Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Touring The City

… or what to do on a cold day before year’s end.

Dear Mr. Blog,
I’d like to apologize for having neglected you so long. You have been a wonderful friend in these hard times and I hope our friendship will continue despite my poor interest in you. lol Okay folks, just trying to be funny but here is a short wrap up of how the past year ended for me. I did not realize until now that I have not written anything about my tour through the city of Dresden with David Bank from London and Matthias from Berlin.

“Dresden at Dusk”
Dresden at Dusk
Canon Rebel XSi with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 11mm, 8s, f/11, iso 100

David (the other one – not me!) was nice enough to drop by for a day worth of shooting in my current living room, so to speak. Being an architect by day and a photographer by night (or rather the hour before and after sunset, which is often referred to as Blue Hour, but more on that later.); his portfolio is filled with stunning cityscapes from all over the world. Names of cities that make every avid traveler’s heart beat twice as fast: Beijing, London, Madrid, San Francisco, Paris, Chicago, Shanghai, New York and Hong Kong to name just a few. You can check out his fantastic work on his flickr stream as his website is currently in a redesign state.

Alright, now let’s get serious about the photos and the blue hour. Our little group met at what is easily defined as Dresden’s icon: the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). The light was just shifting to an overcast gray but fortunately David and Matthias were able to grab some of the finest light of the day before I arrived to meet up with them. After a brief overview of what I had in mind regarding places to shoot, we made our way to the IT faculty of the TU Dresden which I thought would be an interesting subject for us to shoot. Luckily, we were able to get in and the architect in our group appreciated the contemporary design quite a bit. Yes, even the bathrooms are lime green. No, I didn’t get a shot from this very place but others sure did.

“The Green Chamber”
The Green Chamber
Canon Rebel XSi with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 11mm, 0.8s, f/10, iso 100

After exploring the building it was about time to get back into the historic city center, rushing past my beloved Starbucks and through masses of tourists which always seem to be there. In the coldest days, in the rainiest and even at 3 in the morning but that’s another story. We made it to Bruehl’s Terrace which should be the main spot for the evening, just in time for the beginning of the blue hour. (See the first picture of this post.) The blue hour is the magical transition from day to night and vice versa, after the sun has set or before the sun is about to rise and the sky is dyed in a steel blue curtain. For us photographers, this is the perfect time of the day to shoot cityscapes but don’t get me wrong, we also appreciate a nice sunset (which is just about to happen as I type this) or sunrise.

“Gold and Black” (… and a blue hour sky.)
Gold and Black
Canon Rebel XSi with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 12mm, 8s, f/13, iso 100

The blue hour, also known as twilight or l’heure bleue, makes up for stunning city photography experiences. You can get elements in one shot that seem to be impossible at other times of the day. One of the major aspects of a great composition can be light trails from cars or trams passing by. You can create a sense of motion and these light trails can also be used as lines to lead the eye of the viewer through the scene.

“Passing By”
Passing By
Canon Rebel XSi with Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 @ 12mm, 10s, f/10, iso 100

Such as in the shot above. I studied scene for quite a while before setting up for the shot and therefore knowing exactly where the street car would pass and where the lights of it would be. I composed it to have the majestic church sitting two-thirds horizontally, the golden glowing tower of the Dresden castle on the one-third axis vertically and the right face of the church on the two-thirds axis while the cars and tram passing are in some sort of “C”-shape to create impact. I have chosen a longer exposure than it would be necessary by adding a circular polarizer to the front of my lens to get longer light trails and to blur the detail of the cars completely to create this see-through appearance and therefore not to lose any detail in the historic architecture.

After we covered all the major sights of the city center, it was time for the last spot for the day. The view towards the city made famous by Bernardo Bellotto, better know as Canaletto, a Venetian painter from the 18th century. Night set and we were in desperate need of food and a cool one to call it a day.

See you next time with some more winterly shots to complete the winter wrap up. I promise that it won’t be too long.

Until then, happy shooting and never stop exploring.


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