As the in-house photographer for the Columbia Center’s Sky View Observatory, I have a bit of experience shooting through glass to get photos of the awesome city view. Reading reviews of people’s experiences/frustrations there and at other similar properties around the world, I would like to share some of the expertise I’ve gained over the years shooting at SVO.
Basically, the issue is the reflections in the windows created by interior lighting. My solution for this doesn’t involve filters or anything in-camera. The work around involves bringing a black cloth. This can be a 2×2 foot piece of black cloth bought at a fabric store which is what I carry or a scarf, jacket, or even an umbrella cover like I saw last night up there. It also helps to be wearing something dark. Try to avoid the gold lame sequin dress look. It doesn’t help.
Recently I have added a new tool, the LensSkirt. This beauty slips around the lens and attaches to the glass with four suction cups. Except for the widest of lenses, say 10mm, its awesome. It also works great in airplanes and helicopters. LensSkirt on Amazon
If you didn’t bring a tripod, set your camera on the ledge, use timer release and then cover it with the cloth. If you did bring a tripod, you can check out my technique and or use something of your own. Notice how the cloth is rolled up, wrapped around the lens up to the glass and then the ends cross over the legs of the tripod. I usually check below the lens for light leak as with wide angle lenses, that’s where the reflections creep in. In addition, notice how my tripod legs are unextended and perched on the railing with one leg down, so as to get closer to the glass.
A recent favorite:
…and two short timelapses:
Seattle and Rainier Sunrise from Sky View Observatory
Seattle Sunset from Sky View Observatory
I hope this helps. Please feel free to contact me with questions or ask if you see me at SVO. I helped 3 people last night get better shots and that gave me the idea to write this.