Kind of Blue
Is it a canal, a river, or a harbor? After six days in Copenhagen, I am still not sure. It is the city's waterfront, where boat taxis move at a fast clip and pre-teens dare each other to jump into the drink from public walkways that line the banks. Sometimes inebriated adults dare to take the plunge. The walkways along the banks are wide, usually constructed of grayish wood. Food trucks dot the pathway, and there are plenty of benches for lounging.
Like many European cities, Copenhagen has a historic center district filled with large stone buildings that never rise above five or six stories. The waterway is an entirely different matter, with a modern power plant, wind turbines, a new library referred to as the Black Diamond, a controversial opera house, and many other modern architectural wonders, plus some astonising copper bridge houses that have an art deco feel to them, which makes sense since they date to the late 1930s.
I found myself fascinated by the blue palette that overtook the city's skyline each night shortly after 8:30 PM. It had a calming effect even when the occasional group of revelers passed by. They were few and far between. Copenhagen is a surprisingly quiet city. People keep their voices down. Somewhat surprisingly, that same sky remained blue as the sun tried to break through the cloud cover at 5:30 AM, but fire also hung low in the sky.
About the Images: The buildings pictured in the images run along a north-south axis, with the last two photographs returning to the northerly portion of the axis.
Image I: The triangular-shaped building with the silver smokestack is located in the Amager district of Copenhagen, hence the name Amager Bakke (hill). Completed in 2017 at a cost of $670 million, the structure is a plant that converts waste product into heat and electricity. It is an important component in Copenhagen's effort to become a zero carbon city by 2025. There seems to be a continuous flow of smoke from the plant's chimney, but the white plum is water vapor.
Image II. The Opera House, or Operaen, is the city's signature building. It was designed by Danish architect, Henning Larsen, who died in 2013. The structure is 14 stories tall, enclosing half a million square feet according to Henry Grabar, writing for City Lab. The building had turned out to be quite controversial. It has been compared to a gigantic toaster or car grill.
The building's $500 million cost was funded by Arnold Maersk McKinney Moller, who is the wealthiest man in Denmark. Think Maersk cargo containers. According to Grabar, Larsen and Moeller fought over virtually every aesthetic aspect of the structure. Larsen viewed the project as a "failed compromise," with Moller even trying to dictate the dimensions of the toilets.
Image III. The Knippelsbro Bridge contains two bridge houses made out of copper. The one pictured now operates as a restaurant, bar, and cultural center. It was built in 1937. Unfortunately, there is not much information about these houses on the Web.
Images IV, V, and VI. At first I was not taken with this building complex, but when I saw the buildings lit one night as I walked back from Tivoli Gardens, I knew I had to photograph the complex. I took a quick test shot, and then spent the next day thinking about how to photograph the site.
Like the Operaen, this complex was designed by Henning Larsen to serve as the headquarters of Nordea Bank. Larsen's website now describes the structure as Nordea Bank's previous headquarters, although Google Maps still identifies two of the buildings as being occupied by Nordea. In any event, at night, when lit, the complex is striking. I particularly liked the mix of the new buildings and Christian's Church, which was built in the Rococo-style over a five-year period beginning in 1754.
Image VII. The black triangle on the right-hand side of the image is the corner of the new wing of the Royal Danish Library, which is known as the Black Diamond. Designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen, the structure holds part of the library's permanent collection, the National Museum of Photography, 600-seat auditorium, and an excellent restaurant (Søren K), where I had dinner one evening--cod and asparagus.
In the distance is another copper bridge house and a power plant. I was standing on the roof top terrace of one of the structures that is part of the library complex. Within a minute of setting up my tripod, a guard came walking toward me. Much to my surprise, he said hello, and kept walking.
Images VIII and IX. These images mark my return to the north end of the harbor/river. The first was taken at about 9:00 PM following a downpour. I took the first image at 5:30 AM on my last morning in Copenhagen. It was overcast, but there was a narrow opening at the horizon, as is apparent. I took several of the images the night before, so getting up at 5:00 AM was not a lot of fun, but duty called. I slept on the plane.
Image I. The Amager Bakke Waste-to-Energy Plant at 5:30 AM (20-second Exposure)
Image II. The Operaen: Henning Larson's Biggest Regret
Image III. Knippelsbro Bridge and House
Image IV. Nordea on Christiansbro (Designed by Henning Larsen)
Image V. Christian's Church in Back of Nordea on Chistiansbro
Image VI. The New, The Old, and The Trees
Image VII. The Royal Danish Library: AKA The Black Diamond
Image VIII. After the Downpour
Image IX. On Fire
Photographer's Notes: Each image was captured using a tripod. Although very colorful, the images do not reflect a lot of post-processing. I had thought about luminance masking, which is why I took five different exposures for each series. I learned a valuable lesson: Luminance masking is not effective when the image is relatively monotone. It became a question of picking the exposure that best showed off the architecture, and then making minor adjustments.
Here is my checklist for long exposure nighttime photographs:
A. Use a tripod.
B. Set the ISO to 100 (or the camera's base ISO if different).
C. Set aperture to 14 or 16--higher numbers can produce lens refraction--at least with the lens I was using. Know your lens.
D. Set focus--then switch camera to manual focus.
F. Turn off image stabilizers.
G. If you are using a camera with a mirror, put the mirror in lockup mode.
I have added this checklist more for me than for you. In the excitement of the moment, I sometimes forget one or more of the steps.