking a hiatus. And what better way than to announce my first book? I have a new book entitled “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time”. The book features night photography photos of abandoned locations, some of them well known, others rather secret and obscure. The book is published by Fonthill Media/Arcadia Publishing. I am also working on two more books featuring night photography photos of abandoned locations.

BOOK SIGNING EVENT – CANCELED: I will be having a book signing on March 22 2020 at 5 pm at Valley Relics Museum in Los Angeles, CA at 7900 Balboa Blvd. Lake Balboa CA 91406 Hangar C 3 and 4. The entrance is on Stagg Street. Although it begins at 5 pm, I would encourage people to show up early to check out the fascinating museum. Admission is $10. I will also be giving a half hour slide show presentation on some of the locations in the book.

Facebook Event sign-up and tickets

 

BLOG: I am going to begin writing blog posts. However, it’s going to be different this time. I had problems trying to post so many times before, so I am going to slow it down to approximately one time a month. I will write more about night photography in general, including occasionally answering more commonly asked questions about night photography, including star trails, Milky Way, abandoned locations, gear, and other topics, keeping it loose and informal and fun and interesting.

NEW WEBSITE: I have a fresh new look for my website. Check it out! I am super happy with how beautifully it displays the photos and how it seamlessly integrates purchasing prints and various other items. www.kenleephotography.com

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

Thank you!

-Ken

Surrealistic Art in the Nevada Night Sky

Saluting The Night Sky (6871)


The Car Forest is an art installation outside Goldfield, Nevada. I drove up from Beatty to photograph here on a gorgeous evening, surrounded by braying and sometimes galloping burros. Many of these cars were repainted since my last visit, some for the better, and some by idiots.
~~
This is a real night photo. I illuminated the exterior and interior with a hand-held ProtoMachines LED2 flashlight while the shutter was open on my tripod-mounted camera. This is not a post-processing creation. No pixels were harmed during the creation of this photo. 😀
~~
Nikon D610/14-24mm f/2.8 lens. The long exposure photo is 21 minutes total “stacking” three photos, each 7 minutes f/8 ISO 200 on 2017-06-11 00:03.
~~
#kenlee #kenleephotography #slowshutter #amazing_longexpo #longexphunter #longexpoelite #longexposure_shots #nightscaper #supreme_nightshots #ig_astrophotography #super_photolongexpo #long_exposure #nightscaper #nightphotography #longexposure #startrails #lightpainting #nevada #carforest

Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols