Saturday, 8 December 2012

Exercise 35 : Outdoors at night

The objective here is to explore the variety of lighting effects and colours in artificial light at night.  The recommendation was to use a city location for these images, but I took a different option and looked at a variety of situations built around what I was able to shoot on a couple of recent work trips to sites in Germany and Switzerland.  As I was on the move I took all the images with the Canon G1X rather than the usual 5DMkii for ease of transportation.  The locations suggested were floodlit buildings, brightly lit store fronts, large interiors and elevated views of roads where light trails could be captured.  The last of these has not been done at the time of writing and this will be added over Christmas when I hope to get some time to stand around on a motorway bridge in the dark for a while!

As I took these images whilst travelling I did not have the option of a tripod, so either used a remote release with the camera propped on a suitable surface or increased the ISO setting and shot with the largest aperture to get a sensible shutter speed.  The G1X gives good image quality at up to ISO1600 at least and the zoom lens goes to f/2.8 at the widest angle, so sensible shutter speeds of at least 1/40sec were maintained throughout.

The first shots of interior spaces were taken at my second home of Heathrow Terminal 5 and shows bored people waiting for action.  However, as far as lighting goes, the curved structural beams in the roof are lit along their complete length by separate spotlights and obviously there is light from the shops, signs and even a seasonal Christmas tree to complete a scene of mixed light sources and colours.  The second shot was chosen because of the variety of different light types including the neon sign, the departures board and the LED lights that illuminate the cunningly crafted fishbone that runs round the sushi bar.  This shot contained quite a variety of different colours and I felt worked well against the darkness of the roof.
Interior lighting 1
Interior lighting 2

I took a third shot of a building where I work and went for an elevated position looking down into the body of the seating space.  The large fluorescent doughnut lights dominate the scene and make an interesting contrast with the circular and rectangular tables below which they cause to be illuminated with a very flat light.  I really liked this image because of the shapes more than the lighting.
Interior lighting 3

The first of my floodlit examples is of Brighton pier and is a shot I took during the OCA study visit to the Biennial a couple of months ago.  The camera was placed on a bench and the timer used to get a stable shot, although the very strong wind vibration has compromised image quality a little due to the 10 second shutter speed.  My second floodlit shot depicts an old church in the town of Bad Sackingen in Germany and provides an example of where a building is floodlit by lights that are out of view (this is specified in the course notes).  The lights are obviously at the bottom of the front elevation of the building and the light fall off is clear as you look up, but the two golden orbs on top of the towers are picked out as they are actually separately lit by spotlights from the roof of a neighbouring hotel.  The tungsten lights on the Christmas tree complement the lighting of the church itself and the whole photograph is reproduced as the lighting really was and imparts a warm glow to the brickwork and sharp definition against the night sky.  The final shot of external floodlighting is a small hotel, also in Germany, and I selected this because of the mixed tungsten and fluorescent lighting inside, coupled with the influence of the floodlights which are obscured behind the shrubs.  I liked the warmth of the scene as well as the reflections picked out in the wet cobbles and on the row of parked cars to the right.
Exterior lighting 1
Exterior lighting 2
Exterior lighting 3

Shop were an interesting subject as there is far less lighting around than I thought there would be when I set out to do this.  There is much muted lighting, but little of the bright lights I was expecting to find (maybe I don’t go shopping at night often enough !).   Marks and Spencer and John Lewis provide two of the shots and the other pair was taken around Halloween.  Shop fronts in shopping centres were certainly more brightly lit but were also subject to various photographic restrictions, so I settled for the outside high street shops where I could just shoot from the road.  What did strike me about the shop shots was that the lighting strategies were not only quite muted as I said before, but also that lighting sources were mostly well concealed.
Shop front 1
Shop front 2
Shop front 3
Shop front 4

This exercise took some while to complete and I still need to photograph some car light trails if I get the opportunity.  I deliberately went for as wide a range of lighting scenarios as I could and was pleasantly surprise by the outcome given that I was in the territory of some more extreme camera settings than I have usually experienced in the past.  There were many opportunities to capture various lights and colours and I will certainly hope to expand on some images of this type in the future as I need to get away from my obsession with natural light and putting the camera away as soon as it gets dark!


  1. Well-covered I think. Please don't stan on a motorway bridge on Christmas Day though Dave - that would be taking dedication too far!

  2. Probably not a good idea - might give folks the wrong idea too!