If you wish to take shots at night, with vibrant colors and striking results, you can take your pictures just before sunrise or after sunset, when the sky is neither completely lit, nor black already. That’s the moment when the sky “matches”, in its luminance with that of artificial lighting, creating a smooth blending of colors and hence enhancing their contrast.
In this post I’ll give you some advice on how to be prepared and how to exploit such technique.
Before you go out shooting, the first thing I suggest you to do is to take note of scheduled sunrise/sunset times. You can take a glance here: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html.
In the morning, it’s then wise to show up about 40 minutes before indicated time, whereas in the evening it’s good to be at the desired location at sunset time. In the morning you can start shooting immediately, and keep on doing it until sunrise, at least for the first times while you experiment this technique. Then, with time, you’ll gain experience and learn how to immediately catch the perfect timing, just looking at the sky. Our brain is incredibly skilled in making us believe that we’re facing same lightning conditions. Actually, just a few minutes can dramitacally change how a picture looks like, though. Film (and sensors) are not as clever as we are. 🙂
Take the example here:
Mirage Casino in Las Vegas, at 9:15pm
and notice how the scene changed in a few moments; following shot has been taken only 3 minutes after the one above, on the same day:
Mirage Casino in Las Vegas, at 9:18pm
You can now see that all the nice details about clouds from the picture above have vanished. And that’s just after a couple of minutes! The perfect conditions for such kind of pictures lasts about a minute only, so that you need to be prepared with your equipment, if you do not want to miss it.
Of course, both pictures are much better than what it could have been taken just a an hour before (this is to say how important it is lightning to photography, no matter how expensive your equipment is):
Mirage Casino in Las Vegas, at 8:10pm
As stated above, depending on your speecific composition, the perfect lighting combination can last a couple of minutes only. Best thing is just to practice, as it taskes some time to become able to identify and freeze that perfect moment.