Temple Square Lights 2015

One of the activities we did as a family when we were in Utah for Thanksgiving was take the train into downtown Salt Lake City to Temple Square to see the Christmas lights.

ISO 200, 24mm, f/4.5, 1/8 sec

Our younger children had never been to see the lights at Temple Square at Christmas time.  Of course the night we went to see the lights the temperature was well below freezing.  Granted not as cold as it has been here lately at night, but it was in the low 20s F.

ISO 200, 14mm, f/6.3, 1/3 sec

Because the lights were turned on that evening, there was a million people on temple square.  It made taking photographs difficult.  Luckily with a long exposure some of the people blurred completely out.

ISO 200, 15mm, f/6.3, 1/3 sec

 This orange/red tree in front of the Assembly Hall was overpowering in its color and vibrancy.

ISO 100, 21mm, f/6.3, 0.8 sec

It’s hard to appreciate how dark the grounds are as you walk around temple square to look at the lights.  The lighting in these photographs is deceiving due to the amazing dynamic range of the D800’s sensor and longer exposure times.  As I was editing one of my photographs from the night, it occurred to me that this particular photograph would make a great example of one, how dark the area actually was and two, why you should always shoot in raw.  I was taken by surprise at the detail the sensor had captured in what was appeared to be a completely black area.  Notice this isn’t a short exposure which would obviously be dark, this is a long 8 second exposure.

Straight out of camera image

ISO 100, 14mm, f/7.1, 8.0 sec

So as I began the editing process I noticed you could see some of the clouds lit up by the city lights.  So I thought, lets bring out those clouds for a different look in contrast to the stark black skies of my other shots.

ISO 100, 14mm, f/7.1, 8.0 sec

When I saw how much detail was hidden in the dark areas of the sky, I thought, I wonder how much information is hiding throughout the frame?  Let’s increase the exposure and find out.

I was amazed to find that in what had appeared to be completely black grass, the sensor had actually collected a lot of detail.  This detail would have been completely lost had I shot a JPEG image in camera.

ISO 100. 18mm, f/7.1, 13.0 sec

On the I believe it is the north side of the tabernacle they have a life-sized nativity story set up.  Every half hour or so the lights come on and the story goes through the account found in St. Luke.

ISO 100, 24mm, f/4.5, 1.0 sec

We needed to get out of the cold for a bit.  We thought about going into the visitor’s center on temple square, but there were I would estimate at least two thousand people in the north visitor’s center.  We decided to go across the street to the Conference center to see the lights from there.  We were pleasantly surprised that the Conference center was also open and relatively empty.

ISO 100, 24mm, f/7.1, 0.6 sec

Here are a couple of shots from the Conference Center looking back at the temple grounds.

ISO 100, 55mm, f/7.1, 2.0 sec

ISO 100, 24mm, f/22 (to increase the depth of field), 10.0 sec

So we took a self guided tour of the Conference center.  They had some of the doors to the main hall open so we got to go in and see the interior.

ISO 1600, 27mm, f/4.0, 1/25 sec

With the train ride to and from downtown, the walk around temple square and the photography, it was a pretty great evening!  Oh, and my new Gitzo tripod was awesome to use by the way!  It was amazing how stable it was on a windy night and the clarity achieved even with these long exposures.

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