I don’t go to Downtown St. Louis at night very often. But when I do, I want to make it worth the while. Anyway, several friends and I decided to head to the riverfront, witness something most St. Louisians don’t know about, and photograph Downtown St. Louis at dusk if possible. And we came away with more than we had hoped for.
You probably know the Stonehenge very well. You might’ve even heard about Manhattanhenge. But I bet you don’t know about “STL-henge”: it’s the time of the year when the setting Sun aligns precisely with the Downtown St. Louis street grid and simultaneously illuminates both the north and south sides of every cross street. In the right place at the right time, you’ll be in for a rare and stunning view of the last beams of the Sun radiating across all the skyscrapers in downtown!
This is in no way unique to Manhattan or St. Louis. In fact, you can find it in pretty much every city with a grid layout. You just need to know where and when to find it. And thanks to Raynor Shi (a Ph.D. student in biology and landscape photographer), I don’t have to: according to his calculation (in 2013), the best time of the year is April 21 or August 20 (the day before or after should work just fine) and the best spot is at the intersection of Washington Ave and N. Broadway.
(If you can’t read Chinese, or live nowhere near St. Louis, this article on the Scientific American blog about henges should give you an idea how you might be able to find hinges yourself on a street near you.)
I wanted to do something a bit different than what Raynor did and created a sunburst effect instead of a big yellow blob. To get the results below, two things are crucial: first of all, position yourself such that part of the sun is blocked; and, secondly, set your camera at a very small aperture, the smaller the better. And everything else should fall in place. (And if you’re curious, how your sunburst photo looks will also depend on the number of blades that make up your lens’ aperture.)
Settings for the photos were: ISO 200, f/22, 1/50 Sec. Both were taken handheld.
Downtown St. Louis Nightscape
Since we were here in downtown already, it’d be only fair to take some photos of the cityscape at night. And I know just the perfect spot for it!
The first photo above was your stereotypical, not so inspiring shot of the Gateway Arch with the cityscape as backdrop. For the second photo, I looked down at the ground from where I was standing and snapped a picture of the pattern created by the lamps. The key for this photo was spot metering.
Again, I wanted to try something a little bit different, to capture a St. Louis you probably haven’t seen before. And the photos below were what I came up with. I’ve explained in some detail how each shot was taken.
How did I do? And what are your favorite tricks for taking nightscapes? Leave a comment below!