30 March 2017 – Architecture by Night

I decided I needed to brush up on my night photography so I decided to go on a session run by Open City Tours called Photography Tour – Architecture by Night This was held in London and cost £35.50.

These sessions run periodically by Open City Tours in the Autumn/Winter months when it gets dark earlier.  In the summer months you could be waiting until very late for the light to be just right for this type of photography.  I was on the last one of the 2016/2017 seasons tours and due to the time change we met at 7:30pm and the session then ran until 9:30pm.

The tour covered:
– Illumination of the City’s buildings and how to photograph them
– Using long shutter speeds to render light trails
– Optimum time to take night photographs
– Selection of aperture, shutter and ISO to produce best results
– Your rights to photograph in public

We met our tour leader / professional architectural photographer Grant Smith at the post boxes, opposite Lloyd’s of London, One Lime Street EC3M 7HA and this is where our tour and learning opportunity began.

It was a fair-sized group but not too big so everyone received some individual coaching by Grant, which was great.

The best time for taking night photography is just before it gets dark.  I know this sounds a bit strange but the art to night photography is to capture the lights in the building but also a blue sky silhouette around the buildings, so these two things have to be managed together. Grant said if you squint your eyes shut a bit, so you can just see the lights from the buildings that’s the best time to take the photos.

We started on settings of ISO 100, f/8.0 at 2 sec. and then as the light faded we had to lower the shutter speed.  This meant that you could not do this type of photography without a tripod!  Also I only had a 50mm lens at that point, which isn’t ideal, you should shoot with a lens somewhere between 18mm and 28mm but then have another lens for details shots.  That said I didn’t do too badly with my 50mm.

The other important information given was around rights to take photographs of buildings from the street.  It is allowable to take photos of buildings from public land. These photos cannot be seized by police/security and no-one has the right to ask you to delete any of your images that have been taken from a public highway or byway.

That said, it’s how you approach any challenge that will determine how things go.  Just retreat (apologise if you feel it appropriate to diffuse any tensions) and move on, there are plenty of opportunities to take photos in the City and it maybe that you just move to a position further away to get a slightly wider shot of the same building but from where you won’t be challenged.

It is not allowable without permission to take photos on private land.  But how do you know what is public and what is private land in London?  The general rule is that all the roads and the pavements beside the roads are public, most riverside pathways are public byways.  Courtyards and paved areas outside of this, however, are likely to be private property owned by the building/landowner/s situated there.

For this particular evenings tour we had been given special permission to photograph from the courtyard which is private land and below images 1, 2, 4 and 5 were taken from the courtyard in question.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening of photography with like-minded people which I would totally recommend.  It also gives you an insight into a London you might not be aware exists and the courage to go and explore to search out new photo opportunities.

Here are some of my images from the tour:

However, I think my favourite from the evening has to be the one of the Thames Rockets boat moored just down from Tower Bridge (to the left of this shot) opposite More London.  Even though there was a bit of movement on the water that evening and the boat moved causing blurring I love the colours and the feeling of life in the image.


This concludes this Blog post and I hope it gives anyone reading this some inspiration to go out and try some night photography.


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