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Posts Tagged ‘night photography’

I am back from Paris now, but very much still under its influence. My final night in Paris, I walked down to the Seine River just before midnight. A light drizzle was falling, but I did not care. If anything, the rain made everything more beautiful, creating additional reflections on the cobblestone streets. As I crossed a bridge over the river,  I could see the Eiffel Tower all lit up, its searchlight piercing in and out of the clouds. It was magical!

I was having a great time trying to capture the scene when suddenly the lights on the tower went out. It was as if the Eiffel Tower had suddenly disappeared. I knew that the tower’s lights were not on all night, but I did not expected them to be extinguished right at midnight. Reality sometime has a way of crashing in on moments of fantasy.

One of my readers, Michael Scandling, challenged me to be out walking the streets at midnight to see if I might end up in the 1920’s having a drink with Hemingway. Obviously he too had seen the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris. The lead character played by Owen WIlson spends a lot of time wandering the streets of Paris and suddenly at midnight he repeatedly ends up in the 1920s, rubbing elbows with famous authors, actors, and artists of that era. Who wouldn’t want to have a chance to talk to icons like Cole Porter, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Salvador Dali? The movie additionally has wonderful footage of many places in Paris that are very familiar to me. It is one of the few DVDs that I have purchased in the past ten years.

Alas, real life does not generally play out as it does in the movies. Instead I quietly continued my walk, watching as waiters stacked up chairs in restaurants and lights began to dim as Paris prepared to sleep. For many in Paris, it was the end to just another day, but for me it was special, it was midnight on my final day in this special city, at least for this trip.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is Saturday night in the Paris, the City of Light. I took this photo a short while ago as I was crossing one of the many bridges over the Seine River.

I hope that your Saturday night is as colorful and filled with light.

city of light

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This may sound a little crazy, but I sometimes forget that I can take photographs with my brand new iPhone 11. Let me explain. For most of my working years, I worked in buildings in which cellphones were not permitted, so I never got used to having one with me all of the time. I used (and use) a landline telephone as my primary means of communication, relying on an answering machine if I was not there.

Eventually I did get a cellphone, but it was a cheap Android phone and I used TracFone as my provider. It is a pay-as-you go system and I would buy minutes annually. Being somewhat frugal, I would turn on the phone when I wanted to use it and then turn it off. The phone was for my convenience. The only exceptions I made were when I was taking photos in really remote locations or when traveling in the USA.

Recently I decided to dive deeper into the Apple ecosystem (I am writing this on a MacBook Pro) and purchased my iPhone and a T-Mobile plan that gives me unlimited talk, text, and data. More importantly, it allows me to text and use data in many foreign countries without additional charges, which has proven to be quite handy here in Paris.

So why don’t I use it to take photos? Well, first of all, I have to remember to take it with me when I go out. Twice already this trip, I left the apartment without my phone and only realized it much later. Unlike many people, I felt absolutely no sense of panic when I realized that I was separated from my phone nor any obsessive compulsion to return to the apartment and reunite with my iPhone.

More importantly, I find the position for taking photos with a smart phone to be somewhat unnatural—there is something comfortable and secure about putting my eye to a viewfinder rather than holding my arms out in front of me. One of the consequences of my cataract surgery a few years ago is that I no longer need glasses most of the time. My distance vision is now 20/20. After a lifetime of being significantly near-sighted, I am now slightly far-sighted, and it just happens that the distance at which I hold my iPhone is one at which my vision is not quite sharp without reading glasses. (My DSLRs have diopter adjustments, which lets me see thought the viewfinder perfectly, although I sometimes have issues seeing sharp details on the LCD screen on the back of the camera.)

Here are a couple of shots that I took on Sunday with my iPhone. I took the first shot from the steps of Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre and the second shot later in the evening from a bridge over the Seine River. I am impressed by the details, the color, and the quality of the images.

Change is hard, but maybe it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.

Paris panorama

Seine River at night

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I decided to go for a late night stroll on Saturday and ended up at Place Saint-Michel in the student district not far from Notre Dame. Where else could I have been able to order a crêpe with Nutella and bananas after midnight? For the record, the crêpe was amazing.

Along the way I captured this image of the Pont Saint-Michel (Saint-Michel Bridge), one of 37 bridges over the Seine River in Paris. Those bridges come in all shapes in sizes, with several of them pedestrian only. This particular bridge links the left bank of the Seine with  Île de la Cité, one of only two remaining natural islands in Paris. The island, on which the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral is located, is historically viewed as the center of Paris.

The Pont Saint-Michel, which was built in 1857, is quite distinctive in appearance. If you look closely you will see two large N’s, each surrounded by a laurel wreath. These are symbols of Napoleon III’s Second Empire that lasted from 1852 to 1870. In the right hand side of the photo you can see the lights of the embankment on the Seine and above them the lights at street level.

 

Pont Saint-Michel
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We finally had a clear night here in Brussels and I had a chance to walk around a bit and capture some shots of the Town Hall in the Grand-Place, the historical central square of the city.

I love the look of nighttime shots, find it a bit of a challenge to take them handheld with a point-and-shoot camera. I braced my camera against a variety of objects and even used my stocking hat as a cushion in trying to gain a more stable shooting position.

Grand-Place

Grand-Place

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking back home last night from the metro station, I was struck by the light that was bouncing all around a highway underpass as cars passed by, creating an abstract world of beautiful shapes and lines.

I really had no idea what kind of settings to use on my camera, but after a few quick tests I settled on ISO 2500 and f/9, which gave me exposures between one and two seconds. I rested my camera on a railing to steady it and pointed my camera in the general direction of the underpass.

Those who follow this blog regularly know that I have recently been experimenting with different approachs and subjects for my photography, which normally focuses primarily on wildlife and nature. Oh, I still enjoy that photography immensely, but it’s been fun and challenging to try some new things too.

I am quite pleased with some the nighttime images that I was able to capture, which are a pretty good reflection of what I was seeing and feeling.

underpass

underpass

underpass

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I really like the different types and colors of light in this shot of a portion of Brussel’s nightime skyline, taken from an overlook near the city’s Central Train Station.

skyline_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It rained most of the day in Brussels, but finally the skies cleared a little in the evening and the moon was visible from time to time, peeking through the clouds. I enjoy walking through this old city at night and observing the interplay of the light and shadows.

It’s a fun challenge to try and capture the effects of light at night with an older point-and-shoot digital camera and I am always looking for solid objects against which to lean to steady myself.

This was my most “artistic” shot of the evening, an attempt to balance the effect of the weak light of the moon with the artificial lights that illuminated this statue.

statue_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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The streets in the pedestrian area of Vienna have spectacular displays of lighting for Christmas that are simple and elegant. Each of the streets has its own motif that is repeated in white or gold lights. My favorites are the giant chandeliers in one of the main streets, but others are equally impressive. Do you have a favorite?

globes1_blog

I am including a selection of photos in a gallery to show you some of the different lighting schemes—click on a photo to see the photos in  the gallery at higher resolution.

gold2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There are so many beautiful, historic buildings in Vienna that I often walk around with my eyes looking upward (fortunately I haven’t run into anything yet). These are shots of a couple of elements of the Hofburg Palace, a former palace that is right in the center of the city. Vienna does a nice job of lighting up many of these buildings at night, which makes for some nice opportunities for me to hone my skills in night photography.

clock_tower_bloggreen_dome_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Like most people who live in the the Washington, D.C. area, I don’t visit monuments much unless there are visitors. One of my fellow photographers invited me to photograph the Capitol on Friday evening to satisfy the wishes of a visiting photographer.

We were quite a sight as we set up umbrellas and tripods in the rain which fell progressively harder and harder. My favorite shot is the first one, which shows the reflection of the Capitol in one of the wet, slippery stairs leading up to it.  I tried a number of long exposures, varying from about 15 to 30 seconds to get this look.

The second one is a more traditional view, but I think that the lighting was pretty cool at that time of the evening.

capitol2_blogcapitol1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Here are a few more shots from my last night in Vienna. The first three are of a portion of the Hofburg Palace. The last one is of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom). I can’t recall the name of the church in the penultimate photo.

Hoffburg1_blogHoffburg2_blogHoffburg3_blogchurch1_blogStephen1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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On my last full day in Vienna (at least for this trip), I decided to take some photos of the city as the sun started to set.

This is a shot of the Rathaus (Vienna City Hall), just after they turned on the lights to illuminate the building. I did not have a tripod with me, so I braced on or against various objects in an effort to steady myself. I may post a few more night shots of Vienna later (if I am not too sleepy or wake up really early), but thought I’d share this one right now.

My trip to Vienna was brief, but enjoyable. I got a lot accomplished work-wise, but had enough free time to really enjoy some amazing spring weather.

Rathaus1a

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When most people think of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, they think only of the black granite wall with all of the names, but the Three Servicemen Statue is also part of the memorial.

Frederick Hart, the sculptor of these statues, described his work in these words (according to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund):

“The portrayal of the figures is consistent with history. They wear the uniform and carry the equipment of war; they are young. The contrast between the innocence of their youth and the weapons of war underscores the poignancy of their sacrifice. There is about them the physical contact and sense of unity that bespeaks the bonds of love and sacrifice that is the nature of men at war. And yet they are each alone. Their strength and their vulnerability are both evident. Their true heroism lies in these bonds of loyalty in the face of their aloneness and their vulnerability.”

I visited the memorial one evening this past weekend and took these photos of the statue. The first photo shows the torsos of the grouping (the statues themselves are full body, but I wanted to show the details of the upper bodies) and the others show the faces of each of the three soldiers.

Vietnam_trio_blogmachinegun_blogStatue 2Black_soldier_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Fog, low-hanging clouds, and reflected light gave the skies of Washington D.C. an orange-colored glow last night, which made for dramatic shots of the Washington Monument.

I don’t really understand the scientific basis for the phenomenon (perhaps air pollution contributed to it), but tried to capture it with my camera. I took these shots at about nine o’clock in the evening using my tripod and a long exposure, even thought they look like they might have been shot at sunset.

A friend convinced me to go with him to Washington D.C. with the goal of getting some photographs of the Washington Monument shrouded in heavy fog, which turned out not to be the case. Instead, we got something totally unexpected that turned out to be even better than that for which we had hoped.

Monument & TreesWashMonumentOrangeSky

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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