Bonus Day — The Night

I've been holding out on you. 

Way back in Moremi each evening I tended to introduce a new aspect of shooting at night to the students. Instead of sitting by the campfire telling each other stories—though we did a lot of that, too—I usually came back from my post safari shower with some night fun up my sleeve. 

Back in Camp 9, I noticed some people trying to do some basic early night sky shooting. The moon phase wasn't quite right for that, so most people were attempting camp shots (such as Christian's shot of us eating dinner, below) or doing things like trying to light paint the trees in front of the lagoon or catch some of the sky at dusk.


But I had other things up my sleeve (literally at one point). I brought all kinds of odds and ends from my "light" bin back at the office, some of which we never got to. First up was glow sticks and balancing that against a slow sync flash at the end of the shot. I started demonstrating what we could do with just varying the use of the stick during the long exposure. For instance, I decided to give Murali a glowing cape:

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Then I tried something different in terms of swinging the sticks, and gave Adam wings of fire:

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Next up, was spelling the letters for Tony behind Tony in various positions. Here's the O:

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I should note that I'm not manning the camera here. This is Joe's camera sitting on the end of a table (why no one ran back and got a tripod I don't know; my goal was simply to show some of the things we could do with light, not take any pictures). I won't bore you with all the other things we tried and played with, but suffice it to say my tent had landing lights, I had lit LED fiber strands in my hair, and things got worse from there…if you've been to Burning Man you might have an idea of how absurd parts of our camp sometimes looked at night. At the end of the trip when I dumped my goodie bag of tricks off at Adam's tent for him to hold onto, he just looked into the bag and shook his head.

Almost no one had done a true night sky shot before, so when we got to Savute with moon-free skies, we started working on that:

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Here we are setting up cameras with a classic Botswana mopane in the foreground. Some people went for the sky with tree type shots, others went for just a straight Milky Way. Tony even managed to capture shooting stars:


But the award for night shooting this trip goes to Mark. I remember looking off to the side and seeing two of the camp staff walking away with a couple of my light sticks. I couldn't figure out what they were doing with them at first, as they started tossing them into the sky. Then I saw that they were working with Mark:


There you go: all four things in one shot: a night sky, a bit of camp, some light painting, and glow sticks used to create unusual colored streaks. 

What the animals thought of our night-time antics, I have no idea. 

One hyena to another: "Hey, did you see that green streak in the sky over there?"

Second hyena: "Yep. Looks like Thom's back in the area with a photo workshop. Don't worry, the craziness goes away after a few days."

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