Night Light

ISO 100, 35mm, f/8.0, 4 sec

ISO 100, 35mm, f/8.0, 4 sec

Week 6 (9/8/2013 – 9/14/2013): Shipyard Marina, Hoboken NJ
Picture Taken on 9/9/2013 9:11PM

Picture Description

Going into this week my goal was to create a multiple exposure photograph or light trail night picture.  As a possible secondary option I bookmarked the possibility of photographing the freedom tower.  On Monday night I went out around 6ish to mess around with my new Nikon ML-L3 remote.  I was aiming for either a double/triple exposure of the Hoboken ferry or some kind of sunset shot.   After messing around for about an hour I went back to my apartment to eat some dinner, review my pictures, and wait until the sun was totally down so I could try for a night picture.  Unfortunately after reviewing the pictures on my computer none of them worked out as I planned so I was going to have to go back out for the night shot.

After dinner as I stepped outside of my apartment my eyes were instantly drawn to the distant southeastern skyline.   What I was looking at was simply amazing, the 9/11 memorial lights were getting trapped in some low thick clouds and forming this surreal spherical glow.  All of my other night picture plans went out the window at that point, I had to take a picture of this unique occurrence.

After taking the picture I thought it was good (not great) but didn’t want to use it as my picture for this week.  As I do with most unused pictures I posted it up on Facebook to share with my friends.  To my surprise this picture got more activity than any other one I’ve posted.  Coming up with a picture to top this one, at least this week would have been hard so in the end I decided to use this picture.

 Photography Concepts 

To get this picture I had to apply many of the tricks I’ve learned over the past couple of months. In some of my previous long exposure pictures I noticed a slight camera shake.  To prevent getting shaky images I’ve moved towards using either a 2 second delayed shutter release or in this case a remote.  Next I regularly use a UV filter on all my camera lens to prevent any wear and tear.  Over time I noticed that at night using a filter increases the amount of light distortion and bleed, so prior to this picture I removed the UV filter.  The last two keys to this photo, which I’ll talk about in a little more detail, are the exposure settings I used and editing in Lightroom.

The exposure I used was -2 (stops) which for anyone that doesn’t know, it’s an underexposure.  The reason I underexposed was because after taking other nighttime city shot I’ve noticed that with so many lights from all the buildings my pictures tend to get overexposed.  There are lots of negatives with overexposing, in terms of my city pictures the most noticeable is the change in the sky color.  After messing around with different exposures I’ve settled on -2 for my go to exposure setting.

Now it’s hard to describe all the different tweaking I did in Lightroom but one of the main fixes was the white balance setting.  I forgot my white balance cards when I went out to shoot this picture so I had to do it after the fact.  I also made some moderate adjustments to the Highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and clarity to get the picture to look like what I saw in person.  If you want to learn about Lightroom I highly recommend going on youtube and watching some tutorial videos.  There is so much information out there to support learning photography (and most other hobbies) it’s just about finding it.

Before and After Editing in Lightroom

Before and After Editing in Lightroom

Since I originally did not want to use this picture let me quickly explain why and what I could have done better.  For starters if I remembered my white balance cards I would not of had to do so much editing in Lightroom.  I rather get a good picture in camera rather than edit it especially for this photoblog. I also wasn’t happy about my composition, the green in the picture is really nice but I was made I cut off some of the left side of the peninsula that is shipyard park.  I wish that I would have stepped back another 30-50 ft to get more into the picture.  Last I wish I found something interesting to put into the foreground of the picture, it just makes for a more interesting picture.

Article about Exposure

Lightroom Video’s

A Shot in the Dark

Picture Specs: ISO 4000, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/13sec

Picture Specs: ISO 4000, 35mm, f/2.8, 1/13sec

Week 4 (8/25/2013 – 8/31/2013): East River, New York, NY
Picture taken on 8/28/2013 at 8:10 PM

Picture Description:

I’m on a Boat!!! Well…I was on Wednesday and that’s where I got the picture for this week’s post.  Hopefully you get the reference and if you don’t shame on you, go watch some SNL highlights.  Unlike the members of “The Lonely Island” I was not on a boat to shoot a music video with T-pain (damn), I was celebrating my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary.  We spent the evening on the Duchess which is part of World Yacht’s fleet of party boats.  Our cruise left from pier 81 at around 7PM and provided us with beautiful views the entire night!  I highly recommend booking a trip on World Yacht if you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate an occasion or trying to plan a memorable night out in the city.

View from the top deck of "Duchess" - World Yacht

View from the top deck of “Duchess” – World Yacht

Going into the evening I knew I’d have plenty of scenic picture opportunities but since I was there for my parents the time I could devote to getting a picture was limited.  Luckily I ended up sitting right next to a window which opened and allowed me to lean out and get this week’s picture.  The Brooklyn bridge is one of the most iconic New York City landmarks so when it appeared on the horizon I immediately put my steak knife down and grabbed my Nikon.  The shot I got is of the “BMW” bridges or Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges as we traveled North on the East river.

Photography Concepts:

If there was one overall lesson I learned this week, it’s that taking pictures on a boat and at night is VERY difficult.  First, the lighting is inconsistent  (low, high, indoor, outdoor)  which makes it difficult to tune in your exposure.  Second, surprise the boat is moving good luck focusing! Third, if you’re taking pictures of subjects off the boat you have to act fast because you have a very small window to get the shot you just saw.  As a result of hitting moving targets your composition is constantly changing.  Normally when you frame up a picture you’re standing still so you can get a couple pictures, not on a boat, snap fast and often!  In my opinion the combination of moving targets and low light was definitely the hardest aspect of this week.

This picture was tricky and I definitely wish I had a couple more shots at it.  Just like last week I had to use a high ISO but this time it was almost double (4000) which starts to show the negative attributes of a high ISO.  My picture (pre-edit) was a little grainy which is what happens when you use a high ISO.  I won’t try to explain why graininess (aka noise) happens but there are plenty of places to read about it online (one linked below).  While editing my picture in Lightroom I did my best to lessen the graininess by using some noise reduction corrections, which made for a softer (less sharp) image.  This is the first time I’ve mentioned Lightroom but let me tell you, it’s awesome!  I’ll talk more about it another time but I highly recommend it for editing/organizing all your pictures.

Other than a high ISO to make up for the limited amount of light I also had to use a wide aperture (f/2.8) and slow shutter speed (1/13 of a second!).  Now remember slower shutter speeds blurs motion so using one on a moving boat is risky.  I think this picture came in focus enough but if I was on land it would have been a lot sharper and I probably would have used a tripod.  I could have opened my aperture more (max f/1.8) to enable a faster shutter, but the wider the aperture the shallower the depth of field which isn’t ideal for a landscape picture.  As I mentioned earlier the window (especially when shooting through a literal window!) of opportunity for a picture is limited so I didn’t have enough time to work my way up the aperture scale (large to small).  Even if I had more time though a shutter of 1/13 is already too slow so I couldn’t drop that any further which I’d have to do if I shrunk my aperture.   As I said, this was a tricky picture.

One more big lesson that I learned this week (which isn’t really demonstrated in this picture) was the importance of white balancing.  While taking picture inside the boat everything seemed yellowy due to the indoor lighting.  Once the light stabilized inside I took a couple pictures of my white balance cards in the different parts of the boat so I could adjust everything in Lightroom later.  Let me tell you WOW what a difference!! I’ll try to get a picture in the coming weeks to demonstrate the usage of white balancing.  If you’re a beginner like me you’re going to be surprised by the results.


World Yacht Site:

ISO/Noise Article: