Across from the Fulton, 10:00PM
Making of "Prince Street Cafe"
By PF Staff in Favorite Photos on Dec 27, 2012
Of the handful of images I have submitted to various Pentax Forums monthly contests this one has been my favorite. The photograph was made specifically for Contest #69: Night Scene, and the image was composed with an idea I had based on the location and social nature of the scene.
- Camera: Pentax K-5 DSLR
- Lens: Pentax DA* 50-135mm 2.8
- Accessories: Manfrotto 055XB Tripod with Kirk BH-3 Ballhead
- Exposure: 30 seconds
- Aperture: F/16
- Focal Length: 85mm
- ISO: 80
- Shooting Mode: Manual
- White Balance Setting: Fluorescent (Warm)
- File Format: RAW
Setting Up the Shot
For the Night Scene contest I originally envisioned taking a photograph of a jazz club, but after thinking it over I knew I wanted something outdoors. The Prince Street Cafe in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has sidewalk tables and large windows that allowed for a view of the cafe interior. Hoping to get an image of the activity both in- and out-side the spot, I positioned my tripod on the sidewalk directly across from the cafe on the other side of the street. The Fulton Opera House was behind me, and since the show was not yet over, the foot traffic on the sidewalk was light. In addition to the cafe activity I wanted to capture the blurred traffic lights of cars. I hoped this element would add a sense of time passing in the photograph rather than a single moment frozen in time.
I had to shoot several frames of the same scene to achieve the appropriate amount of traffic lights. The headlights and taillights of automobiles coming towards or going away from a camera strike the sensor directly and therefore render more brightly. In my case, the lights were traveling perpendicular to my position, and as such, even timing the shot with many cars on the street produced very subtle light trails. The exposure I chose to work with was based on the best combination of cafe patron activity and light trails. The examples above are just a few frames taken at the same focal length out of about a dozen total images.
- Adobe Photoshop CS5
- Nik Color Efex Pro 3
The most pleasing image in the sequence was selected and converted using Adobe Camera Raw. During the shoot I was able to experiment with exposure, white balance settings, and composition while waiting for traffic, so tweaking the RAW file mostly concerned giving the most definition to the lights. With the file open in Adobe Camera Raw I used the Gradient Filter to concentrate my adjustments on the lower third of the image. From there I used the filter's "Clarity" and "Contrast" settings to add more punch to the light trails.
Once I was happy with a good base image, the file was opened in Adobe Photoshop CS5. I envisioned a night scene with a gritty quality, so I employed the "Bleach Bypass" feature found in the Nik Color Efex Pro 3 filter software. Just like the analog film processing technique of the same name, Bleach Bypass heightens contrast while lowering saturation. The filter allows the user to adjust the global brightness, contrast, and saturation. The strength of the effect on highlights and shadows can also be changed. I reduced the overall brightness and increased the contrast until I had an image with the desired atmosphere. After that, the filtered image received some judicious dodging on the outdoor cafe patrons. Finally, the edges of the photograph were burned in to give more visual "weight" to the center.
The original photo, followed by the final processed image
I imagined a scene with a gritty atmosphere, and the social aspect of the setting added a humanistic quality. I am pleased to say several cafe customers asked about my Pentax K-5 and photographs that evening, and I was happy to oblige them by previewing the images on the DSLR.