Behind the Frame: Maasai & Lanterns

Andrew Beck Andrew 5 Comments

On tuesday I shared the details behind an image I took of some our Maasai team standing around the fire during a cultural evening on our extended migration safari. Today i’ll be sharing the details behind this image.

Andrew Beck Wild Eye Masai Mara Migration Safari-2

For those of you who have joined us in Kenya, Tenke (Francis) & Sakaya (Dickson) were my props for this shot.

As with the last example, I’ll break things down step by step. For this scene i stayed in Aperture Priority – I could easily have gone to Manual and achieved the same result.

F8.0 @24mm on a 24-70mm F2.8

F 8.0? why on earth would I do that? I wanted to get a longer exposure which would allow Sakaya to walk through the scene with the lantern by his side, creating the wavy line of light you see at the bottom of the frame. F8.0 allows in less light that f2.8 and considering that I would be on a tripod for this shot anyway, I didn’t need to open up as wide as I did with the image of the Maasai around the fire.

ISO 500

Not the highest of ISO values for shooting in low light like this but because I was shooting off a tripod and intentionally wanted to have a slow shutter speed ISO 500 in combination with an aperture value of F8 gave me a pretty slow shutter speed with which to work.

Exposure Compensation – 2/3 EV

Under exposing the scene by -2/3 of a stop to make sure that I kept the dark mood and twilight blues meant that my shutter speed increased slightly (as underexposing effectively reduces the amount of light falling on the sensor by increasing the shutter speed in aperture priority mode).

25″ Exposure

Being in Aerture Priority mode and having direct control of everything except shutter speed meant that the shutter speed was the final result of the combination of settings above.

2 Second Timer delay

This is an awesome feature for those spontaneous shots taken off of a tripod. Once I had set this up all that was left now was to trip the shutter and get the guys in action.

The Maasai

Tenke was already in position on the right of frame when i tripped the shutter and Sakaya walked briskly across the scene with the lantern at his side towards Tenke. When he reached Tenke he simply raised the lantern and held it in a position which would help to illuminate and expose both of their faces.

In Lightroom

Nothing too fancy here as the final image was pretty much spot on.


This is a great technique to play around with at night but if you want to get some detail and deep rich blue skies in your images then your best bet is to work in the twilight hours which, to the human eye looks pretty dark, but the camera picks up as these beautiful saturated tones of blue.

Andrew Beck

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Comments 5

  1. Andrew Cromhout

    Did you have a starburst filter on and what was your original temperature as I see you have a custom temperature? Did you cool or warm up the temp? Assume cool for the bluer sky?

    1. Post
      Andrew Beck

      Great Questions Andrew!

      I had set my WB to Tungsten to compensate for the orange light cast across the scene by the lanterns as well as to emphasise the twilight blues in the background. This was adjusted slightly in Lightroom to look as natural as possible afterwards.

      No star-burst filter needed at all!

      The way that the light enters through the lens and through the aperture results in it being diffracted to some extent (the smaller the opening the greater the diffraction). As light falls onto the sensor through the aperture it bends around the edges of the blades and creates the starburst look. Obviously the smaller the opening (eg F16) the greater the diffraction and the more pronounced the effect. The number of rays from each starburst is related to the number of aperture blades in your lens. The more blades your lens has, the more impressive the starburst.

      Whilst it’s easy to capture specular highlights as starbursts during the day the long exposure used for this scene essentially makes each point of bright light a specular highlight in the scene. The slow shutter speed used to expose the entire scene correctly, ends up over-exposing the light sources – essentially turning them into specular highlights and turning them into starbursts.

      Possibly not the most technical of answers but that is how I understand it!

      Hope this makes sense and thanks for raising the questions!

  2. Simon Beevers

    Great shot Andrew and I lovely explanation. Talk about leading lines! Was this your first attempt that evening, or did it take a while to get the settings right?

    1. Post
      Andrew Beck

      Thanks Simon!

      I took three frames of this scene – one without the Maasai which meant that I had a pretty good starting point for this shot. The first frame was at a slightly higher ISO so I dropped this to ISO 500 give me a slower shutter speed.

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