San Diego Night Skyline

San Diego Night Skyline

Image of the Week

This image of the San Diego Night Skyline was taken from Coronado Island. This is a shot that I wanted to be able to take long before I started to learn photography. Years ago, I had attended a conference at a hotel on Coronado Island. In the evenings I enjoyed taking walks along the water. There were photographers capturing the downtown view, and all I had was a not so great camera phone. I knew then I wanted to learn enough to be able to photograph what I was seeing.

My shooting that evening started at the ferry landing, getting several images that I was very happy with. The goal was an HDR bracket to be able to bring out the high and low light areas of the San Diego Night skyline. Bracketing allows much more flexibility for this style of capture. After shooting from the ferry landing, I walked along the water a ways, and noticed some interesting green lights on a building that were not clearly visible from the ferry landing.

As I walked further, more of these were visible. When they were all in view, I knew it was time to take a few more shots. I’m glad I did. The green lights on the building added quite a bit to the look. Sometimes moving a step or two can make a difference in a shot, sometimes it is a short walk. Either way, keep looking at different angles.

Image Considerations

Starting out to shoot at night for something like this implies bringing certain things. Bracketing at night is automatically longer exposures  and multiple frames that must be composed identically. A stable tripod is mandatory. A remote trigger is a very good idea, but I managed to forget to get it out of my bag that night. When all else fails, use your camera settings. I decided to use the ten second shutter delay on my camera so I could step away from the tripod while the captures were taking place.

Ideally something like this should be shot at the lowest ISO the camera is capable of. The challenge here was that I intended to do brackets at +/- 2.0, and without my remote trigger, exposures longer than 30 seconds require bulb mode and touching the camera body. With that, I decided the best way to go was to increase my ISO so the longest exposure of the three frames would be 30 seconds. This allowed me to use the shutter delay, and let the camera take three consecutive frames without me having to touch the body after pressing the trigger.

Image Lighting

Night shooting is not always straight forward, especially with a cityscape. There can be bright lights that create challenges for the exposure, so finding the correct amount of exposure the image can take some thinking and possibly some practice frames.

Camera and Settings

I shot this with my Canon 1Ds Mk III and Canon 28-135mm IS USM, mounted on a ProMaster tripod. I used a ten second shutter delay, and adjusted my ISO so the longest exposure of the three frames would not exceed 30 seconds. The aperture also played a role in how I thought about the image. I wanted some depth, but in this night image, there was not much in the background of the buildings. Because of this, I decided I did not need to go deep with f/16 or more. I just wanted a little extra depth for the buildings, and I was also a good distance from them, so f/9 was enough and worked with my exposure needs.

  • 47mm
  • f/9
  • HDR three shot bracket at +/- 2.0
  • ISO 250

Editing Inspiration

My editing was inspired by what I remembered from the view from several years ago, combined with what I have learned so far about photography, and the view from that evening. There were some clouds streaking a little, and such great color reflections in the calm water. I wanted to bring out the details in the buildings with the contrasts of light and dark, while keeping the sky and water soft. Emphasizing the reflections was also a primary goal for this image.

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