Finding different subjects with light and shadow at night is a challenge of night photography. Choices are limited by what is illuminated. The shadows accent the subjects with whatever angle the light is cast. Natural light takes on far less importance. Artificial light that’s out of the photographer’s control takes prominence.
There is no “correct” exposure at night. The only correct exposure is whatever the photographer chooses. Auto settings rarely give desired results. This is where the elusive terminology for “art” comes into photography.
It’s been a large learning curve. I spend many nights out trying to learn. There are some great tips that help, but practice has proved to be the most fruitful learning too. Second to that are good books like Night Photography: Finding Your Way In The Dark. There are some tips on the net, but they are lacking.
Color In Night Photography
Black and white was my preference, but I’m learning to like color more in night photos. Color is an added element to the night composition and it increase the complexity.
Just as sometimes the full photo does not need proper exposure, it’s ok to reduce or ad color where required in night photos too. I reduce saturation here and there.
Night Photography Subjects
The mundane becomes more interesting in different light. Still, finding more interesting is a challenge in my area. The people leave our downtown. I have to capitalize on the still and quiet of the night rather than the large city nightlife excitement.
First is the flicker of the red lights on the railroad warning signal. You hit the brakes and prepare for your sad few minutes of delay. The warning bell is ringing too and so the controlled mayhem is about to start.
The train’s massive horn blasts. At first, it’s far enough away to not be a bother. Then as the ground starts to barely shake, the horn blast is loud enough to rattle your brain a little. The massive hum of the railroad engine lays a deep bass undertone to it all. The click-clack-thump starts pounding as the steel rails and the heavy timbers take the massive weight of the train.
Screeech! As it all works together and the steel screams out the excitement of it all coming together! The cars rock back and forth and you wonder how it all even stays on the tiny rails. The graffiti on the cars rolls by and you read some of the fat font letters that look cool, but make no sense at all to anyone not in the hobo community.
The rhythm goes on for a few minutes and then fades off as the procession of cars end. The signal bars raise and the lights go out. Quickly, it’s as if that racket never even happened. The mayhem occurs enough that we rarely give it a second thought.
The ability of the train to just stop everything in it’s way until it reaches it’s destination is a marvel to see. The comparison of this behemoth to the man standing and watching gives an idea of just how much man has harnessed for his use in this world. The train seems a timeless part of our modern landscape and they are still a wonder to me.