Timing and location
To make the most of the twilight period you needto be set up ready to shoot in good time, so checkthe sunset time – twilight begins after the sun sets, andbefore the darkness sets in. Choose a location withbuildings that have plenty of lights and illuminatedwindows, and other interesting features.
Use a tripod
Set your camera up on a tripod so that you cancapture long exposures. Make sure you place itout of the way of people passing by, as you don’t wantit to get knocked during an exposure. If it’s windy you’llneed to shelter it – you can do this with your body, orweigh down the centre column with your camera bagif it has a hook for this purpose.
Set your camera to Av mode and set the apertureto f/16 – combined with the long exposure thiswill produce a ‘starburst’ effect from the lights in thescene. Noise can be a problem with long exposures inlow light, so keep the ISO to 100 to counter this, andshoot Raw ﬁles for maximum quality.
To obtain a slow enough shutter speed to blurwater and clouds you’ll need a neutral density(ND) ﬁlter. We used a variable ND, which enabled usto control the strength of the effect by rotating theoutermost ﬁlter. Half-press the shutter button to takea shutter speed reading – around 30 secs is ideal.
Composition and focus
Switch to Live View mode to compose and focusthe shot (this also means the mirror will be lockedup to minimise camera vibrations). Compose the shotusing leading lines such as a bridge or river to draw theeye into the scene. To focus, switch your lens tomanual, then zoom in on a key feature (St Paul’s in ourcase) and adjust the focus to get it perfectly sharp.
Use a remote release to ﬁre the shutter so thatyou don’t jog the camera at the start of theexposure (if you don’t have one, you can use the 2-secSelf-timer option in the AF/Drive settings). Make sureyou don’t touch the camera during the exposure, andcheck your image is sharp when you’ve taken it.
Diffraction is aphenomenon wherelight ‘bends’ aroundsmall obstacles, suchas the aperture bladesin a lens – the narrowerthe aperture, the morepronounced the effect.It’s usually regarded asa problem, as it leadsto a loss of overallsharpness in an image.However, it can beused creatively to youradvantage, with lightsources taking on anattractive ‘starburst’effect; small streetlights in a scene areparticularly prone tothe effect. You’ll needto shoot at a narrowaperture, such as f/16;if you shoot at wideapertures of aroundf/5.6 you won’t be ableto capture the effect.
The rule ofthirds is just asimportant when you’recomposing cityscapesas for landscapes: forour shot we ﬁlled thetop and bottom thirdsof the frame with thesky and water, andplaced the dome of StPaul’s on the left-handvertical third line; wealso used the diagonallines of the bridgeto lead the eyeinto the scene.