Some of you already know if you want great night city skylines, don’t wait until night arrives. The best night photographs taken are the ones taken at twilight. As the sky turns to night even on a cloudy dull day at twilight the atmosphere filters out the warmer hues leaving blue as the dominant color.
So why shoot your potentially nice city lights scene against a black featureless night. There is a window of time when the ambient light is about the same intensity as the city lights. This occurs approximately 45-60 minutes after the sun hides behind the horizon. I call this the magic hour. You can actually use a light meter take a reflective reading of the sky and one of the city lights, when they are at approximately the same intensity, click.
So how do you shoot this? All it really requires is a tripod. What ever you do don’t just crank up the ISO speed of your digital camera or run out and buy fast film, not unless the build up of noise or grain is what you want for your composition. Keep your ISO low, I use 200 ISO and have shutter speeds around 4-6 seconds using not quite an open aperture.
So I have my camera on a tripod and I’m still getting blurred photographs. This would be caused by camera shake. Two methods around this annoyance is either a cable release or if your camera is not compatible for a release try using the timer.
David W Sussman
Panama City, Florida
See also: Photography Tips