“Castelsardo magic”. Sardinia, Italy. The ephemeral magic of the blue hour tinges the landscape of Castelsardo with a vibrant magenta, before giving way to the darkness of the night.
The peculiarity of this photograph is that it’s actually made of two shots taken at a distance of several minutes from each other while maintaining the position of the camera and the composition unchanged. The reason for this is the intention to merge the vivid colors of the blue hour and the lights of the town into a single image.
In fact, in the first shot, the scene is bright, colorful and detailed, but the town is “switched off” and a little flat and dull. So, after this first long exposure, it was sufficient to wait for the time the urban lighting was switched on and take a second, shorter shot.
By doing so, it was possible to obtain a more vivid and brilliant scene: the fortress on which the Castel dei Doria (or Castel Genovese) stands is illuminated by spotlights that highlight the texture of the rocky wall, while the coastal tower of Frigiano is illuminated by a magenta reflector, like the color of the sky. The street lamps and the lights of the houses accompany them. The atmosphere is completed by reflections on the still water of the inlet.
To merge the two shots, it was necessary to elaborate them in Photoshop, setting the first file of the blue hour as the base layer and the second file with the lights on as the upper layer. So the blending mode of the top layer was set to “lighten”. In this way, each brighter pixel was superimposed on that of the lower layer, thus obtaining a final image composed of 99% by the base layer, plus the small portions of the upper layer related to the lights of the town.
The only slightly tricky step was the method of blending the reflections on the water since they required a soft, natural gradient. To do this, it was necessary to reveal a further portion of the upper level, darker, relating to the water of the inlet, through a special handmade mask. In this way, with the slightly darker water, the reflections on it of the lights were brighter, maintaining, in any case, the naturalness and realism of the whole scene.