A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The City That Never Sleeps

That cannot be said for the city I live in. It is dead quiet in the wee hours of the morning.
And that is just want I was hoping for.

I wanted to get some nighttime city shots without cars leaving light streaks and therefore took the following shots around 4:30 on a Saturday morning. Mainly this was a learning experience and I wasn't expecting much. In the end I was surprised that most everything came out reasonably well and I learned a lot. A tripod is a must. Some shots I rested the camera on the ground, a planter box or newspaper stand and the difference in clarity is quite evident compared to holding and resting it on the car window. And you should use a cable release. I knew this going in but mainly wanted to get some ideas for exposure times and apertures.

The following color images are straight out of the camera and all are with the aperture at f3.8.
The black and white images were manipulated from their previous color image.

Exposure time 1 second

I was surprised again how much that dark shot could be rescued in the conversion below.

Exposure 2 seconds
Notice how the traffic light gets more glare with the longer time but the overall scene is better lit.
A smaller aperture and longer exposure might correct this.

Exposure 3 seconds
Here I rested the camera on the ground and lost the advantage I was seeking for more sharpness as the camera focused on the grass in the foreground. Next time I'll turn the auto focus off and set the lens to infinity and beyond. Isn't that what they said in Star Trek? I never watched the show. Notice now even the street lamps are producing too much glare.

But I am really liking the black & white city nighttime pictures. This is what I was after. I set the white balance for tungsten and forget to put it back the next day when I took the frozen shot for yesterday's post. That is why I have blue golf balls.
More to come.


  1. Nice photo work! Never watched Star Trek, but "To infinity and beyond!" is Buzz Lightyear's favorite line in the Toy Story movies.

  2. you're getting crazy - getting out at 4:30 a.m. for photography... ha!

  3. I'm with TexWisGirl, 4:30? now way. I do like your experiments, a good way to learn. When I don't have a release handy I sometimes use the camera's timer to avoid jarring the camera when I trip the shutter.
    I think you would enjoy a day trip to Locke, it doesn't take much time to see the town and it leaves plenty of time to visit the cranes.
    I enjoyed the drive down the river road and think there is a lot more exploring to be done along the way. If in a hurry, one could travel I5.

  4. A city that never sleeps.
    Gee maybe a post about why people don't sleep. How can you possibly be up that early in the frosty cold?
    I admire your efforts, and the experiment.
    Gee, guess I better learn to read between the lines...

  5. was it frosty cold at that hour? I have a difficult time imagining what California feels like in January at 4:30 a.m. It probably depends on your elevation, huh? my favorite shot is the last one. I love the perspective and the bright glow of the street lamp. how adventurous you are! keep them coming. per your comment - I played around with that 50/50 in black and white and just didn't like the results. decided to go with the more tonal version. it could be though that I have no clue what I'm doing. that's a distinct possibility! I always appreciate your suggestions. happy Monday to you and Sinbad.

  6. The black and white version are my favorites. That last shot looks like something out of a movie.

  7. You lost me at 4:30 am. But the b&w shots are great. I like the glared effect of the lights. Looks like the stars fell from the sky. I try and fiddle with my manual settings but my camera still won't let me take a picture if it's really dark. Maybe the trick is a prolonged exposure to let more light in. Back to the instruction book.

  8. Ive just stumbled across your blog and am very impressed. excellent images I hope you can find the time to view my blog.


  9. Nice work. I need to get out and do something like that instead of sitting at my desk and taking pictures of birds through my window! Really like that last photo.

  10. "Beam me and Mr Spock down to the planet Scotty."
    "There seems to something strange going on here.One of the planets inhabitants has an imaging device and seems to be the only one not in sleep mode."
    I need to get up early before the days get too long for some sunrises.
    Practise makes perfect John (at any age)

  11. Great night captures. I always fumble with my night photography.

  12. i think that the angle/perspective & the black & white made that last shot! WoW! =)


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