by Jim Zuckerman
In my Eight Steps course at Betterphoto, one of the lessons is devoted to shooting at twilight. This is the most beautiful time of day to photograph cities and architecture. I distinguish between night photography, which is characterized by a black sky, and twilight, where the deep cobalt blue sky is a beautiful backdrop to the illuminated buildings.
Obviously, the light level is very low at twilight, and many students increase their ISO to 1600 or so and hand-hold their shots. This is not the right approach. With the higher ISO rating the quality of the image suffers. The additional noise that accompanies the ISO increase is unattractive, and the reduction in resolution in never desirable. The color and contrast are also affected, and the result is just not very pleasing.
If you are going to shoot at twilight, do it right. Use a tripod. It seems to me that there ‘s no sense in spending a lot of money on good camera equipment, expensive computer hardware and software, and photo instruction if you’re not going to take the time to get high quality, sharp pictures. Everyone agrees that tripods are a burden to carry and they slow you down when shooting. But in some situations they are essential, and twilight is one of those times when they will make or break the picture.
The two photos below were both taken at twilight: the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I used 100 ISO for both because of the superior quality, and a tripod gave me the luxury of using long exposure times due to the low light. If I find myself in a situation where I don’t have a tripod at twilight, I’ll rest my camera on my photo backpack or some other support that acts as a tripod, and I will still use the low ISO rating for maximum resolution.