Timing is everthing…

A few tips to improve your night/cityscape photography…

Making pictures at night in a city setting can produce some really interesting and impressive results. Night shots can be a riot of color and excitement or they can be…shall we say…common.DSC_6650

I was very lucky in Rome a few years back to get this shot of the Piazza del Campidoglio.  It was designed in 1560 by Michelangelo and, to me, it is as impressive today as it must have been then.

When The Bride and I walked into the Capitoline Museum (entering the building on the left) in the early afternoon the weather was overcast and threatening rain.  The square was grey and flat.

But we were greeted with an entirely different sight hours later when we came back out onto the square.  WOW, what a difference!  And the photo I was fortunate to make gives me a chance to make some points about evening cityscapes.

For starters, the buildings were lighted — inside and out.  This isn’t always the case but your night photographs of buildings will certainly be enhanced if the lights are on.  To be sure your cityscape is lighted you may have to do a trial run the day before.  This trial run will tell you, also, when the street lights are lighted.  Now, this may sound like I did a lot of planning.  Not so.  I was just lucky on this one.

And speaking of lucky…check out the reflections.  While we were in the museum the rain showers came and left — leaving a pavement that was color saturated and reflective.

But (and this is the big one):  Notice that the background sky still has some interest.  Totally black skies behind cityscapes are a real downer.  And that is where the timing comes in.  If the sky is too bright, you will put the buildings in silhouette, if not bright enough you loose the opportunity to gain an interesting background.  In my case the retreating rain storm was wonderfully timed.

Timing is everything.

I made the photo at f/8 and 1/10 second.  In post I corrected some perspective distortion.

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Darkroom Dude - A professional architectural photographer told me that exposures are best when the light readings from sky and buildings are the same.
HTH
Peter

skeeter - I think that is probably a pretty good starting point, Peter. Personally, I would rather have a sky that is a bit darker — and I can work with it in post processing. But…the beauty of digital is that we can make the shot and then adjust things some to get the effect we want. Thanks for the comment.

Kenneth Ingham - Very timely blog post, as I have been experimenting with evening photos as well. I more-or-less agree with Darkroom Dude, although I tend to be looking for balance between the sky and the lights. This only gives around 10 minutes at Albuquerque’s latitude in winter, and it was occurring a little more than 30 minutes after sunset for my last photo.

skeeter - You know, Kenneth, isn’t that what makes landscape/cityscape so interesting? Time and place are as individual as are we, as photographers. Thanks for the comment.

Guy Davies - What is interesting here is that the colour of the artificial light does not seem to have been corrected, and yet the scene is still attractive with lots of impact. Often, the colour of street lights is so strong as to give a colour cast to the scene which is usually better corrected (easy in RAW). Here, the sky provides enough of a balance to avoid this effect.

skeeter - Very insightful comment, Guy. I did tweak the RAW light balance a bit here (in Lightroom) but you make a good point. Sometimes I get so excited about an image I really like that I forget the light balance.

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