Tobacco Warehouse; Brooklyn Bridge / White Balance

Tobacco Warehouse; Brooklyn Bridge - White Balance

The color in this photograph is not photoshopped in. This photograph is also not true to the way our eyes perceive this scene. The human visual system has the amazing ability to correct for warm and cool light, and allow us to perceive colors and whites accurately. Even under mixed sources of light, our mind magically interprets color correctly. Cameras are not so smart.

Compare the color of the bricks in this photograph, with a color-accurate image of the Tobacco Warehouse, taken during daylight.

The bright necklace lights on the Brooklyn Bridge are the recently installed LED lights. These lights typically have a color temperature similar to daylight (~5000K). The warehouse wall is lit with cool (~2300K) Sodium Vapor lights. In order to photograph this scene as the eye would perceive it, we would need to set the White Balance of our camera's to ~2300K for the wall and the street, and ~5000K for the bridge and the sky. In this shot, the White Balance setting is somewhere between the two, hence, yellows are yellower, and blues are bluer.

Without white balance bracketing (taking two shots with each setting), and then merging the two sides of the photo in an editor, it is impossible to capture this scene with accurate colors. On the other hand, when, as in this scene, the two sources of light do not mix, it is possible to capture some exceptional color contrast.

Update: No, the clouds are also not photoshopped; 20 second exposure, fast moving clouds on a windy night, and, of course, camera on a stable tripod...

Song of the Day: I'm On Fire - Bruce Springsteen (1984)
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