A shot in the dark

April 21, 2010

A soldier from the U.S. Army's 1st Platoon, Alpha Troop, 2-1 Infantry Battalion, 5/2 Striker Brigade Combat Team scans the area with a scope during a night observation mission in Kandahar Province April 15, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

It’s 1:00am, I’m sitting in a small dirt hole. Not sure exactly where but somewhere in western Kandahar‘s Maiwand district. How did I get here? On a journey that has involved too much time spent waiting. Waiting at Forward Operating Bases, waiting for planes, waiting for people, waiting for helicopters, waiting for convoys, waiting for patrols.

The short version is it hasn’t been the most productive assignment. I am itching to get ‘out there’ and shoot. So I have jumped at the offer to join an observation post patrol on a moonless night in a flat and treeless landscape, looking for militants laying IEDs.

I’ve bumbled my way out the back of an armored Stryker, across rocky ground, closely tailing a few soldiers who unlike me are equipped with night vision gear. It’s inky black, no illumination permitted. I even have the small red indictor lights on my camera’s back covered with tape. So now I’m in this little dirt hole. It’s dark, really dark. No light at all…… Well, except the billion or so stars above.

f1.4 offers such a tiny depth of field I’d be wasting my time attempting to manual focus accurately in the pitch dark on anything close and even a soldier sitting behind a night scope wont stay still long enough to be sharp for such a long exposure. But those stars aren’t close and they aren‘t exactly whizzing past either. It takes about 10 exposures with some fine adjustment to get them sharp. My tripod for the evening is a convenient and infinitely adjustable model. A small pile of pebbles and sand between my feet.

It takes a while to get the combination of focus, exposure (including balancing the light from the night scope reflected in the soldier’s eye) and a subject that doesn’t move too much to make this picture but time is one thing I have plenty of.

For those of you who like all the details.
Exposure – 20 seconds @ f1.4. ISO 2500. 24mm lens. Canon 5D MkII.

5 comments

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Pretty interesting, thanks!

Posted by D.Beaumont | Report as abusive

Nice shoot Tim …

Posted by beaw | Report as abusive

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This is a very interesting shot. The desert can be so black, so flat….you must be so conversant with that camera to produce shots at night without light.

Well done.. and very patient.

Posted by divergirl | Report as abusive

That’s gorgeous.

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

I must say you have got a courage, you deserve to fight the great warrior of history. The one thing you certainly do not have is the time. The Taliban snipers are famous for their accuracy, particularly at night when they are on the move. Enjoy your dark nights while you can. I sure would like to see you back safe with the family. What a waste of humans and for whatpurpose.
Rex minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive