Sunday, 29 May 2011

Night Moves

2011_Amsterdam_Pano_97Thanks to some really good drugs, I was able to sleep on the overnight flight from Halifax to Heathrow for the first time, ever. Usually I pass out the first night on the eastern side of the pond and am then awake on the second night. Seeing as how I was finally able to sleep on the flight over, I was curious to see how this would affect my jet lag. The answer came quickly, as I was awake at 1:00 a.m. on the first night. It was like I skipped the usual first night's hibernatory sleep and went straight to the second night. As I usually do when suffering from jet lag, I got up, grabbed my camera and I went out to shoot. Since the Leidseplein, which is a nightclub quarter, is right next to the hotel, that's where I headed.

I use my tripod for most of my night shots because my exposures are very long, typically between 2 seconds and 30 seconds. This means I get an odd combination of sharpness and blurriness in my compositions. Fixed objects like buildings are tack sharp, but moving objects like people are blurred. This can make for some interesting shots.

First up was a panorama of the square itself.

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To create a panorama, I carefully set up my tripod to ensure it is perfectly level and then take multiple, overlapping exposures that I then stitch together in Photoshop to create a huge photo. You cannot see how large these photos are here, because I have scaled them down a lot to fit on this blog page. But if printed, they are typically over a metre wide. In one of the shots below, I have a link to Picasa where you can see a lot more detail in one of my panorama shots.

In the image above, you can see how sharp the buildings and how blurry the people are. Many people are hardly visible at all and you can spot only pieces of them, like hands and feet. This creates a misconception that this square is almost empty, when in fact it is teeming with people out partying.

I drifted up a bit from the square back to the intersection by the hotel.


I have shot many times in this location and I always have people coming up to me wanting to have their photo taken. Invariably, these people are hammered out of their skulls. I usually make some remark about how my camera ran out of film (hah!) and they walk on. This time, I decided to shoot a few of them as an experiment. Here are a few of the results.

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An exception to the “I’m drunk, so take my picture!” rule was Ayush Bhandari and his friend.

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They are from India but living in Switzerland. Ayush was out shooting as well and stopped by for a chat about technique and gear. He has some pretty awesome shots and you may want to check them out on his Flickr site. Of course they were not stumbling around all over the place, and in taking their photo, I wanted to make sure they were nice and sharp. So I hit them with a manually fired shot from my SB800 (which I carry to nuke any drunk in the eyes, should they decide they want to take their own photo with my gear). You can see this difference in the white balance, with Ayush and his friend looking normal, but the background is very yellow. It also means that they were crisp, along with the background, and the people moving in the square are all blurry, which is kind of appropriate!

I packed up my gear and went back to my room to crash. I was able to sleep about an hour and then I went back out again at 3:00 a.m. The crowds had dropped off dramatically by then.


There were only a few people hanging around on the benches. Some were holding their heads, some just looking around. While the number of people was down, the amount of garbage was way up.

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The view to the other side of the square was more dramatically empty.


I wandered further down the street to take some more panorama shots.


One of my favourite shots is a street level composition I took while in Helsinki a few years ago. Since then, I keep an eye out for a dramatic, street level black and white shot.

I’ve done something a bit different with the above shot. I have uploaded it to Picasa instead of Flickr so that you can see the detail in the scene. Click on the photo to go to Picasa. Then click on the + sign / magnifier that is above the photo and it will take you to a full-sized file. You can zoom in and pan around the shot to see some of the detail that you would see in a full-sized print.

By this time the sky was beginning to lighten and it was time to head back to the hotel, although I had enough time to take one final “canal” shot before the sun came up.


A slide show of these photos is here.

1 comment:

Tara said...

Why aren't you selling your photos? They are AmAzInG!!