Category Archives: Photographs: Night

Bow Hon Seafood Restaurant

Bow Hon Seafood Restaurant
A group of people waits for a table at the Bow Hon Seafood Restaurant.

Bow Hon Seafood Restaurant. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A group of people waits for a table at the Bow Hon Seafood Restaurant.

This photograph comes from an evening of night photography in San Francisco, mostly in and around the Chinatown district. This is, of course, a popular tourist area, but somehow the night changes things and makes it perhaps a bit less tacky — or maybe just tacky in more interesting ways! Many of the shops seem to close down early here, even though this was a weekend evening in the height of the San Francisco summer tourist season.

This is almost one of those “photographs of nothing special,” though I think that many of us can identify with the feeling of standing outside small restaurant in an urban area, talking and perhaps waiting for a table as the street life passes by. When shooting handheld photography at night I seek out this little pools of light beneath commercial signs or in the light spilling our from well-lit businesses.


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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Tourist Shop, Night

Tourist Shop, Night
Front of a Chinatown tourist shop at night, San Francisco

Tourist Shop, Night. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Front of a Chinatown tourist shop at night, San Francisco

Like any big city popular with tourists, San Francisco has its share — and then some! — of these little shops whose sole purpose seems to be to sell cheap proof that “I was there!” to folks visiting the city. This one happens to be in the densely packed Chinatown district of the City, right on Grant, but you can find the same thing alone the areas of the waterfront that are on the tourist circuit and in a number of other places.

The items included in the stock of such shops, while often sharing the same level of kitsch and cheap manufacture, are often a sort of study in the ways that cities portray themselves and in the ways they are viewed. Exhibit #1: How about those American flag tights! Wow! It was getting late when we passed through here, and many shops had already closed or were in the process of closing.


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.

Urban Reflections

Urban Reflections
Reflected image of lights in San Francisco’s Chinatown

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

Reflected image of lights in San Francisco’s Chinatown

This photograph comes from a late-July evening spent doing night street photography in San Francisco, this time working the area between North Beach and Union Square… which of course means largely the Chinatown district. We began photography at dusk a few streets up from the touristy main drag, walking along Stockton street as the last shops closed up for the day. From here we wandered down narrow streets to the main drag, Grant, arriving there as darkness came on.

Even though it was a Friday night during the height of tourist season, there were not all that many people here, at least by the sometimes extraordinarily crowded standards of this area. Some shops were still open — catering to the out-of-town visitors — but many had closed or were closing. Nonetheless, the street held a wild variety of bright lights. At several points I forced myself to take a break from the “normal” street photography stuff and try to look at things in different ways. Here I had decided to look at light reflected in other objects, in this case a parked car.


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.

Store Window Display

Store Window Display
Motion blurred photograph of a Chinatown store window display

Store Window Display. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Motion blurred photograph of a Chinatown store window display

Part of what I enjoy about night photography is the way that the environment is transformed and how I often have to resort to “seeing as the camera sees” more than seeing as I see in the dim light. The camera sees better in low light, it can pick up colors that fade almost to monochrome in nighttime human vision, and it can “see” things like blur motion with longer exposures.

For a few minutes on this evening I decided to play around with long exposure blur. Instead of keeping the ISO high so that I could use short shutter speeds in the low light and stop motion, I lowered the ISO and intentionally selected smaller apertures and very long shutter speeds. Then I used the combination of subject motion and intentionally moving the camera myself to create abstractions. It may hardly matter, but the subject here was a store window full of colorful lanterns.


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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Asian Ambiance

Asian Ambiance
A man works in the display window of the Asian Ambiance shop, next to the Francisco Aquino’s Ross Alley 1889 Mural

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

A man works in the display window of the Asian Ambiance shop, next to the Francisco Aquino’s Ross Alley 1889 Mural

When shooting at night — and, frankly, often when shooting during the day — I may photograph a scene, feeling that something about it “works,” but not knowing quite why in then sense that I could explain why I’m making the photograph. I frequently work quite intuitively, even though I’m very aware of my surroundings and fully engaged with them. This is one of those photographs.

I think I first simply thought the light spilling out of the colorful windows of the shop was interesting. As I walked over for a closer look I saw the man working intently on something in the window — perhaps repairing some sort of security shutter. I think I may have been aware of the pool of light on the sidewalk, and I soon noticed the mural to the left. (I later looked it up and found out that it has been there for a while and is far more than random graffiti.) As I quickly framed up a photograph, hoping the man would not move, I thought about the edges of the frame and the position of the lamp at the right become an important consideration. The title, of course, is simply the name of the shop.


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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Blue Alley

Blue Alley
A side alley in San Francisco, illuminated at night by blue lights

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

A side alley in San Francisco, illuminated at night by blue lights

Sometimes I think about why I am attracted to certain subjects, and I’ve thought a bit about what it is about night photography that draws me. It is actually a bit complicated, so I won’t try to explicate the whole thing here. I can, however, say something about two related issues. First, a lot of night photography is as much about what the camera sees as it is about what I see. Our human vision can work rather well in near darkness, especially once we adapt, but what we see is nothing much like what our cameras see. The camera can blur motion with long exposures, can record with relative accuracy colors that we either cannot really see in near darkness or which our minds tell us are not what they really are, and quite simply the camera can sometimes produce a photograph of things that are too dark to really see. Secondly, because of these things, the concept of objective accuracy in night photography pretty much goes right out the window. How in the world do you make an “accurate” photograph of something that you cannot actually see without the camera?

If you or I saw this scene with our eyes, we would likely be almost completely unaware of the wildly divergent colors of the light. Our vision system (eyes and, especially, brain) often tell us that we are seeing what we believe we should see. Sidewalks are grey, not blue, so even in blue light the mind registers the objectively blue sidewalk as gray. Yet the camera is more objective, and when we see photographs of these subjects we are often struck by the wild colors. I have heard people ask how to “correct” these colors. My answer? Don’t! I look for and use these intensely colored lighting sources – here a blue light, sometimes the red of automobile tail lights, the warm color of tungsten light, the daylight-like color of LED lighting, the strange spectrum of fluorescent — all of which can lend string color to scenes that are often drab and nondescript in daylight


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.

Post and Grant, Night

san francisco, california, usa, urban, street, photography, night, post, grant, streets, corner, intersection, black and white, monochrome, people, sidewalk
Friday night at the corner of Post and Grant, San Francisco

Post and Grant, Night. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Friday night at the corner of Post and Grant, San Francisco

This is (yet another) photograph from my fruitful nighttime wanderings in an area of urban San Francisco in late July, when I joined a small group of fellow photographers to do some night street photography. They started with dinner, but I arrived a bit late and finally met up with them between my starting point (near Union Square) and their location in North Beach. We first photographed in the less-touristy areas of Chinatown, then wandered into tourist central, the well-known Grant Avenue area, where we knew we would find people and interesting lighting.

Eventually we wandered on down beyond Chinatown and ended up in the Union Square vicinity, where the group began to split up — it was getting late, some had been photographing for many hours, and their cars were a distance away. I continued on down Grant a bit further, where I made this photograph at the intersection with Post Street. You might detect one or two odd compositional choices in this photograph — why is that car poking into the right side of the frame?


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.
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.