A Night Enjoying Garden Lights

Author:  Jeff Insel

Light flower in red

Recently I went to the Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) to check out the Luminaries and the Bruce Munro exhibit. It was definitely well worth it. I really wanted to work on some night photography in the garden and incorporate the new exhibits. The Munro exhibits range from intriguing patterns made from recycled water bottles with LED lights strung through them to strands of lights strewn throughout the garden and across the mountain that overlooks the DBG.

Changing colors bulbs & lines

With my trusty tripod in hand, which is a necessity for long exposures I set out into the garden under the night skies. After some initial test shots with my ISO at 800 I decided to switch to ISO 400 and use longer exposures.The trick is trying to use the right combination of camera settings to get the brilliance of the various colors at night. I shoot with a Sony A65 and used my 18-70mm lens.

Different lights up the mtn

During the evening I also experimented with dialing out the zoom on some shots to get the “exploding” light effect which tends to yield some fun photos. On those shots my shutter settings varied from 4-6 seconds while dialing out the zoom, with my exposure at f4.0 to f5.6. This is a great environment for practicing your techniques and getting creative with your style.

Lights jump off the mtn

If you want to go, the Bruce Munro Sonoran Light exhibit will be at the Desert Botanical Gardens until May 8th. Visit www.dbg.org/munro for specific hours and dates. Tickets are free for members and $25 for the general public (night only) or $30 for day/night pass.

So get out and give it a try. You’ll be glad you did.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.