Emotion or technical excellence?

Continuing the Blue Hour exploration, which seems to be my theme this week, I dropped the wife at work around 7.30am and then set out to capture my 365 image of the day.  I knew I wanted a shot from the carpark outside her offices comprising the view looking back towards “that” snicket and this time of the morning was ideal.

I only took two images however before the heavens opened and I was left scurrying for the car dragging tripod and camera behind me.  It clearly wasn’t going to stop quickly and as I knew from experience that there was only five or ten minutes of the blue “hour” left I decided to go with what I had. Both looked OK on the LCD screen and both should be sharp as they’d been shot on a tripod at f16 – it was worth taking a chance that I had what I wanted and heading for a warm coffee.

© Dave Whenham

Back home I quickly realised that my favourite of the two is the second as it has a stronger composition however there is one snag, it has three rain drops on the lens which given the lighting conditions this morning have flared and stand out very strongly. Removing them is not going to be an easy task, although I will have a go of course. However, I’m trying to present my 365 series largely as-seen with only basic adjustments. So, should I go with the stronger composition despite the hard-to-eradicate drops or should I opt for  the weaker composition with the technically better presentation?

I chose what I felt was the better composition; emotion to my mind is a far more imporatant element in photography than technical perfection and I felt this version (above) better captured the moment. However, accepting that your mileage may vary I have included the “rejected” composition, the mono version of which is shown below.

© Dave Whenham.

For completeness, here is the cloned version of my chosen image together with the mono conversion.

© Dave Whenham

© Dave Whenham

The “Blue Hour”

Sitting between the night and the morning is a kind of twilight zone that many photographers call The Blue Hour (there’s also one in the evening but it is this very morning that I’m concerned with).  Although I have not yet found an official definition for the blue hour, the blue color spectrum is I am reliably informed by Master Wiki most prominent when the sun is between 4 and 8° below the horizon. In my experience it isn’t actually an hour, its effects are often only apparent for between 20 and 40 minutes but that’s possibly nit picking really, most photographers will know what I mean by “blue hour”.

© Dave Whenham

I enjoy the blue hour particularly when shooting in an urban environment. In towns and cities, buildings are still illuminated, Windows are lit and streetlights are often still on, making it an ideal time for urban photography. It’s also ideal for landscape photography because of the different shades of the sky and colour saturation but for me the magic lies in the urban environment.  However, I find this brief period before it comes properly light to be both frustrating and productive in equal measure.

This morning’s blue hour started for practical purposes around 7:20am here and by 7:45am was basically all over. When this period coincides with wet pavements and clear skies it can be magical. The key in my view is knowing your patch. It also helps to moderate your expectations.

© Dave Whenham

This morning after dropping the wife at work I knew I had around 15 minutes of usable blue hour available so there was not time for a leisurely stroll looking for compositions. It had been raining off and on all morning so the pavements were wet which was ideal. I decided that a shot of the Dean Clough complex from the bridge outside the leisure centre would make a good shot in these conditions and it also had the benefit of being a hundred yards from where I had dropped the wife off.

On the way in I had driven past the entrance to the Piece Hall and not d the doors were open so having secured the Dean Clough image I jumped in the car and drove across to the Hall. At that time of the morning I was able to park easily outside the entrance and as it was still pre-8am it didn’t cost a penny either. I had two compositions in mind both requiring a large depth of field but fortunately both were to be shot with the camera on the paving so there was no need to grab the tripod.

© Dave Whenham

Two locations, three images and twenty minutes later I was heading to a local cafe for a restorative black coffee… I might have had a butty too!