Wednesday, 30 May 2018 00:00

River Wensum at Night

Written by  Joe Lenton
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River Wensum at Night

Last month we looked at some of the photographic possibilities along the river Wensum in Norwich between Carrow Road and Fye Bridge Street during daylight hours. This time we will retrace our route by night and look for fresh possibilities.

We start down by the river near to the football stadium at Carrow Road. Similarly to during the day we can make the most of reflections in the water. At night, these reflections can sometimes be even clearer to see. Night photography is slightly more difficult than during the day due to the low light levels. So, you need to make sure that you have a tripod to mount your camera on. If not, you won't be able to hold the camera steady enough to get a good photo. As always, keep the ISO low (100-200). The aperture (if you can choose it yourself) would be around f/5.6-f/11 depending on the scene. As with landscape photography you want a small aperture to keep most of the scene sharp. However, you may need to open it up a little to allow more light in.

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Use either the timer delay on your camera or a remote or cable release so that you don't wobble the camera pressing the button. Any movement in the camera can cause real problems. The shutter tends to need to be open for around 10-30 seconds depending on the light levels. You can try and see if it works ok in aperture priority mode (A or Av). Or, you can set everything manually and adjust according to the results you get. These longer exposures enable you to turn the traffic into light trails (as long as it keeps moving!). You can just see a little bit of light trails on the bridge in the image above.

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Look out for areas with interesting lighting. The bridges are often good places to start. If you have trouble focussing your camera then look for better lighting as your camera needs some light and some contrast to focus well. With a small aperture you can often get a nice star effect to small points of light, but this depends on the lens you are using as well.

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Modern buildings and shops often have good lighting to work with. They want to draw your attention so they want to stand out in the dark. Look out for neon signs and carefully placed lighting designed to outline structures. Remember to try angles and viewpoints that you wouldn't normally naturally see if you were walking along. This helps your photos to be more interesting.

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You might like to photograph some older architecture as well. If so, do take a look at the railway station as you go past. You will notice with some of the images in the post the sky isn't completely black. They were taken in what we call the "blue hour". This is just after sunset before things get totally dark and there is some blue colour left in the sky. The dark blue can often allow you to get some cloud details and a more interesting sky than plain black. But it all depends on what you want.

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You can also change your viewpoint a little by shooting from one of the bridges looking up/down the river. Some bridges are difficult for this as they bounce quite a lot as people walk on them. This makes it very hard to get a good sharp photo! However, if it is quiet enough then do give it a go. The main road bridge to Prince of Wales Road is obviously much more stable so can be a lot easier if you want to try a bridge shot.

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Older landmarks in the city are often lit up at night. This can show them in a whole new mood and give opportunities for a very different type of shot compared to during the day. If they are lit by older lighting they tend to look quite orange as the lights tend to be tungsten. If you want a more neutral colour then you can try shooting using the tungsten white balance on your camera (looks like a little light bulb) as this helps counter the orange by adding more blue.

Don't forget that if you get very close and tip your camera up to fit everything in then your buildings will look like they are falling over backwards. This is known as "converging verticals" - the vertical lines of the building look like they are converging towards a point somewhere overhead. To keep the building straight you need to keep your camera back straight (90 degrees to the ground - or parallel to the walls). This might mean raising your camera up high on your tripod in some situations. Converging verticals are not necessarily "wrong" - but it is useful to be able to control when you get them.

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Some of the office blocks on the opposite bank to the Adam & Eve are lit up well and offer good reflections in the water. If your lens starts to get a bit wet at all (through rain or build up of condensation) then this can affect your image like the one below. You can end up with bright spots where you might not want them. Again, this is personal choice. But, don't forget to take something with you to wipe your lens if it gets at all wet or fogged up (clean microfiber cloths are best).

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Whitefriars Bridge & Fye Bridge offer good places to get steady shots along the river. You don't need to worry about bounce caused by pedestrians on these bridges. Fye Bridge Street is a good location to finish on because you can get well lit views both ways up/down the river.

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The colourful houses along Friar's Quay are also worth photographing at night, not just during the day. The lights on Whitefriar's in the distance offer a potentially useful focal point to take your leading lines to and may well give you good star effects.

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With mixed types of artificial lighting you can get quite strong colour effects such as in this last image. To back down the extreme orange of old tungsten lamps you add more blue, which can then turn more neutral lighting a blue colour. You have to make a choice what effect you like as it is very complicated to edit a batch of photos containing mixed lighting to try and neutralise all types of light. I certainly wouldn't recommend it! Don't forget of course that black and white is a possibility and this helps to even out the lighting by removing the various colours.

Next month we will be heading out to the coast!

© Joe Lenton, June 2018

Joe Lenton is a professional photography tutor and commercial photographer. He has won many international awards for his images and been featured in exhibitions around the world. He runs photography workshops  and teaches various aspects of photography and images processing one to one . For more free photography tips and to enquire about photography training please visit Original Art Photography .

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Last modified on Wednesday, 02 January 2019 19:11

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