How I Got That Shot: London at Night

This past weekend we announced the winner of the Dave Black Lightpainting Instagram contest, which was Phill Monson, a very talented outdoor landscape photographer.  Phill's work spans desolate land and seascapes to foreign cityscapes from across the globe.  One of Phill's many adventures took him to the beautifully romantic city of London, England where he sought out to create a dusk shot of Parliament and the result was spectacular in this edition of "How I Got That Shot."

_MG_1804_SM Photo Credit © Phill Monson, 5D Mark II, 16-35mm II @ 27mm, ISO 100, f/16, 13 sec.

"I had been to London back in 2008 with my wife during a three week trip to Europe. I had just purchased my first DSLR camera a week before the trip (a Canon Rebel XTi) and had absolutely no idea what I was doing photographically.  So when I had the chance to go back in 2014 for a work trip (and a few more years of photo practice under my belt), I knew I had to redeem myself.

While walking around London and trying to scout out some compositions for a dusk shot, I was told by several security type folks that I couldn't set up a tripod in this place or that, and as dusk approached, I was scrambling to find a place to shoot.

I had seen some photos of the Parliament building at night with the famous double decker bus passing in front, but what I saw I wasn't happy with, so I was a bit hesitant to try a shot from that perspective. After remembering what I didn't like about shots I had seen, half trails as the exposure wasn't long enough, or some other oddities (IMO), I formed a clear vision of what I was looking for: a shot at dusk, being the best time for cityscape shots due to the blue-hour glow and nice balance of light, with some great leading lines of the car/bus lights as they pass by. It took several attempts to get it just right and find the right exposure time to keep color balance and the trails running through, but I ended up getting the shot I had in my head.

The most difficult part of this shot was waiting for the buses to pass by at the right time, and making sure the exposure was long enough to get the trails through the entire image to serve as a leading line. What more, this was on a very busy sidewalk on the bridge and people weren't too mindful of the tripod and kept bumping into me. Patience prevailed, however.

For most of my cityscape shots, I try to shoot right at the "blue hour" (hour in name only, it usually lasts 15 minutes) for the best light balance and to have some detail/color in the sky. I find it more appealing and interesting than trying to shoot a city after dusk and only getting black, dull skies. "

This image was shot with a 5D Mark II with a 16-35mm II lens at 27mm.  ISO 100, f/16 and 13 second exposure.  Post processing was done in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

If you would like to know more about Phill Monson and his incredible work, visit his website, Instagram and Facebook.

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