A week ago I went downtown in the early morning to take photos of the Austin skyline during the twilight period before dawn. I go down before dawn to avoid traffic and heat and to easily find a free parking place. But, I wondered how different my results would be if I took the same photos during evening twilight. So, Friday night I headed downtown for twilight and arrived at the Pfluger pedestrian bridge just as the sun was hitting the horizon in the west.
The sky was mostly clear and the sunset was nothing to photograph, so I waited around on the bridge for the sky to darken. I studied a few different angles trying to find some interesting shots. It was hot, but there is nothing to do about that.
From the bridge you can look east at most of downtown. This means that during the morning twilight, the sky is brighter beyond the skyline, but during the evening it is darker. I was interested to see the difference this would make. Also, I wondered if there would be more lights on in the buildings during the evening. Below is a photo of the skyline shot during evening twilight.
Compare the above photo with the photo shot during the morning twilight below.
Both photos were 30 second exposures during nautical twilight. The sky is darker and more uniform in the evening photo. I prefer the photo taken in the morning.
I think that you would want to shoot skyline photos during twilight rather than during complete night as the sky at night is just too dark compared to the city lights. During twilight the sky still has some blue and I think that makes for a more appealing photo.
In the morning, the traffic on the pedestrian bridge is mostly a few joggers. In the evening there are a lot of bicycles, scooters, and people just hanging out. I decided that there was little point in trying to shoot around all of the people. In the photo below, I tried to incorporate the bridge into the skyline photo to provide some foreground, leading lines, and make it look less isolated. During this 30 second exposure, a bicyclist left a nice light trail for me.
These photos were shot at 16mm, which distorted the angle of the buildings in the distance. I did work on correcting this in LightRoom, but it is not perfect. There are also a lot of visual lines on the bridge that I spent some time trying to work with, but I didn’t find a composition that satisfied me.
On the way down the bridge and back to the parking garage, I stopped to see if I could get some car light trails and the sign for the City of Austin Power Plant. I thought it might make an interesting composition. The below image is a 30 second exposure.
It was very difficult to position the camera to avoid a large amount of lens flare from a street lamp just off camera to the right. Even with the light out of the shot, I still had to correct for some lens flare in the sky.
As you can see the sky is very dark as it was getting late. You can compare this to the earlier photos with the dark blue sky and decide what looks better. I prefer the dark blue sky in the earlier photos to balance the city lights a bit.
In choosing between morning and evening twilight, I think I prefer the morning. Mainly because the air is cleaner in the morning. In the evening there is a haze in the sky that is not there in the predawn hours and I think that this gives me a cleaner blue sky in the morning. The lake is often more calm in the morning as well giving me better reflections. And I don’t think that the fewer lights being on in the morning compared to the evening makes much of a difference. And mainly, I am just more of a morning person and I love the feel of the early morning.
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