Gotham City Is Bluish, Not Black

My intrepid friend Mohamad Amirizzuan Ramli (@amirizzuan on Instagram) was lamenting about how poor a shot he got with his phone. It wasn’t too bad, actually. He was at the Ampang Lookout Point on top of Bukit Ampang. My shot from the same location, on a different night, is shown on the lower half of the pic.

He noted that he wished he carried a spare camera as I do. The problem wasn’t just the limitations of a phone. The phone camera’s auto exposure algo probably saw it as a night scene and kept the blacks black while maintaining the highlights.

Also if you notice carefully, there is camera shake (visible when magnified) that degraded the overall quality of his picture somewhat. Always take note of the shutter speed if it is shown. You may need a tripod or some sort of stabilisation below 1/60th of a second. Hand holding can cause camera shake resulting in blurriness. Try putting your elbows on top of a car with its engine switched off.

The key is manual control and many phones nowadays can now do that. Without understanding the principles and dynamics, a spare or another camera won’t necessarily produce a better picture.

The thing to remember is part of the atmosphere of a night shot is created by the ambience. This can be the city’s light pollution trapped by cloud cover. Avoid a hazy night, though.

Yes, don’t go to the lookout point when it is already pitch black. Go before 9pm or earlier and the camera ought to be able to see lingering light from the earlier sunset. A tripod and manual exposure helps. Play with the white balance setting too.

Mine: Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 50, f6.3, 13 sec.

Amir: Huawei Honor 5X, ISO 3555, f2, 1/15 sec.

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