Anatomy of a Lumia photo #7: Night time storm refuge

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My series 'Anatomy of a Lumia photo' (here's #1) has proved popular, even though I cheated with the HP Elite x3 instead for #2#3 had a lovely clock#4 was all about framing, in #5, I got down and dirty with nature, and in #6 I had a rosy dilemma to solve... Here in #7 I take an astonishly satisfying low light snap, learning to 'trust my Lumia'...

The idea of this series is to give you an insight into my thought processes that went into achieving each image, in the hope that it might inspire you to better photos too.

Here's the final snap, to give a flavour of what follows:


Just a shot of a car at night, right? No, it's more than that, it's a vivid memory - and the sort of snap which perfectly encapsulates a) why your phone is the best camera because it's always with you, and b) why you should trust the software in your Lumia 950 or 950 XL...

Here's the set-up then. I was heading down to the West Country on the M4 motorway on a medical (parent!) emergency and the weather was terrible. Terrible. 40mph wind, torrential rain and conditions got stickier and stickier. I had to slow down to 30mph or less and even then I couldn't see properly. Illustrative stock photo below (obviously I wasn't going to try and take a photo at the time!!):

Night rain

Happily, I spotted that one of the service areas was coming up (Membury, I think) and pulled off the motorway. Never have I been so relieved to stop the car and park.

It was still completely tipping it down though and I wasn't about to get soaked going for a stroll to shop/toilet etc. So I flicked on my Renault Scenic's twin banks of internal lights, put the chair back and got out my laptop. With rain torrential around me there I was with light and power and happily getting on with something productive. Sometimes cars are wonderful!

When the rain eased down to a drizzle (though still very windy) I thought I'd stretch my legs to the services before setting off again. So I got out and, looking back at my car, realised as I was about to remotely lock it, that I'd left the internal lights on. Moreover, I spotted that the service area lights picked out my car rather effectively and beautifully - a sheer fluke of positioning on my part - this wasn't a set-up. Moreover, there were no cars around my parking spot (few others could be foolish enough to drive on a night like this!).

The end result was a glistening, wet car (looking a lot cleaner than it actually was) illuminated as in a showroom, with the steamed up windows showing that I'd been in there for a while, cosy and protected, and with the internal lights making it all seem like a home from home. Which it was.

So I whipped out my Lumia 950 XL and took a solitary photo, as a memory.


Note that I'm not trying to sell Scenics! (Though maybe I should.)

I was just amazed that the photo came out as well as it did. I was standing facing into the squally drizzle, with one hand trying to shield the 950 XL's camera glass from getting wet (old habits die hard) and the other operating the shutter button. I took all of five seconds over the single shot though, it was cold, windy and wet and I just wanted to get inside the buildings and use the facilities. There was no set-up here, just trusting the full auto facilities of the 950 XL camera software to do the right thing.

Exposure ended up being about 1/5th second, showing how good the OIS is on the Lumia, despite the conditions and handheld shot. And such a relatively long exposure made the photo come out well, in terms of colours and details, helped as usual by the PureView oversampling to eliminate sensor noise.

Looking critically, the car isn't 100% clear, so the focus wasn't perfect, but under the appalling weather conditions I think the Lumia did a cracking job. In addition, the back of another car on right of frame is a little intrusive in terms of a piece of art, so cropping the image slightly enabled me to make the Scenic slightly larger in the frame and still keep everything proportioned. While I was at it, I also blocked out my number plate just in case anyone reading this feature has any identity theft ideas...(!)

The end result then, again:


You can grab the full photo (minus the number plate) here on the AAWP server if you want to check it out at full 8MP resolution.

The moral? Always be ready to snap a photo whenever you see something beautiful or striking. Whatever the weather conditions. And learn to trust your 950 XL Camera software - this shot above was on full auto, grabbed in a moment, and yet I really don't think I could have bettered it if I'd spent half an hour fiddling.

Comments welcome. Is this series useful to you? Feel free to share (in the comments below) any examples of great photos you've taken with your Nokia/Microsoft Lumia or similar device, along with your own thinking...

PS. For number 8 in this series, I'll be staying in extreme low light territory, this time using manual controls, to make even more of the Lumia 950 XL's camera capabilities...