Boston Skyline…Blue Hour

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaeltuuk/7116298547/in/photostream

Boston Skyline At Blue Hour 23mm, f/8, 6 exp, ISO 100

Last weekend, after spending the day touring Boston, I walked across the pedestrian bridge (near the left side of the above image) next to Seaport Blvd which connects downtown to the old seaport district.  The bridge is part of the South Bay Harbor Trail.  I stopped for dinner and waited for the sun to set behind the city.  As I neared this photo spot I found that four photographers were already sitting there — tripods and cameras already set up.  I walked toward them and without a word stopped 10′ in front of them and pretended to set up my tripod.  Silence.  After a few seconds I turned and said I was just kidding and relieved laughter set in.  I asked if it was OK to set up just behind them and they were nice enough to extend an offer to make room in the middle of them if I wanted (I just set up behind and above them).

My intent was to bracket a bunch of exposures as it got darker using f/22 to get a starburst effect.  I switched to f/8 because (1) I really wasn’t getting much of that effect, (2) f/8 is good and sharp, and (3) my exposures were getting longer than 30 seconds and I was too lazy to start timing the exposures manually even though I was using a remote 🙂  White balance was set to daylight.  That’s somewhat arbitrary since I always shoot in RAW but it helps keep things consistent when viewed in the LCD.  I included a couple of straight-out-of-the-camera exposures below so you can see a sample of what I was working with.

On my flight home I plugged six exposures into Nik HDR Efex Pro.  My personal default is to use the realistic-subtle preset as a starting point 99% of the time and I tweak a bit in Nik.  Tweaking and saving complete, I took the Nik output into Photoshop along with a couple of the darker exposures and masked in a few spots which were still over-exposed after the HDR junk.  I toned down the colors in the water and burned the sidewalk darker a bit (more on the dodging and burning below).  Relative to colors, I did want an “HDR look” to this image but I sometimes find the reflections and colors on the water to be a bit overdone for my taste in these skyline shots.  I also dropped the overall saturation by 20 points to bring it back to realistic colors as tools like Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photomatix tend to saturate everything a lot.

Finally, since the perspective wasn’t too bad I decided to fix it by stretching out the top corners a bit and aligning the buildings with rulers to make them more upright on the edges (the SOOC images above do not have that correction).  If you do too big of an edit like this it can degrade the image but it’s fine for this one.  The final image turned out crisp and sharp at high resolution.

This screenshot shows my dodging and burning layer.  A trick I learned watching a Joe Brady video (something about Photoshop for landscapes sponsored by Xrite) is to create a new layer, fill it with 50% gray, then dodge and burn on that with black/white.  There’s no real need for that but the layer gives you a visual to show where you’re doing your adjustments.

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11 responses

  1. Chris

    Wonderful shot!! Great HDR processing too!

    April 26, 2012 at 8:34 pm

  2. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog this morning. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as clean as when I arrived.

    April 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    • I hope you found at least a few things to enjoy!

      April 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

  3. Great shot and thanks for the explanation. Always interested in hearing how others process their images.

    April 28, 2012 at 10:56 am

    • Thanks, Ian. I try to give explanations often (not very well done sometimes) because that’s one of the things I enjoy most on other blogs — the story of the shot and some details on its processing.

      May 8, 2012 at 9:43 am

  4. Stunning skyline, Michael and enjoyed the process walkthrough. I find the 50% gray layer to be one of the more useful techniques out there, and even better since it is non-destructive.

    May 4, 2012 at 10:10 am

    • Thanks, Brandon. I had never heard of using that technique until very recently and as you say, it’s very handy.

      May 8, 2012 at 9:41 am

  5. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as clean as when I arrived.

    May 17, 2012 at 7:31 pm

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