Panorama of Zurich in the Evening

At night, Zurich sheds some of its serious, business-minded facade.

Zurich Skyline and Limmat River in the Evening, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, panorama from 3 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 26mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 15 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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Though it’s a city of more than three hundred banks, it’s also a city which has been transformed by youth movements in the latter half of the twentieth century, and Zurich by night is a far different place than Zurich by day.

Still fascinated by Zurich, I decided to take another photo of the city’s skyline, this time from a different angle. I wanted a view of the city at night, with light reflected in the Limmat River. I found a spot further along the river, from a different bridge, with a more distant view of the city’s landmarks.

Though taking the photo from a different vantage point, I again framed the shot so that the iconic steeple of Fraumunster is central. I used a long exposure to smooth the water of the Limmat so that the light is reflected nicely. Against a deep blue sky and gathering nightfall, I found the city particularly lovely, with just the suggestion of the energy that hums beneath its staid exterior.

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Zurich Skyline and Limmat River

After spending several days in Zurich, it’s a bit strange to me that it doesn’t get the attention of other European cities.

Zurich Skyline and Limmat River in the Evening, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, panorama from 4 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 8 seconds, ISO 31, tripod.

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It’s Paris, London, and Barcelona that the tourists flock to. Even in Switzerland, Zurich is often unfavorably compared to Geneva, Lucerne, and Lugano. Perhaps it’s because of Zurich’s role as the country’s business and financial center; there is no mistaking the city’s buttoned-down, serious vibe. But I found the city to be lovely and was charmed by it immediately.

After photographing some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, I decided to return on another evening and take a panoramic shot of Zurich at dusk, when clouds and the fading daylight made for a particularly lovely light. In my research on Zurich, I’d found few panoramic shots from the river, which is an especially beautiful view of the city.

I wanted to capture this beautiful city and its landmarks in one photograph, and frame it in such a way that it’s those landmarks that viewers notice, rather than the sky or the river. I wanted the verdigris spire of Fraumunster and the iconic double towers of Grossmunster to be the focal point of the photograph. To capture this view, I used a 5-stop ND filter to achieve a long exposure so that the river would be smoothed, focusing the viewer’s attention on the skyline. I am happy with the results of my experimentation, and I think viewers can see why I find Zurich so charming.

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View of Zurich from Lindenhoff Hill

While I found Zurich enchanting by either early morning light or in the faint shadows of early evening, on this day I chose to photograph the city in midday. I chose to set up my tripod on Lindenhof Hill, the famous point that overlooks the city.

View of Zurich and Limmat River from Lindenhof Hill, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, single image, focal length 16mm, aperture f/6.3, shutter speed 251 seconds, ISO 100, 15-stop ND filter, tripod.

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Lindenhof has been the site of a Roman fort and palaces built by a grandson of Charlemagne, but now it is one of the city’s most popular spots. It offers one of the best views of the city and is almost always crowded with people — locals and tourists alike — enjoying Zurich from its best vantage point.

Although it was midday, the weather was overcast and heavy, lavender-gray clouds hung low over the city. They made a dramatic backdrop for the city skyline. I wanted to make the most of the dramatic sky, so I decided to use a very long exposure of about 250 seconds. To get the shot, I used a 15-stop neutral density, allowing 32,000 times less light into my lens. With such a long exposure, the hustle of a city at midday is barely noticeable; instead, it’s still and ethereal. The river is mirror-like and the clouds are blurry and evocative.

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Fraumunster Church in the Morning, Zurich

After photographing Fraumunster Church by twilight the day before, I decided to go back and photograph it again in early morning light, before the city awoke and the tourists descended.

Panorama of Helmhaus and Fraumunster Church in the Morning, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, panorama from 2 horizontal images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 17mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 13 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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It’s difficult not to be impressed by the lovely church, its spire instantly recognizable over Munsterhof Square, a lovely public space built improbably on the site of a pig market.

Aside from its blue-green spire, it’s the windows of Fraumunster that capture you; long, thin panels by Marc Chagall, each done in a predominant color. A person can’t help but be awed standing underneath those windows, bathed in blue light created by the hands of Chagall.

I woke early, while the city was still dark, and while most of Zurich still slept, I carried my equipment along the Limmat. The sun was beginning to break by the time I reached the Helmhaus and began to set up for the shot. For this one, I wanted a wide shot with the Helmhaus in the foreground and the lovely, green-spired Fraumunster in the background. Shooting from a slightly elevated position, I used a panoramic technique to capture the old city from this vantage point. In the faint light of a new day, the church was particularly charming.

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Fraumunster Church in the Evening, Zurich

It’s not the largest or most elegant church in Europe. It pales next to Notre Dame or Westminster. But among the churches of Zurich, it is certainly one of the loveliest and most recognizable, its thin spire dominating the skyline over the Limmat River.

Fraumunster Church and Limmat River in the Evening, Zurich, Switzerland
June 2016, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 5 seconds, ISO 64, tripod.

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The church has occupied this spot near Paradeplatz since AD 853, when it was built by King Louis the German as an abbey for aristocratic women. Perched at the west end of the Munsterbrucke, the pedestrian bridge crossing the Limmat, Fraumunster is a landmark in the medieval part of Zurich.

Though the church has ancient origins, its most characteristic feature (aside from its verdigris spire) is the stained glass windows by Marc Chagall installed in 1970. The artist was in his 80s when his five windows were installed in the church, each one depicting a different Biblical story. Each long panel was created in a dominant color, which has the effect of bathing the church in brightly colored light.

In the late evening, when I came to Fraumunster, the bridge and the church are draped in the soft glow of twilight against a backdrop of dramatic clouds. I photographed the church from the behind the gentle curve of the Munsterbrucke and let the church’s spire form the focal point of the photograph, with the lighting of the bridge and the street for subtle illumination.

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Nobel Peace Center in the Evening, Oslo

At one end of the Radhusplassen, Oslo’s expansive plaza, sits the Nobel Peace Center, a museum dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize.

Panorama of Nobel Peace Center in the Evening, Oslo, Norway
June 2014, panorama from 3 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1.3 second, ISO 100, tripod.

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A smallish yellow building along the sea, the size of the center belies the history and scope of the award detailed inside. It seems fitting that the Peace Prize — alone among the Nobel awards — is given in Norway, a country whose people seem to value nothing so much as stability and equal treatment.

There’s a story here, behind the yellow building’s facade. It’s the story of Alfred Nobel, inventor and pacifist, who created dynamite in the hopes that it would put an end to war — that the possibility of mutual destruction would lead nations to abandon fighting. When Alfred’s brother Ludvig died in 1888, newspapers mistakenly ran an obituary for Alfred, and the quiet, unassuming pacifist was shocked to find himself described as a “merchant of death”. Not wanting his legacy to be one of destruction, Nobel arranged for the bulk of his estate to go the creation of the Nobel Prizes.

Normally Radhusplassen teems with people, tourists and locals alike. But I waited until evening began to fall, preferring to contemplate the building and what it represents in comparative solitude. In the quiet, as dusk fell over Oslo, I photographed the museum, a small, relatively unassuming structure dedicated to the work of peace.

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Panorama of Oslo City Hall in the Evening

By day, the expansive plaza in front of Oslo’s City Hall teems with people, especially in the summer months when days are longer.

Panorama of Oslo City Hall in the Evening, Oslo, Norway
June 2014, panorama from 4 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 0.6 second, ISO 100, tripod.

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There are tourists here, many of whom come to the area to catch the ferries to the fjords. But there are locals as well, families with children who’ve come to enjoy the sunshine in Radhusplassen. With so much happening in the square, at least in the daylight hours, it’s hard to imagine that the busy plaza was once part of one of the city’s main motorways.

Radhusplassen is dominated, of course, by the strikingly modernist City Hall, its twin towers instantly recognizable on Oslo’s skyline. Equally emblematic are the statues adorning the square, their classical forms in sharp contrast to the severe functionalist structure overlooking them.

I came back to the plaza at dusk, when the crowds had mostly thinned. It was the end of a cloudy day, the kind of day that promises a spectacular sunset. It didn’t disappoint. To capture the vastness of the square, I used a panoramic technique. I wanted the viewer to experience something of what I experienced — the beauty of the sunset, the contrast of modernist architecture and classical sculpture, and the vastness of Radhusplassen.

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The Royal Palace in the Morning, Oslo

Early the next morning I got up just as the sun rose over Oslo and walked to the Royal Palace. In the morning light, before the city fills with people, the palace is a remarkable sight.

The Royal Palace and Statue of King Karl Johan at Sunrise, Oslo, Norway
June 2014, panorama from 4 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 1/6 second, ISO 100, tripod.

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Situated at the top of a rise overlooking a green expanse known as Palace Park, the palace is one of the most accessible in Europe, with tourists posing for selfies within steps of the entrance and children playing nearby. Though it is still used as the residence of Norway’s royal family, the palace and the surrounding park feel welcoming, as if it belongs to the people as a whole.

But that morning, with the palace illuminated by soft early morning sunlight, there were no crowds, not yet. I had the grounds largely to myself, free to stroll at my leisure among the trees and duck ponds. On a morning like that, in a not-yet-awake Oslo, it’s easy to see why the royals long ago chose this spot, the Slottsparken, as the location of their residence. It’s hard to imagine a more serene location.

My task, before the park filled with people, was to capture the palace in the early morning light, and to attempt to show something of the expansiveness of square in front of the palace. The square is massive and almost more than can be captured by one shot – I used panoramic technique to convey its size and make you feel the place.

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Oslo City Hall in the Evening, Norway

The words “city hall” typically brings to mind a less than inspired architecture — something bland and bureaucratic with no artistic merit whatsoever.

Panorama of Oslo City Hall and Fridtjof Nansens Plass in the Evening, Oslo, Norway
June 2014, panorama from 4 vertical images, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 2 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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From the outside, Oslo City Hall is such a building; consisting of two block-like towers that seem to loom over the city, the structure is reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Block architecture — severe, ominous.

In fact, the building is a fine example of Functionalism, the architectural movement of the early twentieth century which stressed that a building’s design should closely follow its purpose, hence, the straightforward, sparse lines of Oslo’s City Hall.

But dismissing the blocky, somewhat forbidding structure as simply another workaday municipal building would be a mistake. This is the building where the Nobel Prize is awarded, after all, and it’s the interior that regularly lands City Hall on “must-see” lists. The building’s interior is a celebration of Norwegian national identity portrayed in the work of eighteen different artists. During the building’s construction, a competition was held to determine which artist’s work would adorn the interior. So many artists submitted designs that the jury chose to allow a larger number of artists, as well as a host of artisans and craftspeople. The result — quite at odds with the building’s rather unremarkable facade — is an interior that is a riot of color and design, a tableau of murals and tapestries which tell the story of the Norwegian people.

The building’s stark facade, beloved by some and derided by others, makes it an unmistakable landmark of the Oslo skyline. In a scenic spot (the former location of a permanent circus) overlooking the harbor, it’s one of those structures that commands attention, regardless of your feelings about its style.

On a June evening, when nights are short but twilight lingers, the light that falls over City Hall is perfect for photography; it’s difficult to look away from the striking pair of towers and the history celebrated within.

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Colosseum in the Evening, Rome

“Kill him! Flog him! Burn him alive! Why is he such a coward? Why won’t he rush on the steel? Why does he fall so meekly? Why won’t he die willingly?” Imagine a crowd shouting this at you as you fight for your life. This is the famous philosopher’s, Seneca, eyewitness account of what the crowd would chant at matches. He was not a fan of the games, calling the gladiatorial games, “plain butchery”.

Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre in the Evening, Rome, Italy
November 2013, single image, additional exposures for highlights, focal length 16mm, aperture f/8, shutter speed 30 seconds, ISO 100, tripod.

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He warned his friend to stay away saying, “Unhappy as I am, how have I deserved that I must look on such a scene as this? Do not, my Lucilius, attend the games, I pray you. Either you will be corrupted by the multitude, or, if you show disgust, be hated by them. So stay away.”

When you enter the space one can’t help but think back to the gladiator games. It is hard to even imagine that at one point the gladiators and the Colosseum were forgotten or disregarded as insignificant. At one point the Colosseum was quarried for building material. Other times used as a place to garden. Even it was considered for a wool factory.

Luckily none of these things came into fruition. Thanks to restoration and preservation we are able to enjoy this glimpse into history today.

Half of the building was covered in scaffolding, so the classic view of the building was not available for a shoot. Luckily, I was able to find a unique angle that did not have scaffolding or people covering my view.

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