China Town Light Trails, Manchester

China Town Light Trails, Manchester

It seems like here in Manchester the only type of photography I can be happy with in winter is night photography. The above image was captured last night on the corner of Portland Street looking down York Street on the edge of the cities China Town district. Mark and I had actually stopped to take some photos of the Britannia Hotel on the other side of Portland Street. Just as we were about to move on I looked down this side street and saw the neon sign for the Vina karaoke Bar and the ornate colour lights zig zagging down the street and felt like I could make a photo out of this view.

When I had set up the tripod and got my settings right on the camera I took a test picture and thought there was too much dark, boring and unlit areas in the middle and bottom of the frame. So I took another exposure of 20 seconds at f/20. Not having a cable release I used the cameras self-timer mode (set to 2 seconds) to reduce any camera shake by pressing the shutter to take the picture. What I didn’t see was the double decker bus turning right into this street, once the timer was up the shutter opened just as the bus was in front of the camera. Then a taxi and smaller bus followed across my photo. This was the result and I love taking photographs like this, it is one of the few types of photo that the human eye can’t see but the camera can record. I would love to produce a series of these light trail night pictures around the city.

Interior Details of Piano Strings and Hammers

Interior Details of Piano Strings and Hammers

The above photograph is my attempt to record what happens when you open the lid of an upright or vertical piano (as apposed to a grand piano). The camera is on top of the instrument looking down inside, obviously it is a low light situation, but on a beautiful example like this one, I feel that it makes for an interesting image.

For a little background, I was at my cousins house (well my dad’s twin sister and her families house) on Sunday night for a meal. Due to a 2008 project on instruments I thought I would try and capture a few photos, because two of my cousins are very musically talented playing the piano, guitar, flute etc. Their piano was crying out to be photographed and I was looking forward to taking some great photos of it.

I was wrong – I never knew how hard it is to photograph instruments until I tried! Despite the fact that many of them are shiny and reflective, they are often awkward shapes. The above photograph was impossible to capture hand held because I found it required a tiny aperture of f/22 to keep maximum sharpness throughout the strings and due to the lack of light inside the piano, it ended up being a 30 second exposure time. Luckily my Gorilla Pod from Joby really helped me out and enabled me to rest the camera on top, but also frame the image exactly the way I wished.

Then I took the photo and it was rubbish – it lacked something, so I thought I would press a few notes (I would say play a few notes, but that implies I have musical talent or know how to play the piano and neither assumptions would be correct). When I took this photo with the hammers hitting the strings the vibration from the whole instrument moving caused my picture to be very blurred. So the above photograph is my third attempt, where I took a long 30 second exposure, but gently moved the hammers (by pressing the keys very lightly) but not enough to vibrate the strings, make sound or cause a lot of vibrations. This photograph represents one of the largest technical hurdles / problems I have had to get over in my photography recently. Whilst writing this I am already getting great ideas about how I could improve and retake this image and for me, this is what photography is all about.

Manchester Wheel at Night long exposure

Manchester Wheel at Night long exposure

After taking a photograph of the Manchester Wheel at night last month it wasn’t something that was on my list to photograph when I was out taking photographs with Cat and Kov but after some inspiration on Flickr I wanted to return andexperiment with some very long shutter speeds. The above photograph was an exposure of 94 seconds at an aperture of f/22. The wheel was obviously moving during this exposure, hence the blurring of the wheel itself. I am a little disappointed in the lack of detail in the light areas of the building but as far as I know it is almost impossible not to over exposure in certain areas on the capture like this one.

St. Peter’s Square Metrolink at Night

St. Peter's Square Metrolink at Night

This was a long 25 second capture of St. Peter’s Square taken about at half six in the evening. The building in the background is Manchester’s Central Library and the streaky lines of light are caused by a Metrolink Tram. I have taken pictures from this spot before, but never at night with the support of my tripod (a necessity for night time photography).

Setting up my camera I watched the sequence of the traffic lights and how long the lights took to change from the car to tram traffic. As soon as the lights went red for the cars, I had worked out that if I used a 2 second self timer (on the camera), the camera would then take the above image with a 25 second exposure, capturing the tram as it passed all the way across my image, as you can see above this worked how I wanted it.

Next time I am in this location my aim is to try slow sync and rear sync flash techniques. Here the camera would give a nice long 20-30 second exposure and then fire the flash just before closing the shutter. If I got the timing perfect the image above would look similar but you would be able to make out a ghostly image of the front of the tram, fingers crossed.

I thought as a nice contrast to the above photograph (taken after the Nikon Expo on Wednesday), you would enjoy seeing a similar capture taken at the being of the year in the daylight. I find it amazing how a city centre takes on a whole new look, feel and identity at night.