Through a fortunate turn of events, the rain we were having yesterday morning moved out of the area during the afternoon and left us with just enough clouds to make a beautiful sunset. I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and head over to the Estrella Star Tower to see what it looks like at night when it’s all lit up. I dragged my husband and sister-in-law along with me, but I don’t think they minded! 🙂
I was using my Nikon D5000 with my Nikkor kit lens (18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AF), mounted on my Sunpak tripod. I shot everything in aperture-priority mode using a cable release, letting the camera control the shutter speed. I had the aperture wide open to allow as much light in as possible.
Shooting at night is an entirely different animal, especially if you haven’t done it a lot and don’t have the users manual with you for reference. The first few shots I took were pretty good, but then I noticed that I still had the exposure compensation set at -1.3 from my previous shoot. So on the fourth or fifth shot, I got that little problem adjusted and was rewarded with a little more balance of light in the shots between the tower, the sky and the foreground. A great example is below (all photos shown here are JPG’s straight from the camera with no processing):
I like the way I was able to capture the reflection of the lights in the water to the left as well as the lights of Phoenix reflecting off the clouds. The clouds were really not that bright to the naked eye, but with the long exposure time, they really popped in the photo. If you look closely at the base of the mountains, you can see a white light trail from the passing cars.
We then climbed the tower, which has a spiral staircase running around the outside of it. About halfway up, I paused to take some shots of the mountains to the east. The only problem was that it was too dark for my auto-focus lens to work, and for the life of me, I could not remember how to get everything set for manual focus. I finally remembered how to change the setting in the camera menu, but I completely forgot about flipping the A/M switch on the lens itself. So, I just pointed the camera at the mountains and crossed my fingers, and got this as a result:
Not too bad–I like the light trails from the traffic and the airplanes–but I would have liked to have had more control over the shot. And now that I’ve screwed it up once, I know what NOT to do next time.
After taking a few shots from the top of the tower, we came back down and I decided to get a few more shots on our way out of the park. By then the sky was darker, so I knew I’d get some different colors in the clouds. Did I ever! I didn’t notice it at the time I was shooting, but when I got home, I found that the clouds were full of sparkly “ghosties”:
I blame this one on my very first photography instructor who told us to always have a 1A (or “skylight”) filter on our lens to protect it from dust and scratches. But I’m finding that it’s not such a good idea to use the filter at night when shooting scenes where there are bright points of light, because the filter creates reflections of the light points that get redirected to inappropriate areas of the shot….like the ghosties in the sky on the shot above. If it weren’t for the ghosties, I’d really like this photo, but as it is, I guess I’m just gonna have to go back out there and try it again–not that I mind!
I really enjoyed this shoot, and I do honestly look forward to going back out there again in the near future–but this time I’ll be armed with more knowledge and better technique! If you would like to see the entire set of 21 images from this shoot, head on over to Flickriver for a look-see!