Sunday, November 18, 2007

Night Lights – Slow shutter

There is always something magical about a city at night. The darkened tones, the mysterious shadows and flashes of light are what gives these evenings its special vibrancy.

I decided to head out on Halloween evening just after sunset to get some long exposure street scenes. As with most of sunset or sunrise scenes there tend to be only a few minutes of great evening sky for the chosen time exposure setting. Therefore it is important that you have some sort of plan for the sequence of the photos you will be taking to ensure there will be just the right sky when you kneed it. My plan was simple, I would just walk down to one of the main 4 lane streets, where there was an on-ramp to the parkway and a bridge with gave a good view of the bust station.

I figured that I would have about half an hour of sky before it would become too dark for scenes that needed the sky But I found that I spent a little too long with the on-ramp shots and the sky was already starting to get very dark before I explored across at the bridge. A half hour may seem like a long time but unless your are only at one location it sure slips by fast. These images were all taken with a shutter speed from 5 sec to 10 sec and about f/22.

In the image below the slow shutter captures the interesting curved lights created by a bus entering and a bus leaving the Lincoln Fields Bust Station in Ottawa. The sun had been down for about 45 minutes, almost the maximum time for skies, but at 10 sec you are still able to see detail in the night sky.

I am standing on the Carling St Bridge taking the photo above and when I turn to my right there is a street-level bus stop connecting to the transit station. This is also a 10 sec photo, but I wanted to capture a faint outline of the bus, which was obtained by anticipating the bus departure and trying to get a few seconds lead-time before the bust head out.

Any long time exposure image is difficult to get just right. this is even more so at night due to the low light background and the extremely bright nightscape.

With longer shutter speeds a tripod is a mandatory item unless you have arms of a statute or something rock solid to lean on. But even then blur creates in.

It is often desirable when taking night photography to have detail in the sky as it gives more interest and fill in what would normally be a big black void. For each different shutter setting there is about only 5 min of good light.

Even when it’s completely dark there are some interesting shots that you can capture as with a car swerving just as it was coming of the on-ramp.

And since it was Halloween there just seems to be a need to get a shot of the pumpkins.

Niels Henriksen

A photographer’s Adage

A snapshot steals life that it cannot return. A long exposure [creates] a form that never existed. -Dieter Appelt, "1000 Photo Icons" by Anthony Bannon (Foreword), George Eastman House , ISBN: 3822820970, page: 708


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Wonderful series of night shots...

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