It would be a difficult task to convince me that there’s any type of photography more brilliant and more dramatic than night-time cityscape photography. Such a photograph is filled with such dramatic lighting of all sorts of colors – cool and warm sources – and such fantastic shadows created accordingly. To boot, the shapes of a city at night differ greatly from the same city by day. Bonus if you can throw a water body into the mix to get some reflections. With that, I would like to share with you such a brilliant photograph from Thamer Al-Hassan titled St. Paul’s & Millennium Bridge (shown above).
Thamer intruduces us to London, England, with his photograph of the famous cathedral and bridge. As is the case with much of Europe, the old city features a nice mixture of historical buildings and landmarks blended in with very modern structures, such as the Millennium Bridge. Thamer has done well to capture the two co-existing together, which is possibly more apparent at night. The futuristic lines and shapes of the pedestrian bridge serve a nice counter-balance with the cathedral and a few of the other more traditional buildings within the frame. In the long exposure, the river Thames actually resembles a sheet of brushed aluminum more than it looks like water. But this adds texture to the shot and it helps to anchor every other element int he photograph. We do, of course, love to see hazy reflections of lights in our nighttime shots, and so the river Thames also serves to provide that for us as well. But I wantto really point out the subtle lines in the shot. The obvious lines are the bridge itself which pulls our eye directly to St. Paul’s. But there are other lines worth noting. The fuzzy vertical lines created by the reflections in the water help to pull our eye into the photograph as well as they are brightest near the far shoreline. The lines formed by the columns of St. Paul’s and the shadows created by the ridges in its roof help to anchor the building. These lines serve as an eye-trap. It is enough detail and enough of a contrast to keep our eye from wandering across the page. An improper exposure would reduce this effect. And this affect is best achieved at night.
If you really want a photo so dramatic and so captivating as Thamer’s photograph of London, there is no better way to do so than to shoot at night. At night, the light – or more importantly, the shadow – truly paints a picture that cannot be rivaled by any other photograph from the same vantage point. Behind St. Paul’s columns, for example, is a building that would not render so contrasting to the columns under daylight. Or the line formed by the lights along Millennium Bridge, even the light reflected off the railing, would not appear so clear nor would it draw the eye so well as it does at night. The river Thames would just look like muddy water, devoid of any drama or well-contrasted reflections. If you want such drama, you must shoot at night.
Thamer Al-Hassan is a talented photographer that specializes in architectural photography, though he does dabble outside the genre from time to time. His photostream at Flickr features some breathtaking views of structures all over the world. You will also find a few heartwarming moments in the form of street photography from his travels. His photography certainly lives up to his username: Real Fantasy. It’s worth it to spend a few minutes to browse through his gallery.