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Photographing the City at Night

This image was made on a warm Summer’s night in the Docklands precinct in Melbourne, Australia. The sculpture in the middle of the frame was my main interest in this location and I returned to it over several nights until all the important, yet disparate, elements came together in a cohesive manner.

Canon 5D camera with Canon 24mm f1.4 L series Aspherical lens

Canon 5D camera with Canon 24mm f1.4 L series Aspherical lens

I had photographed the sculpture previously and wondered about the possibility of using it as a frame for a shot of the moon. Timing was critical to the success of this image. I positioned the camera to draw attention to the moon as it rose through the centre of the Sculpture. Fortunately the night provided me with a clear sky and enough breeze to propel the otherwise docile form into movement. The repeating pattern of the circular structures within the scene was a bonus. As was their golden color, enhanced by the street lighting.

During the long exposure I added extra light, mainly to lighten some of the otherwise very dark foreground areas, with fill flash. I achieved this my actually walking into the frame, during the actual exposure, and firing the test button on the flash/strobe into one of the darker areas of the scene. Where the area was particularly dark, or I wanted a lighter rendering, I simply pushed the button 2 or 3 times. The trick is that your body must not be between the flash and the camera. If it is you’ll leave a (shadow) record of yourself in the resulting picture. Just ensure that you stand side-on to the flash when you fire it. It’s also a good idea to set your portable flash/strobe to Manual so that it always fires at full power when using this technique, referred to as painting with light

The moon itself did not appear very large, particularly as I’d employed the Canon 24mm f1.4 L series Aspherical lens on the full frame Canon 5D camera for the shot. I decided to turn the moon into a star by shooting at the narrowest aperture offered by the 24mm lens (f22). This is a neat trick that creates a star-like light from a bright, specular highlight. Now that you know you’ll be able to find evidence of a few more pretend stars within the image.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography


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