London in Twilight

We return, for the last time, to that weekend in March that spawned multiple posts: How much is too much?, The London Eye(Briefly) Along the South Bank and The London Aquarium. Why yes, I do realise it’s taken me a while to write up this one.

When you left your intrepid hero last time, he was completing a tour of the London Aquarium with some family and friends for his sister-in-law’s birthday (your intrepid hero is me, if you hadn’t noticed, but I’m going to switch from the third-person narrative of this post consciously now rather than doing it inadvertently later on and confusing the hell out of you).

Whilst my companions were exploring the capitalist potential of the gift shop, I glanced out of the window and caught sight of the Houses of Parliament and the sun beginning to set. I left them to their own devices and went outside to try to capture the sight.

1/10sec, f/22, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.67, 18mm

This shot was so photogenic, I couldn’t just take one. This meant, when it came to editing the photos at home, I was a little bit more experimental with my post processing.

For this next image, I monochromed the photo, and then pushed the contrast all the way up. I like the end result, even if it has completely eradicated the ‘sunset’ element of the picture.

1/40sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.33 (+0.34), 18mm

I made a few attempts to expose for the sky and silhouette the Clock Tower, which didn’t come out all that badly…

1/200sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -2.0, 44mm

Looking at the dark silhouette of the Clock Tower, I decided to see what would happen if I boosted the brightness of the shadows. The result was interesting, and definitely worth posting.

1/200sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -2.0, 44mm

I tried to capture the impressive sky against a silhouette of the skyline, but save for the Houses of Parliament this particular section of the London skyline isn’t all that memorable. Still, the sky looked good.

1/400sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.0, 32mm

I was also quite keen to capture the sight of the river and the bridge; the water being a bit choppy it looked interesting (I would perhaps have preferred it to be glassy calm, but this is the Thames we’re talking about here).

1/100sec, f/5.6, ISO 320, exposure bias -1.0, 18mm

Eventually I realised that I would have to give in and try a HDR image. I was handheld, as I recall, but fortunately Photoshop is pretty good at lining up different photos when creating HDR images.

Annoyingly, this time Photoshop didn’t give me the option of correcting the chromatic aberration (which I was experiencing pretty badly on these images). It is really quite obvious in this photo. The other problem is the act of combining the two images has over-exaggerated the sunset itself, creating an interesting albeit not particularly realistic image. In fact, one of the source photos for this HDR came out looking better with only a few tweaks to the exposure and shadows:

1/15sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -0.67, 21mm

I also took this opportunity to take some photos of my sister-in-law and her family. The ones of these worth showing have been reserved for my next portraits post, but annoyingly one of them, in which I decided to focus on the background, turned out to be a decent photo of the Clock Tower, if it weren’t for the pesky family members in front of it.

1/60sec, f/5.6, ISO 250, exposure bias -0.67, 29mm

After this, we went our separate ways and headed back towards our most appropriate train stations to get home. I had exhausted the immediate photographic possibilities of the Houses of Parliament anyway.

That isn’t to say I didn’t take more photos on the way back.

1/40sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -3.0 (+0.96), 30mm

As I was with not just my wife but someone else, I attempted to take most of these photographs whilst not stopping, for fear of being left behind (again).

This next image has a bit of blur on it caused by me taking the picture without breaking my stride.

1/15sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.0, 18mm

After we passed the London Eye, the start of the day’s adventure, I turned back to see the light at the Houses of Parliament was continuing to develop into something gorgeous.

1/25sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.0, 18mm

I will definitely have to visit Westminster again in this sort of light, hopefully with the time to explore it a little more (and therefore, I guess, without friends or family in tow), because I think there’s a lot of potential when the sun is setting like this.

We continued on our journey, and before long we passed under the Hungerford Bridge.

1/4sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.67, 18mm

For me, the only thing wrong with this photo is there is some light shining directly onto the water at the bottom of the image, which ruins the look of the water for me. I’m hoping not many people will see it, because there’s not much I can do about it and it’s otherwise a nice photo.

To close out this post, I’ve got a few pictures of the Embankment taken from several different angles. As you’d expect from a big city, London likes to light up its buildings at night to show off the skyline, which is great in a city with such interesting architecture.

1/8sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -2.33, 18mm
0.3sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -2.33 (-0.87), 53mm
1/10sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, exposure bias -1.67 (+0.84), 18mm

I’ve learnt something from this post. Photographing London at night is all well and good, but shooting at twilight (a word I think we need to steal back from the sparkly gay vampire lovers) creates for some very interesting images, because you’re shooting at a time when there is enough light to bring out details – elements of the structures of the buildings, for instance – whilst also allowing for many of the factors what make city nightscape photography interesting, such as the lighting of the buildings.

I definitely need to return to London at twilight at some point in the future.

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12 Comments

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  1. I love the shots where you played around lightening the shadows. The colors on the tower are amazing. Makes me wish I would have thought to get more twilight shots when I was visiting. Perhaps the next go around..

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    • With all of the photography I’ve done in London for this blog, including three night trips, it never really occurred to me to try getting shots at twilight. It was only luck I happened to be in town at the right time with my camera or I’m not sure I’d have ever gotten shots anything like this.

      Thanks for commenting.

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  2. Some great shots. This shows how you may have a photograph that initially isn’t all that great, but tweaking it can bring out so much detail to make it pop. Yes, twighlight needs to be taken back as it’s such a wonderful time to watch the changing light.

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    • Cheers. I do very much enjoy the tweaking of the shots – it’s probably more fun to do something to successfully recover an otherwise mediocre photo than it is doing the edits you always planned without a problem.

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  3. you have such an amazing eye for beauty

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  4. Totally in love with your photographs! They made me want to visit London even more! 😉

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  5. The boosted shadows version of Big Ben is definitely my favourite, there’s a nice cream quality to the light in it.

    Perhaps when twilight starts happening at about 5-6pm again in September we can do a trip. I equally like this time and am frustrated by it!

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    • I’m hoping to find myself in London at twilight at some point in the warmer months. September time is okay but it can start getting chilly! Hopefully some sunsets will be in my favour too!

      We still need to put together a shortlist of trips to take…

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