Monday, February 3, 2014

Shooting photos at night in Red Square - Moscow, Russia

I leave Moscow tomorrow, for my final leg of the trip to Sochi. Even with all the logistical challenges that I have faced, I am very excited to finally get to Sochi and start capturing photos of the Olympic Games.

But before I start posting photos from Sochi, I wanted to get a chance to shoot some photos here in Moscow.

Yeday started with lunch on a boat with my friend, Alexey, on the frozen Moscow River. The weather was really cold and overcast, and the river was frozen so thick, that the river boat could not do the normal river tour, and so it really did not make for good photos. But we had a great lunch and a lot of fun. I was amazed that we could go anywhere on the river, seeing the very think ice that we were plowing through. I rarely use the video feature of the Canon 5D Mark III, but thought that this would be interesting for you all to see.

I told Alexey that I really wanted to shoot photos of Red Square, and he, rightfully so, asked if I wanted to photograph something so common. But I had seen some photos of this area and, knowing that daytime shots in this overcast weather would be ordinary at best, I thought that it would make for amazing night photos. I told him that I wanted to shoot at night, and he told me that he would pick me up at 9pm. Since he had taken his entire afternoon to show me the city, I did not want him to take more time away from his family. I also wanted to shoot just after sunset (for the best light), so I offered to go by myself. I looked at hiring a car to take me for a couple of hours, but this would have been very expensive and restricted my time at Red Square. So, I opted for the train. The train system was easy to figure out, and I made it to the square in less than 15 minutes from my hotel.

All I can say is, Red Square did not disappoint! I was in photographic heaven in this location.

For me, the most dramatic building in the square is St. Basil's Cathedral. With a combination of amazing colors and interesting architecture, it really stands out. Here is a wide shot of St. Basil's Cathedral framed in a dramatic way. My goal for this photo was to use the red and blue lights in the distance, and the street lights to draw the viewer's eyes to the cathedral. I shot this photo at f/16 to create the starbursts on the lights. (Photographer's note: I shot all these night shots at ISO 100 to get the cleanest sharpest photos possible. I varied the shutter speed depending on the amount of motion blur I wanted for the people in the shots.)

I knew that I would take full length photos of the cathedral, but with Alexey's words echoing in my head, "everyone shoots photos of this, it is very common", I wanted to try and shoot something different from most people.

Most people shoot this type of building in it's entirety, but don't think to zoom in on the details.

Taking advantage of the deep blue sky (approximately 15 minutes after sunset), I isolated portions of the colorful building. mentioned...I also wanted to take full length shots as well.

While shooting photos of the cathedral, I turned around and saw this part of the Kremlin, with an awesome sky behind it. I quickly turned the Gitzo tripod around and framed this shot.

This was the first building that I saw as I entered the square, and I just loved the dramatic lighting. (I also liked that I could go into this shopping mall to warm up every once in a while.)

Opposite of the cathedral is the State Historical Museum, a structure proving that you don't have to have tons of color to make an amazing building. I shot this at f/5 for one second to get motion in some of the people while capturing others standing still.

After shooting photos of some Hungarian people, I asked them if they could return the favor, since it is so rare for me to have any photos of me in these types of locations.

After all this photography, I decided to go warm up, since it was a balmy 10 degrees F outside. On my way back towards the train station, I saw a restaurant, and decided to sit down for dinner. The plan was for me to head back to the train station, but then I thought to myself "you may not ever get here again" and decided to go back and shoot a little more. I also thought it would be fun to show Alexey (and all of you) the difference between shooting just after sunset (with that amazing blue sky), and late at night when it is a pure black background.

To do something different, I decided to lower the tripod close to the ground and shoot this photo straight along the stripe in the pavement.

Normally Red Square is an open area, but at this time, they have an ice rink set up in celebration of the Sochi Olympics.

After shooting the photo along the wall of the ice rink, I moved to a position where I could have both the cathedral, Lenin's mausoleum, and the Kremlin in one shot.

This image is one that makes me laugh. I had closed up the tripod and was ready to head to the train station, when I saw this reflective material on the back side of the ice rink. I was struck by the cool bending and twisting of the museum in the background, and then noticed that I was in the frame. Normally, I would move out of the way, as to avoid seeing my ugly face, but this time I decided to keep me in. Way to ruin a good photo, huh?

Note: That was supposed to be the end of this blog post, but it is now Monday night in Moscow, and I just couldn't resist going back to the Red Square area and shooting more images from a different perspective. are a few more...

Tonight, instead of taking the subway, I decided to walk the three miles to Red Square from the hotel. It was cold (-8C) but I needed to get out and walk, and I knew the general direction I wanted to go. I aimed for a nearby bridge so that I could get a different view of the Kremlin. First I shot some tighter photos...

...and then I zoomed out to 24mm and shot a couple more, showing the expanse of the frozen Moscow River.

Just on the other side of the bridge, I had a great view of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, so I set up and shot some more photos before the night sky got too dark.

I decided to walk back into Red Square one last time, and this time try some photos rolling the zoom during the exposure. Once again, trying to take some photos that are different than what most people would capture in this iconic place.  I really like the results. I just wish I had done this earlier in the evening, when the sky still had color.

This last image really works for me. There is good clarity in the cathedral, but also a subtle, but cool effect caused by the zoom roll. I was at ISO 100, f/13 for 4 seconds. I kept the Canon 24-105 lens in it's original position for 3 seconds and then did a slight roll of the zoom to add just a touch of blur. I hope you enjoy viewing these as much as I did capturing them.

Next post will be from Sochi!


David Verbossche said...

Wow, these are great pictures! All the best at the Olympics Jeff

Halifax, Nova Scotia said...

Beautiful shots. Looking forward to seeing your athletes in action shots from the 2014 Olympic Games!

Jeff said...

Great shots! Those pictures of St. Basil's Cathedral against the sky are AMAZING!

Kostey said...

Welcome to Moscow)
It's quite interesting to see some new vision...
By the way, that pretty building is the Cathedral of Christ the Savior ))

Alex said...

Really beautiful! My favorite is the one with the reflection!

Unknown said...

FYI that photo of a pretty building is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Great job of your photos...brings back good memories, thank you.

Houdini said...

Who are you shooting for or do you shoot on spec and hope to flog your pix ?

Sullivan J Photography said...

Beautiful work Jeff!

Unknown said...

Cool Pictures Jeff and great post. Looking forward to more!

oldfekker said...

great Pic's Jeff.. What a hassle about your accommodations etc, etc,, geeezzzzzz,,I would be SOOOOOOO frustrated. Your night shots are super, really enjoyed them. have a great shoot, and a great time there. Good luck.
G. Glen Dupuy
Burlington, Ontario

Unknown said...

Hey Jeff, what would you recommend for a starter camera? What was your first Camera?

Dinorah said...

Do you think that you are in the USA?
Believe that you are camping in Russia and keep taking great pictures.

Babs Armour said...

Your photos are great and so are your comments. Thanks for posting these. Look forward to seeing more!

Unknown said...

Very nice work and very difficult. Be careful in Sochi. Incredible hacking going on. Warning In US not even to use internet or vel phones. Good Luck.

Derek Lindsey said...

Amazing photos!!!! I always love your night shots. Can't wait to see what you produce at the games!

Anonymous said...

Loving your blog Jeff and inspired by the shots of Red Square. I'm going to try the zoom roll that you shot when out on Saturday. Looking forward to reading more of your bloggers.
Chris from Darlngton, UK

Newuro said...

Wow wow. Jeff ! Beautiful pictures !

Anonymous said...

WOW! Amazing. Thank you for sharing. Loving your blog.
Jacky from Oz

ANO07 said...

WOW! Thanks for sharing. All your posts about Russia and the Olympics bring back memories. I visited many, many years ago, during (or just before, I don't remember exactly) the summer Olympics in 1980. Ouch, may be dating myself, I was a small child at the time.

WOW! images! Many thanks, again!

eyeguy99 said...

Sometimes the "zoom" shots can end up looking corny but they worked great in this case...good thinking!

Mattias R said...

Great shots! I'm curious if you ever got asked by security while taking photos with a tripod throughout Moscow? And how do you carry around your trips? Just in your hands or do you have a backpack or something with it strapped on?

Dana said...

These are photos. Especially the last one. That is a technique I would love to try. The reflection shot. Very inventive. Enjoy the rest of your time in Sochi. And thanks for sharing.