Category Archives: Digital Night

A room with a view

When I travel I always try to select hotels that are likely to have interesting views, and to request a room with a view if possible. Of course, my idea of an interesting view doesn’t always coincide with the normal tourist vista! I do look around carefully to see what I might like to photograph when I get to my new “home away from home.” The photo below was taken out of the ninth floor window of my hotel room in Barcelona, Spain at the Avenida Palace Hotel facing south towards Montjuic. I like the collage of heating ducts as much as the details that show that the scene in is in Barcelona.

View of a Barcelona Roof © Harold Davis

View of a Barcelona Roof © Harold Davis

Some other examples of my passion for photographing from (or of) hotel room windows include this view out a back window of the pre-renovation Hotel Lutece in Paris showing (once again) complicated duct work, this view of my window on the cathedral in Bourg, France, as much about the lighting as about the incredible church (the related iPhone capture shows a bit more of the room itself), this view down on the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona from the Hotel Espanya showing an unusual angle on the medieval section of town, and the view from my room over the Bay of Tangiers at night in Morocco shown below.

Bay of Tangiers at Night © Harold Davis

Bay of Tangiers at Night © Harold Davis

Travels with Samantha

I’m normally a map, or a map-and-compass, kind of guy. But when I rented my car in Portugal I also rented a navigation system. Getting lost in obscure foreign parts where I didn’t speak the language was definitely getting old.

The man who set up the navigation system for me at Europacar wanted to know whether I wanted British or American English, and also whether I wanted the Jack or Samantha voice. I picked Samantha.

In some respects, Sam is a navigational prodigy, getting me places on a wing and a prayer that I would never have accomplished on my own. For example, the route Sam took me on to the door of my hotel in the historic district of Porto involved several one-way alleys, numerous roundabouts, the lower deck of the famous bridge in Porto, and—strangely—a vacant lot.

Porto at Night © Harold Davis

Porto at Night © Harold Davis

When she’s good, Sam is very, very good—but the price for her help is that she wants control. Occasionally she also gets things wrong, directing me up roads closed to traffic, or alleys that are only intended for foot traffic. In these cases, she gets repetitive, and there is clearly a shrillness to the directions, as if she’s asking, “Why can’t you even follow simple instructions?”

She’s also not very sympathetic to the stops I make for photography. She calculates an arrival time for each destination. Apparently, my photographic stops throw this off. “Recalculating,” she announces, and you can almost see the virtual eyeball rolling. “You are now fifteen minutes later than the original time-to-destination.” It certainly sounds like she gets more annoyed the more photographic stops I make.

Once today I reached a new highway that wasn’t in Sam’s database. Her display showed me and the car rolling across open fields, and her directions to correct my course were increasingly implausible, until at last the real world and her maps coincided again, and there was peace in the relationship once more.

Like any neurotic relationship there are communication problems, and as I mentioned, a battle for control. But I’ve grown accustomed to the strident, dulcet tones of my Samantha, telling me she is recalibrating, and to go right in 100 meters on a street whose name in Portuguese she has totally mangled—or often, turn in 250 meters on “Road” with no other name. It’s relaxing knowing I can blunder anyplace in this country, more or less, and Sam will get me to where I need to go no matter how lost I am.

New York is a stage

I’m passing through New York with an appearance at PhotoPlus Expo on behalf of my sponsor Carl Zeiss, for whom I am a Camera Lens Ambassador. PhotoPlus is at the Javits Center. I am enroute to Barcelona, Spain, where I am headed tomorrow. My timing in New York overlaps with Halloween, and it seems that all the world’s indeed a stage!

Bethesda Fountain © Harold Davis

Bethesda Fountain © Harold Davis

So yesterday to get some air after being at the convention center all day I walked up to Central Park, and shot this image of the plaze behind Bethesda Fountain by moonlight. It does indeed look like a stage, but a deserted one at night!

Night at the Louvre

Photographing after dark in the grand courtyard of the Louvre is always great fun. The pyramid becomes an abstraction, and is an interesting contrast in its modernity with the ornate structure of the grand old palace.

Pyramide © Harold Davis

Pyramide © Harold Davis

Do you prefer this image in color or black and white? I started with the color version (above), then thought that the lines and shapes of the diamonds within the pyramid, and the triangular-shaped reflecting pool, would make a strong composition in monochrome (below).

Pyramide in Black and White © Harold Davis

Pyramide in Black and White © Harold Davis

Abroad at Home

Photographing with a group at Kirby Cove waiting for the full moon to rise behind the Golden Gate Bridge, it seemed to me that I live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Wherever I travel, for beauty it is a hard comparison with the San Francisco Bay area—and yet, part of the trick is to look at what is near at hand with the same wonder and curiosity that we automatically give to destinations that are more distant.

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Looking back and thinking forward

I’ve been looking through my archives from last year in Paris—and finding many images that I want to process! Looking back at the crop from the spring of last year helps me to understand what I did right, and what I didn’t get to do. I am using the inventory to check plan my photography this year. Both the images below are essentially unmodified (other than RAW processing) from the straight shots—these were about being there and getting it right in the exposure, not about post-production.

Paris Carousel © Harold Davis

Paris Carousel © Harold Davis

About the image: I used a moderate wide angle focal length, and stopped down enough (to f/18) to get both the carousel and the Eiffel tower in focus. Since this was at night, a moderately long exposure was required (3 seconds) to be able to stop the lens down and get the depth-of-field I needed.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 18mm, 3 seconds at f/18 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Arc de Triomphe © Harold Davis

Arc de Triomphe © Harold Davis

About the image: Cars, trucks and busses whiz around the Arc de Triomphe endlessly. I wanted to show these cars as streaks, but with the sunset in the sky there was insufficient light for a long enough exposure. I added a polarizer and a +4 ND filter to cut down the light reaching the sensor so I could adjust the exposure proportionately to allow a longish (30 second) shutter speed.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 18mm, polarizer and neutral density filter, 30 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Louvre Reflection

I shot this image last year during a night photography session with my Paris photography workshop. Paris is a great city to photograph at night, with many opportunities for dramatic image making!

Louvre Refections © Harold Davis

Louvre Refections © Harold Davis

Yunomine Onsen

Yunomine Onsen is an ancient spa town in the middle of Kumano kodo territory. A hot creek runs down the middle of the town next to the road; you can see an old stone bridge crossing the thermal creek in the photo below.

Yunomine Onsen © Harold Davis

Yunomine Onsen © Harold Davis

Onsen means bath, which in Japan is usually a communal affair. In Yunomine Onsen there are public hot springs—you pay a small admission fee—and private hot springs associated with individual guesthouses. Most of the guesthouses have traditional gender-segregated bath houses in addition to the hot springs. It’s amazing to think that pilgrims have been enjoying the restorative properties of these thermal springs for literally thousands of years.

Sayonara Kyoto

It is with sadness that I leave Kyoto behind. I hope I come back soon to this mysterious city (both ancient and peculiarly modern)—so I can learn more of its secrets, and spend more time photographing its beauty.

Gion at Night © Harold Davis

Gion at Night © Harold Davis

Star light, star bright, stacking star trails tonight!

Star trails are magical. It’s amazing to see the stars circling in the sky, reminding us that our planet is rotating in space. For many folks who want to get started with star trail photography, it’s something of a mystery and seems inherently difficult. Not so!

Click here to read my article Stacking Star Trails in Photoshop Creative Cloud (posted on Peachpit.com) to learn methods for turning night-sky photos into star trails in Photoshop CC.

Saline Valley Star Trails © Harold Davis

Saline Valley Star Trails © Harold Davis

Bixby Bridge by Starlight

I’ve enjoyed photographing the dramatic Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur coast at night over the years, and it is always fun to take a workshop group to the location. Getting out of the car, it is hard at first to see much in the inky blackness except that it is a long way down to the Pacific Ocean. As things resolve, it becomes clear that one can create interesting images, provided one keeps the camera open long enough, since there really isn’t much light. But in this case the camera sees more than we do!

Bixby Bridge by Starlight © Harold Davis

Bixby Bridge by Starlight © Harold Davis

Exposure information: Nikon D800, Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 lens, ten exposures, each exposure at four minutes, f/2.8 and ISO 500, tripod mounted; exposures stacked using the Photoshop CC Statistics script.

Related stories: Bixby Bridge Blues; Steep Slope; Big Sur Coast.

 

Château de Saumur

In Saumur I stayed in an old hotel on the banks of the Loire River. My room was on the back of the hotel, and a bit cramped, but when I threw open the old-fashioned windows I saw this great view looking up at the old Château de Saumur.

I waited until after dark, then pointed my camera and tripod out the window to capture the old structures in the foreground as well as the lit castle behind.

Château de Saumur © Harold Davis

Château de Saumur © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Five exposures, each exposure at 22mm, f/8 and ISO 200, shutter speeds ranging from 8 seconds to two minutes, tripod mounted; processed and combined in Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop CC, and Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, and converted to black and white using Nike Silver Efex Pro 2.

Les Lumières de Paris

The lights of Paris, laid out below in this photo, remind me of a geometric pattern, thanks to the energetic city planning of Baron Hausmann back in the 1860s. Hausmann, and his employer Napoleon III, liked order and regularity. They felt the wide boulevards were attractive, and would be good for marching troops into Paris to contain the rabble.

Les Lumières de Paris by Harold Davis

Les Lumières de Paris © Harold Davis

Be that as it may, from above the Parisian cityscape is special. I shot this view from the roof deck at the Tour Montparnasse as twilight turned to night. Behind la tour Eiffel, you can see the modern towers of La Défense. Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides is visible on the right, along with the Arc de Triomphe if you look carefully.

According to one recent email, “Enough of Paris already Harold. Come down to earth!” On this topic, I make no promises.

Please keep in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from the publisher for my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. Use discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Wouldn’t you like to know my night photography processing secrets? Star Circle Academy is offering  for a limited time $5 off my Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis, which features a night shot from above the East River in New York City. Use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Lighting the Eiffel Tower

The normal night lighting for the Eiffel Tower up until midnight is pretty nice, but every hour on the hour after dark it is additionally lit up like a kind of LED firecracker. I have mixed feelings about this light show—it is a bit vulgar, but then Paris is famously the City of Light.

Issues of taste—or lack thereof—aside, the extraordinary light display does present an exposure conundrum for two reasons: the lights on the Eiffel Tower are much brighter than the lights of the surrounding cityscape, and also the LED lights are in constant motion, like a giant sparkler, so one needs a fast shutter speed to freeze things in place.

Eiffel Lights by Harold Davis

Eiffel Lights © Harold Davis

I was lucky that I was in the middle of an extended bracketing exposure sequence when the light show went off at 10PM from the roof of the Tour Montparnasse. Combining the exposures as an HDR sequence led to decent results, but I still had to work in post-production to treat the resulting image with finesse and creativity.

Creative Night Photography Post-Production by Harold DavisSpeaking of the craft of night photography post-production, you may be interested in the video recording of my recent Creative Night Photography Post-Processing webinar. Thanks to Star Circle Academy,  this video presentation is now available for download. The cost is $19, but readers of my blog have a (limited time) $5 discount. Click here for more information about the video, and here to purchase the video. Use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Here’s the video description: Creative Night Photo Post Processing with Harold Davis Video: 1 hour, 15 minutes. Harold Davis, author, professional photographer, and workshop leader presents his approach to Post Processing Night Photos.

This video includes detailed discussions of:

  • Stacking using the statistics capabilities of Photoshop Extended;
  • An explanation of gamuts and color space – and why you do not want to work in sRGB (default space)—how to tweak your workflow to keep as wide a gamut of colors as possible
  • Creative sharpening of night images using LAB color
  • A look at a workflow to make an East River night scene in New York City stand out by applying multi-RAW processing, and a handful of filters and special effects.
  • Please bear in mind that this is not a video recording with Hollywood production standards. But, as one webinar participant put it, “There is information about processing night photos in this video you can’t get anywhere else!”

Click here to learn more about the Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis video, and here to purchase the Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis video. Don’t forget to use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) to get your discount!Davis- The Way of the Digital Photographer

Also please bear in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from my publisher for my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. My new book has quite a bit of detailed information about working with layers, creative post-production, and how post-production possibilities should inform your choices at the moment of exposure.

Use the discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount. Click here for more information and to buy The Way of the Digital Photographer.

 

City of Light

Paris is often called the “City of Light”—perhaps it should also be called the City of Lights. Plural. As in many. You can see in this photo that everything is lit at night, like a giant playground for adults. But wait! There’s more. Every hour on the hour la Tour Eiffel starts giving off sparks like a giant fireworks candle. Stay tuned, many more photos of Paris to follow.

Paris, City of Light

City of Light © Harold Davis