SHOOT! The Night Fantastic

Words, Photos & Video: Jacques Marais |


Get your flash out and go light up the night at a world-class event such as the Energizer Night Race! Dark zone shooting is something many photographers battle with, but here’s how to get those killer shots!

SHOOT! The Night Fantastic

Night shooting will test both you and your equipment, but a few ingenuous tricks will ensure a whole stack of creative shots at the end of the evening. To successfully capture the mood of an event, your key goal is to balance any available light with your on-camera flash.


Your first move is to switch your Mode Setting to either Shutter Priority or Manual Mode, so you can effectively control the amount of background detail through longer exposures. Secondly, push up your ISO so you can shoot at a shutter speed of around 1/15th sec. Any source of available light, like the finish area, television lighting, vehicle head lights or urban lighting spills from street lamps will help add detail to an otherwise flat and two-dimensional backdrop.


Energizer's annual Night Race is one event where you can test your night shooting skills to the max. This year, it once again unfolded as a veritable festival of lights, with nearly 4,000 mountain bikers, trail runners and walkers blazing along the trails of the Modderfontein Nature Reserve to reclaim the Jozi night with their colourful head torches.


Image 1: Positive Energy


The Action: A rider blasts across the finish line during the 2013 Energizer Night Race, a phenomenal event presented on the Modderfontein Nature Reserve trails.


The Shot: The amount of available light spilling onto the finish line area makes it a great place to get your money shot. After all, this is the one spot where all the action, emotion and available light come together.


The Technique: Meter off an area maximum light for average aperture, then set f-stop slow enough to enable you to paint with, as you move your camera around.


The Specifications: 1/10 sec @ f2.8; Nikon D800 with 20 mm lens; ISO 400; WB Setting (Auto); off-camera flash from 2 x SB910 units; AE Setting: Under-exposure by
1 stop.


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Image 2: Little Monster’s Ball


The Action: Don’t get so lost within the exhilaration of the racing that you don’t pick up on some of the superb behind-the-scenes shots.


The Shot: This young boy, waiting for Father Christmas to hand out his present, was just one of the many gaily-painted faces capturing the energy of SA’s biggest Night Race.


The Technique: Getting in close allowed me to isolate the subject’s face, while tilting and zooming the flash made sure I got the light in exactly the right place.


The Specifications: 1/60th sec @ f5.6; D600 with 16 mm fish-eye lens; ISO 160; WB Setting: (Auto); AE Setting (-1).


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Image 3: Bright up the Night


The Action: The mountain bike segment of the exhilarating Energizer Night Race offers kick-ass shots, as it starts early enough for you to still utilise some available light.


The Shot: Although all the daylight was gone by the time I shot this image, the branding and tungsten lighting at the bridge crossing made for fab lighting opportunities.


The Technique: Again, I used two SB-910 units to provide ample off-camera light to ensure pin-sharp action, with a slow exposure creating a dynamic background blur.


The Specifications: 1/6 sec @ f2.8; D800 with 20 mm lens; ISO 250; WB Setting (Auto); AE Setting: Under-exposure by 1.


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Issue 22 Feb'13
Jacques Marais