Nothing annoys me more than having an image in my head that I can’t realise. This applies to the image above. I have parts of it but it still isn’t there yet. I posted it anyway so I could talk about the journey to this point.
I currently refer to this as “Me in the city” I first saw it’s potential about 18 months ago and I have made several attempts at getting what I see to work as a successful image. When I drew the building theme this month, I thought it may be time for another go and this was the best result so far.
So basically this is an illuminated sign for a Mercure hotel, that when seen at an angle leaves only the first two characters visible against a cityscape. It seems fairly straightforward to record this but here are some of the issues;
- Timing: The sign is only on at night but the best time to to get good light on the surrounding buildings is on or around sunrise. Sometimes the sign is off because the timing has not been changed after daylight savings starts or ends or it is simply not working.
- Lighting: Specifically the balance between the sign and background so that one does not overpower the other. In the latest image I exposed for the highlights and the background has almost been lost in the shadows.
- Location: There are only one or two locations where I can get the right angle and there are issues with permission, so I need to make the image quickly. One spot means making the image through glass with light reflecting off it and that is degrading the image quality. The other does not have any glass but is at a lower angle and that introduces distortion.
While I don’t have the image I want yet, I have learned some things along the way through the failures.
- A single exposure will not cover the dynamic range, so this needs to be a set of bracketed exposures for the highlights and shadows processed as HDR.
- The lens selection is resolved to 150-200mm. Any closer and the buildings become abstract shapes. A wider angle of view reduces the impact of the sign and introduces too many distracting elements.
- A vertical composition works better for me and allows more flexibility for placing the sign in the frame.
- A polarizing filter on the lens will deal with the glass reflections but increases the chance of motion blur during longer exposures.
- I need to have everything set up ready to go before I walk onto the location so I make the most out of the limited time there.
If I can be present when the light is right and that sign is on I know I can pull off something better that the image above. That knowledge is what keeps me going back.