Equipment for Night Photography - After Midnight Landscapes
  • Equipment for Night Photography

Mobius Arch Panorama

I discuss the technique of Low Level Landscape Lighting (LLL or LLLL) in detail in a separate post.  First, let's talk about the lights and equipment.  Remember, you are exposing for starlight, and you do not need much light. You only need to match the intensity of starlight.


I have used the Neewer CN 160 and the F&V Z96 Light Panels, among others. The Neewer 160 is frequently to bright for small spaces, and I use it less, unless the area of interest is large. They are good for big areas.  I have two of the F&V Z96s and use them a lot, but many times even they too bright, even on the lowest setting, especially if you are close to the area of interest. So, to make them dimmer, I cover them or drape them with a white handkerchief or white napkin, cloth or paper. Both work, but I mostly use a white handkerchief. Many times I fold it in two or double it up to dampen down the light even more. I always use the warming filter.


The light panels I use: 


F&V HDV-Z96 II LED     

F & V Lighting Z96 UltraColor LED Video Light


NEEWER 160 LED CN-160 Dimmable Light Panel


Recently I purchased a dimmable LED light panel with adjustable or variable color temperature. I have not used this in the field yet. It would be wonderful to be able to adjust the light temperature to the subject. 


Genaray LED-6200T 144 LED Variable-Color On-Camera Light


With the light panels I have found that there is some blue light leak around the edge of the warming filters . This looks bad if you have the light in an arch for example. You can get a combination of blue and yellow light. To fix this I tape around the edges with black gaffers tape. $4 on Amazon.


Gaffers Tape


I have found that smaller lights are very useful. I now carry two F&V Z 96 and two smaller lights that have 36 LEDs. They are smaller and lighter and very good. They are dimmable and come with a warming filter. $19.50 on Amazon:


Neewer CN-LUX360 5400K Dimmable 36 LED Light Panel


I tape the edges on this also. If you want to convert any blue LED to a warmer temperature light color you can make your own warming filter. I use Roscoe theatrical gel. It comes in various colors and you can mix and match to get the color you want. It comes in sheets of 20 X 24 inches, and costs about $6-8 on Amazon or B&H. Just cut out a piece and cover your light with it. Here are some that I use:


Rosco Theatrical Gel (1)


Rosco Theatrical Gel (2)


Rosco Theatrical Gel (3)


For small areas I use use reflected light from a halogen xenon hand held spotlight. I reflect it off of sometime off to the side at 45-60 degrees. Halogen lights have a nice warm color. Reflecting the light diffuses the light, and if you can make the light come from the side, then you will create shadows and depth and a more 3D effect. If you shine the light on the foreground from the camera position the scene will look flat and less interesting. Get all of your lights off to the side somehow. This can be difficult in rough terrain, but at least try, This is the Li-ion halogen light I use. $24 on Amazon:


Performance Tool Lithium Halogen Light


Another choice.  Black & Decker LEDLIB Lithium Ion LED Spotlight


It is rechargeable. On continuous use it only lasts about 12 minutes, but I only use it for about 6-8 seconds for each photo, so it lasts for many photos. It usually lasts the whole night. Occasionally it runs out. Use a snoot on the light. This prevents side scatter and makes the light more controllable. A snoot is a dark tube around the barrel and source of the light. Examples:


Snoot - Click "Images" for Examples


Just make your own. I have used empty cereal boxes, rolled up plastic dinner place mats, etc. I now use black rubbery material that I got at a fabric store. It is better if the snoot is black or a neutral color. Some people like a more neutral light.


If you want a neutral light you can use the Hi CR LED lights, or CREE LED's.These have a much more neutral light than a typical blue light LED, less blue.  I use this one:


Eagle Tac CREE or Hi CR LED Flashlight


It is about $62 on Amazon. It is rechargeable, lasts a long the, and is incredibly bright. Also use a snoot on this light. Here is a very nice package of 5 small but bright CREE LEDs that I find very useful ($18 USD on Amazon):


Mikafen CREE Flashlights


If I do not have to hike very far I use a 10 foot or 3 meter tripod stand for lighting. It is very light and it gets the lights well off the ground and creates less shadows from rocks and bushes on the ground. $57 USD on amazon. It is really easy to carry.


10 Foot (3m) Impact Air Cushioned Light Stand


I also use very small, cheap, lightweight tripods for lights. These are easy to pack for hiking. I carry 2.  Here are some choices: Cheap, light 50 inch tripod,  $16 on Amazon:


AmazonBasics 50-Inch Lightweight Tripod with Bag


Here is a 42" tripod that works better in my opinion. It is a little more sturdy, and still pretty light and compact. $20 on Amazon:


Polaroid 42" Travel Tripod


I have had these fall over in the wind at times.  I have never lost a light to breakage though, but maybe I have been lucky. They do blow over, but that is the result of them being so lightweight. The higher the better. You need to get the lights off the ground or they will create prominent ground shadows. I also try to avoid any large rocks that may cast shadows on the area of interest. I try to place the tripod on a big rock if possible to elevate it further. If I can possibly carry the 10 light stand then I take it along.  


I usually carry 2 F&V Z96 lights, 2 of the smaller 36 LED lights, the high CR flashlight, my Halogen hand held spotlight, and a couple of headlights, and extra batteries. I carry my camera, tripod, and head, along with the leveling head. I carry 2 small tripods for the lights. I carry a remote shutter release device, and an Intervalometer. I have never had the LED light panels run out down the batteries in one night. If I know I am going to photograph something big, then I take the larger 160 LED light panel instead of one of the Z96 light panels. I carry a number of white handkerchiefs to cover the front of the lights if necessary. (Sometimes I double up or triple up the handkerchiefs). If thee hike is not too far I carry the 10 foot (3m) light stand. I use a carbon fiber tripod for the camera. 


I also carry a small canister of  Mace or Pepper Spray,  and a gas powered Boat Horn. These look like a spray can with a cone on top. It is a gas powered horn that is incredible loud, and hopefully it will help scare off any wildlife that might be dangerous. I have not had to use this yet.  You can get larger sizes. Examples on Amazon, $5-20 :


Falcon Safety Super Sound Horn


Shoreline Marine Air Horn


I wear tall boots, 8" above the ankle, and watch for snakes.


I use a Nikon  D810A camera. I carry 3 lens. For Nikon -  Nikon 14-24 mm f/2.8 , Rokinon  24 mm f/1.4, and  Samyang 12 mm f/2.8 Fisheye. I recently got a Rokinon 20 mm f/!.8 lens that I will try out this spring. If I have to hike long distances I will just carry the 14-24 mm and the 24 f/1.4 lens. I carry no filters. If I have not mentioned it already, take all filters off of your lens at night.  


This amount of equipment is vey manageable, even for hikes of several several miles of kms. It probably weight about 25 lbs. (11.5 k).


Examples of Specific Lights and Filters:

Remember less is generally better. The more a light can be dimmed, the more useful it can be. These are all dimmable, and useful for LLL.


LED Light Panels: (These come with Warming Filters)

F&V HDV-Z96 II LED

F & V Lighting Z96 UltraColor LED Video Light

NEEWER 160 LED CN-160 Dimmable Light Panel Light


Panels with Adjustable Color Temperature:

Genaray LED-6200T 144 LED Variable-Color On-Camera Light (currently testing this one)

Cineroid L10-BC 18W On-Camera Variable Color Temperature LED


Smaller Light Panel: (Comes with a Warming Filter)

Neewer CN-Lux360 Dimmable 36 LED Light Panel


Omnidirection Lights:

Lighthouse Mini Lantern from Goal Zero (warm light and adjustable from 7 to 210 lumens)

Lighthouse Micro USB Rechargeable Lantern from Goal Zero (small, warm light, adjustable from 7 to 170 lumens, waterproof)

CREE 40426 110 Lumens Bright Light CREE XLamp Warm White (warm light, max 110 lumens, but may need several layers of white fabric to damp down the intensity even on low)

Ozark Trail Lantern (inexpensive but moderately bright, 25 to 75 lumens, needs a warming filter, and usually needs a a couple layers of cloth to damp the light intensity down even on low)


Theatrical Gell for Warming Filters: (listed from the most warming to the least warming)

Rosco Roscolux Gallo Gold

Rosco E-Colour #204 Full CT Orange

Rosco E-Colour #205 1/2 CT Orange


Also of Interest: (testing)

Lume Cube 1500 Lumen Light (Waterproof, controllable manually or by Bluetooth app, very cool light so you may need a warming filter, very bright so you may need damping of the light)


Low Level Lighting (LLL) is Further Discussed here:

Low Level Landscape Lighting


Additional References:

Omnidirectional Lighting  by  Royce Bair

Milky Way Nightscapes - ebook by Royce Bair with descriptions of Landscape Lighting TechniquesInstagram Feed for Low Level Lighting



 Cheers, Wayne Pinkston  ©2017



Bisti Badlands Panorama, North
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