Color balanced lighting
Urban and Industrial Night Photography
Shooting in Urban and Industrial sites poses it’s own set of problems.
- Safety issues
- Color Balance
The safety issues were discussed in the first post of this series for urban areas. If you are shooting in industrial areas, like the one above or abandoned sites, then those have their own sets of problems. Industrial areas will have high temperatures, steam, electrical dangers, fall hazards, moving equipment and traffic problems. You should never be in these areas unless you are familiar with the dangers, have permission to be there or are escorted.
Shooting at abandoned sites is popular but the dangers there can be real. These sites are not maintained and there can be uncovered pits, fall hazards and the possibility of a wall collapsing and falling on you. There can be enraged security guards and maybe guard dogs to deal with too. You don’t want to end your shooting adventure in a hospital or jail. I would be sure to have someone along with you for backup in case there is a problem.
You can also run into urban outdoorsmen living on these sites who may not welcome the intrusion.
Equipment and Exposures
The equipment you’ll need for this type of shooting is less than for dark environment shots.
- Remote release
- Flashlight with gels
- Lens Cloth
The equipment is discussed in this post
Exposure durations will most of the time be less than dark areas with the possible exception of abandoned sites. They can be very dark. Just take a guess and watch your histogram. Adjust exposures up or down based on the histogram peak. Too far to the left, add shutter time and if too far to the right then reduce shutter time. ISO should be low, 100 or 200 and try a mid range f/stop like 5.6 or 6.3 to start.
Color Balance Problems
Take a look at the shot above. This site shows at least 5 different types of industrial lighting. Starting at the tower on the left I see blue, orange, green, yellow and white lights. Probably several different types of sodium lights, HID and mercury lamps are present.
I just don’t worry too much about color balance unless it is obnoxious. There is no way you could ever correct that shot above. But I actually like the effect in that shot.
But sometimes, if one light type predominates on the scene, you can tweak the color temperature or use curves to correct the color in post processing. And sometimes with yellow or orange lighting you will want to do some correction. I don’t try to guess the color temperature and set it on the camera either. I just use automatic white balance and shoot in raw. I do my adjustments in Photoshop and ACR.
This type of shooting is natural for light painting, you can put a gel over the lens of your flashlight and add light and color to the scene. The traditional way to get gels is to get a sample kit from one of the manufacturers like Rosco. However the manufacturers are not giving out the sample kits like the once did. You can try to request one but it might take some creative form-filling-out skills to succeed.
You can buy gels from B&H and others but you’ll end up with a huge sheet which will be a 100 year supply of that one color. So there is no great solution. Too bad these people don’t sell the sample kits. It would be worth $20 to get a sample kit.
–update– I have a comment that say that B&H does sell the Rosco sample kits for less than $10. I just spent 10 minutes trying to find the sample kit but could not; but Rosco has thousands of different items on sale at B&H so I may have used the wrong search terms.
Like other night shoots these images will also require a lot of post production. But you can produce wonderful images. So get out and give it a try.