Monday, April 29, 2013

Photographing a city scene at night

I have been waiting for the spring trees to fill out with some leaves before taking this series of night photos of the Arcade and Bethesda Fountain in New York's Central Park. The renovated arcade is now fully lit and provides a beautiful mosaic frame for the angel fountain in the background.

The evening was slightly overcast. When this happens the sky will usually go quite blue, as it did here. The interior lights were tungsten and tended to the warm yellow end of the color scale. In fact, when I measured it, the interior scene balanced out at around 2500 degrees Kelvin, while the exterior was a high 9800 degrees kelvin. This is a very wide spread and resulted in a very warm interior and very cool blue exterior. I did cut down some of the exterior blue in post-processing.

The other problem I had was that this is a popular place in the park for street vendors, buskers, and tourists so the scene was very populated. I dealt with that by selecting a very slow shutter speed. That way, as people moved through the scene they blurred themselves out and I only had to make a few retouching  corrections to cover them up.

An exposure of 20 seconds blurred the people who were moving throughout the scene. I used an aperture of f/11 to gain good depth of field and a ISO of 200.  I carefully positioned the camera in the center of the arcade to emphasize its symmetry.  I kept the camera position low to give more emphasis to the ceiling detail and less to the ground because it is less important.  The camera was a Nikon D800 with Nikon 24-70mm zoom set to 24mm.

A slow shutter speed of 13 seconds blurred the people in this shot, but also gave a nice blur to the flowing water in the fountain. Nikon D800 and 36mm focal length.

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