Let Me Take You Back...
Cast your mind back to April 2013…
What were you up to?
The Boston Marathon was horrifically bombed, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher passed away and Manchester United were (annoyingly!) cruising to the Premier League title.
I’d just become the proud owner of a second-hand Canon 600D, inspired by some beautiful landscapes a friend of mine had shot on a road trip up the Western Australian coast. Till then, I’d never been particularly interested in photography, despite hazy happy memories of messing around with my dad’s old Pentax SLRs back in the day. After receiving a helpful idiot’s-guide tutorial on camera settings from the guy selling me the camera, I set off without any real clue what I was doing or what exactly I wanted to shoot. I knew I didn’t want to shoot landscapes, despite the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me as a resident of Perth, WA, at the time.
I wanted to shoot at night.
I couldn’t really explain why. “Everything just seems more interesting at night” I’d say to anyone who’d listen…which was basically nobody! So, after convincing my landscape-shooting friend to join me I headed out one Friday evening to take some photos.
I came home with this:
Taken on April 19th 2013
Welcome To A New World Of Night Photography
Shot handheld on auto, standing as still as I could manage, I was chuffed with it. Something about it really excited me. Even now, three years on, this photo makes me smile. There’s a tingle of excitement remembering that moment when a whole new world slowly takes nascent form in front of your eyes, encapsulated perfectly by this image.
I was absolutely hooked and dived head-first into this new pursuit. Like stumbling out of the desert and happening upon an unmanned lemonade kiosk I was voracious, thirstily devouring every bit of information about photography I could find: exposures (the triangle, the triangle!!), composition, lenses etc. Having been introduced to Flickr I’d spend hours every day viewing hundreds of photographs, trying to decipher what made an image interesting and why things worked (or didn’t), as I slowly came to understand what resonated with my own aesthetic sensibilities.
I kept shooting whenever and wherever I could, day and night. The night though always brought the best out of me, my synapses seeming to fire in rhythm to the flicker of the street lights. Within a couple of weeks I felt ready to escape the shackles of auto mode and started experimenting in manual:
Taken on May 7th 2013
You're Not Alone: Night Photographers To Inspire
Round about this time, wondering if there was anyone else out there who might be interested in night photography, I came across the incredible work of Wayne Grivell
Based in Adelaide, his predominantly urban night scenes always masterfully composed and lit, just blew my mind. This was what was possible!
Unley Noir - Wayne Grivell
What I’d mistakenly thought was an interest peculiar to me was in fact a well-established discipline with skilled practitioners producing art - beautiful, incredible art - and this was exhilarating.
I discovered more photographers whose work captured my imagination and inspired me, such as Sydney-based photographer Lynn Smith
Quadrants of Light - Lynn Smith
Coming across the work of these two artists, both producing beautiful night images on the same Australian streets I was increasingly starting to fall in love with, was key. Their work transcended the banal in the urban environment, showing us beauty at every turn. They were doing something I enjoyed, at a level I could only dream of, and it gave me something to aspire to. Maybe one day I could produce images like theirs.
So following their lead, and that of other photographers such as Troy Paiva, I kept at it.
I continued consuming images and seeking advice from other photographers about technique. I was desperate to find anything that could help me get closer to replicating the images I loved or allow me to create the pictures that I was increasingly starting to visualise in my mind's eye.
If a few days passed without being able to get out with the camera I'd get the jitters. I’d also now started waking up in the early hours of the morning so I could shoot when the streets were quietest...
Taken on May 25th 2013
Just over a month had passed since I’d started dabbling with night photography and already I was an addict.
Three years later and I’m yet to make it to rehab...
Everything Interesting Happens At Night
The title of this blog sums up how I feel about night photography. There's so much beauty to be captured at night, from awe-inspiring images made in remote places using incredibly long exposures and spectacular star trails, to the sublime that arises from the mundane as night falls in the urban environment.
Everything's just more interesting at night! That's why it's so easy to fall in love with night photography. Things that hardly attract a second look during the day can take on a fascinating appearance at night, as the streets disclose their secrets and what was hidden is now seen clearly, or just differently. And if as a photographer you’re able to present familiar things in a different way you’re well on the way to creating art.
I’ve been on a journey of discovery in night photography since 2013 and I'd love to share some of the lessons learned, with you, on this blog. I’ll also be bringing you the insights of some great night photographers whose passion and creativity continues to inspire me, as well as highlighting useful resources that can help you find your way in the dark (copyright Keimig!).
I always advocate that one of the best ways to learn night photography is to just get out and do it. So until next time, I encourage you to get out there, have fun and take some photos...and don't forget to keep it interesting!