I spent a lovely evening photographing an enchanted castle in the heart of Manhattan. It's almost embarrassing to say, but this was my first time at the Belvedere Castle. The location is rather serene, offering visitors a lush green place to relax. Song birds and squirrels danced about the trees and brush that surround Turtle Pond.
My chosen gear for this adventure was the Olympus OMD EM-10, a 17mm lens, and a small tabletop tripod. With about 45 minutes to spare before sunset, I used the time to walk around the entire area, searching for potential compositions. Along the grounds I noticed large flood lights pointed towards the castle. This was a good indication of what would take place at dusk. The idea of a well lit castle beneath a colorful dusk sky was exciting, so I waited...and waited.
After more than an hour, I started to wonder if the cloud cover would stifle any color from appearing. Most of the park-goers had already left, and the park grew darker. With no winds to disrupt the pond, the reflection was absolutely crystal clear. This made for a spectacular reflection of the structure. I kept taking test shots as the light changed, and my settings were around f9, ISO 200 and 20 seconds. With barely any natural light left, I knew my time was running out.
Much to my relief, the sky finally shifted to a wonderful pinkish hue. What started as a questionable night, turned out to be better than I could have imagined. With long 30 second exposures, all of that beautiful color was absorbed by the sensor. Thankfully the tripod has a ball-head which made it easy to put the camera in vertical orientation. This made for a stronger composition, and I shot about five exposures before calling it a night.
The key to this shot was only part technical. To recap, the key takeaways were:
1) Get there early to scout potential compositions.
2) Have a tripod, even a small tabletop model.
3) Pre-visualize the shot.
4) Remain patient and stay until no more light remains.
5) Small aperture for great depth of field, low ISO for low noise, long shutter speed.