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.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email
All media © Copyright G Dan Mitchell and others as indicated. Any use requires advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.