Five Minutes of Light in Houston

Taking Photos of Cities

I love these sorts of photos, obviously. But when I am trying to find the perfect spot, I am always reminded about how most people don’t think like photographers. Of 100 people, 97 or so would recommend that I go up in the tallest building in the city. No, I always contend — I want the tallest building to be in the shot, so I need to go up in the 2nd-10th tallest buildings that actually look back towards the west and towards the tallest building. It all requires a lot of 3D visualization and spinning of the city, and I find that most of these conversations end with confusion (and then me going back to Google Earth once again).

Daily Photo – Five Minutes of Light in Houston

When I give talks, I have a rotation of random photos that appear in the background while I talk about all sorts of things. I figure people don’t want to watch me… and a steady stream of photos is more interesting. Anyway, at some point, one of my photos of Houston appears, and I say, “This is about the prettiest you will ever see Houston.” It always gets a laugh… mostly because it’s so painfully true.

This is the 2nd or 3rd photo of downtown Houston that I have processed. There is a quick moment between sunset and dusk when the sky can turn any color… this time it turned purple, so I was lucky!

HDR Photo

  • casusan

    Beautiful shot of Houston Trey – gorgeous colors! I know you’re not keeping up on Texas stuff while you are in NZ – but the Giants beat the Rangers tonight – whoo hoo!

  • i checked out this pic and the same pic you processed in 2008. it’s nice to see the different ways to process a beautiful hdr

  • google earth, huh? sounds like a good idea. I’ll use it for my next photo trip!

  • Hans Mast

    How do you combat window glare/reflections when shooting cities at dusk?

  • Simon Morris

    Stunning photo Trey, just spent the past 10 minutes scouring the car parks, avenues and skyscrapers… so much wonderful detail to take in.
    My true passion is landscape, in particular mountain scenes, but there’s something about cityscape taken at dusk that can hold a persons attention/imagination… probably because we can all relate to that type of environment, let it be for living or simply a shopping trip.
    Talking of landscape, bet you’re having a blast over in Queenstown… we’ve been having some glorious weather here on the South Island so I’m especially looking forward to viewing your photos of central Otago as and when they get uploaded… I can recommend Skippers Canyon 🙂

  • Nice shot – I was here in 2009 but never got to see much of the city because a smog problem at Heathrow airport caused me to miss my connecting flight.

    I watched your clip yesterday and enjoyed both the music which reminded me of the movie ‘Wayne’s World’ and the ‘Super Mario Bros’ references. Sorry to hear about your spirit-level cubes though 🙁

  • Patrick Ahles

    Wonderful shot. Too bad we don’t have anything like this where I live…

  • Lovely work. Wonderful view of the city

  • beautiful night urban HDR photgraphy

  • Thanks!

    Hans – in this case, I was outside. If inside, I usually just get right up to the glass then hold a jacket around the lens!

  • caMom,
    That’s ok. Our Rangers were a little off last night. Don’t expect this series to end in a sweep.
    ps. thank you for the generosity you’ve instilled in your son! He rocks!

  • I love this one! cityscapes are great!
    There seems to be some shadowing in the bottom of the image though…I guess Photomatix did that. Something that Photoshop won’t improve?

  • WoW! Dude, this is amazing! There is a comp on flikr for the best modern cityscape. I have been thinking about what to do to enter it. This is perfect. you should enter this! check it out 😀

  • Great shot but I’m amazed that you didn’t try to concentrate on the really cool parts of the Houston skyline down by the Chevron building and Wells Fargo tower right in the centre of downtown. I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the city but that 10 block area is pretty spectacular.

  • Gail in Montana

    Great city scape with the purple sky, my favorite color!!! Thanks for sharing, Trey!!!

  • Beautiful image of Houston, love the purple sky!

  • Hi Trey. I love the perspective and composition. The contrast between sky and artificial lighting colors is great taken at blue hour. But I have seen the picture at full size and read the exif data and I have noticed that the details are soft and not sharpen. I have discovered that this pic was taken 2 years ago with your D2X, but the problem I think that is the wide open aperture that is only f4.2. I just wonder why you avoid exposure times with more than 30s, when other people like me are doing HDR with long exposures greater than 30s at night or using ND filters. When I have no focus at night I use hyperfocal distance and this works very well. I let you a link here:
    and another one for a urbanscape in Madrid:



    P.S: Finally, it seems that I will have your HDR book tomorrow. Fedex has called me today for the delivery

  • Geat shot Trey! I love your night time cityscapes. How do you get access into these buildings? Are they generally open at night or do you have to bribe someone?

  • Linda Castellani

    In 1993 and 1994 I spent a great deal of time in Houston on business. The very first time I saw the Houston skyline, the Houston Rockets had just won some sort of championship (my apologies for my fuzzy knowledge of sports) and somehow the lights in the buildings had been coordinated so all lights were on all floors of all the buildings were turned out, except for the lights in each building that spelled out Rockets! across the skyline. The first building had the Rocket’s logo, the next one had an R, the next one an O, the next a C, and so on.

    I wish I could find a photo of that online so I could show it to you. Your wonderful cityscape brought that exceptional memory to mind, Trey.

  • Matt

    Great picture from the Hilton America’s Hotel in Houston.

  • Reid

    I’ve had the sky turn purple on me before too. Don’t know why, but I’ve processed it several times and it always turns out that way.

  • Pam

    Absolutely love this image. The colors are amazing.

  • Hey Trey! I was just thinking, i haven’t seen any pictures from Jacksonville, Florida. Next time you’re around you should drop by, maybe do a photo walk, id love to join you in one. There are quite a few photogenic areas in Jacksonville, just a thought!

  • Dyutiman Das

    Hi Trey, I live in Houston, and would like to practice with something like this picture. May i ask where you took the picture from and how you got access? Also for your course, is photoshop necessary, I only have Lightroom. E pictures look phenomenal as I am sure everyone has told you, I would like to learn, but don’t have photoshop. Thanks

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