Tag Archives: urban

Video Surveillance

Video Surveillance
Warning sign on a doorway to an interior space, Chinatown, San Francisco

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

Warning sign on a doorway to an interior space, Chinatown, San Francisco

When doing street photography I tend to “switch modes” as I photograph — one moment I might focus on people as individuals or in groups, and then my attention may shift to the “urban landscape,” the shapes and angles of the buildings and roads and sidewalks and more. At night there is always one more element, the unusual effects of artificial light on the scene. The light can be wildly diverse: Greenish from fluorescent lamps, yellow from sodium vapor, warm and saturated from tungsten, almost like daylight though perhaps cooler from LEDs, and occasionally the colors of dusk or the moon.

LED lighting, while wonderfully efficient, is not so wonderful for night photography. Since it mirrors the color balance of daylight so closely it takes away all of those color shadings. Some times it almost makes a night photograph look like day! I made this photograph shortly after I met up with a group of other photographers to walk through this section of San Francisco. At first I was focused in small things — windows, doorways, colorful business signs. As we descended one side street we passed this somewhat nondescript building, but in the nighttime light the interior glowed with an oddly colored light.


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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Couple, Night

Couple, Night
A couple out for the night in San Francisco

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

A couple out for the night in San Francisco

Although it is not particularly apparent in this photograph, one of the things I like about photographing at night is the way that the darkness, lit by multiple artificial light sources, becomes magical. You’ll never see shadows like those on the wall behind this couple in sunlight! This light, and the responses to the night of the people who are out and about, make the nighttime environment very different from the daytime world, and places that might be mundane in daylight can become special at night.

This must have been a quick and spontaneous photograph… because I don’t even remember making it, much less precisely where I was! I think I may have been along Grant Street somewhere below Chinatown and getting closer to Union Square. In all likelihood, I saw the two of them and quickly lifted the camera to make an exposure and kept walking. I love the expression on the woman’s face.


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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Man With Flag

Man With Flag
A man with a flag organizes a group of tourists on a San Francisco street

Man With Flag. San Francisco, California. July 25, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

A man with a flag organizes a group of tourists on a San Francisco street

I think this is another “there’s more going on here than you might first realize” photographs. Yes, there is a man marching out of this store carrying a small flag, but why? The answer to that question is pretty easy — he is apparently leading a group of tourists through this part of San Francisco, and the flag is his way of letting them know who to follow. (You’ll see this phenomenon in almost any city or other area that is popular with tourists.) But there is something else interesting — at last to me — about this photograph. Many of the people in the scene have apparently just become aware of me and are looking my direction, apparently not quite certain how to respond just yet. (I’m discreet, so I probably didn’t have the camera to my face, and it isn’t a large camera.)

Pools of light like this one are prime spots for me when shooting urban areas at night. I love the way the light spills out onto the sidewalk, creating shadows leading away from the people. I can also play with this light. I might shoot straight into it and make shadow the main subject. Or I can sometimes get just a bit between the subjects and the light, and then it can light them quite beautifully, especially when there are multiple light sources. If I recall correctly, it was the light and then the bricks that first caught my eyes here, and then when the people appeared in the doorway the photograph was complete.


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 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.

Mirror in Mirror

Mirror in Mirror
Reflecting surfaces of Chicago architecture

Mirror in Mirror. Chicago, Illinois. August 2, 2014. © Copyright 2014 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Reflecting surfaces of Chicago architecture

This is another of my architectural detail photographs from our summer 2014 visit to Chicago. We decided to cross the continent the old-fashioned, slow way — we took the train from the San Francisco Bay Area to New York City. The first leg was on the venerable California Zephyr to Chicago, and we decided to take a few extra days in Chicago before boarding the Lakeshore Limited (also apparently known as the Late Shore Limited…) to Manhattan. We stayed right in downtown Chicago, just a few blocks from Millennium Park, so there was plenty to see and do. One morning we took the architectural tour up the river, something that I had not done before.

I enjoy Chicago. Part of it appeals to my long-ago midwestern roots, I think. But it is also a cosmopolitan big city with a quality all its own. While the buildings are as huge as those of any other big city, the urban center sprawls in a way that is quite different from, say, New York City or from our familiar San Francisco. It seems like views of the architecture are a bit more opened and varied, and much more light seems to get down to street level. I’ve long been fascinated by close-in photographs of building details, especially when they include windows like these. When I look at them initially I see a big, sturdy building. But looking more closely I see that most of what I’m looking at is not-the-building, but instead is a series of reflections and reflections of reflections in the windows, and the whole structure starts to take on a more insubstantial quality.


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.

Two Men, Trafalgar Square

Two Men, Trafalgar Square
Two men sitting atop a public monument in Trafalgar Square, London

Two Men, Trafalgar Square. London, England. July 8 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Two men sitting atop a public monument in Trafalgar Square, London

The main appeal of Trafalgar Square for me, I think, was the people. The variety of visitors was surprising, including locals, international tourists, people just passing through, folks staking out a space in order to spend some time, and so forth. In many places the square contains crowds of people.

It seemed that these two fellows had discovered a way to find a small measure of solitude in this busy urban scene, namely to climb up on the monument and sit about the crowd.


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.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square
Tourists in Trafalgar Square, London

Trafalgar Square. London, England. July 8, 2013.© Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.

Tourists in Trafalgar Square, London

This is a late photograph post today. It was a busy weekend followed by a busy Monday, and I had no time to post this until evening. The photograph comes from our visit to London a couple of years ago. I’m intrigued by the ever-changing patterns formed by people moving through public spaces like this one. The photograph was made late on a haze afternoon, so the soft light mutes the shadows of the people engaged in activities including walking through the square, watching other people, making photographs, sitting, and more.


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.