Edinburgh Cityscape from Calton Hill at Sunset
While on a business trip to the UK, I knew I would have a weekend off to explore the area and whomever I asked where I should visit, everyone of them said Edinburgh. So with that advice I booked a train up to Edinburgh and couple of nights at a city center hotel.
How to get this type of shot
Get lucky, with the weather that is. From what I have been told, England is having an unusual period of clear sunny weather. This great weather extended up north to Scotland as well. While I was there, all the locals kept commenting how rare and beautiful the day was. Apparently, Edinburgh gets around 125 days of rain per year and when it is not raining, it is usually cloudy and overcast. In fact, the very night before, I came for this same shot and found the conditions unfavorable with overcast skies the sun was not able to penetrate.
This composition is not entirely original as it is on many postcards and posters, but there is certainly a reason for this as it is a strong composition and really captures the beauty of this magnificent city. I paid particular attention to how I placed the elements of the city into the scene. There is a 30 foot section of the ledge where you can get similar compositions, but found this one captured the key structures of the city the best. In the foreground you have the Dugald Stewart Monument and going to the right the A7 Bridge, obelisk at the Old Calton Burial Ground, the buildings along Market Street, The Hub (Gothic spire), Edinburgh Castle, the Balmoral Hotel Clock Tower, and Scott Monument. Getting all these elements into the scene unobstructed required walking around a bit with the camera to my eye (for this exact location see below). Aside from the city, I was fortunate to have the crescent moon in the frame as well!
The sun was setting almost directly camera right which resulted in the faces of the buildings glowing in a golden yellow hue. Due to the difference in brightness in the sky versus the city, I had to use a 3-stop soft graduated ND filter. This allowed me to get this shot in one exposure without the need for HDR.
The shot was made shortly before sunset and although hand holdable at 1/4s (dozens were doing this along with a half dozen of us with tripods), a tripod helped me get the exact composition I wanted and gave me a tack sharp image. I made several exposures beginning around 40 minutes prior to sunset up until sunset at 5 minute intervals. When I arrived home, I picked the one with the best quality of light, paying particular attention to color and how the light was hitting the buildings. The image above is what I chose and it was taken approximately 15 minutes prior to sunset.