Night Ops In Pittsburgh


I went with a good friend of mine to Pittsburgh to do some night photography and exploring, and we got a lot of neat images, more than we expected!

The day was quickly coming to an end as we drove from Beaver Falls to Pittsburgh. Our goal was to be on the ridge overlooking Pittsburgh by 7:45-8pm to catch the tail end of the sunset. We were excited, the temperature was around 60 degrees when we left, the sun was brightly shining through a sky full of large puffy clouds; it was perfect conditions for a beautiful sunset.

Too bad we only saw the best of it from the car (note to self, leave earlier, and plan in time for some wrong turns and a few unnecessary loop-de-loops in Pittsburgh).

However, even though we missed the peak sunset light, we were in the perfect place to photograph the "blue hour." This is the time just after sunset when the sky is a deep dramatic blue, a time which can be easily overlooked and beaten out by the ever popular "golden hour" just before sunset. It was an incredible view.

I started off with 24-70mm wide angle to capture the two above images, but quickly switched to the 70-200mm to capture the details of the city. 

I used a slow shutter speed, anywhere from 15-30 seconds, to allow the vehicle lights to drag and blur into long light trails. The only difficultly with this was the incredible gale force winds we experienced from the ridge top! Even on a tripod our cameras were experiencing shake from the 30-40 mph winds gusts, which resulted in a few blurry images.

One nice surprise was a couple who decided to stop for a romantic moment nearby. I love their silhouette against the Pittsburgh skyline. This got me thinking that I have to bring a couple up here for an engagement shoot, there are so many amazing possibilities from up here!

We moved down the ridge a bit to find a slightly different angle, and I found some interesting shots with the cars moving by us on the road.

One of the features I love about my Nikon D600 is its ability to see in the dark without compromising clarity. This image was captured with a high ISO of 4000, which allowed for a shutter speed of 1/160th at F 3.2, yes there is very little grain present.

These strange light trails were the result of a double decker bus passing by!

Without a doubt one of the best surprises that night were the fireworks! We had seen a few go off from the area of PNC park, but these only lasted a few seconds. Not long before we were thinking of moving on, a large string of fireworks began from a different area, and continued for a few minutes! We did our best to make the change quickly, switching our long shutter speeds and low ISO's (which were set for long exposures of the city) to match the light of the fireworks.

It was difficult at first, and we got mixed results, but we managed to nail a few! The lesson learned is to have a slightly longer shutter speed, to give them a longer light trail more similar to what we see in reality.

In all we realized that we had spent almost two hours up at this spot. We moved down into the city, headed to the point. Finding parking was the first challenge, but after a few more loop-de-loops we found an available spot.

The view from the point was beautiful, but not very inspiring for us at the time. We took a few shots but quickly moved to underneath a nearby bridge, where I really got into the architecture.

From here we headed over the bridge in order to find a high vantage point to look back across the city. We ended up spotting a ten story parking garage and decided that it would be a perfect view. The wind was again a serious force to deal with, but we were not disappointed with the view or the images we got from there!

This was our last major stop since our hands were nearly numb and the morning was well on it's way. We took the elevator down then made our way back across the bridge and through the city.

In all, it was a more than successful night. Getting out to explore and look for great images around Pittsburgh is something I hope to do again.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Leave a comment on which image was your favorite, and share a link if you've got your own images of adventuring and exploring, I would love to see them.

I'll finish out with two neat mistake images. These were two instances where I moved or bumped the tripod while doing a long exposure. Not something I wanted to do, but the resulting images were really neat! Enjoy!

This was a goof while using the 70-200mm to reach for detail images of the city.

It was while taking images of the road that the fireworks started. I swiveled the camera left on the tripod to capture the fireworks, but was too excited to remember that the shutter wasn't closed from the last shot! This image was too neat to delete.