Sometimes you want something in your photos, but you have a hard time finding it exactly. For me, I wanted to capture the essence of Stockholm but I had a hard time finding the right place to see it. Stockholm is an amazing city, with a breathtaking combination of modern Scandinavian architecture mixed with classic European castles and buildings. But Stockholm’s most notable feature is also its most striking – the entire city sits on an archipelago of 14 islands next to the sea.
Capturing that mix of water, sky, and buildings both old and new proved to be a big challenge for me. When you’re inside the islands among the buildings, you can’t really capture the water or the canals. When you’re next to the water, you frequently lack a good perspective on the city. On top of all these challenges was the fact that I had exactly one evening to take photos of Stockholm before my itinerary took me elsewhere, so the weather, sky, and light was what it was on the single night I had free.
Working against me was a complete lack of clouds in the sky – odd in Scandinavia’s notoriously cloudy climate. I usually like having a few clouds in the sky, the moisture can add color to sunsets and having clouds in the scene can help balance out my foregrounds, but I was stuck with nothing on this particular evening. On the other hand, I had one thing working for me: a nearly full moon slowly rising over the city begging to be put in a photo.
These factors led me on a frantic runaround as I tried to find the best view I could while making good use of the moonrise. My first attempt was to compose the moon with buildings, but I really struggled to find an angle that let me see both the moon and the buildings in the foreground. After a lot of walking, I found a single promising location that never quite worked as a photo. After spending too much time looking for a shot, I gave up and changed perspective entirely.
Guiding me throughout this trip was trusty Photopills – probably the best photography location planning app out there. I had been using it all evening, and over and over I kept seeing and then ignoring City Hall on the map. I’m not sure why – one part of my brain said “that’s the right spot,” and another part said “let’s walk all over this other part of the city and go there at the last minute.” I finally gave in, called an Uber, and took a ride to city hall where I arrived right as blue hour had set in. As it turned out, the park behind the building afforded a jaw-dropping view of Stockholm, complete with water, buildings, and moon in a single location. I knew the scene called for a panorama, and I was able to take several before the park closed and security asked everyone to leave.
I created this photo by taking 12 photos with my camera in vertical orientation (vertical is the standard practice for most panoramas these days). This let me capture the city, water, and moonrise in a single set of photos, even though the moon had by then risen quite high. However, after stitching the photo together, it felt a bit unbalanced by the moon’s height in the sky. So I took some editing liberties and lowered it back down a bit before finally cropping the photo to get the picture you see here.
Ultimately, the evening was typical of the ones where I have limited time to find a photo while not quite knowing where to start. But at the end of the day, wandering around a foreign city really is half the fun of doing this.