Last week I had an assignment that I just did not like at all with the DIY Soft Focus challenge. This week was different. This week's challenge is City Lights. I get to do night photography!
The first challenge this week was the weather. While Seattle has the reputation of being rainy it rarely rains very hard here outside of a few storms in November. Normally it's a light mist/sprinkle. March has been very different. In the first 5 days of March we exceeded the normal amount of rain for the entire month. Since none of my photography gear is weather sealed I couldn't go shooting in the rain. Looking ahead I saw that there would be a break in the rain on Friday. My plan was after The Boy went to bed I would head out. I wanted to go to two places. The first was to go to the corner of Boren and Pine. It looks down on I5 passing underneath and towards The Convention Center. The second place I wanted to shoot at was the Bell Street Cruise Terminal located at Pier 66. You can access it on foot from Elliot Street. The Pedestrian footbridge passes over Alaskan Way with views of the street, downtown Seattle, and Elliot Bay. There's also an outlook that has even better views.
The next challenge was getting the exposures right. Auto exposure in modern DSLR's is fantastic. The reality of modern cameras is that they are computers that are built with the sole purpose of taking pictures. There are conditions that make it difficult for the camera to know what you want to do. Long exposure photos are one of those situations. DSLRs are able to automatically expose pictures with shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds. If you need an exposure of more than 30 seconds then you have to do math. For an art media there is an awful lot of math involved in Photography. There's math from how to compose, i.e. The Rule of Thirds and The Golden Rule, to color balance, and finally to exposure.
So, how to figure out what the right exposure is? I set the camera to a 30 second exposure. I then set the aperture, how much light is exposed to the sensor; I then cranked up the ISO, how sensitive the sensor is to light, until that the scene was properly exposed. Once I had that I could then do the math to figure out what the exposure time would be for the ISO that I wanted, in this case 100 the least sensitive for my camera. I then do a little multiplication and figure out that how many minutes to expose for. With that all figured out I was ready for Friday night to arrive.
Fortunately the weather on Friday was warm and dry. Before I went out I was checking out Facebook when I came across a post by the Vintage Seattle page. It was shot of downtown Seattle from 1984.
It was a beautiful shot of Downtown Seattle from Rizal Park on Beacon Hill. I decided to add this to my list of stops. It was close by and on the way to the other two. My route for the evening:
So, now that everything was figured out, the battery for the camera was fully charged, and I had warm clothes it was time to go. I got to the park and walked down to the bridge overlooking the freeway.
It was interesting standing on the bridge. Despite the fact that it's made out of steel and concrete the thing would vibrate and shake when buses drove by. The minimum exposure time on my shots were 30 seconds and up to 4 minutes. If I wanted a sharp picture I had to check for buses before clicking the shutter.
I was happy with what I got and hoped into the car and drove to Boren and Pine. I got there quickly. It being a Friday Night and one of the most popular areas to go to bars and nightclubs there was NO PARKING. I should have thought of that before I took off. I drove around for over an hour before I finally found a spot. I was walking up the hill towards my intended location when I came across the Transit Tunnel. I had to stop and take a few pictures, as you can see why.
Taking photos in public is an interesting experience. While I was standing with my camera on my tripod most people walked past me as if I wasn't there. Others look at what I was doing without comment. Only one person approached me to ask what I was doing. I told him I was taking pictures and offered to show him some of the shots I had. He took a look at one and liked what he saw.
Unfortunately my photos were suffering from severe lens flare. I was only able to get one shot that I kind of liked.
It was then on to the waterfront. I was really happy shooting here. I was able to stand on the pedestrian bridge and get this shot.
I then moved over to the viewing area over Pier 66.
All told I was out for about 4 hours. I would say that was rather productive. When I was a kid I used to fish a lot. I liked the quiet and slowness of fishing and I was usually in very pretty locations. I realized as I was waiting for the minutes and seconds to countdown on my pictures that this kind of photography is a lot like fishing. It was quiet, I was able to take in the view, I was able to reflect, and I even got better results than when I used to fish.
So, which one did I submit this week? It was tough. I have several favorites, a good problem to have. I wanted something that shows Seattle yet isn't too cliche and typical. You can see my post here.