Tuesday, 16 December 2008

London at Night

When it gets to this time of year we tend to leave our homes in the dark to go to work and by the time we set off to return home what bit of daylight we can expect has already gone and we go home in the darkness too.

Even for those who get to see a bit of daylight at weekend the quality of light is very different. Grey days, low contrast, muted colours all mix with wind and rain in the face to dissuade the photographer from going out with a camera.

It's at this time of year though that I like to venture out at night and take photos of floodlit buildings, shadows and wet reflections on streets.

The top photo is another from our 1995 trip to London and as I took this shot of Tower Bridge it was snowing quite happily. This was a straight photo of the bridge but I took another one with flash to light up the snow falling down on us. The trouble is that it looks a bit like I'd got lots of dust on the negative...

London is a good place to take night photos due to the large number of floodlit landmarks and lots of traffic that you can use to create long streaks of white and red light by use of long exposures.

A starburst filter has been used here to add those star rays of light from the brighter light sources.

I very rarely use effects filters. They were all the rage for a time in the 1980s, but it's very easy to over-do brown skies and star bursts.

There were a few filters that I used a lot but they had very subtle effects. For black and white photography I used a yellow filter to put a bit of detail into skies. Black and white film was very sensitive to the colour blue and therefore even the most vivid blue sky came out white without a filter to darken it. The yellow filter caused them to come out light grey and so you could see white clouds against it. A red filter had the same sort of effect but to a much greater degree and you could turn skies almost black with one.

To this day I still use a circular polarising filter for colour photography. On a sunny day this filter turns a blue sky a bit darker and a secondary effect is that you can reduce reflections from windows or from water.

Large versions of the photos: Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square

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