Setup I Used For Night Cityscape Shots

I always wanted to capture beautiful cityscapes, specially night cityscapes, because of the spectacular view of buildings with different lights and colors. This summer, when I was traveling to Cape code, MA, via New York, I quickly stopped by NYC and got a glimpse of Manhattan Midtown in the evening. Then my next stop was Boston downtown and there I got a chance to capture Boston downtown cityscape at night. I am writing this blog post to share my experience and ideas on how I captured those shots. First of all, when you want to capture long exposure night shots, you must have to have a sturdy tripod with you. Any shutter speed slower than your lens focal length usually results into blurry image if taken handheld (without using tripod). You may also want to consider wide angle lens as well to capture wide view of cityscape which looks pleasant than only few buildings (using telephoto lens). Let me tell you briefly what camera settings and gears I used to get a crisp and well lit shot.

Gears I use during night Cityscape shooting

1. Tripod (You need sturdy tripod to handle longer exposure. I used Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro Tipod in these shots.)

2. Wide Angle lens. (Wide angle lens enriches the view of cityscapes allowing to capture great variety of subjects. I used Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens)

3. Any DSLR camera that supports BULB shutter mode. (Most of the DSLRs support only up to 30 sec of shutter speed in Manual mode but sometimes you need longer than 30 sec shutter speed and in that case you need BULB shutter mode which most advanced DSLRs have these days. I used Nikon D700 FX camera.)

4. ND Filter (It is an optional device if you ever want to increase your exposure time. I didn't use filter for these shots.)

5. Shutter release cable or Wireless shutter release remote (I use shutter release cable almost every time I use my camera on Tripod. This will help me to reduce vibration on camera while pressing shutter release button on camera. Some photographers use 2 sec delay method (camera takes picture 2 sec after pressing shutter release button) which also works great but I feel that technique bit tedious.

6. Finally, Timer (usually, when you are shooting into BULB mode with your calculated Shutter speed, you may want to use timer not to go too long for shutter speed than calculated. I used my iPhone stopwatch for this purpose.)

When you have all the required gears, all you have to do is pickup the location, compose your shot and snap it. Location is one of the most important constraint to choose right composition. If you miss the right composition because of the location, all your hard work goes into vain. When I take night cityscape shots, I try to include wide range of objects such as bridges, ships, cruise etc to add up variety to the scene. Here I have included three shots along with its camera settings; first one is New York City view from the Empire State Building and the second one is of Boston Downtown.

New York Midtown (click the image to view full size)

Focal Length : 35 mm     ISO : 1600     Shutter speed : 1/2 sec     Aperture : f/11

Boston Downtown (click the image to view full size)

Focal Length : 35 mm     ISO : 200     Shutter speed : 13 sec     Aperture : f/4

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, I always welcome them and try to answer it back as soon as possible. Happy Shooting!