"What is the color of things in the dark?"

(Thread title compliments of C.S. Lewis in The Pilgrim's Regress) Human vision transitions from color to monochrome (cones to rods) as light levels fall. But in low light the colors are still there, we just can't see them---but film and electronic sensors can! (Though film exhibits "reciprocity failure" that must be compensated-for.) And the diffuse lighting conditions after sunset or in deep shadow can be particularly complimentary of a subject. This thread will explore color photography that, through long exposure time, reveals color during sun-down times or in deep shadow, color that was not perceivable to the naked eye. As an "appetizer", I give you a shot from the depth of the Mee Canyon "alcave" in extreme western Colorado, deep within the canyon wall where all available light is bounced off the opposite canyon wall or off the floor near its mouth---i.e. multigenerational bounce light.
Mee Mandala image.jpg
Another example. Captured at about 8pm on May 3, 2015 right at sunset but with dense clouds in the west, thus illuminated by skylight only. ISO400, 1/2 sec @F11 Sunset does not mark the end of available-light color photo opportunities! (if you have a tripod)
_5030232 _DxO SM nomatte.jpg
This example was taken 9 minutes after the previous one, and shaded from the skylight by a foliage canopy. In these conditions, the electronic viewfinder of a mirrorless DSLR was a godsend for composition and focusing, as the scene was pretty dim to the naked eye.
_5030243 _DxO SM nomatte.jpg

The "undeveloped" JPEG gives a better idea of how the scene looked to the naked eye.
_5030243 undeveloped SM.jpg
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Sorry it's a bit blurry, but we were fighting the wind that evening and weighting the tripod wasn't helping all that much.

Arches National Park, 11:05pm, 8/8/2019. Illuminated by only a partial moon and the stars poking through the clouds. 50mm/1.7, 3.2 sec. (manual exp.), ISO-10000.

Cool, Rudy, keep 'em coming! One thing I love about that area is the absence of artificial light sources at night; not a car, not a street or yard light to be seen... just delicious emptiness!
Most of the others were a bit blurry. But this one...


...was a bit unusual since someone else in the parking lot was leaving--the red trees were illuminated by the brake lights as the car pulled out. And despite it looking daylight, you still see the stars (easier to spot in the full-sized version).

We've been to Arches a few times, but this was the first time we visited at night. I was hoping for more of the Milky Way (as we were in a Dark Sky area), but it was too cloudy, the moon was up, and there were storms off in the distance. We my try Capitol Reef National Park next time. There are a handful of International Dark Sky Parks out there, and if we can catch a clear night, we'll give it a try.
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Funny you should mention Capitol Reef... this four-frame stitched panorama was shot in fading afterglow; most of the tripod-toting photographers at this iconic locale (Sunset Point) had already packed up and left. Processed as a dusk shot, it's (realistically) dull and flat, but processed "dusk for day" it's quite pleasing, and revealing of contours and textures that harsh sunlight obscures. ISO 400, 0.4sec @ f11
004SP Panorama SM Dusk for Day.jpg
And one more from Capitol Reef. Taken 9 minutes after the pano above. Yes, that's the rising moon surrounded by lens flare. Noise is pretty bad. My newer Oly (OM-D E-M10) is much better in low light. ISO 400, 5sec @ f11
Moon for Sun.jpg


Señor Member
FWIW -- I've tried this sort of thing numerous times, with 'success' limited by the low-light capability of my DSLR. The one I have now is considerably better than the two that preceded it, but it's still entry level and not capable of high performance. I also don't have (more accurately, haven't learned how to use) post-processing s/w of appropriate capability.

My best attempts, IMO, have been long exposures of ISS flyovers in the deep dusk (when the sun's still shining 120 miles up).

069 by Mark Hardy, on Flickr

003 by Mark Hardy, on Flickr
(no ISS in the image above, but I still kind of like it)

DSC_5367 by Mark Hardy, on Flickr

DSC_5376 by Mark Hardy, on Flickr
FWIW -- I've tried this sort of thing numerous times, with 'success' limited by the low-light capability of my DSLR.
I have played with long exposure times on a tripod and had decent luck. I made a series of photos several years ago but I can't find them at the moment. The Arches photos are with my newer DSLR. Which has had almost no usage since we've been shut in.
Re post-processing, I have been very happy with DxO Optics Pro for RAW processing. The key to this kind of image is RAW, IME. The ability of modern processors to extract data from shadows is borderline miraculous.
Example: JPEG original file (size reduced)
_A250238 SM.jpg
And here's the RAW file post-processed in DxO (exposure compensation, HDR processing, noise reduction)
_A250238 _DxO_PS SM.jpg


Señor Member
Our son went through a "low light" phase when he was in college (early 21st century!).
He took some interesting & evocative photos in and around his school in Westminster, MD.
I'll take the liberty of sharing one of his images (from 2009) here, in the context of this thread.

DSC_6541s by icouldbeahero, on Flickr

you can see more (mixed in with other things from those days), if you're curious, at:
Awesome! Your son's shot jogged my memory of an after-dark stroll I took in Cambridge, UK, in January of 2013. You can easily see why. ISO800, 4sec @f11
P1033365_DxO SM.jpg
And nearby on the same stroll, this is the historic Round Church. I recall it being totally devoid of intentional exterior illumination---I'm guessing to discourage the growth of destructive moss---so what you see is spill from storefronts and rather dim and strongly orange downfiring streetlamps across the street. It required a multiple-shot composite to capture it with my widest available focal length. Due to its dim illumination, focusing was a huge challenge! ISO800, 8sec @ f11.
Round Church Panorama2 HDR SM.jpg