Tips and Tricks: Jack-O'-Lantern Photography

It's that time again when pumpkins are sacrificed in the name of spooky glowing decorations. While there are plenty of interesting subjects to photograph this time of year (costumes, fall colors, holiday festivities), photographing jack-o'-lanterns can be a little tricky especially if you want to capture them in the dark. Low light photography is a bit more complicated, but don't let that deter you from experimenting. The results are well worth the extra effort. And, in truth, so long as you keep a few key things in mind, it's not very difficult to achive that great glowing photo.

Hold Still

No, not the pumpkin, they are pretty stationary by default. Well, unless they're sentient wandering jack-o'-lanterns, but that's an entirely different topic.

With any night time or low light photography, the more steady your camera the better. Even if you think you are pretty good at holding still, really, nothing beats not holding your camera at all. This means go pull out that old tripod, or if you don't have one of those, finding a nice spot on the ground or table, or even pressing your camera body up against a stationary object. This will afford you the opportunity to get a greater depth of field, minimize any camera jitter that would cause fuzziness, and not have to use the flash.


Now that your camera is nice and still, play around with the composition. Get close, use the rule of thirds, fill the frame, and try different angles and perspectives. If your camera will allow tweaking of the aperture settings, try using a small depth of field (low number for aperture - like 3 or 4). You'll never know if there is a cool shot hiding in your subject if you don't try different things. In the world of digital photography the only thing this will cost you is a few extra minutes.


I for one am the first one to say "Argh! Yuck flash! Blerg. Evil evil awful flash!" That's not to say that it has its time and place. If you are able to adjust the strength and/or position of your flash, this can actually add an interesting lighting element to a low light photo. Sometimes a little flash actually does work, just remember to keep it gentle. Bright harsh flash will drown out the wonderful orange glow of jack-o'-lanterns and destroy the creepy otherworldly atmosphere of the photo. Again, experiment.

Have fun this Halloween, and happy spooky photo shooting.

Photo: Stargazing

Above the Mountain We went up to Timberline on Mt. Hood on Aug. 6th amidst rumors of the Aurora Borealis being visible very far south. Alas, no northern lights that night (the photo is of the northern sky, of course the mountain could have been in the way, or too much light pollution), but the stars were quite lovely nonetheless. There were quite a few people gathered that night to gaze at the sky. Also, unexpected, were the number of nice telescopes setup for public viewing. The owners of these scopes were very friendly and more than happy to explain the various targets in their equipment. One fellow was even dressed as a wizard. The twelve year old me wanted to look into his telescope, exclaim "My God, it's full of stars!" then slink off into the night mumbling "They should have sent a poet." Perhaps next time.

Despite the lack of northern lights, I did find out how well my little compact handled long exposure. Not to shabby, although after post processing, I realized I should have kept the ISO set to 200 instead of bumping it up to 800 for most of the shots. Now I know and knowing IS half the battle, at least where star-field photography is concerned.

Also, in case you were wondering , the lights on the mountain are two snowcats grooming the runs for the morning (yes, there are still runs open in the middle of the summer). That's Cassiopeia in the lower right.   Edge of the Milky Way

I think that bright star near the center is Vega. Although, I could be wrong. My amateur astronomy skills could use some improvement. Also this last image is extra big for all your starry wallpaper needs.

So, did anyone catch the aura this past weekend?

Awesomeness: Galactic Center


See that really bright spot at the top middle? That's our galactic center. Pretty awesome, eh? Despite the mind blowing vastness of space, there is a lot of space stuff (mostly dust) between us and the center of our galaxy. If all that stuff wasn't there, the center would be incredibly bright. You know what's also pretty awesome? This photo was my husband's first attempt at taking a star field photo. Impressive, I know, right? I was too busy enjoying the scenery to muck up my night vision on the attempt myself. I am glad that he decided to go for it and attempt these shots. Excellent work, Andy. :)

Technical Details Aperture Value: f/3.5 Focal Length: 18mm ISO: 400 Shutter Speed Value: 61 sec. Location: Mauna Kea, Hawaii - Sept. 8, 2010

Warm Breeze

Warm Breeze

The weather today is 24°F and with the wind chill it's... well... colder. The good news? It's sunny. :)

While I do love this winter weather, I don't particularly enjoy the cold feet aspect. I like to fend off the cold with a fluffy blanket, some hot tea, and thoughts of Hawaiian palm trees swaying slightly amidst warm tropical breezes.


Technical Details Aperture Value: f/5.3 Focal Length: 46mm Exposure Program: Manual ISO: 200 Shutter Speed Value: 1/2 sec Location: Maui, Hawaii