Dmitry Kupratsevich’s practice. Capturing the city at night

When you can’t go out of town and the gloomy weather doesn’t give you a chance to take pictures of the cool of dawn and the fading scarlet of sunset, it is quite possible to take a trip in the city at night with a camera – especially at Christmas time, when the streets shine with lights and garlands like decorated Christmas trees. You can take a lot of pictures of night scenes: architecture, architectural monuments, wings of bridges, towers of skyscrapers, and even streets with traced car lights… Today I would like to talk about how to shoot the city at night when there is not enough light .

Dmitry Kupratsevich

Full review of the Canon EOS R mirrorless camera


Canon EOS R + Canon usa 24-105mm f/4 L, f/11, ISO 100, 4s

Preparing for my night journey I made a mental calculation of the most interesting places. In his own city, everyone knows the most beautiful places, which he has seen more than once or twice. So, don’t try to cover all the addresses and references you can remember in one night hike… Selected locations are best united by some common idea. This time I did not make up anything special, because the festive New York is dressed up in a chic “evening gown”, shimmering with street lights, like jewelry. So I decided to take another look at some of the most recognizable spots in our New Year’s Eve capital.

Of course, one of the most gorgeous shooting spots was Theater Square, the luxurious TSUM building. A glowing red bow on the facade, a compliment to the nighttime photographer! Well, just a classic example of a good angle: the main objet with Gothic outlines and “lit up” windows, next to it, a golden building in the Classical style hello, grey hair of the past ! , the tracer road and the trident of the street lamp…


Canon EOS R + Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L, f/11, ISO 100, 1.3s


Canon EOS R + Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L, f/11, ISO 100, 1.3s

I don’t think there’s much need to comment on the next two locations. The arch of the Patriarch bridge leading to the temple and the Kremlin embankment, shimmering in the reflection of the river, have attracted photographers from all over the world for decades…

If you noticed, I did not come to the Moskva River quite at night. It was getting dark and the Red Square was going down in the twilight of the “Blue Hour. The evening lights were already switched on, and the sky was gradually darkening. It is in this short period of time that one can clearly capture both the whimsically flaring clouds and the silence of the falling asleep sky.

I was especially lucky this time: I could catch the “blue hour” on the Red Square as well. In one of the photos, you can see the dashed outlines of the Goom as if trying to capture the elusive sky blue. In the black night sky, you can’t see such subtle shades and halftones. At best, only the stars will remain…


Canon EOS R + Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L, f/2.8, ISO 160, 1/320s

Have you seen Nikolskaya Ulitsa in the “rush hour” of the tourist invasion?? Dark gray crowd flows like a river! A street that looks like Nikolskaya or Arbatskaya is another common location that’s best shot at night, with no witnesses, when the street crowd has dissolved until the next morning. A street with full length “chandeliers” is worth it to stay up for a few hours…

Of course, when choosing an urban location one should take into consideration the factor of random passers-by, who shouldn’t fill up a large part of the frame. “Uninvited cars can also blur an image in a treacherous way. However, there are variants when an art object in the form of a whole street with a busy roadway can be interesting for a photographer. Such scenes are also possible: camera-station-long exposure and the crowd, consisting of undefined faces, turns into a continuous motion, which is complemented by tracer car lights. To shoot this kind of motion you need to see and feel it in advance, and after shooting it you have to combine the best series of shots one after another into one photograph.


Canon EOS R + Canon usa 24-105mm f/4 L, f/11, ISO 100, 0.3s

What camera settings should be used to shoot a city at night?? Two basic approaches are possible. If you take pictures of evening lights with elements of street reporting, when you get the faces of modern people in the frame against the background of classical architecture set your camera on the fastest lens and open the aperture fully. You should use a shutter speed half as slow as the chosen focal length for example, the shutter speed on a “half-pint” should be 1/125 or faster . And you can adjust exposure manually with ISO or switch the sensitivity to auto..

With these settings you can shoot handheld without carrying around the city with a tripod. Your shots will be sharp. Of course, it has a higher percentage of imperfections in such extreme conditions than in normal daylight. No need to get frustrated. Successful night time shooting is highly dependent upon the size of your sensor and the aperture ratio of your lens. From personal experience I can say that the previous generation zoom is EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L, proved in pair with novelty EOS R on five points! And the new zoom lens, the usa 24-105mm f/4L, proved to be extremely good in dim lighting conditions.

Of course for night photography a full frame sensor with an advanced focusing system would be best, not a cropped one. A cropped sensor, especially a double cropped one, is able to process a much smaller amount of light from the very beginning, which is why frequent blunders in focusing are inevitable even in static subjects where there is no movement at all. By the way even modern medium format cameras are not always saving at night – their huge sensors and mount certainly take away more light than full frame, but the contrast auto focus of medium format cameras is pretty slow, it will not let you shoot a dynamic scene comfortably…

But from night walk with full-frame mirrorless EOS R I had a great pleasure. You can shoot night scenes right hand-held with it – paired with any usa or EF lens: its “full frame” resolution is 30.3 megapixels and, most importantly, its larger 54cm lens mount lets you shoot light at a rate comparable to a medium format. The EOS R’s tenacious autofocus is powered by 5655 photodiodes, which cover almost the entire sensor!

However, if your genre is a cityscape, you can go the other way, a landscape one. Set the camera on a sturdy tripod, close the aperture to f/11 – f/13, thereby increasing the depth of field, and aim the point of focus in the center – then the entire frame will be almost sharp. Then, to keep the autofocus from roaming all over the street, fix it in manual mode and set the shutter speed between 2 and 30 seconds, thus determining the optimal exposure. How much better? It really depends on the subject you have in mind and the location you have chosen.

To prevent parasitic noise from ruining things, it’s best to keep the ISO to a natural minimum, which is usually 100. And don’t forget one more important nuance of night shooting: street lamps and facade lights cheerfully shine with different color temperatures: some lights are almost yellow, others are almost blue. That’s why it’s better to shoot at night in RAW format, otherwise you will ruin your chance to correct the white balance in post-processing.


Canon EOS R + Canon usa 24-105mm f/4 L, f/11, ISO 100, 4s

Picture from the Red Square is an eloquent example when two parts of the picture have different color temperature: illuminated GUM warms us up with its warm spectrum while St.Basil’s Cathedral can just about freeze with its blue. Similar photos with “eyes” of different color will have to be processed in halves and then merged into one image. So, shoot RAW and again in RAW… It remains to add that often in the night photography of the city to use either remote control, or start with a smartphone, or delayed shutter. Otherwise, at slow shutter speeds there is microsmudge caused by pressing the shutter button.

You usually shoot the city at night with a wide-angle lens, either a fix or a zoom. Perhaps aperture lenses are preferable for night work. But my night-time shooting with EOS R and the standard zoom of Canon usa 24-105mm f/4L gave me a very sharp and high-quality image, though this optic in the new line of usa optics is not the brightest one. Medium zooms and even telephoto lenses are quite good for taking pictures of architectural details. By the way, the Canon usa 28-70mm f/2.8L, a new fast lens, will make the zoom lens obsolete…


Canon EOS R + Canon usa 24-105mm f/4 L, f/11, ISO 100, 4s

And now let’s talk about special effects from the Weather Center. Taking pictures of a city at night is when the weather forecast really counts. Whether it’s drizzling rain or snow drizzle falling from above, the night sky takes on a natural backdrop that provides its own unique charm. In order to bring out the beauty of the falling snow in every scene, you would need to set the shutter speed to a short, open the aperture and increase the ISO. And you needn’t be afraid of big noises, they miraculously disappear in the snowfall, giving the picture a blizzard-like atmosphere…


Canon EOS R + Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L, f/2.8, ISO 6400, 1/800s

And so our walk through New Year’s Eve New York comes to an end. I like to say that taking pictures of the city at night has been a great way for me to keep my creative juices flowing, it allows me to keep honing my technique. At night, you get a much more refined feel for your camera, its settings and its true capabilities. Night scenes, night light and night angles radically change the approach to photography, compared to daylight or studio photography.

If you want to get to know a friend, go scouting with him. If you want to learn about a new camera go to a night scene with it…


Canon EOS R + Canon usa 24-105mm f/4 L, f/11, ISO 100, 1s

Rate this article
( No ratings yet )
Add Comments

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: