A grand day out

London has a fantastic number of sites and subjects for us to aim our cameras at. I've been down the street photography route before, so this time my efforts were based around golden hour shots of some of the most famous landmarks (via a detour to the RAF museum!). Mustang

At the RAF museum, I was mainly testing the low-light capabilities of the Nikon D90. A seriously long-in-the-tooth camera now, at low ISO it is still capable of producing pleasing images. However, not so much when the ISO gets cranked up.


Now, the image quality (IQ) is not terrible, even with some recovery of the shadows (Adobe Lightroom CC) you can still make out the textures and patterns on the rusting, recovered aircraft. If you zoom in 1:1, there is a lot of graining, but its relatively pleasant; a bit like what you'd get from a good quality film. These images were all taken at ISO 1000; in the most recent bodies this would be no problem, shots would be clean as a whistle. With the D90 this is close to the upper limit, with images becoming unusable past this point.

Details didn't get too mushy either, with clear defined edges (even in the shadows, a hotspot for noise). Of course, these images have been taken with a pretty decent lens (the lovely Nikon 16-35 mm f/4 - I can't recommend this lens enough for sharpness, colour rendition and zoom range, not to mention the ability to use Lee filters. See the second image to see what this lens can do on ANY body - this image is completely uncorrected, straight from the camera).


Catalina bombs

The main focus of the trip was the so-called "Golden Hour" shots of some landscapes in Westminster. I was armed with my 3 Legged Thing tripod, my Lee Big and Little stoppers, and of course my trusty 16-35 mm. The light ended up being lovely, with the only problem being looking towards the Houses of Parliament was a contre-jour shot. My highlights were being blown out the water, and I didn't have a ND Grad filter with me...

Parliament unedited

So, I had to rely on shooting to the right slightly and hoping Lightroom could recover the shadows enough to see some detail in the Houses of Parliament. Using the Lee Big Stopper, I managed to get a silky smooth river, which is preferable to seeing the Starbucks cups and bits of old boat floating past at some speed. Also, because of the amount of traffic on the river, its almost a necessity to have a long exposure if you want a clean shot.

Big Ben Sunset

The sky continued to develop and give me some lovely "blue hour" looks too - this one in particular had the lights on the bridge coming on, and the green light up by the clock face as well, adding a bit of extra interest to the image.

Big Ben 1 Sharpened

Time was getting on and the husband wanted feeding, so we decided to finish the day on the other side of the river, looking towards County Hall and the London Eye. One of the best tips I have heard about landscape (including urban landscape) photography, is to go with a pre-visualisation of the images you would like to come away with. With the help of 500px (a GREAT location scout) I had done this with regards to the Eye. Unfortunately, there was a large group of French teenagers grouped right where I wanted to plant my tripod! It happens, London is a busy place, so I had to adapt. I settled on a position a bit further down, which meant the Shard was beginning to poke into the middle of the eye, not a bad compromise!

County Hall

Blurry eye

With the last shot, the camera was really beginning to struggle. There is a lot of colour noise in the shadow regions of the image, particularly in the sky (which I had to rescue because of the relatively low light level coming from the Eye). All in all, it was a productive day, giving me a chance to really test my equipment and my skills in lots of different situations. A city is pretty good for that...