One evening three years ago, after photographing a little-known national park in the Blue Mountains, I came upon an electrical storm. I followed it until I found a clear vantage point where I could attempt some images. Over the next hour I would observe this unusual phenomenon in the dark. The storm clouds themselves would be illuminated by the electrical activity from within a several times a minute. By trial and error during this time, I created my first images featuring stationary stars and entered the world of nocturnal photography. The results were surreal and otherworldly; I was hooked. I had stepped into the realms of “Available Night Light” of which Alister Benn is just about the most qualified guide that I know. So when he recently published an eBook about photography once the sun has dipped below that horizon, I was very interested in what he had to say.
I viewed the ebook (95 page 67Mb PDF) on my newly arrived iPad. On the retina display, it was a real pleasure to read. As might be expected from the large file, everything is beautifully presented. The numerous photographs which help to illustrate the text are particularly cohesive – a collection of seascapes from Spain and the mightiest mountains of Asia. Once again these looked absolutely stunning on the iPad’s high resolution display.
Following a foreword by Guy Tal, the book is organized into eight chapters that takes you through low-light photography in a logical and well-structured manner. Everything from the preparatory stages through to post-capture processing is covered, making it suitable for those new to photography. Alister strikes a good balance between theory, technical know-how, science, anecdotes and philosophy making it very readable.
So what’s in it for the experienced photographer? If you follow my work, you’ll know that I’m no stranger to night photography myself. It was reassuring to see how we shared many similarities in technique and philosophy, many of which were developed through experience, trial and error. However, it’s one thing to know roughly how to go through the motions, it’s another to be able to explain in text how to hit the ground running and demonstrate how everything fits together – Alister does this brilliantly. There were of course many ideas that were also new to me. The book is a comprehensive guide covering numerous approaches to low light photography as well as clearly giving an opinion on which is best under different circumstances. In addition to numerous useful tips, it gives the advanced photographer a terrific framework to organize one’s approach.
As it stands, “Seeing the Unseen” is a superb manual detailing the up-to-date best practice in the art of night photography. Throughout the text, Alister Benn’s strong passion for the subject comes through. It makes you want to head out and do some night shooting right now.
Further details about Alister’s book and purchase information can be found here.