Yesterday I was showing my portfolio to a picture editor (yes that still happens sometimes) and we got talking about mixed light photographs. This is one of my favourite things to do so I thought I'd share two images from a trip I did last month to San Sebastian in Spain (also known as Donostia in Basque).
I had one lovely sunny day taking pictures of beaches and views, and on that evening took the shot above with the camera on a tripod. The exposure length was 1 second at f10, 400 ISO, which gave a good mixture of blurred figures walking past and, in this frame at least, a couple standing still looking out to the sunset on La Concha bay.
The waves in the bay are slightly blurred but that gives a softness against which the railings of the promenade stand out nicely. They are also picking up some orange light from the street lighting in contrast to the blueish glow of the sky and just a hint of red in the sunset.
The next day the cloud started and I had a rather irritating day of wandering around finding details to shoot: tapas bars, souvenirs in shops, interiors of churches. By dusk it was pouring with rain but I doggedly took out my tripod and tried again.
The only advantage of photographing in the rain is that you get reflections off the wet pavements and roads. This can be put to good use with the right situation. In this case, I headed over to the Kursaal, a cultural centre which is a dramatic bit of architecture with two blocks of illuminated glass facing the sea.
It was raining so heavily, and windy too, that I did slightly shorter exposures -- in this case 0.5 second -- and thus shallower depth of field, f5.6. I had to wipe the lens clean before every shot but I like the dramatic effect of the reflections. Also, although the sky seemed entirely grey to the naked eye, it gains a bit of blue in camera.
The key things to successful mixed light photographer are to get the timing right so that the artificial lights are balanced against some remaining light in the sky -- a pitch black sky doesn't look nearly so atmospheric -- and to use mirror lock and either a tripod or place the camera on a firm surface so that there is no camera shake.
Anna Watson: photographer, parent, juggler