This is one of those photos that I was really looking forward to. I love cityscape photography. Really, most of it is rather simplistic, but I just always find the view of city lights from a higher vantage point breathtaking.
The main tricks to make this really work are choosing the right time of day and the correct angle. It needs to be dark enough that the city is lit up very bright by contrast and you need to be high enough to get a large panoramic view, while not being so far away that the details are rendered unrecognizable. The city of Pittsburgh is set up well for this, as we have a mountain directly across the river from downtown Pittsburgh. I simply waited for it to get dark and then drove up to a park that’s located there.
I used a similar trick to the lowlight technique I used in the bar to take this photo. I braced my elbows on a banister and held the iPhone steady as I could to point it out over the city at night. When it’s this dark the shutter of the phone is quite slow and so camera shake is a real issue. Another technique is to actually set the hone on an object to keep it very steady, but my vantage point was such that I needed to actually lift the camera somewhere in order to make this work.
In the interest of doing something a little different today, I am also including a photo taken moments later from the same vantage point using my dSLR (a Canon 5DmkII in the is case) to take the same shot for comparisson. With manual control over the settings, the dSLR photo was taken with a 24-105mm zoom lens, pulled all the way out to 24mm using ISO 100. The aperture was set at ƒ/8.0 and the shutter slowed all the way down to 30 seconds. I attached the camera to a tripod and to minimize camera shake even further I set the self-timer to a 2 second delay so I could move away from the camera after firing. Even still at 30 seconds of exposure, there’s some small amount of visible shake from wind and from passersby walking and vibrating the ground the tripod was resting on. I could have taken the shot with a faster shutterspeed and aperature but doing it this way exposes how crucial it is to get a very steady camera for a shot like this. Even more so on a cellphone, which lacks the image stabilization mechanism of many modern cameras.