The sun that never sets

It used to be said that the sun never sets over The British Empire. Well, that’s not the case anymore, so here’s a sunset over the Houses of Parliament in London.

The sun that never sets is setting over Palace of Westminster

I know from experience that the best time for night time shots is shortly after sunset. There is a brief moment where floodlit buildings and electrical light needs the same exposure as the light still left in the sky. Sadly, I can never recognise this magic moment when I’m standing there looking for it, so all I can do is to make sure to arrive early and keep shooting until I know the moment has passed; then when I’m home in front of the computer, I make my pick as to which shot I prefer.

In this instance, sunset was at 18:52, and I was in position about 10 minutes before. The floodlights on Parliament were switched on at at 19:21, the shot that ended up being my favourite was taken at 19:24, and at 19:32 I finally decided that the magic moment had passed. There was an almost full moon, partly hidden behind clouds.

After the shot I went across to the other side of Waterloo Bridge and aimed my camera towards St Paul’s and The City. It stands to reason that if the magic moment has passed when shooting towards the setting sun, then it has passed even more when shooting in the exact opposite direction. If you see what I mean. But since I was there, I thought why not?  Of the shots I took in that direction, I prefer the last one from 19:48; not because the light had improved (it hadn’t!),  but because the moon finally peeked through a hole in the cloud cover. I like the effect that gives on the sky.

London City

St Paul's, The City and the Oxo Tower

In order to get the blue colour in the sky of this second picture, I had to lower the white balance quite a bit. The fact that the dome of St Paul’s has turned light blue as well gives away the game.

I like to shoot night-time shots on manual exposure. I put the camera on a tripod, set the lowest ISO I can, close the aperture well down and experiment with the shutter time, checking the right edge of the histogram on the camera, until I can see that the highlights are almost blowing out. Then, as time goes by and the skies get darker, I just extend the shutter time and re-check the histogram every now and then. At home, in the post processing, it’s easy to darken the image to taste, according to how much of a night-feel I want it to have.

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2 comments

  1. Gorgeous shots. I love them both, but I think the second is my favourite of the two.

    • Thanks Michelle, that’s very kind of you. I’ll be trying the second again, and aim to get it at THE right time – will make sure to send you a copy if I succeed 🙂

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