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Shooting Cityscapes, Tips and Tricks From Night and Low-Light Photography Photo Workshop Book
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 8 from Night and Low-Light Photography Photo Workshop, excerpted with permission from John Wiley and Sons, Inc. The book is available in stores and through online retailers nationwide. Here’s a link to a multi-retailer sales page. Author Alen Hess is a professional event and concert photographer whose subjects have included The Grateful Dead, Bruce Hornsby, John Legend, Robin Williams, and many more.
There is nothing quite like a great nighttime cityscape image; the lights of the city make everything just look magical. The bigger and busier the city, the easier it is to get a good cityscape mainly due to the amount of light present. I have often been amazed at the actual amount of light available when looking out at San Diego. A lot goes into getting good cityscape photographs, including choosing a fantastic location, the best time, and the ideal exposure.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
There is a saying in the real estate business that the three most important things are location, location, and location. Well, that holds true for capturing cityscapes as well. There are two distinct views to look for: the first is to get as high above the city as possible, and the second is to get away from the city and shoot from a distance.
To shoot down on a city, look for the highest point that gives you the view you want. Check to see if the location allows visitors — specifically, photographers — and tripods instead of just showing up and hoping for the best. Of course, if you are on vacation, then you have nothing to lose, so just go for it.
In the busiest areas of most cities, some of the tallest buildings are hotels, usually upscale hotels, and a lot of them have bars or restaurants on the upper floors, taking advantage of that view that you want to photograph. Many times you can just call and ask if it is possible to take photographs from that area. It really doesn’t hurt to ask.
When shooting down from a high vantage point, wide focal lengths work really well. The wider focal lengths allow you to capture the grand vista of the whole scene. The twinkling lights in the offices and the traffic patterns rendered as light trails make the whole scene worth capturing. Take the cityscape in Figure 8-17 and the way the city looks alive with the lights twinkling in the scene. I took this image from the 40th floor of a hotel in downtown San Diego with a 24mm lens.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO The city looks alive with all the lights, which add a glow to the sky. Taken at 5 seconds, f/7.1, and ISO 400.
The other option is to photograph the cityscape from a distance at ground level. This works really well when you have an unobstructed view of the skyline, and it is even better if the city is on a body of water. Many times this approach requires a longer focal length to focus in on the buildings because of the distances involved. The added advantage to this type of shot is that the longer focal length causes compression in the image, making things appear to be closer to each other than they really are, as you can see in the San Diego skyline shown in Figure 8-18. These buildings appear to be much closer together than they actually are.
THE BEST TIME TO SHOOT
In the winter and fall, it is easier to get great cityscapes because the sun sets earlier. Offices are lit up as many people are still at their desks with office lights on, which provides more available light for your photo.
In the summer months, with the sun setting after most people leave their offices, the amount of light available is reduced. That isn’t to say that you should forget shooting at any other time of the year except winter and fall, but just realize that the images might not have as much light.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO The San Diego skyline photographed with a long lens makes the buildings look like they are closer together than they really are. Taken at 5 seconds, f/7.1, and ISO 100.
The direction that you photograph in also makes a difference in the final image. Facing west will catch the most color in the sky as the sun sets, while facing east could allow you to catch the reflections of the setting sun’s colors in the glass buildings and make the photos something special.
The best time to photograph is right after the sun sets, when some of the colors of the day are still bleeding into the sky. Take the photo of the San Diego skyline that I shot from Coronado Island (shown in Figure 8-19); you can see that the sky hasn’t gone completely dark yet, and the clouds are starting to take on the color of the sky and the city.
Metering a changing sky with the gradually increasing brightness of the city lights can be tough. This is one of those scenarios where practice can really pay off, but to ensure the closest starting point, do the following:
Set the camera on a tripod.
Compose the image and lock the camera into place.
Set the ISO to 100.
Set the exposure mode to auto.
Set the metering mode to matrix or scene metering.
Press the shutter release button halfway down to get a light meter reading.
Change the exposure mode to manual and apply the settings shown in the previous step.
> Either increase the shutter speed or reduce the aperture by 1 stop and take a test photo.
> If the image is too light, increase the shutter speed or decrease the aperture by another stop.
> If the image seems too dark, decrease the shutter speed by 1/3 stop or open the aperture up 1/3 stop.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO The San Diego skyline photographed from Coronado Island. I took this picture in the winter months so that the office lights were still on and the sun had already set, even though it was only 5:30 pm. Taken at 10 seconds, f/10, and ISO 100.
Once you have the settings that give you the proper exposure, you have to keep adjusting them as the scene changes and the sky gets darker, as I had to do to capture the image in Figure 8-20. When photographing the San Diego skyline, I needed to constantly make adjustments to the exposure. Because the light is constantly changing, there is no single setting that will work all the time. Shoot the scene, check the LCD display on the camera, make adjustments, and try again.
ABOUT THIS PHOTO The San Diego skyline with the ferry in the foreground. The light rapidly changes right around sunset, and a couple of minutes can make quite a difference. Taken at 2.5 seconds, f/10, and ISO 100.
Assignment Capture a cityscape at night
Where you shoot from is important when planning a cityscape photo. To get the photo below, I set up on Coronado Island before the sun set, and with plenty of daylight left, I set up my tripod in an area that would not interfere with any pedestrians and wouldn’t be blocked by the ferry when it pulled into port. As the sun set, I started to take a series of photos, adjusting the exposure each time; I needed to use longer and longer shutter speeds to get a proper exposure. As I moved into the very long exposures, I noticed that the images were losing their sharpness, so I increased the ISO so that I could use faster shutter speeds and hopefully keep the image sharp. This is my favorite of the series I took. It was taken at 2 seconds, f/10, and ISO 1600.
To keep the image as sharp as possible, and to allow me to keep an eye on my surroundings, I used a cable release to trigger the shutter on the camera. This way, I didn’t have to touch the camera and move it in any way. I used a long lens to get in close and then cropped the image even more in postproduction. The only real change to the image that was done on the computer was to adjust the white balance of the image to get the colors closer to how I wanted them.
Adobe Photoshop CS6 & Photoshop CS6 Extended
Photoshop CS6 Extended integrates the state-of-the-art editing, compositing, and graphic design capabilities of Adobe Photoshop CS6, and features advanced tools for 3D design, image and video editing.
Photoshop CS6 and Photoshop CS6 Extended can be purchased as stand-alone applications, as components of the Adobe Creative Suite 6 family, or as part of Adobe's new Creative Cloud offering.
Adobe Photoshop CS6, Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended, Adobe Creative Suite 6 editions and Adobe Creative Cloud can be ordered now. Upgrade pricing is also available to eligible customers.
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Adobe Deals & Special Coupon Offers
Visit the Adobe Coupons & Special Offers Page to see the latest deals from Adobe. Find upgrade options at the Adobe Store. Get up to 80% off at the Adobe Education Store. You can also download a free 30 day trial of any Adobe product.
onOne Photoshop Plugins Sale - Plus Exclusive 10% Discount
onOne has launched a big sale that has reduced the prices of every one of their plugins. Visit onOne for full product descriptions. And if you decide to purchase one of their plugins, use our exclusive discount code - PSSPPT06 - for an additional 10% discount. Here's a list of the sale prices (before our 10% discount is applied):
Perfect Photo Suite $299.95 / $149.95 (upgrade)
Perfect Photo Suite 5.5 includes all of the onOne Software products and works with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. Five of the products in the Suite even work as stand-alone applications now.
Perfect Resize 7 $199.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
The next generation of Genuine Fractals is still the industry standard for image enlargement. Works with Photoshop CS5, Lightroom, and Aperture or as a stand-alone application.
Perfect Layers $69.95
Perfect Layers is the fast and easy way to bring a layered workflow to Lightroom and Aperture. Perfect Layers works with Lightroom and Aperture or as a standalone application.
FocalPoint $99.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
Add realistic depth of field to your images. Works with Photoshop CS5, Lightroom, and Aperture or as a stand-alone application.
PhotoTune $99.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
Getting great color in your images is not as hard as you think. Works with Photoshop CS5, Lightroom, and Aperture or as a stand-alone application.
Mask Pro 4 $99.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
For removing unwanted backgrounds, Mask Pro is the Photoshop plugin recommended by Advanced Photoshop magazine. Works as a plug-in for Photoshop.
PhotoTools $99.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
Instantly give your photos the professional look. Works as a Photoshop plug-in.
PhotoFrame $99.95 / $69.95 (upgrade)
Add the perfect finishing touch to your photos or create an album layout design. Works with Photoshop CS5, Lightroom, and Aperture or as a stand-alone application.
Exclusive 15% Discount On Topaz Plugins, Bundles And Upgrades
Enter our exclusive discount coupon code PHOTOSHOPSUPPORT during the checkout process at Topaz Labs for an instant 15% discount on any Topaz product, including bundles and upgrades.
Topaz Labs Photoshop plug-ins are specifically designed to expand a photographer's creative toolbox by harnessing powerful image technology developments. Photographers everywhere are now taking advantage of the creative exposure effects, artistic simplification, unique edge manipulation, and top-of-the-line noise reduction offered in Topaz products. The Topaz Photoshop Plugins Bundle is a super powerful Photoshop plugins package that includes the following Topaz products:
Deliver stunning and dynamic images with this uniquely powerful plug-in that features HDR-like abilities and enhances exposure, color and detail.
Topaz InFocus uses the latest advancements in image deconvolution technology to restore, refine and sharpen image detail.
A three-level detail adjustment plug-in that specializes in micro-contrast enhancements and sharpening with no artifacts.
The fastest and most effective masking and extraction program with one-click mask refining.
Highest-quality noise reduction plug-in that removes the most noise and color noise while preserving the most image detail.
Provides creative simplification, art effects, and line accentuation for easy one-of-a-kind art.
Take control of the detail depth of your images with extensive smoothing, texture control and edge enhancement tools.
Drastically improves the quality of web images and other compressed photos.
Learn more about the Topaz Photoshop Plugins Bundle. Download a free trial version.
Auto FX 15% Off Special Discount Code For Photoshop Plugins - Coupon Code S94525
Our friends at Auto FX have given us an exclusive special offer discount coupon code S94525 that will give you an instant 15% discount on any and all of their amazing Photoshop plugins and even their special Photoshop Plugin Bundles.
All you have to do is apply coupon code S94525 during the checkout process and you'll have your amount recalculated to include the discount. Below is an overview of their Photoshop Bundle Deal, which the S94525 coupon code will add another 15% discount to. Enjoy!
The Auto FX Plug-in Suite provides a comprehensive selection of visual effects from the world's premier developer of Adobe Photoshop Plug-ins. This suite of products works with Photoshop CS, CS2, CS3, CS4 and CS5. Auto FX Plug-in Suite includes 165 effect filters and thousands of instant effects to improve your images. Purchased separately, the products in this suite are worth over $1,400. By purchasing the Plug-in Suite for $499 you'll save $900.
Special Deals On Nik Software Photoshop Plugins - Viveza, Complete Collection - 15% DISCOUNT COUPONS
Follow the links below and the 15% discount will be AUTOMATICALLY APPLIED to any purchase you make, or use our exclusive discount coupon code - NIKPSS - during the checkout process at Nik Software for the instant 15% discount. This exclusive discount coupon code can be applied to all the latest Nik Software Photoshop plugins, including Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, and The Complete Collection (big savings).
Nik Software The Complete Collection (Plugins Bundle)
The Complete Collection includes all of Nik Software's latest award-winning plug-in software titles for Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture including: Dfine, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Silver Efex Pro, and Sharpener Pro.
The Complete Collection features products with Nik Software's patented U Point® technology, giving photographers the most powerful tools for precise and natural photographic enhancements and corrections without the need for complicated selections or layer masks.
The Complete Collection is offered in two editions: (1) the Complete Collection Ultimate Edition includes support for every plug-in to work in Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture, and offers Color Efex Pro 3.0 to work in Capture NX 2 as well. (2) the Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture includes support for each plug-in to only work in Lightroom and Aperture. Click here to compare both editions
Color Efex Pro 3.0
52 photographic filters with over 250 effects for professional quality images. Completely Original. Completely Indispensable.
Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3.0 filters are the leading photographic filters for digital photography. The award-winning Color Efex Pro 3.0 filters are widely used by many of today's professional photographers around the world to save time and get professional level results. Whether you choose the Complete Edition, Select Edition, or Standard Edition, you’ll get traditional and stylizing filters that offer virtually endless possibilities to enhance and transform images quickly and easily.
Patented U Point technology provides the ultimate control to selectively apply enhancements without the need for any complicated masks, layers or selections. Control color, light and tonality in your images and create unique enhancements with professional results. With 52 filters and over 250 effects found in Color Efex Pro 3.0, you can perform high quality retouching, color correction, and endless creative enhancements to your photographs. Download a free Trial version.
The most powerful tool to selectively control color and light in photographic images without the need for complicated selections or layer masks.
Two of the most important factors in creating great photography are color and light. Mastering the art of selectively correcting or enhancing each of these is now possible for every photographer without the need for complicated masks or selections, or expert-level knowledge of Photoshop. Integrating award-winning U Point technology, Viveza is the most powerful and precise tool available to control light and color in photographic images.
U Point powered Color Control Points, placed directly on colors or objects in an image (such as sky, skin, grass, etc.), reveal easy-to-use controls that photographers can use to quickly adjust brightness, contrast or color in a fraction of the time needed by other tools. With Viveza you’ll spend more time shooting photographs and save hours of image editing. Download a free Trial version.
Silver Efex Pro
Complete power and control to create professional quality black and white images in one convenient tool.
Silver Efex Pro from Nik Software is the most powerful tool for creating professional quality black and white images from your photographs. For the first time, all the advanced power and control required for professional results have been brought together in one convenient tool.
Featuring Nik Software’s patented U Point technology to selectively control the tonality and contrast of the image, Silver Efex Pro includes advanced imaging algorithms to protect against unwanted artifacts, a comprehensive collection of emulated black and white film types, a variable toning selector for adding traditional toning techniques, over 20 one-click preset styles, and a state-of-the-art grain reproduction engine that help produce the highest quality black and white images possible from your color images while providing more freedom to experiment. Download a free Trial version to use Silver Efex Pro.
HDR Efex Pro
Experience the power, control, and creative expression of HDR. This all in one toolkit lets you achieve your best HDR images ever, ranging from the realistic to artistic.
HDR Efex Pro is the essential new standard for creating amazingly high quality realistic to artistic HDR images with a revolutionary new all-in-one workflow. HDR Efex Pro includes a vast selection of one-click visual presets for incredibly fast results, advanced tone mapping algorithms, powerful and detailed HDR controls, and patented U Point® technology
Follow our discount coupon links, or enter our exclusive discount coupon code - NIKPSS - during the checkout process at Nik Software for the instant 15% discount. This exclusive discount coupon code can be applied to all the latest Nik Software Photoshop plugins, including Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, and The Complete Collection (big savings).
Site Grinder Web Design Tool
There often seems to be a strict division of labor within the world of web design and development. Creative professionals tend to stick to the Photoshop domain, while those well-versed in scripting are left to the task of implementing their work. Indeed, the two realms are quite different from each other, to which any of us even vaguely familiar with either can easily attest.
Essentially, Photoshop is a no-holds-barred design studio, offering the artist a seemingly endless array of creative options. On the other hand, HTML, CSS, Java and the like follow strict rules of engagement, requiring the developer to take any number of esoteric concerns into consideration in order to ensure that designs are properly displayed on the web.
Turn Photoshop Into A Complete Web Design Tool
SiteGrinder seeks to bridge this gap between design and development. Basically, SiteGrinder turns Photoshop into an easy-to-use and fully functional web design tool. With SiteGrinder, designers will now have the freedom to totally let their creativity loose and then, without skipping a beat, transfer their designs to the web. Bringing esthetic concerns together with more practical considerations, SiteGrinder is an amazingly powerful tool that would make a fantastic addition to any web designer's bag of tricks. Mac OS X and Windows versions of the SiteGrinder unlockable demo are available now via download.
WordPress Photoshop Plug-in Creates Wordpress Blogs & Sites
Designers can now create PSD to WordPress Themes in Photoshop with Media Lab's NEW SG3xpress for Wordpress Photoshop plug-in. In addition, Media Lab has released the SG3xpress Add-on for its SiteGrinder 3 for users who wish to add advanced blog and WordPress Theme-building to the already powerful SiteGrinder 3 website creation software.
If you know Photoshop then you already know enough to start creating WordPress themes and blogs for yourself and your clients. Creating a blog or a WordPress site in Photoshop is easy with SG3xpress. Now you can go directly to WordPress with your design saving even more time and money for yourself and your clients.
Free Plugins And Extras For Photographers And Designers - onOne Free Products - Fully Functional, No Expiry Date
onOne is offering some nice free products for photographers and designers. This software is not the same as the demo products they also offer. These free downloads are fully functional and do not expire. Customers who download these products will also receive special promotional pricing from onOne. The free products include the following:
PhotoTools 2.5 Free Edition - Add a professional look to your photos with the PhotoTools 2.5 Free Edition plug-in for Photoshop. Includes 26 professional-grade actions and photographic effects to make your images stand out from the crowd.
PhotoFrame 4.5 Free Edition - Add the perfect finishing touch to your photos with the PhotoFrame 4.5 Free plug-in for Photoshop. Includes 30 professional-grade edges, backgrounds, textures, adornments, and even full-page album layouts. Discover a whole new way to get outstanding results inside of Photoshop.
Perfect Presets for LightRoom - Designed to provide a streamlined workflow and make you more creative, these presets for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom were designed to help you get the most out of Lightroom.
Perfect Presets for Aperture - Designed to provide a streamlined workflow and make you more creative, these presets for Aperture 3 were designed to help you get the most out of Aperture.
Perfect Presets for Camera Raw - Designed to provide a streamlined workflow and make you more creative, these presets for Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) were designed to help you get the most out of your Raw images in Adobe Photoshop.
Free Photoshop Templates - Album templates, layouts, backgrounds and edges to save you time in Photoshop.
Photoshop Masking Plugin Fluid Mask - Exclusive Instant Discount
The 4 1/2 out of 5 star review of Fluid Mask at MacWorld begins by saying that this "Photoshop plug-in takes the pain out of extracting backgrounds," and goes on to recommend the latest version, stating that "Fluid Mask is a very effective tool for separating objects from their backgrounds. It offers a variety of useful features for tackling almost any difficult image, from wispy hair to complex foliage. Online video tutorials and live training sessions help ease the learning curve."
Our friends at Vertus, the makers of Fluid Mask Photoshop Plugin, have set up a special exclusive discount for PhotoshopSupport.com. Go to our Fluid Mask page for a special, exclusive discount link.
Fluid Mask is designed for photographers, image editors, graphic designers and all those who take digital image editing seriously. In a streamlined interface and workflow, Fluid Mask instantly shows key edges in the image and provides comprehensive easy to use tools that work with difficult-to-see edges and tricky areas like trees & lattices. Fluid Mask will also preserve all-important edge information for a professional quality cut out. Go to our Fluid Mask page for more info.
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