Intern: I would like to follow in your footsteps to become an executive like you. What is the most important thing I need to learn?
Executive: That’s easy, do not make mistakes!
Intern: But how do I learn not to make mistakes??
Executive: You learn best how to NOT make mistakes by learning from the mistakes you do make. Also pay attention to the mistakes others make. You won’t have enough time to make all those mistakes yourself!
So what are the most common foibles that you hopefully won’t have to make yourself when shooting at night?
- Failing to turn off AutoFocus. Unfortunately at night autofocus is usually not a help as many cameras will seek focus and not finding it, refuse to take a photo. Or just as bad, will hunt for focus, and settle on something that is way out of focus for each shot. In the same league: forgetting to check focus!
- Forgetting to format the Memory Card. You’ve got autofocus off, and you’re really excited about that timelapse or star trail so you get your intervalometer all set and start. Whoops. That card is nearly full so instead of hours of great stuff you’ll get minutes and a full card. It is best to format the card in camera to avoid possible problems if the card was formatted on a computer or in a different camera.
- Omitting a check for tripod stability. Uh oh. If you blow this one, it might mean your camera falls over and smashes against the rocks. We’ve been horrified to witness such a spectacle on more than one occasion. Or about as bad: your camera waves in the breeze and gives continuously fuzzy results. Step away from that tripod and look from different angles. Is the center column vertical? If you push in different directions does the tripod move? Did you forget to fully tighten the leg locks? Center column lock? Head? Check again, just in case! Steven snapped a lens in half because his leg lock wasn’t snug and the camera simply collapsed in the direction of the unlocked leg.
- Neglecting to start the intervalometer. If you’re using an intervalometer it’s not difficult to press the start button and walk away only to discover you really didn’t press the start button OR the intervalometer was locked in OFF mode so just completely ignored what you wanted to do.
- Wrong settings. It’s easy to do, you spent the afternoon getting perfectly framed milky-smooth waterfalls. Now it’s night time and you set your exposure to 30 seconds, but you left your aperture at f/16 and your ISO at 50! Ooops. Or you just took that super high ISO test shot … and in your eagerness to catch some meteors you leave the ISO in the stratosphere.
You’ll notice we didn’t mention:
- Failing to take the lens cap off.
- Forgetting to charge the battery.
- Failing to bring memory cards with you.
- Leaving the quick release plate at home.
- Toting your camera bag up a mountain while your camera remains in your car.
- Leaving the polarizer on…
We’ve done all of the above. You might find our “Stackers Checklist” helpful to avoid these pitfalls and many more. Many of our students carry laminated copies with them.
What was your most embarrassing or frustrating camera faux pas?