Shooting the Blue Lights, Part 2

The park was fairly quiet. The soccer field was lit up and some guys were playing a game over there. But the walk way that ran up and down the Hudson in Weehawken was fairly quiet. Just scattered folks. I took up position right at the end of the parking lot and decided to take some night pics of the city. From that vantage point, everything is looming large across the Hudson. The Empire State Building sticks out, and the “New York” sign stands out from a building in front at that angle. Perfect shot.

So I set up my busted tripod and attached my camera with its wide angle lens. Seriously, two of the three legs on my tripod don’t attach to the center pole anymore. THAT’S why you don’t “invest” in a $30 tripod. I can get it to stand up and support the camera weight, but I’d hardly call it sturdy and reliable. It’s “good enough.” Maybe.

Shooting in manual mode, I went with auto-focus on my 17-35mm lens and played with the ISO setting and the shutter speed. It was extremely difficult to get a crisp shot of the lit-up buildings, though, for two reasons. First, the wind was howling off the river, shaking everything in its path, including my camera. Second, the tripod is such a piece of crap that who knows how steady it was. I used my remote shutter button with a two second delay to help minimize shake, but it wasn’t really enough. I took a lot of shots in the hopes of getting lucky with one. I think I did.

Along the way, a bicyclist came by with a backpack and stopped to chat. I noticed the tripod hanging off his backpack and we struck up a conversation about shooting the city in the wind. He had a slight accent. Not sure if it was British or Australian or what, but we talked about the lights and the best places to shoot them. He said the best place was a couple miles north, but that the wind made it impossible.

Another gentleman came by later with his point and shoot. He couldn’t get the flash to not pop off with every shot. I tried to help him, but couldn’t. It was tricky to do that in the dark with someone else’s camera, no manual, and no obvious button next to the old flash with a bar striking through it.

The walkway winds south from there, around the fields and eventually over to a restaurant that juts out into the water. I decided to see if an angle would open up on the lights from there for me. Spoiler: It did. But there were a lot of lessons yet to learn.

Tomorrow: Manual is your friend. Why I love Tamron lenses.

You can see two things in the pictures below. First, a longer exposure time leads to greater chance of shake. Two, a sturdy tripod with some sort of spirit level on it would help keep pictures straight. These two are a little off…

At a 1.3 second exposure, there's shake

At a 1.3 second exposure, there's shake

At 1/3 of a second, less shake.  Also, less light.

At 1/3 of a second, less shake. Also, less light.