Saturday, January 24, 2015

Four Views of an Urban Icon

During a recent trip to Washington DC I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Jefferson Memorial with a good friend who lives in DC.

Having seen how other photographers had approached the memorial I was convinced that a ‘Blue Hour’ shoot would be ideal. However, dinner and the DC weather decided otherwise!

Also, nobody had told all the other ‘tourists’ to stay away while I was in town!

I therefore decided to adopt a Long Exposure (Bulb) approach, from 30 to 240+ seconds, to eliminate/reduce the tourists; and see if Photoshop could ‘recover’ a Blur Hour feel.

Wiki tells us that The Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., was dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, (1743–1826), one of the most important of the American "Founding Fathers". He was the main drafter and writer of the "Declaration of Independence", a member of the Continental Congress, Governor of the newly independent Commonwealth of Virginia, an American minister to King Louis XVI and the Kingdom of France, first U.S. Secretary of State under the first President George Washington, the second Vice President of the United States under second President John Adams, and also the third President of the United States, (1801–1809).

Later he also was very proud of being the founder of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, Virginia. The neoclassical Memorial building on the "Tidal Basin" off the Washington Channel of the Potomac River was designed by the architect John Russell Pope and built by the Philadelphia contractor John McShain. Construction of the building began in 1939 and was completed in 1943. The bronze statue of Jefferson was added in 1947.

As I was travelling light, I made full use of my Sony A6000, my favourite wide angle lens, the Rokinon 14mm F/2.8, and, of course, the ND Throttle adapter to cover the LE exposures.

Image 1: The intent here was to capture the memorial reflecting in the Tidal Basin at Blue Hour: the reality was that the Tidal Basin was frozen and we were shooting in very overcast weather way after Blue Hour. Here is the RAW image, showing the frozen Tidal Basin, shot at ISO 100, using the Sony 18-200mm at 94mm, F/8 with a 30 second exposure.

Post processing involved first correcting for white balance and basic exposure in Lightroom. After exporting to Photoshop, I adjusted the image size aspect ratio to accommodate the reflection, fixed the sky, adjusted the look of the image using a few adjustment layers and Camera Raw, before exporting to the Flood plugin ( to counter the frozen Tidal Basin. I then finished the image off using TK-Actions and ALCE ( ; before returning to Lightroom for final tweaking.

Image 2: The intent here was to show the Memorial and Jefferson statue from the ‘front’. The main challenge was accounting for the various tourists, so I decided on a 200 second exposure at F/8, using my Rokinon on the ND Throttle.

Post processing was similar to the first image, with the addition of using PTLens (, but I wanted to go for a slightly ‘higher key’ view of the Memorial,

Image 3: The intent here was to create a square framing with a slight split tone effect. Once again I used a long exposure of 240 seconds to get rid of the tourists. The JPEG of the RAW image dramatically shows why looking at a JPEG on the camera underestimates the exposure. I deliberately used ETTR-based exposures, via the camera’s JPEG histogram, knowing that in post, the RAW would provide suitable ‘insurance’. Many will, I’m sure, be ‘shocked’ by the ‘overexposured’ look of the base image.

Post processing, once again, was similar to the above, less the sky and the flood effect!

Image 4: My vision for the final image was to get Jefferson book-ended between some of the most famous words in the world. As there were no tourists I decided on an ISO 100, 25 second exposure at F/11.

Post processing was relatively simple, although I attempted to ‘recover’ a Blue Hour look, as I did with the other images above.

Bottom line: In this post I have tried to bring together a few things: Photoshop can help you ‘time shift’, ie recover some semblance of Blue Hour; there are some really good plugins that can help with reflections, I use Flood; finally, it is worth exploring different looks, ie don’t make every image from a shoot ‘look the same’, eg explore spilt toning.

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