This past weekend’s warm weather made for some great night photography. I’ve lived in Chicago for nearly 15 years (on/off) and it’s a very rare evening that you can see the stars, given all the light pollution, but this past weekend was spectacular.
I decided to focus on taking a few long exposures to capture the energy and beauty of the city. The great thing about a long exposure is there’s very little that can go wrong once you have the setup nailed. The key of course is having a sturdy tripod, cable release, and lot of patience. There’s a lot of math that you can do to help achieve the right exposure, but I’m a simple kind of guy (that means math dumb) so I prefer to set my camera on B (bulb exposure), select a higher f-stop and start taking test shots. I usually start at around a minute and work my exposure time up or down depending on available light.
City of Lights (ISO 100, 268 secs, f/16, 20mm focal range on Canon 16-35) — This image took a significant amount of time to expose properly, tipping the scales at nearly 5 minutes. Now, I could have stopped the exposure at around 3 minutes, but I wanted an image that almost appeared overexposed, because it’s much easier to add black back into an image like this versus bumping up the lights (highlights). Later I finished this image off in Color Efex Pro 4 using several filters to bring my vision into focus. In terms of composition, I decided to leave the airplane lights in the image because I felt it added to the overall “big city” feel and energy.
Lake Shore Drive (ISO 100, 27secs, f/16- Zeiss 50mm) — The hardest part about this shot is getting to the right location. I guess photography shares the realtor’s adage…”location, location, location.” I took this image from a pedestrian overpass that gave me a glimpse of the John Hancock building to help solidify it’s Chicago identity. You might think you need to take this shot over a very long period of time, but in the world of long exposure, this is a very quick shot coming in at 27 secs. Whenever you have a lot of fast moving lights the longer the exposure the softer and blurrier the lights will appear. Once again, I later processed this image using Color Efex Pro 4 and a few my favorite filters.
It was a wonderful evening and I hope you enjoy the images.
p.s. Side note: we still have a few spots open for my Chicago Workshops, where I’ll be discussing how to create images just like these. Hope to see you there!