What are some photos never seen

City lights - You have never seen Dresden like this before - pictures of a night flight

What happened if. If it hadn't been for the first oil lamps on November 10, 1705, the Schlossstrasse in the old town had been dimly lit. If it hadn't been for the first gas lamps at the castle on April 23, 1828. If it hadn't been for the first electric light bulbs in street lamps on Schlossstrasse and Seestrasse on December 15, 1895, to light up the winter night a little.

Robert Grahn succeeded in taking unique photos when he flew over Dresden in January - after dark.

So if the lights of the big city hadn't conquered the darkness, Robert Grahn could stay on the ground. But this is how he starts the engine of his Cessna 172 (built in 1966) after dusk. Equipped with his latest reflex camera, the Nikon D 850, the 53-year-old goes on photo tours of cities all over the world. He photographed Dresden in January - his season lasts from October to March.

"Due to the natural conditions, the sights and the banks of the Elbe, Dresden is simply a pearl in itself," says Grahn enthusiastically about the Elbe city. Grahn started his night flight photo report at Dresden-Klotzsche Airport. In the end, the flight only took a good half an hour. At a speed of around 80 kilometers per hour, the photographer photographs his subjects from the open side window at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the earth. "Anyone who has ever tried to take photos from a moving car knows how difficult it is to take good, sharp pictures," Grahn explains to the DNN.

He always has one hand on the wheel while taking photos. He operates the rudder control with his feet. The photographer is not only concerned with his own safety, but also that of his camera - it is triple secured so that it cannot fall off. The photographer prepares for the flights with city maps, in the evening Grahn then flies with the help of GPS.

Robert Grahn from Potsdam is one of the few people in Germany who take photos from an airplane at night: “The particular challenge in contrast to general aerial photography is the high light sensitivity of the camera systems and the long exposure times. That is why you always have to adjust the time window with the maximum light emission for the night pictures. In Germany, this usually falls between November and March, ”Grahn explains to the DNN.

In night flight photography, in contrast to the daytime, the photographer is dependent on light from below. Around 5 p.m. it usually gets dark in winter time. After that, Grahn has two to three hours, during which people slowly leave the office building, but the hallways and rooms in the building are still sufficiently illuminated. “After 10 p.m. it is usually too dark for the pictures.” Flying too early is not a solution either: “In photography, one speaks of the blue hour, because the long exposure time and the twilight make the photos look as bright as day. "

Night photography has a particular charm for the 53-year-old because of the special form of flying. “It's a privilege to fly alone over the many great cities at night. When I took the photos over Dresden in January 2018, there was only one rescue helicopter in the sky, on the way to the university hospital, ”Grahn told DNN. This can also be seen in some photos.

And what became of the beginnings with the first oil lamps on Schlossstrasse over the past 300 years? Around 47,000 electric street lights and 1,100 gas lights are now in continuous operation on Dresden nights, according to the Roads and Civil Engineering Department. In addition, 240 of the 480 urban traffic lights never take a break. In response to a DNN request, Drewag determined the electricity demand on a winter night for one night as an example: In the night of February 18 to 19, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., a total of 3,210,997 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity was consumed. The maximum output of 323 megawatts (MW) was reached at 6.45 p.m. The lowest power consumption, 223 MW, was at 2.45 a.m.


By Maraike Mirau and Bernd Hempelmann