Light on Dark, Dark on Light

Everyone should watch this!  These are truly the foundation secrets to taking your photography from instinctual to masterfully intentional.

Here are several "nuggets of photographic truth" that I'm thinking about a ton when it comes to my photography. These truly are the missing ingredients that I have been discovering in my photographs but just couldn't put my finger on why they worked and why they didn't. 

Things I'm looking for:

  1. Remember that your eyes will always go to the greatest point of contrast in an image (darkest dark lightest light and where they meet) . This will communicate your subject.  The relationship between Light on Dark and Dark on Light is powerful in image making.
  2. The relationship between horizontals, verticals, and diagonals in your images. 
  3. Lights, Grays, Darks. How those create depth through your images. 

Why does a dark sky and a dark building not work well together? Because your missing out on that visual contrast (lightest light and darkest dark, and where they meet) and the viewer is struggling to find the subject. 

There are many more. Best to watch the video and discover them for yourself. 


Pastel Paris - Before and After

Before and After

Before After

One of the best things about digital photography is that you can go back and reprocess images that you might have missed from previous trips. This particular image was one of the first I took while I was setting up for blue hour in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.   I ended up processing an image that was much later in time when the blue was really hitting its peak.  I never really gave this one much thought, but as I was looking through my albums this week I noticed for the first time its potential in terms of post processing. I finally was able to "see" what it really "could be".

See over the last several years, as I have developed my photography and post processing skills, I have begun to really see the potential in my images as well as have the post processing skills necessary to express those ideas.  Its been a long road to get to this point but I can finally see all of the ingredients coming together and It feels so wonderful. I still have a long ways to go, but its wonderful to finally be at this point.  I feel like what is "possible", is finally at my finger tips.

How this shot was made. Canon 5D mkII, Canon 50mm f1.4 0.4 sec, ISO 100, f9

5 bracketed exposures taken on location. Merged using the Merge to 32-bit HDR plug-in from Photomatix. Basic adjustments in Lightroom 4 before exporting to photoshop cs6 for further adjustments.

Techniques and plug-ins used: Nik color efex pro 4, luminance masking techniques for saturation, foreground color balance, and contrast. Motion blur filter for sky. Highpass filter for sharpening. Lighten layer blending for car lights. Final export using lightroom 4.

Pastel Paris

HDR Night Photography Tips:The Magical Blue Hour!

As I'm sure some of you have figured out the main imagery at Joshua Gunther Photography has been focused around HDR Night Photography.  This particular type of photography is my absolute favorite and the type I spend most of my time pursuing.

Over the last year I have been honing my work flow into a set of setting and conditions that seem to work really well for this type of photography and I'm exciting to start writing and sharing these insights on this blog. Its my hope that these tips would help and inspire others who enjoy this same type of photography. So with that in mind I'm excited to share my first tip with you about the Magical Blue Hour!

Tower Bridge London

Tower Bridge-London "Blue Hour"

Greater London Authority- Square

Greater London Authority- "Blue Hour"

Blue Hour: What is it?

They call it blue hour because just after the sun sets the sky turns this deep rich blue color only lasting about a half hour to about two hours after the sun is below the horizon.

Most night photographers love shooting around this time, myself included, because the lights of buildings/cities have just turned on and the deep blue color of the sky contrasts beautifully with the warm lights of buildings and cityscapes. This contrast of colors are what I think really excites our senses and are what make night shots so pleasing to look at. Also, there is something magical about the specific blue color during this time of day that is richer and deeper then the blue color that we see during the afternoon for example.

Veer Towers- Las Vegas

Veer Towers Las Vegas- "Blue Hour"

Blue Hour: How to capture it.

  •  Arrive 30min before Sunset and shoot up to 2hrs after!

A great rule of thumb is to try and get to your location about 30mins before the sun sets. This usually will give me the opportunity to shoot the sunset if its good and setup for Blue Hour. Blue Hour usually starts about 10-15 minutes after the sun has dipped below the horizon and is typically richest in the direction opposite the sun. This Blue color will last anywhere between 30 min-2hrs. The length of time you have before you lose the blue color all together varies greatly depending on the time of year and the latitude/longitude of your location. For example over the fourth of July weekend I was in Las Vegas and Blue hour only lasted 30 minutes.  However in London around early June, Blue hour lasted at least 90-120 minutes.  The best tip I can give you is to just keep shooting until you notice the sky is becoming too dark even with a long exposure time. That is a good clue that blue hour is pretty much over.

  • Blue hour can sometimes turn into Purple hour- Fear Not.

When your shooting around this time you need to be aware that the color temperature of the world around you is changing at an incredibly fast rate. At around sunset the color temperature is usually around the "daylight" color temperature but about two hours later your more then likely around a "tungsten" color temperature. While shooting in LA my skys start out blue but can quickly turn into purple depending how how late I keep shooting and the conditions I'm in.  I have found that this can be corrected with the white balance settings in lightroom but often times the purple color can be really pleasing to look at. So if your sky's end up being a different color then blue try not to worry too much. Part of the fun of night photography is discovering what colors are going to show up in your images anyway.

The Purple Haze [Explored]

Example of Purple Sky During Blue Hour

Bonaventure Hotel LA

Example of Purple Sky During Blue Hour

  • Shoot quickly, your time is short.

Remember that blue hour is over very quickly, so if you have a lot of locations try and move fast. While in Las Vegas over the fourth I only had time to shoot about 5-10 setups of the buildings in the "City Center" complex before I lost all the available blue light. Luckily the buildings were pretty much right next to each other so I didn't have to go very far to take my next picture. If I needed to get to the other side of the strip I would have missed blue hour completely trying to get there in time. Best tip I can give you is prioritize your shots and try not to change locations unless you have too or be in a place where you can get several shots accomplished one right after the other.

  • Find what timing works for you!

The only true way to find out the best timing for "Blue hour" is to get out there and experiment. Everyone's location is different so what is working for me on the West coast might be different for someone else.  Best thing to do is get out there yourself and find what works for you.

Overall have fun and Happy Shooting!