I’m probably known as someone exclusively (or rather narrow-mindedly) shooting cityscape photography at twilight and dusk, but here’s my how and why, plus a few other random facts.
How It All Started
When I got my first DSLR (Nikon D60) back in 2009, my initial interest was sunny beachscape. Singapore (where I live) may not be known for beaches, but Southeast Asia has plenty of popular beach destinations, and I used to travel to places like Phuket (Thailand) to shoot beachscape.
Then I realized the beauty of so-called “blue hour” while shooting in evenings, and started taking more photos at twilight and dusk than in daytime. Since then, my interest has gradually shifted from beachscape/seascape to cityscape. My most favourite subject today is cityscape at waterfront (i.e. both cityscape and seascape combined), just like Marina Bay (Singapore) photo below.
Although my interest has been shifted from seascape to cityscape over the years, I still love to include water in my cityscape photos. It’s an essential part of my photography.
Why I Love Shooting Cityscape at Twilight and Dusk
Simply put, twilight and dusk are the magical time that turns an ordinary scene into something beautiful, and an already-beautiful scene into something sublime.
This is especially the case with cityscape. After sunset, the sky slowly gets darker and bluish hue appears approx. 10 minutes before the end of dusk, then getting deeper and deeper with every single minute passing by. By then, the city in front of you is filled with vibrant city lights, but this epic moment ends in the blink of an eye (“blue hour” doesn’t last for an hour, it’s for 10 minutes at most) and quickly turns into darkness of the night, which makes dusk all the more special.
By the way, gazing at city lights at dusk evokes various feelings inside me. It’s therapeutic yet inspiring, and brings nostalgia for days gone by…
Photography Gives Me Much Needed Alone Time
According to the famous Myers-Briggs personality test , my personality type is ISTJ – Introvert (81%) over Extrovert, Sensing (22%) over Intuition, Thinking (12%) over Feeling, Judging (34%) over Perceiving.
As an ISTJ person with strong introversion, I easily feel drained when I’m with people for too long, even with those closest to me. Therefore, I regularly need to carve out alone time to recharge myself. Only then, I’ll be able to come back refreshed and spend time with them as “the best version of myself”. Going for shooting alone gives me much needed solitude, and there is no better time than soothing blue hour to be alone and refresh by taking photographs!
Taking Only One Photo per Outing
Nowadays, all I want from one twilight and dusk photography outing is one very good photo. I don’t need many okay photos with different scenes, etc. In fact, once I decide my composition on a tripod, I won’t change its position until the end of dusk, just focusing on the one composition and waiting for the right moment (I might call it “prime time”, i.e. 5-10 minutes before the end of dusk) to start long exposure using 6 stop neutral density (ND) filter.
Whether making or breaking my sole shot depends when to press the remote shutter release button and start long exposure. My judgement has massively improved over the years, which comes with experience, trials and errors.
As my typical exposure lasts a few minutes (and this doubles when “Long exposure NR” is turned on), it’s hard to take more than one photo during this prime time, but I’m quite happy with this approach because I believe there is only one timing under fast-changing dusk sky that could result in the best possible shot, anyway. So, it’s really about making a right decision about when to start the exposure.