Monday, 16 January 2012

Dawn Photography

I recently went out on a short photo shoot on Primrose Hill, north London, very close to where I live. And with it being so close to home it was an ideal opportunity to get up early and take some dawn photos. The tempature had dropped a lot over the weekend and by Saturday morning it was quite chilly, but this also gave really clear skies.

Having got my takeaway coffee I headed off up the hill, still dark but the light was growing. I knew sunrise was at 8am, giving me half an hour or so to set up and get some pre-dawn shots in too. Primrose Hill is the best vantage point in north-central London to see spectacular views across to the City and as far as Canary Wharf and the hills of Greenwich beyond. The sky had a morning glow, tinged with a low-lying mist. There was a frost on the ground which enhanced the light. After I set up the camera and tripod, fairly close to the summit, I decided to have a quick play with the iPhone. With hands shaking slightly from the cold, I tried a HDR shot with a great app called Pro HDR. The result (below) came out pretty good:

Taken with my iPhone 4, using Pro HDR

I set the camera up (my Canon EOS 450D with the standard 18-55mm lens to get some wider shots. I found the best setting at 1600 ISO, about f20, 1/8 sec, then tried a few variations in exposure.

The City from Primrose Hill
The above image has not been retouched or enhanced but is as shot. The foreground shades of the grass and trees are more natural compared to the HDR iPhone image, but the haze is still quite marked above the skyline. I swapped lens, to my EF 70-300mm zoom, so I could get some closer shots, at similar speeds, but keeping the ISO high at 1600.

Early dawn over the City
As dawn broke, the light intensified so a much faster shutter speed was required, around 1/250 sec. The sun just peaking now over low-lying cloud. Orange became the dominant colour now.

Sunrise over St. Pauls and the Shard
 A quick lens swap to get a wider shot across London came out well. Here is one of the better ones.

Sunrise over the City
 At this time of day,  the sun tracks across incredibly quickly. I swapped lenses back over once more as the sun was eclipsed by the Shard (currently under construction but nearing completion) to produce my favourite shot of the whole morning.

Sunrise eclipsing the Shard
This shot also really brings out the silhouettes of the buildings and the rising smoke from office buildings. As the sun climbed, the light intensified and shifted further towards the blue and I felt it was time to finish up. What's more is that was really cold and I was keen to get back into the warm! On my walk I took a couple more images with the iPhone, experimenting as much as anything else. These were quite pleasing too...

Chalk Farm at Sunrise
"Made in Camden"
All the above images can be found in my Primrose Hill set on Flickr.

I would have to say that I'm lucky to be living so close to such a great location for urban landscapes such as these, but sometimes the beautiful can be found in the most unlikeliest and unexpected of places. Just look around your own neighbourhood.