- Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
- Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second
- BetterPhoto Basics: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro
- The BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Photography
- The Digital Photography Book
- Creative Shutter Speed: Master the Art of Motion Capture
When it comes to shooting cityscapes THE time to do it is after sunset or before sunrise. Too many photographers pack up their gear at sunset and head home, but the most dramatic shots are still waiting for you. The trick is to shoot at the right time.
The ONLY thing you need in addition to your camera is a tripod. The second thing that is key is being there at the right time of day. Generally speaking, this is about 15-20 before sunrise or after sunset. There will be a 2 to 3 minute period where the lights of the city and the light in the sky are perfectly balanced and everything will come together like this.
f/5.6 for 30 seconds at f/5.6 - ISO 100, Santorini, Greece
Many people attempt these shots when it is too late and that leaves them a black sky which doesn't bring much to the image in the way of being compelling. So, let's take a look at the progression.
Here is a shot about 5 minutes after sunset.
f/8 for 4 seconds, ISO 200, Dubai, UAE
5 minutes later the sky has darkened
f/8 for 8 seconds, ISO 100
Notice above how things are balancing out a lot better. But we aren't quite there yet. 10 minutes later we get that balance!
f/8 for 30 seconds, ISO 100
Above we have everything balanced out perfectly. Wait 10 more minutes and you get a black sky and lose all that color.
f/8 for 30 seconds, ISO 100
So, looking at the above shots...how do I come to a decision on what my exposure should be? That's an easy one. I am in manual exposure mode and take my meter reading off the sky. This means, while looking through the viewfinder I look to up just above the skyline so that ALL I see in the viewfinder is the sky. Adjust for a correct exposure and then leave it there. The reason we do that is that the lights in the buildings will throw the meter off if you include them when you take a meter reading. Most times you will end up with an underexposure. So, meter the sky and keep metering that sky every minute or so...because the sky is losing light as time progresses.
Another thing that can be difficult at this time of day is autofocus. When it is darker out it can be difficult for the AF to lock into something for focus. So, what I do is pick a single AF point and choose something with a lot of contrast...in this case it was the buildings. I get my focus lock and then turn the autofocus OFF so it will stay locked at that distance. Be careful not to rotate the focus ring manually after you lock focus. Now you are all set and you can fire away with your exposure and focus set and know without a doubt that everything will be in focus and properly exposed.
Like anything, the more you do this the better you get at it. I am to a point now where I can watch the light while sitting at a restaurant with my wife, dash off to shoot, and be back in 5 to 10 minutes with the shots on my card, which keeps everybody much happier.
Here are a couple more shots that were taken using this technique.
f/16 for 25 seconds, ISO 100 - 10.5mm fisheye, Rome, Italy
f/8 for 30 seconds ISO 100, Newport, OR, USA
And this week we show some perfect pictures one of our students submitted for their course assignments....this time of year it is hard to get away from flowers and nature so we look again to another of Kathleen Clemon's students. Barb Kellogg turned out some amazing work and when I asked her what she had to say about her course experience she said, ""Kathleen obviously loves what she does, as it comes through in her lessons and critiques. For the Fine Art Class, her very well put together lessons are highlighted with examples of her own photography to illustrate the concepts to be learned. Not only is her photography beautiful, but she has a wonderful way of describing the lessons, and is kind, yet constructive, in her critiques. She offers suggestions to improve your photographs, even helps you "see" what she's talking about with a quick fix of your photo that she posts so you understand. I have learned so much from her ("simplify, simplify, simplify"), and when I remember to apply what I've learned, I'm a better photographer because of her."
Chris is teaching The Art of Seeing