Minneapolis - gregbenz
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Golden Rays Over Minneapolis

What a perfect night. The sun's last rays cast golden sunset light over the Guthrie Theater and Gold Medal Park. The lights of downtown Minneapolis were flickering to life. And the evening air had that perfect quality that makes you want to sleep outside and just listen to the calm hum of the night.

All my favorite photos have either an element of preparation or an element of luck. This shot took both. I was excited for this shoot, but knew it would be extremely tricky. There are shots that work with a simple sky, but I really felt this composition needed a powerful sunset. I watched the weather forecast for several days before settling on shooting this particular night, but I couldn't have predicted the sun and sky would have lined up so perfectly this particular night. I also knew that I'd likely be shooting on a pretty sharp angle to get a good composition - given limitations with buildings to the left, roads below, and an awful electrical tower to the right. I had roughly this composition in mind and knew that I'd end up with a lot of perspective issues if I shot with my 14-24. I could have technically gotten the shot, but it would have been an extreme correction that really robbed the image of detail. So I brought my 24mm tilt-shift lens. If you haven't used one before, they are absolutely amazing tools to keep architectural lines straight. As it turned out, I needed to do a lot of work to keep the image straight. I had to shift down to keep the vertical lines in the image, and sideways to keep horizontal lines straight. Vertical shifting is easy, because you can just level your camera and then shift. But horizontal shifts are a lot more tricky, because there's rarely an obvious reference point. Normally, all I need is a vertical shift, but this image required both. In these situations, I've developed a workflow to get the shifting right as quickly as possible. I level the camera (for the verticals) and the rotate horizontally on my panning head to get the horizontals right. I like to zoom in with live view to find a good horizontal reference to confirm that everything looks right. Once you've locked in the camera position, you then simply shift the lens as needed to get the composition you want (it's the orientation of the camera sensor that determines distortion, shifting the lens only affects the composition).

The final image was created in Lumenzia using a combination of about five exposures to blend the sunset sky, city lights, and the park.

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