The Making of "Sleepless in Seattle"

How the winning photo of the "Cityscape by Night" contest was made

By mikeSF in Photo Contests on Mar 26, 2021

"Sleepless in Seattle"

Thanks for your nominations and votes for my image, “Sleepless in Seattle”.

My day job gave me an opportunity to visit Seattle, but I was limited to only a very small kit, so I brought my Pentax K3-II, smc Pentax-FA 77mm F1.8 Limited, and a travel tripod with the ball head and extension legs removed, to fit it into my carryon. I screwed the camera directly into the tripod leg base and forfeited any height adjustability by removing the telescoping leg sections.

On my last day before heading to the airport, I raced up to the vista point at Kerry Park. I had come here on my first night in town and the clouds and fog were not conducive to any photography. However, on this day, I could see that Mt. Rainier was visible through the clouds. This would make for a thrilling sunset and twilight experience.

Limited to a single focal length, I set up for a vertical pano and waited for blue hour. As the buildings of the skyline began to come alive, I shot a strip of pano frames, single exposures at f/10, ISO 100, and 2sec. I re-focused and grabbed another set, just to be sure, then hurried to the airport. To control blowouts of highlights on the Space Needle, I intentionally underexposed the set to preserve detail in the whites.

Stitching the RAW frames in Photoshop, I ended up with a dark strip of skyline (click any image to enlarge).

Most of my adjustments were done in Adobe Camera Raw. I increased the Exposure and Shadows and decreased the highlights slightly. This compressed the dynamic range to balance the dark foreground buildings with the bright sky:

Lastly, I decided to lighten the mountain to make it pop a little more. First, used the quick selection tool to roughly outline Mount Rainier:

Then, using the dodge tool in Photoshop at very low strength, I applied the dodge brush as so:

 Lastly, I applied global sharpening using Photoshop’s sharpen tool.

The complete panorama was a bit longer, so I cropped it to bring the cityscape forward in the frame:

I hope you like the image.

- Mike Oria (mikeSF)

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