Category Archives: Photographs: Night

Asian Styles

Asian Styles
People in front of a San Francisco storefront at night

Asian Styles. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

People in front of a San Francisco storefront at night

At about this time last year I made an important “discovery during a trip to Manhattan” — with newer cameras I can photograph at high enough ISOs that it is possible (and even easy) to do handheld night street photography. And since I use a small mirrorless camera for street photography, I can even do this sort of photography without carrying around a big camera and lenses. I’ve long been a night photographer, but generally the type to sets up a tripod and approaches this genre more or less the same way I approach landscape photography, but with longer exposures. Much longer! But this new development is tremendously liberating. Using a large aperture prime I can walk around and spontaneously respond to what I see, and I can capture brief and ephemeral moments in the wild and beautiful light of the urban night.

This photograph exemplifies one way that I’ve always shot street photography, though now adapted to the night. I begin by finding an interesting bit of urban landscape — buildings, light, color, texture, form. I find a composition that will work… and then I wait. Sometimes the wait is brief and sometimes it is long. I wait for people to populate this “landscape,” and to ideally configure themselves into some interesting combination. Since I don’t pose these photographs, I have to react quickly and take whatever the street serves up. This time it served up something special, I think. The storefront itself first got my attention, with its brightly colored merchandise, the light spilling out onto the sidewalk, the aqua windows on the left margin, and the red and yellow vending machine on the right. The small group of people just to the right of the doorway were my first target, and I think I have a photograph of just them taken shortly before this one. But very soon a wonderful and unpredictable conjunction occurred as the man walked out through the store doorway, the woman in blue passed in front of the vending machine, and the two men with the crying child in a stroller passed the store, followed by the woman with the bag.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Dusk, Clouds, Full Moon

Dusk, Clouds, Full Moon
The full moon behind dusk clouds above and eastern Sierra Nevada meadow

Dusk, Clouds, Full Moon. Sierra Nevada, California. July 4, 2006. © Copyright 2006 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

The full moon behind dusk clouds above and eastern Sierra Nevada meadow

This will be another short post — things are quite busy right now! The photograph is from almost a decade ago, when I accompanied my brother, his wife, and three sons on a backpack trip into a favorite area of the eastern Sierra Nevada. Our trip began with a hike to a picturesque lake between two high ridges, where we spent several days exploring… and surviving “interesting” weather. We found a beautiful campsite on a bench above a meadow and lake. In the evening I set up on this high spot and photographed the near-night darkness with the moon shining from behind the broken layer of clouds overhead.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email


All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Green Building and Tracks

Green Building and Tracks
Green Building and Tracks

Green Building and Tracks. Mare Island Naval Ship Yard. March 3, 2007. © Copyright 2007 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Ambient light floods the side of a building and old railroad tracks with green-tinted light, Mare Island Naval Ship Yard

A friend recently shared a photograph of a bit of curving railroad track, and I recognized it as being the same track that appears in this photograph from seven and a half years ago. I went back to look it up to share it with him, and in doing so I realized that I seem to have not shared it previously — so I’m rectifying that with this posting!

I have been photographing this location at night for over a decade now. I’m pretty certain that my first visit was back in 2003, when I happened to see an announcement of an event sponsored by The Nocturnes the San Francisco Bay Area night photography group. I had seen photographs made at night, of course, but it wasn’t anything that I had ever done, so I showed up. I was quickly hooked, especially when it comes to photographing urban and industrial areas in ambient light. This photograph is fine example of what attracts me about that light. If you were there in person, you would not really see anything quite like this — it was so dark that most of the details would be lost in shadow, the intense colors would be invisible to your eyes, and the only real details would be on the small lighted wall in the distance. But the camera can see what the eyes cannot. Here that includes not only the details in shadow areas, but also the wild colors that are produced by artificial lights.


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Friday Night, Manhattan

Friday Night, Manhattan
Friday Night, Manhattan

Friday Night, Manhattan. New York City. August 8, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

People out on a Friday night in Manhattan

On this evening I finally got to seriously try out something that I had been thinking of doing for some time — handheld street photography at night. Current digital cameras are providing low-light capabilities now that were almost unimaginable just a few years ago, to the point that it is possible to shoot at very high ISO setting and shoot in urban darkness almost as if it were daytime. (To be sure, there are some issues related to things like dynamic range, the need to use very large apertures, narrow DOF, dealing with noise in post, etc.)

We had just left a club where we heard a musical performance and we decided to head over to Washington Square where yet another performance was going on. Almost as soon as we left the first building it hit me that this was my opportunity to give this a shot, so I worked with a 23mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.4 lens and cranked up the ISO and started shooting. I quickly noticed that I actually had some exposure headroom, and I could lower ISO stop down a bit. I also quickly became fascinated by the nighttime shadows, which are nothing like what we see during the day. I started looking for bright “pools of light” under artificial lighting and then constructing compositions and waiting for an interesting juxtaposition of people and other elements.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Fly Space Rigging

Fly Space Rigging
Fly Space Rigging

Fly Space Rigging. San Jose, California. March 23, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Looking straight up into the fly space of the California Theater, San Jose

As I work on my three-year project photographic classical musicians, I spend a lot of time around their rehearsal and performance spaces. In addition to photographing the people, I have also photographed the environment within which they work, and not always the obvious parts that are visible to those who attend concerts and see the formal appearance of the stage.

A lot of interesting things exist in the backstage world. In contrast to the stage itself, at least as viewed from the perspective of the audience, this is a world seems as much industrial as artistic, but even that “industrial” aspect is an interesting combination of some very modern technology (such as lighting and sound systems) and some very old technology (the equipment for hoisting sets and other equipment on and off the stage). This photograph looks straight up into that equipment and the catwalk near the highest point in the backstage fly space.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Industrial Building, Mixed Lighting

Industrial Building, Mixed Lighting
Industrial Building, Mixed Lighting

Industrial Building, Mixed Lighting. Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, Vallejo, California. April 5, 2013. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Numerous sources of artificial light illuminate an industrial building from outside and inside

I like night photography for a number of reasons. I enjoy the very slow work, finding subjects and compositions in near darkness and then waiting patiently for long exposures to complete. “Normal” photography can be a slow and meditative process, but night photography must be. Given so much time to stand and wait, I cannot help but notice the stillness and quiet of the night, and to feel the cool and damp air. In fact, as a person who does night photography, these things are almost as much part of the experience as the visual elements.

In the visual context, there are a few things about the appeal of night photography that might not occur to a person who has not done it. When photographing in very low light, what we photograph is often very different from what we actually see. Often the subject is quite dark, even when lit by the moon or nearby lights, but the camera doesn’t care—a long enough exposure can collect more light that our eyes can, and a dim and drab subject can become bright. Also, the illusion that the camera stops time is not quite so strong when photographing at night. Over the course of a many minutes long exposure stars move, lights of cars appear and pass, clouds blur into soft streaks, and the edges of shadows from moonlight blur. In industrial areas such as this one, the lighting is a mixture of things glowing from within and lit from without, and the diversity of lighting—tungsten, fluorescent, sodium vapor, LED, mercury vapor, moonlight—paints the nightscape with wild colors. This building is an excellent example. The upper windows emanate a glow from yellow interior light. Relatively colorless light hits the upper walls, but the light takes on an odd blue/pink tone on the lower building, and the shadows head toward blue.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Green Shop Doors

Green Shop Doors
Green Shop Doors

Green Shop Doors. Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, Vallejo, California. April 5, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Green doors to an immense industrial shop building, Mare Island Naval Ship Yard

I’m intrigued by doorways, especially doorways painted in interesting colors, or which suggest a size different from their reality, or which hint at something beyond the doors. These doors, both the obvious small door at the left, and the larger three section doors to its right that you’ll see if you look a bit more closely, are along the front of a gigantic shop building at Mare Island. Many years ago they were, no doubt, devoted to work related to the ship construction that went on here for many decades. That work ended decades ago, the facility was decommissioned, and much of it was left vacant for a long time.

More recently things have begun to move again on the island. While some areas still lie dormant and others have succumbed to weather and vandals, many others still stand and quite a few of them are now used by small operations. Looking through the windows on this night, portions of the interior were dimly lit and it appeared that a few workers were busy inside. Incongruously, it looked like at least one computer screen glowed on a desk near a window.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.