Twilight and Beyond: Photography at Night (Part 2)

In the first installment of this mini-series, I suggested including the moon in a night scene as a way to add interest and provided a few examples.  In this segment, we’ll look at the moon in a little greater detail.

In the Washington, DC area, capturing images of a full moon rising has become increasingly popular, largely due to the availability of mobile “apps” to help you be at the right place at the right time.  The general approach is to find a location from which one can photograph the moon perfectly positioned in relation to one of the major monuments.   The image below was captured at the most popular of these locations, on a hill in Rosslyn, Virginia directly in front of the Netherlands Carillon.

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Moonrise, Washington, DC (September 5, 2009)

An image like this is not as easy to obtain as it would appear, even with the help of an app like TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris). Aside from the obvious need for good weather, the time between the moonrise and sunset are critical as is the precise location of the moonrise.  In the case of this image, it was actually taken on the night after the full moon.  On the previous night, the weather was cloudy, the moonrise was 13 minutes before sunset and well to the right of the Lincoln Memorial. On the night of this image, the moonrise was 13 minutes after sunset at the perfect azimuth reading—85.5 degrees.  This photograph was taken about 10 minutes later, very close to the end of civil twilight.

For those wanting to know when the next such opportunity comes, they might want to mark their calendars for October 15, 2016.  It is the night before the full moon and the moon will rise 2 minutes after sunset.  That’s a little closer than ideal, but the azimuth reading is close to perfect, at 84.1 degrees.  Not as good as September 5, 2009, but worth a try if the weather is favorable.

A word of warning:  You will be sharing this location with as many as 100 other photographers, all with tripods.

The Jefferson Memorial is probably the second most popular spot for a moonrise image, often attracting 30-40 photographers on a promising evening. The advantage here is there are more vantage points along the sidewalks of the Tidal Basin.

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Moonrise, Jefferson Memorial (July 31, 2015)

(Technical notes: Moonrise 2 minutes after sunset at Azimuth 106.2 degrees; photograph taken 18 minutes after sunset.)

A similar alignment will occur on April 22, 2016 with a full moonrise 3 minutes after sunset at Azimuth 105 degrees.

One of the challenges in photographing a full moon is exposure.  Once it gets well above the horizon on a clear night, an exposure chosen to capture a twilight scene will often result in an overexposed moon. This will happen even with illuminated buildings as the primary subject.

Night Photos Jefferson Fireworks

Jefferson Memorial, Full Moon and Fireworks (April 4, 2014)

(Technical notes: Moonrise 21 minutes after sunset at Azimuth 99.1 degrees, photograph taken 63 minutes after sunset.)

Tactics for resolving this issue can range from hoping for a light cloud cover to blending two separate exposures in Photoshop or using the HDR bracketed exposure procedure.  Another method is to try for a crescent moon.

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Crescent Moon with Lincoln Memorial (August 17, 2015)

Photographed 35 minutes after sunset.  Note:  In this case, the photograph is taken in same direction as the setting sun.  Therefore, the twilight blue lasts longer than when you are pointing in the opposite direction.

Always consider possible locations when you travel.  Apps like TPE can be really helpful if you check the destination before you go.  For example, Mother Nature had kindly scheduled a full moon during our visit to Paris in 2014.  A check with TPE revealed that it would be possible to have it in a picture with the Eiffel Tower.

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Full Moon and Eiffel Tower (June 13, 2014)

(Technical Notes: Moonrise 8 minutes after Sunset at Azimuth 119.5 degrees. Photograph taken 50 minutes after Sunset. Twilight tends to last longer in Paris than in Washington, DC.)

The next full moon will be on February 22nd.  Pick a spot and …

Keep Shooting….

Hidden Gems:  Hartford’s Sculpture Walk at Riverfront

Tomorrow’s meeting wasn’t going to start until 9:30 AM and the hotel was a 2-minute walk from the Connecticut River.  A quick check of The Photographer’s Ephemeris app revealed there would be an opportunity for a sunrise illumination (at 7:05 AM) of the Hartford skyline across the river.  OK, set the alarm for 6:15 AM.

Arriving at the river’s edge the next mornioing about 20 minutes before sunrise, I had a few minutes to check things out and noticed a stairway leading up to Founders Bridge. At the top of the stairs,there was a magnificent pedestrian walkway, wide enough for a car and way better than anything we have in Washington.

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Founders Bridge, Hartford Connecticut

And it turned out this was no ordinary promenade.  It was part of the Lincoln Sculpture Walk that follows a course through two riverside parks, one on each side of the river.  Made possible by a $500,000 donation from the Lincoln Financial Group, a local firm, it features 15 permanent sculptures dedicated to the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. Those who know my photography know that the Lincoln Memorial is one of my favorite subjects.

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“Emancipation,” by Preston Jackson

This sculpture, “Emancipation,” was fortuitously (for me) placed right a few steps from the stairway landing.  It is one of two works in the Sculpture Walk by Preston Jackson, a prominent African American artist from the Art Institute of Chicago.  It depicts a female slave carrying her infant and a few possessions toward freedom.  The soft illumination of the twilight minutes before the sunrise seemed to underscore the power of the work.

As the sun edged above the horizon, the colors began to illuminate the city’s skyline.  The image below was captured one minute after sunrise.

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Sunrise View of Hartford from Founders Bridge

But I could see that there were might be more potential down below along the river’s edge and I retreated down the stairway and found a good spot to wait. My luck continued as a series of clouds continued moving in from the west and the light breeze began to subside.  And sure enough, about 15 minutes later, the golden light reached its peak.

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As I walked back to the hotel, it seemed that going out for a morning walk was a lot better than sleeping in.

 

Keep Shooting…..

 

Veterans Day 2015

Today is Veterans Day, originally established for commemorating the armistice that ended the hostilities of World War I, which ended the shooting on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  Originally called “the Great War,” the conflict then became known as “the war to end all wars,” but now is merely called World War I.”  Rather than join the crowds and politicians at Arlington Cemetery, or partake of a free meal for veterans at one of the many chain restaurants, or buy a green LED light at Walmart, I thought I would visit the U.S. Institute of Peace, located at the intersection of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street NW.

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Twilight, United States Institute of Peace

(Technical Data: Nikon D-800E, on tripod with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, set at 24mm, 10 seconds @f/16, f/16, ISO 400; photographed 25 minutes after sunset)

Those interested in knowing more about the U.S. Institute of Peace can check the organization’s website here.

Keep shooting…(but only with a camera)

Crescent Moon, Lincoln Memorial

A setting crescent moon at twilight usually can be best captured about 3 days after the New Moon. I went down to the Reflection Pool last night to see if I could catch it with the Lincoln Memorial.  The timing on this composition is a little tricky because you need the moon to be close to the Memorial shortly after the sun has set. This doesn’t happen very often.  There is about a 15 minute window when the building’s lights, the twilight sky, and the brightness of the moon are in balance. The moon was a little more to the left of the Memorial than I would have liked, so I compensated by moving to the right (northeast) corner of the Reflection Pool.

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Photographed at 8:23 PM

The photograph above is a merge of two images so I could include the reflection of the moon in the water.

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Photographed at 8:36 PM

The sunset was at 8:01 PM and I appreciated Mother Nature’s positioning of the clouds to add interest without obscuring the moon. There was very little wind, so the surface of the Reflection Pool was almost mirror-like.

For those with a technical bent, both images were photographed with a Nikon D0800E on a tripod.  The first image was captured with a 24-70m f/2.8 lens set at 62mm, 1/5 sec. @ f/9, ISO 1600.  The second image (also a 2-shot photomerge) was captured  with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens set at 105mm, 3 sec. at f/13, ISO 1600.

After-Before Friday Forum

Kent ABFriday After Pan (Week 19)

The Final Image (After)

For the past four months-plus Stacy Fischer of VisualVenturing has sponsored the After-Before Friday Forum where photographers can display examples of how they process their images to accomplish their creative vision.  Sometimes the changes are substantial; other times they can be minimal.   My submission for this week’s Forum is an example of minimal change (if you don’t count the photomerge steps).   The “After” version shown above has undergone a few adjustments in Adobe Camera Raw and the only actions taken in Photoshop were a simple Photomerge, a cropping, and some sharpening.  The scene is the city of Pittsburgh taken from the sidewalk across the street from a restaurant where we had stopped for dinner (Details on location are at the end of the post)

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Original Raw Image (left side)

 The image above is one of the two photographs that were merged.  Both had the same exposure (Nikon D800E on tripod with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens extended to 70mm; 1/6th sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 1600).  The reason for the high ISO and wide-open aperture is the moving boat in the river.

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Adjustments Made in ACR Dialog Window

Opening the images in Adobe Camera RAW, I made only four adjustments, the same for both images.  The screen capture above shows the changes (red arrows).  The specific settings were:

Highlights: Decrease to -39; Shadows: Increase to +45; Clarity: Increase to +18 Vibrance: Increase to +14.

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File > Automate > Photomerge

The two images were then opened in Photoshop and processed through the Photomerge routine.  The screen capture above shows the command sequence which is under “File” on the main command line of Photoshop.  After clicking on “Photomerge” (red arrow), the Photomerge Dialog window appears as shown below.

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Photomerge Display Window

The screen capture above shows the dialog window for the Photomerge routine.  If the images are open, click on “Add Open Files” (red arrow) and the image files will be listed (other red arrow).  Usually, the default selections of “Auto” and “Blend Images Together” (yellow arrows) will do the job.  Click “OK” and the system will chug away for a little while and then display the results.

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The screen capture above shows a small portion of the merged image and the layers palette (red arrow) showing a separate layer for each image.  The white areas in the mask icons represent the section of the image that was used. The blue arrow shows a section of the irregular border created during the routine.

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Merged Panorama Before Cropping

The image above shows the full panorama immediately after the merging is completed.  The borders are always irregular (red arrows), often much more than shown here.  The next step, before any further actions are taken, is to flatten the image.  The only remaining step in this example is a crop to eliminate the uneven edges, producing the final image shown below.  Sharpening should not be applied until the image is sized for printing.

Kent ABFriday After Pan (Week 19)

 Final Panorama

The location for capturing this image is across the street from the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto located at 1411 Grandview Avenue #2 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It is one of the better restaurants in the city and the window seats boast a view pretty close to this image.   Because the vista is pretty spectacular at twilight, it’s unlikely you will have the sidewalk all to yourself.  But if you are visiting Pittsburgh, this is a location you may want to check out.But before you go there, you should check out the other submissions to Week 19 at Visual Venturing.

Mono Lake

I’m back on the road again, this time in Lee Vining, California where I will be joining a night photography workshop led by Michael Frye. The class starts tomorrow, but that shouldn’t be reason not to go out at sunrise, especially when the body clock is on Eastern Time and something like Mono Lake is a short distance away. The one downside of this area is Internet poverty. So this will have to be a small post so it can fit through the little bitty Wi-Fi pipes that are available.

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Mono Lake at Dawn

(Technical Data: Nikon D800E on tripod with 24-70mm lens extended to 70mm; exposure: 1/40th sec. @ f/4.0, ISO 400, Time of day: 5:46 AM)

June 28, 2014

Thanks to the post of a fellow blogger, I was reminded that yesterday was the 100th anniversary of what seemed a minor event but was the spark that led to the outbreak of the Great War, now known as World War I.  My grandfather, whom I never met, served in WW I.  So I decided yesterday was an appropriate occasion to do something I had been postponing for too long: to photograph the DC War Memorial which was erected to honor the 499 citizens of Washington, DC who lost their lives in the war.

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Sunset, June 28, 2014

I want to acknowledge the post by the DC Bike Blogger (see it here), a highly informative source about the District of Columbia.  I thought I knew my way around this city until I bumped into his blog several months ago.

The DC War Memorial is not well known, but is conveniently located on the National Mall along Independence Avenue directly across from the Martin Luther King Memorial.  It is especially attractive at twilight.  A simple lighting system illuminates the interior and seems to be timed to come on about 15 minutes before sunset.

The photograph is a single shot, using a Nikon D800E on a tripod with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 26mm.  The exposure was 1.6 sec. @ f/16 EV = -1.0, ISO 400.  Adjustments were made in Adobe Camera RAW to reduce the highlights (-53), open up the shadows (+56), and add some clarity (+20) plus a little vibrance (+12).  A minor curves adjustment was made in Photoshop CC to lighten the exterior of the dome just a bit.