Photographing Amsterdam at Night

DSCF5517

I love cities at night.  I love the lights, the shadows, the reflections, the way life on the street changes.  There is something magical about it for me and Amsterdam did not disappoint.  The canals, the museums, the train station, the Red Light District, everything is lit up and the post sunset blue hour there is simply gorgeous.  My travel companion and I were out every night shooting deep into dusk during our week in Amsterdam, and in this post I’d like to share some of those images with you.

This post is part three of a three part series from my recent trip to Amsterdam:

A quick note:  I have been told that WordPress compression has been affecting the image quality for some people.  If that happens for you please click each image to view it larger.

An even quicker note:  All images in this post were taken with the Fuji X100t, the only camera I brought with me for this trip.

The photo at the top of this post is of the Rijksmuseum, a national museum dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam.  Originally founded in 1800, the museum has over 1,000,000 items in its collection (including a large body of work by Rembrandt).   At night it is especially beautiful because of the golden reflections in the pool behind the museum, which is how we chose to photograph it.  In a previous post I discussed how we had “so so” weather throughout our March trip, but this photo highlights that you can still get a beautiful blue hour shot despite the clouds.  Always go out and shoot, you will be surprised what you can capture.

Shooting through blue hour, to capture photos like the one above, became a nightly endeavour for us.  During the day, as we walked the city, we’d see a great spot and make a mental note to return to it for our evening shooting session.  The canals always made for great photo opportunities:  The buildings surrounding them were lit, the canals were lit, and you if you were patient you could even get light trails from the boats passing through the tunnels:

DSCF6530

Here are a few other blue hour shots of the canals and the city streets:

DSCF5179

DSCF5178

DSCF5878

I rarely shoot past blue hour in the evening because I love that little hint of colour in the sky you get at this time.  Once the sky is dark It is usually time for me to put the camera away and just enjoy the view with my eyes, but I found myself shooting deep into night in Amsterdam often.  There is something romantic about the way Amsterdam looks at night:

DSCF5540

DSCF5530

There is a small square in Amsterdam called Rembrandtplein,  named after the famous painter.  The centrepiece of the square is a large sculptural representation of Rembrandt’s famous “The Night Watch” painting, but today the area is more commonly known for it’s clubs, bars, and restaurants.  The square comes alive at night, offering a plethora of photographic opportunities:

DSCF6095

DSCF6082

DSCF6086

On our stroll back to the hotel each evening we would walk through the Red Light District, specifically to see what new photographic opportunities we could find.   I loved the neon lights, the reflections in the canals, the fabulous people watching opportunities, and quite often the bakeries where I could get desserts far larger than were good for me.  🙂

DSCF5542

The week we were in Amsterdam was also the week that the terrorist attacks happened in Belgium.  The night after the attacks, while returning to our hotel, we walked through Dam Square and were surprised and moved to find the Royal Palace had been lit up in the colours of the Belgium flag:

DSCF6111

It was late at night as we walked through the square, but there were still quite a few people present so I shot this photo as a long exposure to blur out the people and put the focus on the colours of the Belgium flag.  It was a touching tribute.

And finally, a photo taken just down the road from Dam Square at an area known as the Damrak.  This is one of the quintessential views of Amsterdam and is one of my favourite images from the trip:

DSCF5158-Edit

I highly recommend a photography trip to Amsterdam.  The city photographs beautifully during early morning and late evening, and during the day you can spend time visiting the museums and places like the Anne Frank House.  You can shoot street photography, mingle with the city’s amazing people, and get off the beaten path where you will find small parks, flea markets, amazing restaurants, etc.  We spent almost six days wandering the city in March, averaging 15 kilometres of walking per day, and never found ourselves lacking for photographic opportunities.

I hope you enjoyed this series from Amsterdam, shot with my beloved Fuji X100t.  Over the next few months I will have a lot of new content on this blog:  A review of the new Fuji X70, a lot of photography from Vancouver, upcoming trips to Seattle and NYC, and two new interviews in The Interview Series.

As always, thank you for visiting and please leave any thoughts you have in the comments section below!

Cheers,

Ian

Fuji X-Pro2 Review Part Three: Vancouver Cityscapes, Long Exposures, and Street Photography

DSCF0840-Edit

Note:  This is part three of a five part review series on the soon to be released Fuji X-Pro2:

My original plan for part three of this Fuji X-Pro2 review series was to focus 100% on street photography.   Things changed for me a little though because of the weather on the days I went out to shoot.  The clouds were beautiful, the blue hour light was gorgeous, etc.   These conditions just begged to be shot, so I have included some of those photographs in this part of the review too.  Let’s just think of it as a “using the Fuji X-Pro2 in the city” kind of review.

Long Exposures:

Those amazing clouds I mentioned have unfortunately brought us a lot of rain lately (welcome to life on the “wet” coast).   It was dry and sunny yesterday though, with a fairly strong breeze that was pushing the clouds across the city.    The combination of sunlight reflecting off of high rises and moving clouds  always makes for some great architectural long exposure opportunities.

The following three photos were all shot with the Fujinon 10-24mm f/4 lens mounted on the Fuji X-Pro2.  The camera was on a tripod, a 10 stop ND filter was used to lengthen the shutter speed a bit to blur the clouds, and a remote shutter release was used to avoid vibration.  Each image was shot in the Acros film simulation, with the contrast pushed in camera.

DSCF5310

DSCF5293

DSCF5312

I experienced a lot of good, and a tiny little bit of frustration, when taking these photos…

The good was the exposure preview.  I LOVE being able to preview my exposure, white balance, film simulation, etc in camera, BEFORE I click the shutter.  It never gets old.  Switching to cameras that preview the exposure made a fundamental shift in my workflow, and greatly enhances the creative process for me.

And Acros.  I love, love Acros.  Such a great black and white film simulation.  I did edit these photos in Lightroom a bit though, to push the blacks and highlights a little bit more.

The one small point of frustration was the lack of a tilting LCD.  I have to admit I rarely use this feature on my X-T1, and I get by just fine without it on my X100t.  For these photos I had the camera pointed up and fairly low to the ground though, and an adjustable LCD would have made things easier in terms of focusing, etc.

Street Photography:

My love of the X100 series is well documented, and I was curious to see how the X-Pro2 performed during a day or two out shooting on the street.  I love the X100t for street photography because it is completely silent, it is small, and it is unassuming.  I wondered if shooting street with the X-Pro2 and the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens would be different due to the size and the shutter sound, but once I was out shooting it was all good.

As I shot in Vancouver’s Chinatown and Gastown areas I again noticed the improvements in the autofocus system of the X-Pro2.  It is snappy and accurate.  I often zone focus my X100t when I am out shooting street, but every photo below was taken with autofocus. At this point I feel quite comfortable saying that the autofocus system in the X-Pro2 is a definite step up from previous Fuji X cameras.

All the images below were shot in aperture priority mode (around f/8 depending on light), with the Auto ISO set to maintain a minimum shutter speed of 1/250th and a ceiling ISO of 3200.  If I needed to make any quick exposure adjustments I almost always used the exposure compensation dial.

Colour images were shot in Classic Chrome, black and white ones were shot in Acros.

DSCF5197

DSCF5176

DSCF5340

DSCF5136

DSCF5196-Edit

DSCF5075

DSCF5336

DSCF5214

DSCF5389

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about shooting street with the Fuji X-Pro2.  It was seamless, and despite my earlier concerns people took no more notice of me with it than they do when I am shooting with my X100t.   The camera got out of my way and I was able to focus completely on the shooting experience.

I really appreciated the improved autofocus, and having a little bit more room for cropping because of the new 24mp sensor was also a welcome addition.

Blue hour cityscapeS:

I love a good cityscape, and each evening I was downtown there was a beautiful blue hour.   Here is one of Granville Street in Vancouver:

DSCF5384

Here is another, taken in Gastown:

DSCF0865

These are fairly straight forward photographs to take, regardless of the camera used.  Lock the camera down on a tripod, get your composition, lowest ISO, set your desired aperture, use a remote shutter release, etc.  What I loved about shooting these images with the X-Pro2 wasn’t that the process was any different, it was the colour and detail that I was getting off of the new sensor straight out of camera.  It is very nice.

part 3 – Final Thoughts:

In many ways I feel like part 3 of this series is much ado about nothing, but I mean that in the best way possible.  The X-Pro2 is refined…. the new sensor produces beautiful images, the new autofocus system is snappy and responsive, and I love the new Acros film simulation.

Looking back over this post perhaps the most telling thing is how easy these images were to capture.  I had the Fuji X-Pro2 in a small shoulder bag with 2-3 lenses and a few small accessories.  I walked about 10 kilometres in the city on the days I was out shooting and didn’t even notice the weight of the bag, nor the small travel tripod I was carrying.  I was able to shoot street, cityscapes, long exposures, handheld, tripod mounted, all from this tiny but powerful little kit.

You have to love that.

I did find one situation where a tilting LCD would have been nice.  For those that are curious I burned through 2 batteries during each full day of heavy shooting.  Not too shabby.

In Part 4 of this series we will be talking about using the X-Pro2 in portrait situations, and in part 5 I’ll sum up my final thoughts.

Cheers,

Ian

Photographing the Las Vegas Strip at Night

DSCF4191-Pano

(All images can be clicked to viewed large)

Note:  This post is part two of a three part series on photographing Las Vegas:

Whenever I visit a city I am always looking for a trophy shot, a beautiful city skyline photograph that I’d love to print large and put on the wall (remember, a photograph needs to be real).  I knew during my recent  business trip to Las Vegas that I’d have two or three nights available to shoot, and I wanted to make the most of them.

One of the first things I do when I am researching these trophy shots is to find the best place to shot from.  Many cities have elevated viewing platforms (e.g. the Top of the Rock in New York City, the Montparnasse Tower in Paris, the Vancouver Lookout, etc), and if they do I always spend an evening at the top shooting.  A little research goes a long way here:  Usually you have to pay to go up to these viewing platforms, sometimes you need to make reservations, you want to be there at least 30 minutes before sunset, they may or may not allow tripods, etc.

The photo above is a view of the Las Vegas Strip looking north, shot from the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience.   This photograph is a 3 image stitched panorama shot with the Fuji X100t.  Shooting stitched panoramas allows you to travel light, but still take beautiful scenic photographs.

Looking south from the same platform, this was the view:

DSCF4210

Give yourself time to shoot these images.  The light changes fast in the hour that starts 30 minutes before sunset, and ends 30 minutes after sunset.  As the sky darkens the colours saturate, and there is that beautiful sweet spot between the rich sky and the city lights that only lasts for a few minutes.

Tripods are not allowed at the top of the Eiffel Tower Experience, so having strong camera handling skills is of critical importance to ensure you get a sharp image when it is darker out.  Here’s a few tips:

  1. Increase your ISO.  Yes, you may get a slightly more grainy image, but you will get a faster shutter speed which will help keep your image sharp.  Today’s technology helps a lot here… I know with my Fuji cameras I can get clean files up to ISO 1600, and even 3200 is fine if I need to go that high.
  2. Brace against whatever you can.
  3. Use your timer to trip the shutter.  This eliminates any motion caused by pushing down on the shutter.
  4. Have good “trigger control”.  Control your breathing while the slow shutter is open.
  5. Take lots of photographs.  The slower shutter speeds required to get these images means you are going to get some blurry ones when you handhold.  You can always delete the extra photographs from you hard drive later.

Let’s get back to our evening…

Once the sky is black, I usually switch to black and white.  The Paris Hotel and Eiffel Tower Experience is directly across the street from the Bellagio Hotel, with its famous fountains:

DSCF4230

And just a few minutes away from there is Caesar’s Palace:

DSCF4246

These images, with the bright lights against the dark sky, work well as high contrast black and white photographs.

The longer shutter speeds required at night also provide an excellent opportunity to shoot motion blur:

DSCF4680

The strip is busy.  Hectic.  Chaotic.  A little crazy.  Pictures like this remind me of what it was like to actually be there.   Las Vegas has elevated pedestrian walkways over the strip, which give you an excellent point of view to shoot the traffic below.

On the second night I set up to shoot the Paris Hotel, framed with the fountains from the Bellagio.  Sunsets in Las Vegas have a magenta glow to them, which I loved:

DSCF4809

Shortly after this photograph was taken I moved south by a block or two, and shot back toward the Paris Hotel from one of the elevated walkways:

DSCF4856

Notice the difference in the sky.  These two photographs are taken less than 30 minutes apart, but the change is dramatic.  The sky has darkened and lost much of its colour, but the lights have come on beautifully!

This photograph is shot through the glass that is used to wall in the walkways.  Shooting through glass can be difficult due to reflections.  If you have a lens hood use it, and get your lens right up against a clean section of the glass.  Then use a small piece of dark cloth, your hand, anything to wrap your lens and prevent light from getting in.  You can almost always eliminate unwanted reflections by doing this.

On my last night to shoot there were amazing clouds, and I knew when they saturated with that sunset magenta colour the sky would look amazing:

DSCF4649

Spinning around, I shot another slow shutter speed image to try to capture some of that crazy las Vegas hustle and bustle:

DSCF4667

…and Hooters.  You can’t photograph Las Vegas, Sin City, and not get Hooters in the frame!

Of course, no trip to Vegas would be complete without shooting the famous sign:

DSCF4867

Shooting at night can be very rewarding.  The sky looks gorgeous, the city lights sparkle, and the slower shutter speeds allow you to capture motion.  This is your time as a photographer.   Enjoy the day with your family, visit the sites, enjoy the food.  When the sun is going down though put on your photographer hat and go looking for that trophy picture.

Next up, Freemont Street!

Cheers,

Ian