Wow—what a hard assignment to curate! The Your Shot community pulled out all the stops for the Low Light assignment. I saw lots of really great frames, and getting the submissions down to the final pictures was very difficult. I feel like people really pushed themselves—and their cameras—to see into the night. The pictures just kept coming in and getting better and better.
Editing this story, I learned just how many of you are venturing out after dark to make images. It also gave me an appreciation for what cameras can do. The darkness no longer presents an impenetrable barrier to photographers; it is now an opportunity!
For me, the editing process is pretty straightforward. I work through the images and select anything that makes an emotional connection for me. From those selections, I start to narrow things down to create the story. I was trying to achieve a balance of subjects and themes.
You all covered the world with your photographs—from polar regions to the tropics, from night landscapes to moving religious ceremonies to the underwater realm. I wanted to create a story that would reflect that diversity, but it meant leaving a lot of images behind. For example, there were many (many!) fantastic aurora borealis photos, but I had to whittle them down to just a few.
Shooting in low light has gotten progressively more accessible as digital cameras have advanced. I remember going to Easter Island a number of years ago and having to carry motorized tripod heads to turn the camera with Earth’s rotation in order to shoot clear images of the night sky. Now, digital cameras have become so sensitive to light that I could make the same image without that heavy, specialized equipment.
Photography has always been a technically driven medium. Each advancement in cameras ushers in new capabilities and a new way of seeing. Low light is the newest frontier of imaging, and I think we owe it to ourselves as photographers to embrace what the new cameras can do. So keep heading out and shooting after dark!
Photographer and filmmaker Stephen Alvarez produces stories of global exploration, adventure, and culture. Since 1995, Alvarez has worked with National Geographic magazine to create a number of stories that call on his caving expertise and lighting capabilities, including the discovery of an Incan mummy in Peru, the exploration of the ...