Downtown by Twilight

I was up shortly after 5:00AM on Saturday and decided to go downtown to shoot photos. The forecast called for partly cloudy skies, so I thought that I might get lucky on a sunrise. I also wanted to experiment with a few things from the Pfluger pedestrian bridge, which overlooks downtown from the lake side.

One thing that I have never really figured out how to handle from this location is the the lamp posts on the bridge. They are bright and kind of in the way and I have mainly tried to shoot around them in the past. I thought that I might try to incorporate them into a photo somehow. I considered using them as a leading line of lights but they kind of blend into the background in the distance. The following photo is an HDR merge shot at about 6:17AM with the street lamps on the far left side.

Austin Texas During Predawn Twilight
Austin Texas During Predawn Twilight

I did an HDR merge in attempt to keep the building lights from overwhelming the photo so that I could get some color in the sky as well. I put a mild exposure mask over the bright light from the street lamps. I still think that the lamp posts are mostly a distraction. Perhaps I could have included more of the bridge in the photo to make them more useful to the composition.

It must have been windy up in the air as the low clouds were really moving, so I took a few long exposures. The next image is a 30 second long exposure that I took to show a little motion blur in the clouds. The lake was so rough that not even a long exposure produced much of a reflection. This photo was shot at facing east at 6:21AM, without using an ND filter (f/11 was sufficient). It was still dark enough for a few stars to show up.

Long Exposure of Austin Skyline During Predawn Twilight
Long Exposure of Austin Skyline During Predawn Twilight

I am not sure that I like the cloud directly overlapping the top of one of the buildings as it is kind of distracting. I also edited this photo differently than the previous one by putting an adjustment mask over the building so that I could reduce the brightness of the lights and warm up their color without warming up the rest of the image. I think that it contrasts better with the sky like this. I tried using the split-toning tool, but that ended up warming the sky as well, so went to an adjustment brush.

The next is a long exposure with an ND filter. The image below is a 90 second exposure which completely blurs out the clouds and makes the lake about as smooth as possible. This photo was take at 6:29AM as the sky was getting brighter.

Long Exposure of Austin Skyline at Dawn
Long Exposure of Austin Skyline at Dawn

The ND filter does change the color of the image. I think that it makes the blues a bit grayer in this instance, but that may also be the blurred clouds. I edited this photo a bit cooler than the first long exposure above. There is also a lot of vignette when using an ND filter at an ultra-wide focal length (16mm). I reduced the vignette in LightRoom, but it is still present to some degree.

These photos were all taken at 16mm, which is very wide and does result in some distortion in the angles of the buildings at the edges of the picture. I did correct this as much as I could in LightRoom without losing too much of the photo to cropping.

At this time of year, the sun was going to be well hidden by the buildings in the center of the frame when it rises. The lower clouds were not developing any color as the sun approached the horizon. I took some parting photos and headed out at about sunrise. The photo below was shot at 6:36AM, about 20 minutes before the sun was scheduled to rise.

Austin Texas at Dawn

The clouds mostly just stayed gray and turned white when the sun came up. No dramatic warm colors this time.

I have seen some other photos taken from below this bridge. I may check that out next time and see if the view is better. I would also like to try shooting at the evening blue hour from this location as the building will probably be more lit up with people who are awake, but parking is a problem in the evenings.

I experimented with warm versus cool edits of a cityscape. I tend to prefer the warmer edits. Please comment below and tell me what you think?

14 thoughts on “Downtown by Twilight

  1. Those are absolutely beautiful, I remember Austin at dusk it’s just as wonderful as it was then. I remember going through to Lake Travis to get through downtown Austin, I was kind of worried because it was my first time on a boat, lol. But despite the fear I took in how gorgeous it was.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I like the next-to-last one best. It has a cool, placid feel to it, that I find relaxing. I think the streetlights might look better if they were more decorative and less utilitarian looking. Even so, I like all the photos here.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. From the comments, it looks like you and I have the same blogging buddies!

    These photos are amazing. I respect your skill. Last night I stayed up watching an hour long tutorial on how to use my daughter’s Fugifilm Finepix, hoping to pick up some tips before I go to the mountains on Friday. There’s so much to it, even for an easy camera like that. I need a lot more than an hour!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just from my experience, I’ve used on long exposure’s to help out bring out any detail that I can’t get from my basic editing adjustments. It’s a selective adjustment to a certain part of the frame/photo that only affects the area that you choose.


    1. I did create an adjustment mask over the buildings to control the lights as they were somewhat overwhelming the scene.

      In the last photo I put a grad filter over the water to try to smooth it out by reducing clarity as it seemed to edgy.

      Liked by 1 person

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