In game reserves where night drives are permitted, a spotlight is a useful photographic accessory, especially in the digital age. With modern cameras, sensors can utilize the light of the spotlight and produce mind-boggling results.
When night falls, cameras fail. Even when using a spotlight, most cameras will not be able to focus, never mind capture an image, in the poor light. So if you intend to photograph during the night, with the light of a spotlight, make sure that you use a good flash to light up the subject. Concentrate on subjects close by, as a standard flash will not reach very far. Be careful of auto focus, as the camera will not easily be able to focus on the subject. If your camera has a manual focus setting, use it.
The only way to photograph with a spotlight at night is if you have a fast lens, i.e. f/2.8 or f/4. A slower lens will not let enough light through to the sensor, resulting in a too slow shutter speed. A slower lens will also not focus effectively in the light of a spotlight. Arguably, the best lens for night-time spotlight photography from a game drive vehicle is a 70-200mm f/2.8. Be careful, though, not to shine the spotlight directly into the eyes of certain species because this can cause damage to their eyes.
When using a spotlight, notice the difference in light color between the spotlight and normal light. A spotlight is usually more orange than daylight, so if you use a spotlight during the day, the colour of the area it lights will be different from the surrounding light. The same applies to using a spotlight and a flash simultaneously. The light from the flash will come out very blue compared to the spotlight.
How you can take a similar image
- Lens: Medium telephoto lens.