Wadi Rum Desert. I love it. Simply. I could call it the 8th natural wonder of the world. Ever since coming back from my trip to South Africa, I’ve become much more of an outdoors kind of person than I have ever been. This year alone I went to Wadi Rum 6 times and I still plan to go more again before the summer ends. The reason I started this night-time / long exposure series is because I felt I needed to challenge myself with a new genre of photography that I have not yet gotten into.
I had all the tools and camera accessories necessary for it, I read tutorials and articles and seen a lot of star-trail photography online that one day, when my friends decided to camp in Wadi Rum, I jumped at the opportunity. This blog will shed a little light on the techniques I used to achieve these results; however, I am by no means an expert in this and still consider myself a beginner in the field of long-exposure photography. I do plan on getting better at it and taking more night-time shots in different areas around Jordan.
First thing you would need is a mid-range SLR with a Bulb mode. Even though you can use almost any camera but shooting in RAW format and having a Bulb Mode (which comes right after the Manual mode) is best. A sturdy, solid tripod, because a light-weight one might shift or shake from the wind or any passing car rumble and will blur the image. And the most important of all is a remote control. The reason you need a remote control and the Bulb mode is because this will allow you to lock the shutter button for hours. 98% of consumer cameras will only open for thirty seconds at a time. Now you can get the stars to show as dots (as in the bottom two images of this post), that time is not enough to get long trails. By locking the shutter on the remote into place, you can leave it and come back 2, 3 or even 5 hours later while the sensor keeps recording light.
When you do this, you need to keep your ISO at 100 or 200 maximum; anything higher and you might over-expose the image. And finally, your aperture should be between f/11 or f/22 to get everything sharp.
Now the tricky part: Since it’s very dark and there’s no light except the stars, you’re going to notice that it’s very hard to focus on the anything, so you’re going to have to do this manually. Most Canon, Nikon and Sony lenses have a small “Infinity” symbol; you need to align the little autofocus dash with that symbol so as to get the camera to focus into “infinity” basically. And that’s it.
Do this a few times and you will start to understand how it works. It might be a bit frustrating for some because you need a lot of patience, and even after waiting for an hour or two, you might realize the focus wasn’t 100% sharp so you need to do it again. You can spend all night up and not get one single good image. But that’s what I love about it; you need to be very technically-detailed and meticulous to get that one amazing image. Hopefully I’ll have an entire series of nighttime images from all around Jordan to display in an exhibition, inshallah.
Written By : Bashar Alaeddin