Continued from The Magic of Twilight – Part I .
After civil twilight in the evening (and before it in the morning) is a period known as nautical twilight. This stage of twilight occurs from the time the sun is 6 to 12 degrees below the horizon. This can be another great time to capture images. You can get unique shots that convey the brief moment in time between the dark of night and the light of day.
During nautical twilight, it will start to become too dark to use your camera’s exposure meter. You’ll need to switch to manual exposure on your camera. You should use the widest aperture you can, while still getting everything in focus. You’ll need to use longer and longer exposures (up to about 30 seconds) and start raising the ISO to properly expose your shot and get data extending to the right side of your histogram.
It will start to look quite dark to the naked eye during nautical twilight. However, your camera can often still capture some golden light hitting the landscape. You’ll usually get the best light on the land if you are facing away from the spot where the sun set or where it is about to rise. If, on the other hand, you face toward the direction of the sun, you can often get good colors in the sky just above the horizon. If there was a very colorful sunset, some of the color on the clouds may last until nautical twilight.
During the beginning of nautical twilight in the evening (or the end of it in the morning), it will often be light enough to get a good exposure of both the land and the sky with a single shot. As the light fades, though, you’ll likely need to combine two exposures to get a good quality image. You can take a longer exposure for the land and a shorter exposure for the sky and combine them in post-processing. The techniques for doing this are beyond the scope of this article, but I discuss this in detail in my night photography guide and post-processing videos.
Your camera will be able to capture quite a few stars during nautical twilight. However, it won’t be dark enough to capture very dramatic images of the Milky Way. You’ll need to shoot during astronomical twilight or during the dark of night to capture these images. I will discuss shooting during astronomical twilight in the next article.