Tracie Callaghan

fine art | photography

Low Light London

Tracie CallaghanComment

So you may recall a while back I won a competition in Digital SLR Photography magazine with my macro shot of a vintage lightbulb. Well the prize was a voucher for the Nikon Photography School and I used it to take part in the low light course.

It started at 3pm in the Nikon training centre, just around the corner from Oxford street. The course tutor, Mark, covered some of the basics including recommended initial set up (tripod, f11, ISO lowest native), the rough route we would take and what everyone was hoping to get out of the evening.

We set off at about 4.20pm and it was still pretty bright outside even with the 10 stop ND filter I brought with me. We practised set up for a bit then took a walk down Regent Street where the light started to turn golden and I had a chat with a French bus driver who was into photography and swapped 500px details. Then the lights turned green and off he went! By this time I was starting to be able to get some longer length exposures and some light / movement trails.

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We stopped outside the Horse Guards Parade for some architectural HDR, then up to Trafalgar Square. You can’t take a tripod into the square itself as it is actually privately owned but you can on the roundabout just in front of the square. More ensuing light trails but still not really dark enough to get anything worthwhile.

Next stop hungerford bridge queens jubilee foot bridges. These foot bridges have beautiful views of the surrounding area SouthBank, the London eye, Westminster, etc. but are actually quite bouncy, so you have to time it right with no trains going past on the adjoining Hungerford Bridge and a break in pedestrian traffic. The bridges themselves are quite architectural and with all those lines I knew it waited make for a good fisheye shot where the lines would be heavily distorted into curves.

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The sky was just starting to get dark enough to give good contrast against the artificial street lighting and we were coming to one of my favourite places for this – London’s SouthBank. I’m a bit of a dawdler at the best of times when I have a camera, so now that I was like a kid in a sweet shop I did keep lagging behind the main group. I kept catching them up though and got some good shots of the Snog bus.

We stopped for a while near Blackfriars Bridge where I tried out an ultra wide zoom lens from one of the other participants; the 16 – 34mm. Since going full frame with the D800 I really miss my 10-20mm wide angle lens. It was lovely to be able to fit that much in the frame again. A lovely bit of kit if a bit too expensive to justify right now.

From here it was down to our last stop – the Tate museum, which can be spectacular when all lit up, but sadly on that Night it wasn’t. Never mind I still got some good shots down the Thames and the classic if a little overdone shot of St. Paul’s across the millennium bridge.

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We said our good-byes and safe-journeys to each other and by then it was about 9pm. If I didn’t live two hours away I would have stayed out longer but it was time to grab a bite to eat and make a dash for the train.

All in all an enjoyable evening with like minded people. I believe the Nikon School will loan out equipment should you need it and can give advice on equipment, setup, etc. A lot of walking involved which was fine for me, I’m quite used to it. There were only 6 of us on the course with one, and later two trainers.

I would recommend it, particularly if you’re lacking in confidence – either photographically or wandering about on your own at night.

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TC