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Assignment

After Midnight

This assignment ran from Jun 9 to Jun 30, 2014.

For this assignment we're using the lyrics from J.J. Cale’s song “After Midnight” as inspiration. If you don’t know the song you might want to listen to Eric Clapton’s famous cover from the 1970s. The lyrics begin, “After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out.”

So how are you gonna let it all hang out? We’ve spent many a midnight hour making pictures—in fact, the night is such an amazing time to photograph: It's magical, mysterious, and metaphorical, whether by moonlight, ambient city light, or any light you find yourself in after the clock strikes midnight.

Ready to take on this challenge? June is a great month to do it, and the dates of this assignment include the full moon and a new moon. For those of you way up in the Northern Hemisphere you’ll have the midnight sun to work with. And for those of you way down south, who knows, maybe an amazing display of the aurora australis? For everyone else, use your imagination and your creativity to show us what “after midnight” means to you. More

Curated by:

Diane Cook and Len Jenshel
National Geographic Photographers
Assignment Status
  • Open

  • Closed

  • Published

Published Jul 11, 2014.
Thank you for your contributions!

Finish Big

Posted jun 24, 2014

Wow! Your Shot members, this assignment is getting some big time attention. Your photos caught the eye of National Geographic’s CEO Gary Knell, who tweeted this yesterday:

He is absolutely right. The submissions are amazing, so we retweeted his comment. Then the folks at National Geographic Creative retweeted our tweet.  So now there are thousands of important eyes taking a look at our assignment.  We have six days left to go (the assignment ends June 30, Noon EDT), so let’s go for broke and give all our viewers even more smashing photos to talk about. 

We love that you are taking risks, and going outside of your comfort zone. Here’s a couple of things we would like you to think about when you make your images.  Embrace the night. Pay careful attention to your exposure. Several of the photos are so bright that they are appear to be taken during the day. If you need to, you can also use slight toning in your editing software to bring down the brightness, but beware of over-processing.

Think about framing and make sure the edges of your frame adds to the image, and doesn’t distract from the elements within the frame. On that note, do make sure the elements within the image help create a visual pathway that draws the viewer into the photograph.  The photographer Robert Adams, in speaking about where to place the four edges of the frame wrote, “a tension so exact, that it is peace”.

The last question you need to ask yourself after you have made your best frame is this, “Now, how can I make this picture even better?”       

We can’t wait to see the next round of submissions!

Two More Uploads

Posted jun 17, 2014

From the back and forth discussions it looks like it is time for another update.  We thought it might be helpful to comment on some of the archival images, just so all would get a sense of what we like, or maybe you might be inspired by some of your fellow photographer’s work. We want this assignment to be fun, challenging and successful for Your Shot members. 

Based on our last update, we’re hoping that more of you will be submitting NEW images. For this reason, we have decided to increase the uploads for this assignment from three to five. For those of you who have already submitted archival images, you will get to submit TWO additional new images. However, we are sticking to all other rules; after midnight through 4:00AM with images made between June 9, 2014 and June 30, 2014.  For those of you shooting film, please mark the date and time in your caption. 

One other thing to mention here, the Your Shot editors may check with individual photographers regarding the EXIF data prior to publishing the story.

There is just under two weeks left to submit images, so go make some great photographs!  We’re looking forward to seeing what you submit.

How to Shoot at Night

Posted jun 13, 2014

We’re getting the sense that this time stamp issue is a distraction from all of you getting out there and making NEW pictures.  Initially we put that stipulation in, because on our assignments we absolutely must change our time stamp within the camera settings in every time zone we photograph in – our photo editors require us to do so.  They want to know with absolute certainty at what hour and on what day pictures were taken. This information or metadata comes with all digital photos and the time stamp is referred to in the data that follows the photo from camera to your digital device.  We’re not asking for a time stamp on the actual image. However, it is essential that you do not strip out the data so we can confirm the time.

We want to make this a true assignment in the realest sense of the word when it comes to editorial photography  Being on assignment is one of the hardest, but most rewarding experiences because we are constantly creating and challenging ourselves to make an image better than the last. Here is where we’re going to get tough.  We want to see you all making new pictures. This isn’t an assignment to show us what you have in your archive.  If night photography isn’t your thing, this is your chance to learn and grow.  Get out of your comfort zone; try something new.  That’s how we all grow creatively as photographers. We’re giving you all wide latitude on subject matter, so now go have some fun.

A lot of our work in the field involves problem solving and some of you have mentioned that where you live is too dark to photograph. Here is something we worked out while on assignment for our “Night Gardens” story for National Geographic magazine.  We call it our exposure “cheat sheet,” and we are happy to share it with you.  Let’s say you are in a really dark area and you don’t know what your exposure needs to be (so dark that the camera's metering system is of no help).  You are, of course, on a tripod, so you would like to keep the ISO below 800 so you don't get too much grain).  Or maybe you’re not even sure the picture is going to be good enough to warrant standing around for a long exposure (we did a three-hour exposure for one picture in France for our “Night Gardens” assignment).  We devised this chart to help us compute our exposure quickly and accurately . A larger version is attached below, so you can print it out.

Here is how it works (and this is for our camera, a Nikon D800, so you will have to make the exact translations to your camera).

1) Put your camera on a tripod and attach a cable release. 

2) As always, find your best frame. You can use a flashlight to light the scene as a guide. You can choose to either use the flashlight to “paint” the scene, or use natural light for the real exposure.

3) Focus: Use a flashlight to direct a beam on what is most important to your picture (called “critical focus”). You can magnify your image on the LCD screen, or, even better, we use a magnifier for our LCD screen. This is the best $79 you will ever spend because it also works wonders when it's bright and sunny. Find it here

4) Set your "mode" setting to "A" (aperture).

5) Bump your ISO to 3200.

6) Open your aperture to f/4.  

7) Make a picture: Let the auto exposure help you get close on your exposure. If the exposure is not to your liking, make an adjustment and make another picture. Continue until you like the exposure and the histogram is in the correct position. Important tip: Your eyes adjust to the darkness, and so what might look like a good exposure at the moment will appear quite dark when you see it later on your monitor. We often change the LCD brightness in the menu to minus one.

8) Now, use the cheat sheet chart to make the correct adjustment to the final ISO and aperture you prefer for the picture. For example, if the ISO 3200 + f/4 exposure came out to be 2 seconds, and let’s say you want your final exposure to be f/11 at ISO 400, the chart gives you a “6," which means a factor of “6 stops.” So what does that 6 mean? You do NOT multiply your 2 seconds by 6 to get 12 seconds—that would be way wrong. Instead you double the exposure six times. So your 2 seconds exposure doubled six times becomes 128 seconds. Simplified: 2 seconds x 2 = 4 seconds (first doubling); 4 x 2 = 8 (second doubling); 8 x 2 = 16 (third doubling); 16 x 2 = 32 (fourth doubling); 32 x 2 = 64 (fifth doubling); 64 x 2 = 128 (sixth doubling). So, in this example, 128 seconds would be your correct exposure, based on your cheat sheet test exposure.  

9) Now, change the ISO on your camera to the new desired setting.

10) Super important: you need to change the mode to “M” (manual) because most DSLRs will only go to a 30-second exposure maximum—and we already know that we need 128 seconds for this exposure.

11) Now that you are in manual, adjust your aperture to the new desired setting.

12) Adjust your shutter speed to “B” (bulb) if your desired exposure is over 30 seconds.

13) Get out your trusty timer (we use our iPhone for a timer). Set it for the cheat sheet exposure.

14) Press down your cable release—and if you have a lock on your release, you are fortunate, otherwise you will have to keep the release depressed for the full amount of time. 

15) When you're done, you should see your picture with the same exposure as the test, provided the moon did not go behind a cloud and your original test was with the moon (or someone didn’t shut a light off).

16) We also highly recommend setting your noise reduction setting in your menus to “on.” This will get rid of digital noise but will double your waiting time. What that means is that after your 128-second exposure, you will hear the shutter close (exposure over), but the camera needs another 128 seconds to process (you can’t use your camera for anything else). When it is done processing, you will then see your image on the LCD screen, as usual. 

17) When it comes up on the LCD screen, use a loop or magnifier to check the exposure and sharpness. Make an adjustment if need be.

18) Then do what we do: Assess the image and make a better picture.

We realize this is a lot to take in, so use it at your discretion. We want you to succeed and become a better photographer. You still have two and a half weeks left. Good luck and good night!

Stay Up Late

Posted jun 9, 2014

Wherever you find yourself, you'll have lots of interesting nocturnal potential. We won’t limit this Your Shot assignment to only natural landscapes—it’s wide open, except for one restriction: Your time stamp on your images should be made within four hours after midnight.

So when it’s all done …

We're gonna cause talk and suspicion
Give an exhibition
Find out what it is all about
After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out
After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out

Diane Cook and Len Jenshel

Diane Cook and Len Jenshel

National Geographic Photographers
Diane Cook and Len Jenshel are two of America's foremost landscape photographers, exploring issues of beauty, boundary, culture, and the control of nature. They were married in 1983 and began collaborating in 1990. They have worked for many magazines, published numerous books, and are the recipients of many prestigious awards and grants. Their work has been exhibited internationally in one-person shows and is represented in over a hundred major collections worldwide. They are currently contributing photographers to National Geographic, covering landscape and the environment. Recent stories have covered green roofs, New York's High Line, night gardens, and tumbleweeds.
256 comments
Irene Motion
Irene Motion

What a great assignment fabulous photos congrats to all that took part and especially to those who were published. This sleepyheads didn't manage to stay up past midnight I salute all that did the photos are worth the late night!

Sacha Layos
Sacha Layos

I agree with Svenn Dvergastein. I live in Fairbanks, Alaska and took my photo shortly after midnight. At summer solstice, it actually DOES still look like day here so please take that into consideration--in fact, I think that factor enhances the uniqueness of my particular submission so I hope you are also looking at the geographic location of the photograph. Thanks for the opportunity!

Svenn Dvergastein
Svenn Dvergastein

One must take into consideration that in the northern hemisphere, and especially far up north, the night sky will be very light this time of year. This should not be exclusionary in terms of what is considered a night picture.

vishal joshi
vishal joshi

I have really got nocturnal after this assignment...thanks NG.....you once again helped to explore a less tapped potential of photography by me.

Debi McRae
Debi McRae

My computer crashed a week ago. Don't know what the future holds for me here. :(

Michael Wiejowski
Michael Wiejowski

Fantastic assignment, looking forward to seeing some amazing photographs!

Tiwari Brijesh
Tiwari Brijesh

Dear sir,

Can i send photograph today ..... is it possible any luck ?

Pawan Singh
Pawan Singh

thanks national geographic for giving us all the opportunity to  show our photos on such a big platform. 


margaret smith
margaret smith

Just wanted to thank National Geographic and the Editors, Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, for coming up with this Assignment.  I have been encouraged to go out and about during the early hours to look for photo opportunities.

I am now totally hooked on trying to photograph stars.  It has brought a whole new interest to me and I have thoroughly enjoyed taking part.  Good luck to everybody :-)

Cat C.
Cat C.

So only photos taken between the dates of June 9 - June 30, 2014 are allowed to be entered?

Linda Wax
Linda Wax

Oops. The photo I referred to is called 'Night Catch'..

IncIdently It has taken me forever to leave thIs tIny post because it is beyond incredibly slow. Entire box not working...

Linda Wax
Linda Wax

Also having tech issues.

Tallies are not correct on my favorites..

Comments are not showing up when I know they are there.

So SometimeS my commentS get eraSed and I have to leave them 3 timeS to get it to register.

For example oF this comment has taken over 15 minutes to leave because your server it will only accept a couple letters a minute.

I dont have the patience to fix typos.

Not kidding about the fifteen minutes...

Hopefully it will take my comment on only one try.

Thanks.

J. Grinyar
J. Grinyar

What I have learned from this assignment -


1) I CAN actually manually set quite a few features that I never attempted before for at night/sky photos. It is a good reminder that these things take time, and it is an artistry.


2) It is HARD to fit into time constraints, when you factor in weather, opportunities, sleep deprivation etc.. Hired National Geo Photographers on assignments earn every stinkin' dime in my book!


3) Even though I rewarded myself each time a glass of wine after 4 am, I would actually LOOK FORWARD to more time constraints/limits set on upcoming assignments. This assignment, and its editors Diane Cook & Len Jenshel, have stretched my amateur Photography skills into attempting something more challenging then just pictures of cats. Not that theres anything wrong with pictures of cats...but if I ever really wanted to take my photography to the next level, these are the type of assignments that would help me get there.


4) glasses of white wine at 4 am are good choices when you almost get hit in the head by a bat flying around your lighting system...nevermind the pack of coyotes baying...and the threat of rattlesnakes underfoot...and did I mention that the neighbor rancher saw a bear a mile off the other day? Good thing I have to get up in TWO HOURS...


This was not only challenging, but it stretched me.  Thank you Diane Cook and Len Jenshel for taking it to the next step in this assignment, and believing that we would rise to the occasion - in looking at the editors favorites, and the photos in general that fit the criteria, there is a wonderful contrast of so many things that represent "after midnight!"  BRAVO & Brava everyone!

Veronica Craft
Veronica Craft

Unfortunately I don't have any photos "right after" midnight. :(


So... Good luck to all! Beautiful photos, are being submitted!

Linda Wax
Linda Wax

Thank you for having the After Midnight photo contest. It opened for me an incredible dimension of light, color and contrast I think I may never have discovered.

Christopher Haslett
Christopher Haslett

I'm seeing another technical issue. For at least the past day, if someone gives me a favorite, their name isn't added on the picture and the total doesn't change. But I still get the notification in my inbox.


I wish NatGeo had kept the small tab that lets you click to report a technical problem. Apart from writing here (probably not the best place) is there a better way to bring such problems to their attention?

Ian Labuschagne
Ian Labuschagne

any one know when the new Assignment is coming out? I am also having trouble on attaching a photo on the discussion board the attachment clip is not there and is has not been there for a while.


Keith Marsh
Keith Marsh

One problem with your example of shooting the moon at ISO 400 @ f11 for 128 seconds. Unless you have a tracking device, the moon and stars are going to move. I limit my night exposures to 30 seconds.

Navaneetharaj
Navaneetharaj

I'm very new to this PHOTOGRAPHY world (1 Year) & Now i find one best way that's NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (Your Shot)......Every Day i'm exited with lots of friends supporting / encouraging my PHOTOGRAPHS (WORLD WIDE)......BIG THANKS TO MY National Geographic FRIENDS & NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC......:)

Toni Taylor
Toni Taylor

I'm a bit confused by the rules on this one.  Do all the submissions have to be photos taken after June9th and all have to be taken between midnight and 4am.  I'm seeing a lot of them that were taken before June 9th.  If those will be considered.. I have more I could enter.  I have some nice ones (at least I rather like them) that were taken well after dark in the winter but the time was only 9:00pm.  As it is.. here is my one entry so far that was taken within the time/date requirements:  http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/3916515/

Good luck to everyone!  :)

Dail Singleton
Dail Singleton

I hope this does not start a trend where all assignment photos must be taken within the dates when the assignment is open.  I am strictly an amateur photographer and do not have the time to devote to an assignment like a professional.

K. Schenke
K. Schenke

I'm actually having some problems with my account:

1) I'm not able to set the categories correctly, because the fields are completely mixed up and I'm always getting an error message when I'm trying to save my changes.


2) Every time I like a photo from the other members, the heart gets yellow first, but than the favorite disappears after a while :(


Anyone having the same problems?

Stephen John Mefford
Stephen John Mefford moderator expert

@Linda Wax Hi Linda - I just sent you an email from our support site requesting some additional information so that we can figure out what's going on. 

Stephen John Mefford
Stephen John Mefford moderator expert

@Christopher Haslett Hi Christopher - thanks for letting us know about this -- we'll take a look. You can click on the "help" link at the top of every page to access our help site and to contact us (the link is just below the "my photos" button).

Linda B.
Linda B.

@Ian Labuschagne I am hoping for a new assignment, too, Ian.  To be honest, I have not submitted much for the last three and I am hoping for something new that will inspire me.

Bea B.
Bea B.

@Keith Marsh I think the article explaining the exposure was a little misleading unless you seen the images that are in the reference article. When I shoot at night, I do a lot of research regarding the moon phase and weather at the location I want to shoot at. I do not shoot the stars or much night shooting unless there is NO moon. I also watch for extreme temperature fluctuations and humidity. You also have to watch for light pollution. If you are going to shoot the moon, expose the moon and only the mood, which you will find will be a fast shutterspeed. I was planning on my last night shoot I just did for a while (1yr), since had to wait for all possible elements to line up then go out on a hope and prayer that everything comes together. I did everything from basic night shots(DSLR and cell phone), light painting and 1 hr exposures. And it just so happened to fall in time for this assignment. Good luck and it is great that people are working on this assignment.

Christopher Haslett
Christopher Haslett

@Keith Marsh The moon is a very bright subject. I'm having trouble imagining what the result would be with a 128 sec exposure. I've shot the moon at auto settings and if I remember correctly the exposure was 1/50 sec or something like that. But then it was the centerpiece of the frame and not a small detail.

Bea B.
Bea B.

@Dail Singleton I too am an amateur photographer, work full time and have a family (and I am no spring chicken). I don't think they do this to burden you, I think when they put time lines down it is to give you something to shoot, ideas basically. I take assignments as go out and shoot a topic, not to go through archives (like what you would do for competitions). I don't mean to sound defensive or argumentative, but what I have experienced on other sites and in photoclubs is that people, especially amateurs, could use an idea of what to shoot. In my humble opinion, they should all be like this. Sure it is limiting at times and some great work missed, but it gives you something to shoot (when you can). 

M Loranger
M Loranger

If you are using an Ipad, it takes time for the heart to react. If you happen to tap it a second time it will first go yellow than will change again.

Christopher Haslett
Christopher Haslett

@Kai Schenke It seems there could be a few technical issues at NatGeo's end. I'm sure they'll be resolved soon. Today I am being forced to sign in every few minutes, which is not normal.


Re your first problem, that could be a browser rendering issue. Is your browser up to date?

Joydeep D.
Joydeep D.

@Sacha Layos @Svenn Dvergastein If you will check the Editors' favorites you may see that the Editors like that "natural event" within the range of the assignment. Actually they even mentioned in their assignment about this type of photography: "For those of you way up in the Northern Hemisphere you’ll have the midnight sun to work with. And for those of you way down south, who knows, maybe an amazing display of the aurora australis?"

Linda Wax
Linda Wax

Thank you Stephen. How considerate.

I am working on responding to the email.

This comment box seems to be working now. Assuming this will post.

Not sure if anyone else had the problem yesterday .

Basically the open photo would show me I had a few favorites when I had already looked at dozens of likes in my gallery.

For example my photo 'Night Watch', (not in this contest), said I had 3 hearts when at the time I had already seen about 35+.

It seems as if it is more aligned today, though I haven't actually confirmed that.

Thank you for your help.

Linda

Kaj Winther
Kaj Winther

@Linda B. @Ian Labuschagne  I haven't submitted anything either, even though I think the assignment is good. The thing is, I had nothing in my library that fitted the assignment and I haven't found the time for any new shootings. I'm looking forward for the story and a new fresh assignment.

Keith Marsh
Keith Marsh

@Christopher Haslett @Keith Marsh If I am shooting the moon and want it prominent in the photo with good exposure, I use the "Sunny 16 Rule".  f16 at 1/ISO sec.  At !SO 200, It would be 1/200 sec.

K. Schenke
K. Schenke

@M Loranger Thanks for your help, it's the same on PC with different browsers. But it seems as if I'm not the only one with that kind of problems...

K. Schenke
K. Schenke

Thank you very much, Christopher. I think my browser is up to date, but I'll check it. Have a nice evening!

Linda B.
Linda B.

@Linda Wax Stephen is wonderful about helping with tech issues.  He helped me too.


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