Ok, time for something new for the blog. What I want to do is show you a photo from a recent shoot and then explain the settings I used, where I was positioned and what time of the day it was. The idea here is to allow those of you who live near the subject to be able to recreate the shot, and for those who are on the other side of the world to understand how it was made.

The first building I’m going to share isn’t even a building, it’s a boat. It’s called the Polly Woodside and it’s permanently moored in Melbourne next to the convention centre and has recently had a fair bit of work done around it by several architects. The photo below was commissioned by the good folks over at Tandem Design Studio (who are pretty online savvy by the way and were very supportive in sharing an image in this way – thanks guys)

Polly Woodside photo by Nic Granleese

Settings

Mode: Manual

Exposure Time: 8 Seconds

Aperture: 11

ISO: 100

Flash: Off

The settings used are the standard settings I use for architectural photography, which I’ve talked about before here: Manual Settings for Architectural Photography. As you can see by the exposure time this is a long exposure and is going to need the camera to be firmly mounted to a good tripod and you’re going to have to be wary of vibrations (I’ll talk about that more below.) You can try longer exposure times for this shot, but what you’ll find is that the strong lighting of the convention center in the background will become over exposed. The other option for this shot is to bracket several shots with different exposures and blend them together, which I won’t go into here in this post. For those of you wondering why the flash is off, even though it’s a night time scene, it’s because the tiny flash on you camera has very little power in comparison to how far away you are from the subject.

Equipment

  • Tripod
  • Camera (I was using a Canon 7D)
  • Zoom lens (I was using a Canon 24 – 105 L zoomed into 32 mm)

What’s nice with this shot is that you can take it with a standard zoom lens, you don’t need a specialised tilt shift lens that is often used for architectural photography. This is because the shot was taken on the Seafarers Bridge (see map below) which elevates the camera and negates the need to use shift. Everything just nicely lines up and as long as your camera is level, then you’ll end up with a perspective correct photograph.

Time

I’ve given you the time and date of this shot below, but all that really matters is that it’s well and truly night time. From memory this shot was taken about an hour after sunset.

10pm (19/03/2013)

Location

Polly woodside architectural photography map

Here’s a map to help you shoot from the same location. I was positioned in line with the ship, standing about 100m back on the Seafarers Bridge. Because of the distance I’m using a standard zoom lens (no tilt shift) which would normally mean i’d tilt my camera up or down to get the shot and end up with converging lines, but because of the height of the bridge the camera is physically higher and when everything is level the shot is naturally perspective correct.

Polly WoodsideYou’ll notice that there are actually three bridges to choose from when taking this shot. I tried all three and this is what I found. The closest two bridges are relatively low compared to the ship, which made the hull seem tall and narrow, plus it’s difficult to capture the full mast and the reflection in the water. Basically I didn’t like the proportions, or the framing as much (see image to the side). Another issue with the smaller bridges, especially the middle one which sees a lot of foot traffic, is that it’s difficult to get long exposures without the bridge shaking. I had two people doing traffic control and we would have to let people through, then wait 10 or 20 seconds for the vibrations to stop and then take the 8 second exposure. It just wasn’t ideal. Interestingly, the much larger Seafarers Bridge still had some level of shake. When someone would start walking from the other side of the river I could feel the sway of the bridge start. The process involved a lot of waiting and timing for a long enough gap. As the night got later this foot traffic declined, which is a good reason to shoot later in the evening.

Let me know if you recreate this shot

If you get a chance at recreating this shot (or others of the Polly Woodside) then you should absolutely let me know about it on Twitter (@nicgranleese) or Facebook. And if you do post a pic on Twitter it’s not a bad idea to say thanks to James and the team at Tandem Studio (@TandemMelb) for being so open about sharing this image.