Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Colors of the STA

For the high and low of it

Providing motion after dark can have some dramatic impact on the actual image capture at a location. Sometimes capturing fireworks can be like that, but in other circumstances it is automobile traffic that provides the motion and the color.

There are some fairly traditional after dark “motion shoots,” in Spokane. One example of that is the south side of the overpass at Riverfront Park, above the Washington Street couplet. That shot reveals both the traveled portions of the roadway, as well as the lights from some downtown office buildings, and of course the Spokane River.

This week I wanted to find a secondary location, or several of them, if I could. The goal was to capture vehicle motion and color, at sunset through total darkness. The first target this past week came as I faced south towards the moon, on the Clock tower footbridge. This footbridge is close in proximity to the southbound lanes of the couplet, onto Stevens street. To get the moon and vehicles into the same frame, the angle needed to get a traffic flow that displayed vehicle lights over and above the side rail on the couplets bridge surface. When an STA bus came through, I really liked what I saw, and set the camera (Canon 400d, RAW + JPEG, F16, 6-8 seconds exposure, tripod mounted) up for any other STA bus that came across the southbound lanes. About 10 minutes after setting everything up, along came an STA bus, and the timed exposure showed the motion and flash of the bus colors and lights.

On another night, I sought out another secondary location, where I could get vehicle lights, in a mostly out of the ordinary photo location. At sunset I took a look at the north end of the Washington Street Couplet overpass, from the ground level. Shooting there looked doable and so about two hours later in total darkness I returned to that spot and set up for another timed exposure. It was a little difficult to judge when northbound vehicles were going to enter the frame, since the east walls of the couplet blocked most of the view. I had to listen to approaching traffic, and then set up an exposure which would be long enough to capture vehicles as they came into view of the camera, as well as when they exited the field of view to the north. (Canon 400d, F16, 8sec, tripod mounted, RAW + JPEG, CR2). What I had not counted on was another STA bus to enter my scene, along with three other vehicles, and all at the same time. The combination of all the vehicle lights, was a big help in displaying the motion and color at the time of the shot.

At night, there seems to be no Spokane locations in which there are no photographic possibilities. Yep, we live in a beautiful place….


Sunday, July 29, 2007

The STA Blur

Summertime and photography after dark offer up some interesting challenges.

First, to get out with cameras after dark, means that the actual period of darkness comes much later in the evening. So, unless you want to spend hours much later in the day, you may opt to wait until Fall or Winter months.

Or, you get out early in the morning before sunrise, to get the shots of locations during darkness. That condition is not one of my favorite activities, since many of the nighttime lighted buildings or locations will have all of their lights off.

So, I tend to get out there later in the evening and shortening the amounts of time to the places which get visited. For me, it means I have maybe two hours to get shots or get out. On the bright side, it isn’t cold with ice and snow on the ground.

Summer shots after dark in many locations mean that there are much more people activities in progress. I have never been out on a shoot around Spokane in summertime, when small groups of people don't become interested in what is happening. Taking time to explain what you are doing can take some time, but it is the right thing to do.

There are times when people are going to get into your shots. Usually not a problem, unless your intent was to capture objects and not people. Photoshopping them out of the image after you get the RAW files on your computer might be doable, but taking them out of the frame is not a representation of what you saw when you were at the location. When I was setting up a shot on the Clocktower foot bridge in Riverfront Park, I had at least ten people wait in a group until they were sure they would not ruin the shot. I think I must have shot ten images before I noticed them, and I thanked them as they went on their way that evening. I was trying to frame an STA bus as it crossed the Washington Street couplet into downtown, to see if I could get the bus colors and the early evening moon in the same shot. It was about 9:15PM when I got that opportunity and the bus colors and the motion depicted by the southbound bus seemed to jump as the 4 second time exposure (F16) captured the action.

Shooting in the evening is a good deal of fun, even if it requires a late evening/night series of digital shots.