Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Paris at Night

A "blue hour" time exposure of the Eiffel Tower behind the fountains at the Trocadero Gardens ~ © Royce Bair
I just returned from three weeks in Europe, where I worked with Drake Busath as his guest instructor. This section of Drake's Italy Workshops & Village Tours included a week in the Loire Valley and Two Nights in Paris. Although Paris is too light polluted to do a starry night sky photo, I was looking forward to doing some Blue Hour shots, especially since this term originated in France.

The Blue Hour comes from a French expression (l'heure bleue), which refers to twilight, the period each morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor complete darkness. The time is considered special because of the quality of the light at this time period.

In the above shot, we were about 20 minutes away from the best Blue Hour period, when the fountains (the Fontaine de Varsovie) and the 20 big water cannons started up. They stay on for about ten minutes, so were still about 10 minutes away from the peak of the Blue Hour when I took this shot —and they would not go on again until after the Blue Hour. Before the BH, the scene is too flat, and after the BH, the blackness of the night is too contrasty to see foreground detail or any color in the sky.

Although the timing on the above scene was not perfect, I was able to use a steep Photoshop "S" curve (in a"Curves" adjustment layer) to help simulate a more perfect Blue Hour. This curve also included clipping of the highlights on the right side of the histogram.

The original scene on the left was too flat because we were still about 10 minutes away from the best
Blue Hour period. By adding a steep "S" curve adjustment (that included some highlight clipping on the right
side of the histogram), I was able to obtain a more perfect Blue Hour image. ~ © Royce Bair (click to enlarge)
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