Winter Lights: Night photography in London

CanaryWharfWinterLights

I did two night shoots in London over January, in central and at the Winter Lights display in Canary Wharf. Practised using different lenses and zoom blast with tripod. One of the interesting aspects was editing using photoshop and the magnetic lassoo tool to brighten some areas of a picture while darkening others.

WindmillZoomBlast

I posted this last photo, of the Windmill strip club in Soho, on Unsplash, and it was featured as one of their images of the day.

Landscapes with new camera

Having been given a Nikon D500 at Christmas by dh, I spent some time mainly familiarising myself with the new controls in Kew Gardens and on Richmond Riverside, when a gentle sunset at an exceptionally high tide obliged nicely. The controls turned out to be surprisingly intuitive. Focusing is so much easier and the colours and sharpness of the final results are a huge improvement on the D5200.

LO 1, 2, 3 Light and landscape: Africa

NigeriaCathCentre

Working in Nigeria, Africa for a week, most of my pictures were for work and not relevant to this course. However, this one was a picture of the new Catholic church being built at Caritas hq in Abuja. With the dawn breaking, there was a brief moment of a few minutes to capture the perfect light as it rose over the hills. In camera raw I lightened the foreground to create a rosy glow. As I was shooting into the rising sun, I used a relatively small aperture and fast shutter speed to capture the colours and not over-expose with good depth of feel. Again this was good practise for the plan ahead to work in the darkening twilight at Kew.

This was the first time I felt able to experiment in a way with colour in the processing in a manner that I could pay adequate tribute to American photographer William Eggleston, a pioneer in the use of colour that today we take often for granted. The light in Africa naturally conveys the colour-saturated warmth that was such a hallmark of Eggleston’s own work.

 

Unit 1: Beginners’ night meet-up


Juanita and I went on a beginner’s night-time photography class through London Photographic on Meet-Up. We started at Bankside near Tate Modern and moved up the river, finishing at Tower Bridge as the sun finally set. Experimenting with long exposures, ND filter, white balance, light trails. (I put two of these photos on Unsplash)

Unit 1: manual

 

This week we worked on:

Focus – raise ISO for faster shutter speed for sharper focus.

If use image stabiliser/vibration reduction, turn off when using tripod. Or camera will compensate for something that’s not happening.

Look at how camera focuses, and where camera focuses

How:

AF-S – (Single – locks focus on one object. Use this to focus then recompose)

AF-A Auto selected by camera

AF-C (continuous – camera follows object – eg refocuses on a person or animal coming towards you.)

Where the camera focuses. ie focusing point.

Can also use single point setting (next to AFS) and move little red sq around w ok menu button to change the focus point

Manual settings

Choose aperture according to

  • depth of field , small f no for shallow
  • Movement / shutter speed. Small f no for fast shutter speeds
  • If you want to freeze the motion and shutter speed is slow – raise the ISO.

On manual, wheel changes shutter speed. Wheel w +/- button changes aperture

Use light metre through view finder.- : -….0….+ – get line under 0 using shutter speed wheel.  Then perfect exposure.

Take pic – see if want brighter or darker pic. Change one of three settings depending on what are achieve – f no, shutter speed or ISO

 

Unit 1: aperture priority

An evening walk around the Serpentine in Hyde Park. I waited for a day when a good sunset beckoned to go into London to catch Henry Moore’s famous arch on the Serpentine, taking it from both sides of the river as the evening drew to a close, along with the fountains at the western end. This week in class we were practising aperture priority – so with A priority and manual ISO, we can relax and rely on the camera to adjust shutter speed itself. Aperture priority is the only setting where exposure compensation works, and I shot most of these on -2 to enhance colour depth without darkening them too much as the light faded. This was necessary as I was shooting into the sun. I changed aperture for different depth of field, and took most of these on mid-range aperture apart from the water fountains on 1.4. The beauty of the sculpture also gave an opportunity to practise framing, while the fountains and the conveniently arranged seagulls and swan allowed experiments with balance and composition. I liked using the shadow from the sculpture to do an artistic selfie!

Unit 1: aperture, ISO, exposure compensation, composition

St Dunstan-in-the-East, London. I’ve always wanted to photograph this church, built in 1100, burned in the Great Fire in 1666 then wrecked in WWII. Instead of being rebuilt, it was turned into a public garden. Looking through the gothic tracery to the west just after sunrise in the east, the sun catches the burnished top  of the famous Monument. Looking south through the ruins, there is the Shard. And to the West looks the new ‘Walkie Talkie’ building. I find this church and its setting very evocative. This was the perfect place to experiment with framing, setting the old ruins off against the new and modern at sunrise. There were many opportunities to use leading lines to point towards the architectural contrasts. And while in real life the new buildings overshadow the old, from within the ruins of the past it was possible to make the old dominant, using the rule of thirds to give counter-intuitive historical perspective. Thus the shard is framed in the eastern third of one window, the top of Monument shines through another as testament to this past,  and wide-angle perspective makes the tower look dominant over the Walkie Talkie. I used a combination of a prime 50mm lens on f1.4 and a wide-angle lens 16-85mm, ISO 100, and experimented with different exposure compensation from -5 to 0. Mainly settled for -2. Polarising filter.

Chiswick House. Mainly a chance to experiment with leading lines and some landscape composition and to try different ISO on the waterfall using prime 50mm lens at f1.4. Sense of moving water at speed at f16 ISO100, f1.4 made water appear still because of the faster shutter speed required of the wider aperture. Higher f-stops for greater depth of field in the landscape shots.

Puffing Billy, the first steam locomotive, in the Science Museum. Used prime 50mm lens  F1.4 for close ups and shallow depth of field, and wide angle with polarising filter to capture the whole engine. Tried positioning the static engine using rule of thirds to try and achieve sense of motion, of it moving out of the picture. Used leading lines to give a sense of dynamic, and historical as well as literal perspective. Mainly -2 exposure compensation to bring out the colours in the metal.  Some framing opportunities provided by the metal work eg wheels. ISO 100.

Sunset on the River Thames towpath between Kew Gardens and Richmond. Wide angle/zoom lens 3.5-22. This was experimenting with different exposure compensation and Fstops to increase the quality of the colour. More orange look achieved with F5.6 at -2. Blue is brought out more by F3.5 at -2. Also experimenting with rule of thirds and the placement of the horizon at the top or bottom third, thereby emphasising either the sky or the reflections on the river. The curve of the river presented natural leading lines to exploit. A great opportunity arose to frame the sun itself in a heart-shape among the trees on the river bank. It is fantastic how golden clouds naturally seem to obey the golden rule.