Powerplant, Railroad Avenue – Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Mare Island, Vallejo, California. February 27, 2010. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
Night panoramic photograph of the powerplant building and other structures along Railroad Avenue at the historic Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California.
This is a bit of a first for me – a night photography stitched panorama. This image is composed of two separate exposures which were aligned and “stitched” into a single image in post. (As such, it could be a very large print!) Shooting from an elevated position, I shot almost directly north (as you can tell from the star trails in the larger version). The view looks up Railroad Avenue past the iconic power plant building with its smokestack that is visible from all over Mare Island.
I’m usually a bit casual about exposure time with long exposure night photographs. It isn’t that I don’t care – it is just that one has a ton of leeway when it comes to the very long exposures I typically use. For example, on a 3 minute exposure you would have to be off by three minutes to overexpose by one stop! So rather than use a stopwatch or an automatic timer I just count to myself. I’m usually will within a 10% error, and that is good enough. However, when stitching “good enough” often isn’t. The separate component frames really need to be quite similar, so in this case I resorted to using my watch to get relatively accurate 90 second exposures.
Another interesting factor in night photography is illustrated in this photo, namely the wildly varied colors of the light sources we deal with. There are three dominant sources in this image. The overall illumination comes from the full moon, which is quite similar to day light in terms of white balance. On the near wall of the brick power plant there is very “hot” and saturated yellow/red tinted light, probably from sodium vapor lamps. Near the left end of the image is an old wooden building that is illuminated by very green light, which I believe comes from mercury vapor lamps. I often chuckle a bit when people speak of “white balancing” the color in a scene like this. If you pick one source for your white balance you’ll throw the others even more out of line. My philosophy is usually to just go with what looks right!
Finally, the idea of making the stitched panorama came from the recently started Panocturnists web site, begun by people connected with The Nocturnes, the San Francisco Bay Area night photography group. I was intrigued by the idea of creating panoramic night photography, and I’ve done a few images along these lines on my two most recent visits to Mare Island.
This photograph is not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
ISO 200, f/8, 90 seconds
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