Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Project 46 & 47

These two projects focus on the quality light just before or just after sunrise and sunset. As these two times are congruent to each other I worked them together.  Sunday 3rd January was the first and so far last properly clear day where there was a chance of getting sky conditions consistent with capturing dawn and sunset light.  Subsequently I spent almost the whole day in the southern end of the Englischer Garten in the center of Munich, mostly early and late in the day, but just for fun also around lunch as there is a really nice cafe on the edge of the park where Heidi and I headed for lunch.

This area of the park is ideal for photography as it contains a good mixture of formal and open parkland combined with some historical urban architecture, but also with open space and a couple of small hills that offer a good vantage point.  Checking the web I determined that the sun would rise at 8am and set at 4:30pm.  I would then try and be in the center of the park half an hour before sunrise and then once again around an hour before sunset.

The following commentary is organized chronologically recording the changing light as I saw it.  In all cases I have refrained from any form of computer processing other than RAW to JPG conversion for posting, so no exposure compensation, colour management, or sharpening.  Almost all images are using my Canon 5D2 SLR, but a couple were captured with my Canon G11 compact.  On both cameras I set White Balance to auto.  For the low light images, I set the camera to manual and bracketed around what the camera was claiming as "good", review on the screen then helped for finer adjustment.  In the brighter sunlit images I took incident light readings using a hand held meter.  Almostall photos were taken with the camera mounted on a tripod.


After an early Sunday morning start and a 30 minute walk I arrive at the center of the park near a small hill on which sits a small Greek style temple, the Monopteros.  My originally goal had been to head west of this structure and use its silhouette as a key element of the Twilight images.  The following shot shows what happened when I got there, a bank of cloud sat firmly behind the structure and so whilst there was some light it was very marginal.  In the -8C cold I also badly positioned my lens hood, hence the vignette:

5D2, 24-105mm, 24mm, f/4, 1.3s, ISO 800

Fortunately just South the cloud bank ended and I was able to observe the sky brightening behind a tree line. My first image is below

5D2, 24-105mm, 82mm, f/4, 1/2s, ISO 800

I felt that the sky was too light and lacking texture, so I reduced the exposure a little:

5D2, 24-105mm, 82mm, f/4, 1/10s, ISO 800

The first image was +1 eV over the camera the second -1, I much prefer the second image, but could be improved by  recomposing to include more of the sky, the bottom 1/3 of the image lacks any detail and is lost - cropping could help.

One of the difficulties I found was deciding how to balance between foreground and sky detail.  The following 3 images illustrate this dilemma, each is a stop apart:

5D2, 24-105mm, 32mm, f/4, (1/8s, 1/4s, 1/2s) , ISO 800

In this case I actually prefer the third image 1 stop overexposed as it provides some of the foreground detail of the snow, whilst still yielding some colour in the sky.  HDR techniques could provide the best of both worlds here, however, I am yet to decide whether I like this technique as images can look very false.


As the sky brightened I realized that the tree line would offer a very limited variety of options, so I decided to move on towards a pond nearby and try to get an image with reflection

5D2, 24-105mm, 50mm, f/4, 0.6s, ISO 200

The light was strengthening and with the extra light from the reflection I was able to reduce the exposure significantly by shifting from ISO 800 to ISO 200.  The building to the right of the image is the famous (or infamous) Haus der Kunst art gallery commissioned by Adolf Hitler in the 1930's and is floodlit so the light is not yet coming from the rising Sun.

A couple of 100m away the central justice court at the Eastern end of the Hof Garten (a formal garden, part of the royal palace of the former kings of Bavaria, and a favorite spot for photography) provided the next opportunity to image the dawn against an interesting sky line.

5D2, 24-105mm, 32mm, f/4, 1/5s, ISO 200

Looking west the light was starting to illuminate some of the nearby buildings - although the church in the background is floodlit at night so the image is a little false.

5D2, 24-105mm, 50mm, f/8, 1s, ISO 100

For this image I was able to drop the ISO to 100, but increased the depth of field by changing aperture to f/8 so keep the whole frame in focus.  Using a tripod I could have maintained a low ISO for some of the darker shots, however, the 20-30s shutter speeds slow me down and in this cold I was not too keen to hang around.  Looking east once again the sky was starting to develop some colour.  Using the longer telephoto end of the lens at 105mm enabled me to fill the frame:

5D2, 24-105mm, 50mm, f/8, 1/10s, ISO 100


The Sun had now risen above the horizon, although within the city landscape it would still be some time before it appeared on the horizon.  On the other hand the sky was starting to light up behind the court building generating an almost fiery atmosphere.  The following two images are close ups of the dome of the building using some tree branches to frame the dome and add interest to the image.  The first image is -2 stops, the second is +1 stop.

5D2, 24-105mm, 55mm, f/4, 1/180s, ISO 100

5D2, 24-105mm, 55mm, f/4, 1/20s, ISO 100

This pair of images illustrates the choice at this time of either exposing for the building or for the sky, however, the following image shows that it is possible to combine some building detail with a dramatic sky, although this is becuase the building roof is curved and thus able to reflect more light from the sky towards the camera:

5D2, 24-105mm, 105mm, f/6.7, 1/45s, ISO 100

Turning west once again the light was now starting to clip the upper stories of the buildings and clearly daylight was beginning:

5D2, 24-105mm, 75mm, f/4, 1/20s, ISO 100

5D2, 24-105mm, 105mm, f/8, 1/6s, ISO 100

As the twilight was now receding and I was not well positioned to do much more with the early morning light, plus I was slowly freezing to the spot, I decided to head home and grab some breakfast.


Simply heading out for a walk to get lunch in the city we walked through the park and I grabbed the following two images as we passed by the site of my earlier photos.

G11, 6mm, f/4, 1/2500s, ISO 80

This image shows how low in the sky the sun is at this time of year, even close to midday, essentially all photography at this time of year is with a low Sun.  The second image is a close up of the monopteros, which I will be using later as the structure for the sequence of images created for project 46: choosing the moment.

G11, 30mm, f/4.5, 1/800s, ISO 80


Back at the Monopteros once again, about 45 minutes before sunset! The following sequence of images was captured between 3:45pm and 4:20pm, about half an hour and are designed to show how the lighting changed as the Sun gradually got lower in the sky.  I tripod mounted my camera on on a small rise adjacent to the subject matter.  The biggest challenge was to find a location in which my shadow was not included in the image and where I could avoid the camera being obscured by people gathering at what is a popular spot for sledging in the park.  I have framed the sequence of pictures to include the Monopteros as a focal point in the top right, but also to include trees on the left and a path along which people were enjoying an evening stroll.  I tried to maintain the same framing, but had to adjust a couple of times when people got in the way.

My first image was taken with the camera in aperture priority and with no exposure compensation

5D2, 24-105mm, 32mm, f/13, 1/125s, ISO 100

My first mistake, there was no way my camera would be able to accurately meter a scene with snow on the ground and a bright sky.  using my handheld meter I made an incident light reading and made the following exposure:

5D2, 24-105mm, 28mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100

At this stage most of the frame is sunlit, the shadows caste by the people show how low the sun is.  5 minutes later the scene is still fairly well lit, but the shadows are starting to lengthen and the shadow in front of my position is growing

5D2, 24-105mm, 28mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100

Another 7 minutes later and the shadows are really lengthening, but otherwise the scene remains more or less the same - the exposure is slightly longer

5D2, 24-105mm, 32mm, f/8, 1/100s, ISO 100

Stepping forward another 7 minutes the scene has changed significantly with the shadow starting to approach the hill and the light level on the hill falling, softening the image and reducing the contrast.  The exposure has increased by over a stop:

5D2, 24-105mm, 32mm, f/8, 1/40s, ISO 100

Stepping forward another 7 minutes to 4:15pm the whole hill is now in shadow, with the exception of the Monopteros, making the building very much the focus of the image, strongly glowing in the falling light.  The sky is also losing its contrast with the ground. The exposure is now +2 stops compared to the previous image

5D2, 24-105mm, 32mm, f/13, 1/15s, ISO 100

A few minutes later the Sun had gone and all was back to a bleak snowy landscape, very similar to that in the first image in this post.  Time to go

In this sequence the 4th image with the two people in the foreground works best for me.  The sun is low enough to caste very long shadows, but still illuminate the snowy foreground.  Combined with the yellow of the building this scene is very reminiscent of a Munich winter.


I turned my attention once more to Twilight and the potential for images created by the light behind the Munich skyline as seen from the park.  I switched to a 300mm telephoto and took the following image

5D2, 300mm, f/4, 1/2500s, ISO 100

Whilst I liked the landscape view I wanted to include the light reflected in the clouds above the horizon and so switched to a portrait shot choosing an exposure that would provide a black foreground but colour in the clouds:

5D2, 300mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 100

I went back to wide angle and captured a landscape silhouette:

 5D2, 24-105mm, 28mm, f/8, 1/60s, ISO 100

My final image is just before heading to the underground towards home at 5:07pm, when night had all but fallen

 5D2, 24-105mm, 24mm, f/8, 6s, ISO 100

The sky still had enough light to bring out the cloud structure which balanced well with the artificial illumination of the church, but at the price of a 6s exposure.

reflecting on the day, this was a very rewarding experience, the rapidly changing twilight was really quite exciting, selection of scene had to be made quickly and exposure chosen carefully with bracketing.  The use of a near normal focal length around 50mm provided the best combination of foreground detail and background lighting.  Wide angle shots were interesting, but included too much sky, perhaps at a different time of year with a different combination of clouds the wider angle would work.  The very long 300mm telephoto did not capture enough variety of colour in the sky, but the silhouettes it produced were the best of the group of photos.

My final observation is that the sequence capturing the moment, during sunset were not different enough, I suspect this is because the Sun was already low in the sky even at midday and so the lighting angle is not changing very much during the day.


  1. Oh, It is really very beautiful post and all scene I like and like to travel and suffer from here to there and all. Thanks a lot.

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  2. Hi Jenny, many thanks for your comments, was a very cold experience taking these images, but a great deal of fun