Photographing Kansas City Union Station

Mike Jensen Kansas City

Kansas City's Union Station

Kansas City’s Union Station

In late June 2016 I took a trip to downtown Kansas City, Mo.  Union Station and its Bloch Fountain are a magnet for area photographers so I decided to join the ranks and see what I could put together.

Now, late June in Kansas City is not a pretty thing weather wise.  It was HOT and HUMID.  I’m talking 95 degrees and at least 90% humidity!  I was dressed in as little as possible.  T-Shirt, shorts and sneakers!  When I arrived and pulled my gear out of the truck I immediately realized that I would need some “adjustment time”.  My gear had been in the nice, cool air conditioned vehicle for the 25 minute drive downtown.  It was at least 25 degrees cooler than it was outside and the humidity level was also significantly lower.

So, I had several options. I could shoot the front facade of the century old train station and it’s beautiful fountain or I could go inside and photograph the reception hall and interior architecture. Since my camera gear was already cooled down, I decided to head inside for awhile.

Lesson #1 – In hot, humid conditions make sure you allow time for your camera gear to adjust to the shooting conditions. Going from cool to hot will create a mess for your mirror and your lenses.Mike Jensen
Union Station Sunset

Union Station Sunset

According to my metadata readings, I was inside for about 30 minutes before I came back out into the “blast furnace”. I wanted to scout the area for sunset and get used to the rhythm of the fountain. My first shot was at 8:15pm for a forecasted 8:51pm sunset. Since Kansas City wavers between about 250 feet and about 1,000 feet elevation (in areas) I knew the predicted time for sunset would be pretty accurate. Oh, and it was only several days before the full moon so I wanted to incorporate that in to my photo session.

I knew I wanted to take advantage of the one inch reflecting area surrounding the main water feature and I positioned the setting sun to give me a great cool to warm color gradient. We had some nice floating clouds so my next task was to determine how much star refraction I wanted in the sun, and how much fountain I wanted to show.

The resulting image turned out EXACTLY as I had hoped it would! This image was shot with a Canon 5DS r and a Canon 16-35mm lens. The settings were ISO 100, Aperture f22, Shutter Speed 3.2secs and a focal length of 19mm. I set the focus point right at the fountain and bracketed three shots. My tripod was set about six inches above the level of the reflection pool. The resulting images were merged in Lightroom’s HDR software and then edited in Photoshop.


the raw image

mcjensen_union_station_liberty_memorial_20160717_0h9a0066
Now, in photography, some images you know you have nailed the moment you take it and you just need to do a bit of clean up editing. With HDR images of moving objects (the sun and the fountain) you just never know.

The image here is the “0” image, meaning it was shot at medium exposure and combined with several other shots at minus 2 and plus 2 stops to gain the desired result.  So, I took one shot at 3.2 seconds, another at .8, and another at 10 seconds.  This can be done manually using your “exposure compensation” settings, or on higher end cameras, you can use the HDR button.