Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I was wowed when I looked at this image on google maps for the Prudential Tower observatory. Then I start digging into the photographer (Eric Rolph -flickr) and I found he had some stunning pics beside this.

What do I need to take a picture like this? Stand, long exposure, how much if yes? Can I achive something similar with my Nikon D5100?

Eric Rolph - For The Shortening of Our Life

For reference: this photo was taken with Canon EOS 5D.

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The image is "All Rights Reserved" on Flickr, so I replaced it with a link. My apologies if you did have the author's permission for submitting his image here, feel free to rollback then. –  Imre Nov 28 '11 at 22:48
    
Thanks, you did the right thing –  photo101 Nov 28 '11 at 23:46
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1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You can very well take night shots like this with D5100. I'll explain from my experience when i took this pic.

Chicago Lights

Time

Timing is very important in city-light shots. You can see the deep-blue/purple color of sky in the example picture you posted. You get this color a bit after sunset (Twilight). Unlike other landscape shots, you need a clear sky. So plan your trip to the observatory accordingly.

Lens

A wide angle lens is the most suitable for city-light shots. Apart from getting a wide viewing angle you also get a good depth of field.

Aperture

What you need is a large depth of field. Setting it more than f/8 on a wide angle lens gives you good depth of field. Few city-light shots look particularly good if you go all the way to f/22. You get star burst from light. But this depends on your lens.

Shutter speed

I exposed my light meter off the blue sky. It gave me some 10s of shutter speed. Generally it is a good idea to meter off the blue sky.

Tripod

You definitely need a tripod or a solid support for your camera. Exposure time is going to be much more than you can hand hold the camera.

Other consideration

  1. Observatories have big glass windows. And at night they start reflecting room lighting. Be ready to post-process them out.
  2. Shoot raw. You might want to change WB later.
  3. Use lens hood.

About the actual image

  1. Looks like the photographer has set a cooler WB on the image. I reduced WB of my image to get this look:

    enter image description here

  2. The EXIF data of image shows it is shot at 1/30th of second. To compensate this faster shutter speed aperture is increased to f/2.8 and ISO bumped up to 1250. The reason of using a fast shutter speed is not very clear to me. It could be because tripods might not be allowed (?) in John Hancock observatory, Boston.
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Double emphasis on a stable tripod. I'd also recommend a remote or cable release, or at least the use of the camera's timer and exposure delay to avoid camera shake. –  ElendilTheTall Nov 27 '11 at 10:43
    
Very informative. I noticed one thing after your answer. The colors in Eric picture is only blue (even building are blue). I think these are achieved in the camera after the shot. Would you agree? –  photo101 Nov 27 '11 at 15:28
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I am going to disagree with one thing. In original large pic flickr.com/photos/ericrolph/115155126/sizes/o/in/set-56942, you see all moving cars clearly in focus. I dont think it photo was caught with long expsure. The Sensor and ISO on 5D is so large and so high, this shot might not be entirely possible with D5100. But I should be able to get the blue tint (photoshop) to give it this effect, which will bring it closer. –  photo101 Nov 27 '11 at 15:52
    
The EXIF data from Eric Rolph's photo provides the following information: 24mm, 1/30, f/2.8. I don't see the ISO value, but I'm guessing it was fairly high, perhaps 1600. –  Kim Burgaard Nov 27 '11 at 19:34
    
@Vikas, I maniuplated your image and posted that as an answer as dementration to show how colors of building can be changed. Let me know if you want me to remove it. My point was eric's photo has photoshop work and another point, was probably not using long exposure at all. –  photo101 Nov 27 '11 at 19:53
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