Tower of Light: Shooting with a fisheye lens

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by Deborah Sandidge

In downtown Orlando, in front of City Hall, resides the Tower of Light, a tall monument built of stainless steel and laminated glass. I’ve always been fascinated by this artistic structure, and feel that the city at night best illustrates its uniqueness and beauty.  My favorite time to shoot is during the moments that come well after sunset, yet before full darkness; the magical blue hour. It is during this time that the sky is the richest blue and the light is balanced throughout the composition.  But, I don’t want to make an ordinary shot with a standard lens.  My tool and technique to accomplish this shot was to use a circular fisheye lens to create a 360º circular view of the cityscape featuring the tower as the center point.

To capture the Tower of Light with my circular fisheye lens, I needed to place my camera parallel with the ground, but securely fastened to my Really Right Stuff BH-55 ball head which is mounted to Platypod Max. I’m shooting with my Nikon D5 for this shot because it possesses fantastic low light capabilities, and its full frame sensor will enable a perfectly circular fisheye shot. Platypod supports even the largest of DSLR cameras, allows for the lowest possible vantage point, and it provided absolute stability, which was critical for this shot.

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How did I shoot this with my Nikon D5 with my circular fisheye pointed straight up toward the sky? I mounted my camera with my RRS L bracket attached to the ball head on Platypod. The monitor is now laying face down on top of Platypod nearly touching the ground. Perfect for the shot, but challenging to compose. There is an easy solution! You can use CamRanger in this rare, on-the-ground instance. If you don’t have CamRanger or similar tethering device, you can pre-focus and use a cable release to make your shot.

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Next, I composed the image, orienting the camera toward the sky to capture a perfect circle encompassing Orlando’s cityscape during the magical blue hour. The end result is a unique, artistic image of this iconic structure. Because I’m working with a CamRanger connected to my camera, I can wirelessly connect to my iPad and use all the controls and features available to me by simply making adjustments through the iPad/iPhone app. Easy and fun.

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My second shot required me to shoot with the camera facing forward, which was an easy task. I could see my exposure settings, and make composition adjustments as needed, without CamRanger.  I loved the shot and was having fun with it so I added a little light painting into the scene. I used a ProtoMachine, which offers a variety of colors, densities, hues and saturations, all in one flashlight. In this case, I chose violet to light paint the scene to add an extra creative element, and a little extra color pop.   

About the Author: Deborah Sandidge is a professional photographer specializing in world travel and artistic imagery. Deborah is a photography instructor and the author of the book Digital Infrared Photography.

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