After photographing the fireworks last week I decided to try some more night time photography.  South Mountain in Phoenix is known for its sunset and city lights views.  A short drive up to the 2600 foot summit gets you to a great lookout over the city perfect for photographing the sky and city below.

Sunset over Phoenix - seen from South Mountain

This was definitely a trial and error process for me as I am taking the camera off the auto mode and manually adjusting the settings.  For this shoot I played with shutter speed to see what I got and hopefully learn something in the process.  Ideally I should not be focusing on one setting in the “Exposure Triangle” and leaving the others to default, but I am trying one step at a time.

I got some fair pictures but better yet learned a few things in the process…

  • As with shooting fireworks timing is everything.  Lesson learned: get to the destination early enough (in this case before the sun starts setting) to stake out a good spot and get everything set up.  For photographing city lights twilight is ideal rather than when the sky is completely dark.
  • Tripod, tripod, tripod.  My camera has image stabilization built into the body.  But at slow shutter speed a tripod is critical.  A remote would have helped too.
  • Underexposure and overexposure are very easy to do.  If I had adjusted the aperture and ISO as well as the shutter speed I’m sure I could have improved exposure greatly.  Otherwise I need to experiment more to find a happy medium.  Or there are some Photoshop tricks to adjust this after the fact.  But I prefer to get it right without having to do too much editing.

Phoenix Skyline Phoenix Skyline - edited

Original Image             Corrected in PhotoShop

Click the images to see larger versions.

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