If you like shooting from observatories, chances are you’ve had to deal with shooting through glass. Most observatories are indoor (the Top of the Rock and the Empire State Buildings are notable exceptions). Shooting through glass can be challenging for a few reasons, so let’s talk about what you can do to get a great shot!
First, make sure you’re shooting through a clean area. The windows are often very dirty, so make sure there aren’t too many dirty spots in your frame.
Then, let’s tackle the main issues: reflections. They can easily ruin a shot, and they’re even worse at night. Luckily, we have a few solutions for you. If you’re at home, in your car, or in any situation where you control the lights, turn all the interior lights off. That should take care of most reflections.
If you can’t turn off the lights, because you’re at the Skydeck or 360 Chicago, then we’re going to have to be more creative. First, put your camera as close to the glass as possible. If you can shoot straight and have the lens (the plastic part) touch the glass, even better.
In most cases, you’ll still have reflections, so you’ll have to cover the area around your lens. In some cases, you can use your hands or your lens hood. If that doesn’t work, use a jacket or a sweater and make sure your cover all the reflections.
Note on shooting at night: most observatories do not allow tripods. A great alternative is to bring a desk tripod, like the Platypod or the Gorillapod.
If you want a better solution, then Lenskirt is for you! It’s the best solution to avoid reflections when shooting through glass. It’s a hood with 4 suctions cups. It’s easy to use: you attach the Lenskirt to the glass with the suction cups and your lens goes into the opposite end. The regular version will work great for most smaller cameras and lenses, but we recommend the XL version for larger cameras and wide-angle lenses, to have more wiggle room.
At around $50, it’s not cheap, but it’s worth it if you travel regularly or like to shoot in situations with glass. You might encounter glass in other situations like shooting from a car, a train or an airplane. Earlier this year, I got lucky on a red-eye flight back from Vancouver and was able to shoot the Northern Lights.
I didn’t have the Lenskirt with me, so I had to use a sweater to cover the entire window. Shooting at night was also tricky and I managed (after many tries) some 2s exposures at ISO 12800.