18 February 2011

Ghent in twilight

Ghent in twilightCanon EOS 5D, Canon EF 4.0L 17-40mm @17mm

I thought I'd post this photo since it provides such a good example of the challenges involved in working with natural light. Late last year we spent a few days in Ghent, and arrived just in time to get ready to catch this scene. We'd had a long journey on Eurostar, and I had to resist the urge to get out of the freezing cold and have a hot chocolate in the hotel bar. The light was changing rapidly as the sun set, so I set up my tripod straight away.

Even though I was in time to catch the best possible light, I still needed to shoot with a neutral grad attached, to pull in the sky and lighten the reflections. A tripod and hotshoe spirit level were essential to get things looking vertical. Working in near darkness and in sub-zero temperatures presented an additional challenge, so a pocket torch proved invaluable, and of course some very thick gloves were essential kit!

Twenty minutes after this shot, the light had faded altogether and the sky took on the ugly orange cast of light pollution. We spent another four days hunting around Ghent for more shots like this one. I even got up on my 40th birthday before first light to get a shot at dawn that I had planned. (I'm not sure if that is dedication or if I'm just sad!) I returned to this particular spot on several occasions, but the light was never as good as it was when we first arrived. Thank goodness I resisted that hot chocolate!

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