Here is something we can learn from community member RiccardoMantero about the techniques and story behind this awarded photo. He will teach us how to shoot city lights at night in a creative and simple way. "Broadway, the 5th and the 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas) illuminated, like the arteries of a giant living being, and shot from the top of the Empire State Building after the sunset, during the blue hour, when the City begins to switch on his lights. The cars draw long trails on the camera film, the gold of the pinnacles shimmers as the sky turns to dark purple.. I can say I've traveled to NY to obtain exactly this photo for my collection. The picture is composed of 5 long exposition HDR (from till 30secs) printed on a big surface reveals an incredible number of invisible small particulars."

 Where did you take this photo and at what time?

On the first terrace of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, New York. It was some minutes after the sunset, in the blue hour, in December during a really cold evening. I've seen a lot of photos done from the top of the Empire State Building, and I've always desired to do it my way. I hope I achieved it!

Anything worth sharing about lighting and capturing city lights during the night hours?

I had to take 5 long exposures from 5 to 30secs to achieve the effect. All done with a really high aperture (f/11) and low ISO (50) to obtain the best sharpness and to let the car lights impress the Nikon sensor.

What equipment did you use?

A Nikon D800, a Nikkor 16-35 F/4 Wideangle with VR turned off, as a good habit when the camera is on a tripod. A polarizer to reduce the light and gain some exposure time, a Manfrotto Pocket (mini tripod) under the lens (because you can't install a tripod on the Empire State Building in the middle of the crowd). Then I've used the timed shot to avoid touching the camera and reduce the vibration.

Did you do any post-processing? 

Yes, the image is an HDR resulting from 5 different exposures, all exposures are done with a 1Ev. I've used Photomatix Pro to combine them and then Apple Aperture for the finishing touches, to saturate the warm tones, increase the contrasts, and the overall sharpness.


Any advice for others trying to capture something similar?

Yes, arm yourself with a lot of patience and hope for a little luck. I've stayed on the Empire State Building for 4 hours in December at the wind chill waiting for the sunset and shooting a lot of photos, then I had to choose the best one. Patience and clear ideas are the key to obtain a good shot. I always try to prefigure what kind of shot I want to make and how it will appear after the post-processing phase. The best advice I can give is to try to shot with the brain before using the camera.

What equipment do you normally have in your bag?

A MacBook Pro, An iPad Air 128Gb, A Nikon D800 as the main body and a secondary camera body (it was a D300 but soon will be a D810), a Nikon 16-35 F/4 Wide-angle, a Nikon 24-70 F/2.8 Zoom, and a Nikon 70-200 f/4 zoom, A 77mm B+W Polarizer filter, a Manfrotto 190CX Pro 4 Tripod, 2 hard disks for backup, 10 Memory cards (5SD and 5CF), and a Sigma 15mm fisheye. Ah! Yes, and a GoPro hero black edition, if I go underwater, but soon will buy an underwater case for the D800.