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Tag Archives: Night photography


Cassiopeia is the “M” shaped constellation at the top of the image.  The short version of the myth is that she was a goddess who was placed in the sky as punishment for her vanity.

I think she’s still pretty beautiful up there!


Havana night

Photographers who put their cameras away right after sunset miss some cool stuff.  I know, because I used to be one of them.

Fortunately, no one seems to mind too much if you lug a tripod around in Havana.  I mean, you get a lot of quizzical looks just because you’re American, and you dress differently and talk funny.  (And despite over three decades of practice, I know my Spanish still leaves much to be desired!)  So the tripod and camera gear don’t add that much interest.

One thing that makes night photography that much more challenging in Cuba is that there simply isn’t that much light…even in Havana.  I thought the buildings would be much more brightly lit, and I had high hopes for the dome, but the lights were never turned on!

So even though this image was taken right in the middle of Havana, it has a different look than, say, an image taken at night in San Francisco or New York.  Times Square this ain’t!

With a long exposure, the light-colored buildings reflect enough light from the widely scattered streetlights and very occasional headlights (this was a 30-second exposure between sunset and dark–notice how little traffic there is on the street?) to give them a pretty and yet almost surreal glow.

So my night images in Havana weren’t what I was expecting…but I like them even more because of that!


The San Francisco Giants won the World Series tonight.  I happened to be in San Francisco a few nights ago, and was amazed at how many buildings were sporting orange lights in support of the team.  Visible in the above image are the following, left to right:

  • Coit Tower
  • Transamerica (Pyramid) Building
  • Ferry Building (top)
  • City Hall
  • Embarcadero Center

It seems like a number of other office and apartment buildings decided to light some of their windows and/or rooftops orange as well.  It was great to see the city landmarks “color-coded” and standing out from their surroundings.

Just one request:  can we leave the orange lights on through Halloween?


Another view of the Golden Gate Bridge, this one with San Francisco in the background.

A bridge that’s elegant and graceful in any light.  I never get tired of photographing it…

Some cities just seem to beg to be photographed at night, and San Francisco is one of them.  The climate is mild, the topography is varied, and there are so many great vantage points, both within and outside of the city, that the possibilities for unique images are just about infinite.

On a recent drizzly evening, I took advantage of a break in the weather to get a few shots of this beautiful city.  The storm clouds lent a lovely, soft, dark backdrop to the buildings, without obscuring them the way the fog sometimes can.  The night was positively balmy, and the best thing is that there was absolutely no wind, which made long exposure shots a breeze, so to speak.

There are enough landmarks in the image to identify it as San Francisco to most people who have been there.  Coit Tower on the far left is the most prominent.  There’s also the Ghirardelli sign in the lower right, the Transamerica Pyramid building in the upper right, and the delicate string of lights in the sky is one of the spans of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Remember that you don’t have to try to cram every icon of a city into every image.  I deliberately left out the rest of the Bay Bridge, all of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the rest of the waterfront, all of which were visible from my vantage point.  Edit in the viewfinder!  In this image, I only cropped out some sky above and water below, both of which were pretty bland and didn’t contribute anything to the image.  And I knew I would do that when I took the image.  But I didn’t crop the sides at all.

If you’re adept at the computer side of photography, another way to create an image like this with even better resolution is to shoot a series of vertical images and then stitch them together to make a panorama.

When’s the last time you photographed your environment at night, at home or while traveling?  Don’t let winter stop you.  Storms and clouds lend great atmosphere, and snow transforms everything it covers (and bounces a lot of light at night!).

Carpe noctem!

Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city in southern Peru.  It’s lovely both by day as well as by night.  Many of its buildings were constructed using blocks of sillar, a volcanic rock.  The tuff is very pale, and because so many buildings have been built with it, Arequipa is known as “La Ciudad Blanca” (The White City).   The pale buildings are particularly striking by night.

The buildings along the town square are dramatically lit at night, and I enjoyed the photo ops for several hours.

Since I don’t own a tilt-shift lens, I played with deliberately accentuating the perspective of looking up at the buildings.  I love the way the pillar and the building appear to be leaning in towards each other in the image above.  Despite the frequent earthquakes in the region, I assure you that both structures were quite vertical when I was there.

In the image above, the fact that the building in the background is so evenly lit accentuates the beautiful filigree on the iron gate and fence.  The delicate scrollwork really stands out against the pale walls.  It would be difficult to get this effect during the daytime, with harsh light and deep shadows on the building competing for attention.  The metalwork would disappear against the shadows.

The image below is a pedestrian walkway.  I love the ornate street lamps, and the way they recede into the distance.  This is a city that’s fun to walk and photograph, both by day and by night

Landscape astrophotography.  Say that 10 times fast!

What is it, you ask.  Here’s the definition, quoted from the TWAN website:  “a style of photography…showing both the Earth and the sky—by combining elements of the night sky set against the Earth horizon with backdrop of a notable location or landmark.”

The image above, “Orion Setting Over Ladyface,” is one I took in Agoura Hills, California in 2008.  It does NOT meet the criteria of a “notable location or landmark,” even though the mountain, part of the Santa Monica Mountains, has a name.

It’s also NOT a good image, not sharp, and with tons of “noise.”  But it’s the closest thing I’ve got to landscape astrophotography that illustrates how light pollution dims our view of the stars.

I know I only just posted about IDA (International Dark-Sky Association) not quite two weeks ago, but I’m passionate about reducing light pollution, and Yahoo News today posted the winner of the TWAN photo competition, so here we are again.

OK, so who are these TWAN people?  TWAN stands for ” The World At Night.”  It’s an organization similar to IDA,   dedicated to reducing light pollution so that our night skies can be seen and admired.  And their site features a beautiful photo gallery (of landscape astrophotography, what else?) that shows how our night skies are SUPPOSED to look.  Check out:

The TWAN  landscape astrophotography competition is called The International Earth and Sky Photo Contest.  The winning shot is by a California photographer, and features a night sky shot from the shore of Mono Lake, with a dramatic foreground of tufa towers.

I know a picture is worth a thousand words, but I only post my own images on my blog.  There are copyright laws that must be obeyed.  But don’t just take my word that it’s an awesome image.  Check out:

The image below was taken on the San Mateo County coast in California.  It’s a rural area, but you can see how much light pollution spills “over the hill,” as locals call the more populated half of the San Francisco Peninsula.

I dream of living in an area where I can truly see “billions and billions of stars” as opposed to a few paltry dozen.

But most urban areas can take steps to reduce the light pollution they generate.  Check out the TRAN and IDA websites when you have a few minutes.

In the meantime, I’m going to ponder where I can travel next to get some good landscape astrophotography images, and start saving my pennies:  it’ll take at least a full tank of gas each way to get there!