Palm Springs City Hall at Night – About the Image

Timing is everything on Facebook, so I’m re-posting this image of Palm Springs City Hall at night, that I posted to my blog (and Facebook) yesterday after I posted the mid-century architectural images, and I thought I’d explain how I made it.

I don’t have a wide angle lens (yet). So I took this image with my 24-70 mm Nikon lens. The nice thing about night photography is that the parking lot was empty so I could stand anywhere I needed to get the scene right. After finding a good angle, I placed my camera on a tripod (so it wouldn’t move). Using a cable release to minimize camera movement between shots, I took three different exposures of the same scene, with each exposure 2-stops apart from each other. One image was taken to obtain the proper exposure for the inside of the building – leaving the outside of the building too dark. A second exposure was taken to obtain the proper exposure of the outside of the building – making the inside much too light. Finally, a third image was taken in between those two extremes. The three images were then tone mapped together using Lightroom and Photomatix Pro, to create a single image that effectively balances the highly lit areas inside the building and the very dark areas outside the building. Finally I made some adjustments to the composite image in Lightroom to adjust clarity and contrast.

In the old days of film photography I would have had to expose this scene long enough to light the very dark areas. However, that would have greatly over-exposed the brightly lit interior of the building. To account for that, when printing the image onto photographic paper, I would have had to manually dodge the interior part of the photo to reduce the exposure of that area on the paper paper under the enlarger. Today, I can do this all on the computer while relaxing on my couch, instead of bending over an enlarger for hours. This is soooo much easier, and let’s you try and fail a few times before you nail it.

The structure was designed by Albert Frey in 1952. Frey also designed a number of historically significant structures in the Palm Springs area, including the Aerial Tramway Gas Station (now a visitors center), the Aerial Tramway Valley Station, and the North Shore Yacht Club in the Salton Sea among others.

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