Monday, 4 February 2008

Barcelona 4 - Available Light Photography

And so we touched down in Barcelona - 3 hours later than we should have because we had been delayed for 3 hours in CDG - they said it was because the plane was late arriving from London Heathrow -3 hours?? Did the captain get lost? Anyway, we got there. Now it is interesting travelling within Europe with a non-European - after the hassle at Paris, we expected more of the same at Barcelona, but no, in fact it was completley different - there weren't any immigration people there! Now, dear reader, you may be familiar with my views on immigration officials the world over. But I have to say I like Barcelona's take on that particular profession - they just don't exist.

My colleague was desperate to get his passport stamped coming into Spain incase they didn't let him out again! We couldn't find anyone to do it. Someone suggested a visit to the police station a hundred metres outside the airport - we even tried that, but they weren't interested either. So we got a taxi to our hotel and checked in and went to our (seperate) bedrooms.

The next day we had the first day of the course which was about maths.

That evening a group of us went into Barcelona exploring and I took my camera.

Now, dear reader, you know I like to take photo's of flowers (and I won't disappoint you, there will be one in the next post) but did you know that I am a big fan of available light photography?

What is it?

Well basically it is what it sounds like - usually taking photographs at night without using a flash - indoors or outdoors using the ambient light that is around.

It is a lot easier to do it now than it used to be, digital cameras save you wasting a whole film on mistakes! But the techniques are the same as ever. There are two main (and indispensable) items of equipment. 1 - a camera that will allow you to take long exposure shots and 2 - a tripod.

I took 4 days worth of clothing, all the notes and stuff I needed for the course, a book to read on the plane, my camera with both lenses and I couldn't fit my tripod in - 'cos all that went in a bag small enough to be classed as cabin baggage!

So, no tripod - no available light photography.


This is the front of Gaudi's famous (and still unfinished) Sagredo Familia Cathedral.

Now I have to admit that I have done some photoshopping on this - I have actually used a technique called Repairing Keystoning and you can click there to find out what it is if you are interested. But I haven't done anything to change the light or the colours in this or any of the rest of these photo's.

Gaudi Balcony

This is a well photographed balcony on one of Gaudi's buildings on the Passage de Gracia and below is the doorway to the same building.

Gaudi Doorway

I particularly like the ghosting effect of the people walking in front of the camera during the exposure.

Finally I took this from my hotel bedroom - this one was particularly difficult because it is a 4 second exposure which is really quite a long time without a tripod!

Street at Night

So, no tripod, how do you do it. Well - I don't like to up the film speed because I don't like grainyness in photographs so I improvise. Lean on a lamp post with the camera up against the metal of the post, choose a time for the exposure (these are 1 second each for the first 3 and 4 seconds for the last), take a breath, hold it and gently press the shutter release. As for the street scene - stand next to the bedroom window with the curtains wrapped around you to minimise reflections, build a tower of table, flight bag, book, camera and any other little things you may need to get the perfect angle without the camera ending up on the floor, set the exposure time and again, take a breath, hold it, gently release the trigger, when the shutter closes look at the photo and zoom into one of the traffic lights to see if you have got it without any movement - if you have, good, if not, try again! By the way, the greenish-grey building in the top left of the last photo are the spires from Gaudi's Cathedral. The reason they are that colour is because the building is lit up with (I think) halogen lamps rather than tungsten lamps and that is also the reason that the first picture is very much less orange than the others. You can, with Photoshop, get rid of these various casts to the light but I quite like them and don't want to get an available light photograph to look as though I have used a flash.


Mme Cyn said...

So are you going to get to see the Keefie-Ducks while you're in Spain? Or is Madrid farther than it looks on the map?

dubaibilly said...

Hi Cyn,

I would have loved to have done that, but it just wasn't practical - Barcelona - Madrid is about 310 miles and I just didn't have time - and now I'm back in Dubai - next time!

Keef said...

I know your schedule was a bit packed, but out of interest I checked prices of flights on BastardAir - it would have cost us 211 Euros from Madreed. However, sometime very soon they will finish the AVE 230mph rail link to Barcelona that will get us there in about 2 hours and cost about 40 Euros each way (given the amount of time you spend messing around in airports, that'll be about as quick as flying), without the hassle.

But tell me about the ambient light. It was ambivalent, you say. You mean like a Libran? Or not, as the case may be.

Keef said...

PS The first photo is not the front of Sagrada Familia - it's definitely the backside only. Designed by some Japanese dude who's taken the job on after Gaudi got run over by a tram. I can't help thinking the whole thing would be better if Gaudi had actually done drawings of each elevation of the building like what proper architects do! Instead of keeping a vague notion in his head.

And the Sagrada Familia is one of the reasons why the AVE line from Madrid is not yet complete: vociferous (sic) Spaniards were worried that vibration from tunnelling under the structure could damage it. Alternative routes were considered but guess what - the line will go under the Sag Fam. And if it falls down? Well, shoulda got it finished sooner/not a strong enough structure anyway.

dubaibilly said...

Sorry about the ambivalent light keefie - I was tired! I knew that it wasn't possible for us to meet up on this trip - they should have held the course in Madrid!

Interesting stuff about the Sag Fam though - I didn't go in, just looked at the outside (and not for very long at that!

Media Junkie said...

purdy pix (sorry, the american accent is catching on)

Jayne said...

I'm really battling with taking night-time shots with my camera - they come out very grainy & have splotches of light hither & tither. Very frustrating! I really like the ghosting effect on that one particular shot Billy, it's quite haunting really. Well done :-)