Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Night Photography – Ottawa’s Lumière Festival

Once a year in Stanley Park, Ottawa has a festival of lights, music and magic. This grand visual display is called the Lumière (French for light) Festival. This large park along the Rideau River is bedecked with all shapes and sized coloured paper candle lit lanterns.

The festival organizers, I imagine volunteers, create some rather stunning and tall (over 7 ft) coloured paper lanterns in the shapes of fairy like objects. Local supporters, and I know because I’ve seen some regulars, have their own light displays set up along the many paths in the park.

The visitors make and bring their own lanterns and there are a few for sale at the site as the bottom image shows.

75mm, f5.0, f5.0, iso 400, 1/60 sec

The festival starts to get underway around 4:00pm with only a few people starting to arrive. The main event doesn’t happen until after dusk (9:30pm).

Lens Choices

While the night shots would involve the use of the tripod and long exposure times, I chose a heavier lens for the first part of the evening. There is still natural light however, that light is obstructed by the many trees lining the pathways.

The lens used was a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 vr to give me the extra light capturing ability around dusk, as I learned from pervious years that when there is a lot going on, this allows me to quickly point and shoot. I also bumped up the iso to 400 for more light as with this setting there is no noticeable noise with the Nikon D300.

When I switched to the tripod I chose the Nikon 18-200mm, f3.5 vr lens. I knew for some shots, with all the people around, I would need a wide-angle lens and get in close to not have people block my view.

200mm, f5.6 iso 400, _1 ev comp, 1/125sec

At first impression you might think that I have oversaturated the green in this many-sided triangular hanging. I did increase saturation but only slightly because if you start to over sat then you also loose the subtle tonal transitions, here in the greens and yellows.
I used a technique form my painting experience where you can alter any colour by what is placed next to it.

I darkened and de-saturated all the green foliage to make this object appear more vivid. I increased the saturation of the purple flower slightly to give some balance with the strong green colour. If all the remainder of the scene were de-saturated then the green object would seem out of place. Almost cut out. It needs some anchor points in the scene. I did also rotate the direction of the person on the right, to be entering the scene as opposed to leaving it.

handheld, 18mm, f3.8, iso 400, .5 sec

This is a 6 ft display of skyscrapers made of blue tissue paper with other colours glued on. One benefit of this time of night, while this path is packed elbow to elbow because of the darkness they don’t show up unless they are carrying a lit lantern. I had several versions of this location, but I chose this because the dark blue sky helps to add some abstractness to the already abstract blue towers. You can see the other lanterns dotting the pathways.

Tripod, 26mm, f3.8, iso 400, 2 sec

One of my favorites of the evening is this image where the petals are picking up the glow from the yellow light. The yellow tip of the flower is 7ft tall with the petals going higher.

This image is 2110x 350 when you click on the above thumbnail

A composite of the many different hanging lanterns found along the paths. In the last image, the cones are 6ft tall.

The Grand finale

tripod, 150mm, f10.0, iso 400, 5 secs

This festival is really about the grand finale, a baseball diamond filled with brown paper lunch bags with sand in the bottom and a lit candle that, in all, form a giant walking maze. All the kids and parents snake in a long procession through the intricate loops in the maze.

tripod, 150mm, f10.0, iso 400, 5 secs

If you examine carefully near the top left, you will see ghost like outlines from people who had lighter clothing on. People with dark clothing don’t show up at all. From this viewpoint it almost appears as there is no rhyme or reason to route through maze.

With a slightly different camera angle some of the curved paths start to show up.

tripod, 150mm, f10.0, iso 400, 2.5 secs

This festival is a huge hit for parents with kids. Before it gets totally dark, there are numerous entertainers from outdoor plays. Some with stilted costume performers, singers, folk dances, jugglers, and many other strange things you find at lighted fairy nights.

For camera buffs, and there are many that show up, this is a great chance to photograph very unique and colourful people and objects and later on some truly great night photography.

Niels Henriksen

Related posts

Ottawa Luminère Festival a Night of Magic Light

Night Lights – Slow Shutter

Ottawa Lumiere Festival


Adam Cope said...

I like the lanterns in paper bags.

Photography with its propensity for black shadows ... v.apprporiate for night time photography.

I wrote a blog entry way back about notn photography.

Adam Cope said...

whoops typo - that hould read 'notan photography'

hpc said...

Great blog. I teach on a few Photography Holidays around the world and I'll definitely be recommending this blog to my students who are always asking me about good photography sites!

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