Posts in Category: Cityscapes

Life in Scottsdale

I fell in love with the idea of living in Scottsdale way back in about 1983.  I was working in Northern Arizona and had come down to “the Valley” (as Arizonans call the metro Phoenix area). I found myself in Scottsdale during the annual city-sponsored Culinary Arts festival.  It was March so it was still cold in the northern desert (and back home in Castle Dale as well) but it was warm in Scottsdale.  There was green grass, music, friendly people and amazing food everywhere.

That’s when I decided I would come back someday and see if living in Scottsdale was as great as it seemed it would be.  After finishing a University education, obtaining a wife and fathering a first child the opportunity came to move to Scottsdale.  I’ve never regretted it.

If you have to live in a large city (and I do because of my profession) I can’t imagine a better one.  This photograph of Marguerite Lake is from last summer’s Monsoon season.  As you can see from the photo, we live in an urban environment but it’s a beautiful one.  The skies during the Monsoon season can take your breath away – particularly at sunset.  Hope you enjoy the photo.

Almost Worth It

Every now and then, I get a day or two off from the day job.  When that happens I get out a map, look for a place I’ve never been before and go there.

For the Memorial Day holiday I had Monday off for a three day weekend; long enough for an in-state road trip.  So I got out my map and realized the only place left in Arizona that I’ve never visited was Bisbee in the South East part of the state.

I made grand plans – the town itself is quaint and packed with historic buildings and architecture.  The surrounding area has any number of interesting and picturesque back roads and 4 wheel drive trails.  I planned a number of side expeditions for photography and exploration.

I serviced my Jeep, settled my love into the seat beside me and filled the back with 4-wheeling, hiking and camera gear.  We rolled down the highway, top down, blasted by the hot Arizona wind at 80 miles per hour and without a care in the world.

Two hours later, pulling into Bisbee I stopped and began to back into a parking spot.  A loud and rather final-sounding clunk came from the rear of the Jeep.  I changed my mind about backing up and tried pulling forward and was rewarded with loud, agonizing grinding noises.

Long story short– there wasn’t an open shop within a hundred miles we could get the jeep’s brakes looked at.  Every place was closed for the holiday and even AAA premium service couldn’t really help get us back home in time for work on Tuesday.

So, we left the Jeep parked and stayed in town for the next couple days.  No adventuring in the outback– just walking, exploring quirky art galleries and experimenting with small desert town cuisine.

However, as we walked around what proved to be an historic but also quaint and quirky Arizona town, I saw sights that held potential for evening architectural photography.  That evening, as the sun set, I set up my tripod and captured the image featured above.

To me this photo is reminiscent of a scene from a John Steinbeck novel.   You almost can’t tell it wasn’t taken 100 years ago except for the fact that it’s in color.

We drove the jeep home on Monday, serenaded all the way by a constant, painful grinding noise. This photo almost makes the trip and the $1000 in repairs to my Jeep worthwhile.  Almost.

Why not help me make the trip worth it in spite of the Jeep repairs?  Why not purchase a beautiful print of this photo from me here?  Think of it as a charitable act.

The Blue Hour at Skysong

If you follow my photography much at all you know that evening and night architecture shots are among my favorite.

There’s an Arizona State University research and technology center a few blocks from my home called Skysong. When Skysong was being built, community meetings showed the new campus buildings featuring a huge canopy (or giant spider as some of the local residents called it). Most of the people from my neighborhood hated it. Most still do.

Personally I am of mixed emotions. I’m glad to see South Scottsdale getting new developments with architectural significance. I’m not sure putting up a mammoth shade structure that dominates the campus around it really qualifies but it’s an attractive landmark – at least at night.

In any event, here’s a photograph from under the Skysong canopy shot during the blue hour. I love the colors in this photo – it’s what I strive for when shooting evening photographs.

Expect the Unexpected 2

As I said in my previous post, I wasn’t expecting to take night cityscape photographs on my trip to Hawaii. But then I did!

Here’s a second night-time cityscape from Waikiki. This one is from a little earlier in the evening so I’m still getting a little of that “blue hour” sky. I only shot these night cityscapes on one night while we were in Oahu. Since I wasn’t expecting to shoot them, I didn’t plan ahead so it’s only by luck that I managed to catch part of the blue hour sky.

If you like the image, consider ordering a print.

Expect the Unexpected

When I went to Hawaii, I went expecting to take mostly landscape photographs with maybe a few cultural-type photos of people and events. It didn’t occur to me at all that I might be taking night photographs of any type and especially cityscapes.

Oahu Island is very developed.  It’s very much a big city. I guess I hadn’t thought about that when leaving for Hawaii but when I got there I realized there was a real opportunity to shoot some unusual cityscapes. It’s not often you can shoot a big city and a beautiful beach in the same exposure.

Anyway, if you follow my photography you know that night photography is something of a specialty of mine. I took this photograph on the beach at Waikiki near the famous Duke’s restaurant. It was a bit of a challenge to get an image that  captured the amazing blue-green color of the ocean while also properly exposing for the city lights. I think this photo balances the two very well.

If you think so as well, consider ordering a print. You can do so by clicking here.

Of Course, Mine is the Best Ever

Everybody takes an evening skyline photograph of San Diego from the exact same  place. There’s no option — there isn’t any other good place you can shoot a skyline of San Diego from in the evening.

So I shot it from the same place as everyone else.  You may say why bother?  Fair question.

It’s hard to shoot some places without doing the same photograph everyone has. After all, how many shots are there of every square inch of the Grand Canyon?

It used to bother me to shoot something that has already been, pardon the pun, over-exposed. Then I realized something. When you go and shoot the same location that so many others have already shot, you learn a lot. You have to.

When you make your photo, you are hoping to bring something to the shot that no one else thought of.  Sometimes you are fortunate and it happens. Most of the time you only wish you were so lucky.  Either way, you learn a lot just from the mental exercise.

On the other hand, you always get the chance to compare what you are doing with what someone else did. You might say to yourself, “hey why can’t I get that color in the sky like so-and-so did?” Dozens of questions like that crop up as you work. They trigger new ideas for angles, settings, lenses, etc. that you take with you to the next shoot and the next..

So, go ahead and shoot the Grand Canyon just like everyone else. Maybe you’ll hit paydirt and come up with something completely new. Either way, I guarantee you’ll learn something.

See this and other photographs from my San Diego trip at my on-line store (and order a print or two for yourself!)

Night Shooting in Salt Lake City 2

I thought I’d post another image from my night shots of the Utah State Capitol Building in Salt Lake City.

Also, don’t forget about my Night Photography Seminar on Thursday, October 8th in Tempe Arizona.  Register here:  http://www.chriscurtisphotography.com/seminar/register.html

Night Shooting in Salt Lake City

Stability is the key to ruling the night.

I had a chance during a recent visit to Salt Lake City to photograph the Utah State Capitol Building at night.

Night photography is different from daytime photography.  When shooting at night, you are dealing with very low light, long shutter times and difficult trade-offs in ISO and aperture.

All that aside, stability is the real key to night photography. The slightest movement of the camera will ruin your shot when shutter times are measured in minutes. I use a very sturdy tripod. I also use a remote control or the timer on my camera to trigger the shutter.  I never touch the camera.

But that’s still just not good enough…

My camera is a digital SLR. That means there’s a mirror arrangement that allows you to look through the lens via the view finder to compose the shot. When you press the shutter button, the mirror pops up out of the way for the exposure. That causes vibration.

I use the Mirror Lockup feature of my camera to prevent mirror vibration (most DSLRs have this feature). When I use the camera’s menu to enable Mirror Lockup, pressing the shutter button once pops the mirror up out of the way but does not trip the shutter. Then, I press the shutter button again to take the picture.

The time between the first button push and the second allows any vibration from the mirror popping up to die down.

Of course, I still don’t want to touch the camera so the Mirror Lockup feature works with the remote trigger, the timer, or a cable shutter release. I always use one of these methods to trip the shutter without touching the camera.

Here’s one of my images from that night at the Capitol. Notice it’s sharp in spite of the fact that the exposure time was 30 seconds.

If you are a big fan of Utah or its State Capitol Building, you can order a print here.

Hunt’s Tomb and Full Moon

Here’s one of my favorite photos…

It’s a picture of Hunt’s Tomb at Papago Park in Tempe, Arizona.

Hunt was the first Governor of Arizona and he was interred in this pyramid with his wife, mother-in-law and, I believe, one of his wife’ sisters.

I love this image both because it’s a good night shot which is something I always enjoy but also because the image has certain memories associated with it. There’s a personal connection for me with the image. Having an emotional connection to an image is something that doesn’t always happen but when it does, it always make the image more than just a technical exercise in composition, exposure, focus and lighting.

I confess to a certain degree of photoshop manipulation in the image. It’s impossible to expose for both the moon and the pyramid together. If one single exposure was taken that exposed for the pyramid, the moon would be all washed out. If the moon was properly exposed, the pyramid would be much too dark.

For this image I took two exposures (using a tripod of course). One exposed for the moon and one for the pyramid. Then I combined them in photoshop into a single, properly exposed image.

If you like this photograph as much as I do, you can order prints here.