This was the first time when I tried night photography at Nako, Spiti Valley. Normally we do not get clear sky view from Delhi or any nearby place where we live. Nako is on high altitude place so we were getting clear sky view. Nako is situated at 3662 meters above sea level.

It was 09:30 PM in the month of March 2017 at Nako. We, Nakul, Sunny and Jatin, finished our dinner. The temperature was around zero degree Celsius. There were cold winds outside. It was very difficult to stand outside for a long time due to cold weather. When we went outside, we saw a very clear view of stars. Stars were like very close compared to when we see from Delhi.

Our Accommodation at Nako, Spiti

Jatin was having an app on his iPhone which tells the exact location of Milky Galaxy. We were unlucky because Milky Galaxy was just opposite side of the earth. We have to satisfied with the clear view of the shining stars that we were getting that time. We decided to have to photography. We went into the room to pick our gears.

The small accommodation was situated at the entrance of Nako. It was having only two rooms above the DHABA (restaurant). On the back side of the Dhaba, there was a helipad. This helipad is only used during any emergency conditions. It was very close to Nako village surrounded all side by snow-capped mountains.

Snow Capped mountains at Nako

We set our camera’s on helipad for night photography. For night photography one should know how the camera works and some rules of physics. When we take a photo, it all depends on light, camera sensor sensitivity (ISO), shutter speed and aperture. When shutter open, light strike to the camera sensor thru the lens. Based on the light conditions and ISO, we control the shutter speed that how long shutter should open so that only the required amount of light enter the camera. For example, during the daytime, shutter opened for 1/250 second with low sensor sensitivity (ISO 100) could be enough for a good shot. During the night, we have a very low light so we have to open the shutter for a long time from 1 to 30 seconds with ISO from 100 to 6400. As we increase the sensor sensitivity, noise increase on the photo.

One most important point to keep in mind that during the night, since we open the shutter for a long time, so we have to put the camera on the tripod to avoid the camera shaking. Even if we are using the tripod, when we click the shutter release button, camera shakes a little bit which adds blur in the photo. To avoid blur, there are two options. One is to use remote to release the shutter and second are to use 2 or 10-second delay timer for shutter release to avoid shake when pressing the shutter release button.

We all were ready in very cold weather on the helipad. If it is very dark outside, then camera autofocus does not work. There was the same situation with us. In this condition, we have to use manual focus. When using manual focus, it becomes difficult that where to focus. The best way is to find the brightest thing in the frame and try to manual focus. Sometimes it comes with the practice. After 2-3 attempts, I was able to focus on the brightest star and that was the first successful shot.

Nako Village at Spiti- Night View

After the first shot, it came into our mind that let’s try having us one by one in the frame and then try. I set the camera on manual focus on one point and set this to 10-second delay timer shutter release and stand in front of the camera. It worked and we tried multiple shots.

Nako Village night View

Sunny Malik was having Nikon with a good lens which was having an option to focus on infinity and was showing that where it is focusing so it benefited for him. I and Jatin were having Canon lens on which we have to rotate focus ring with some idea that where it is focusing but this comes with practice. It was good learning.

Final Night Shoat at Nako

We thought to continue our session however it was very cold outside and it was planned to wake early in the morning and have to drive from Nako to Delhi which was more than 750 KM. We decided to pack the camera bags and have rest. We went into our rooms where Karan and Anil were already doing rest. We set the alarm for 5:30 AM, put temperature meter outside to record the lowest temperature and had a good sleep.

Here are the tips for night photography.
  • Use a tripod to stabilize the camera.
  • Use remote to release the shutter. If shutter release remote is not available, use the timer to avoid camera shake during pressing shutter release button.
  • If it is completely dark, autofocus may not work so use manual focus to capture a shot.
  • Do not use very high ISO as it may add noise into the photo. So use low ISO with large shutter open time.
  • Shoot in raw format so we can make light adjustments later during post-processing. 

If you have missed my previous blog about Spiti, here you can read LEARNINGS FROM A BAD SITUATION ON SPITI TRIP