This is not a "gallery." These are not meant to be "portfolio pieces." You are not encouraged to be impressed or wowed or motivated to express a "like." These are casual experiments I made yesterday evening because I wanted to see what would happen when I used a certain camera and lens in a certain way. The results tell me things about a process that I knew intellectually but wanted to see for myself.
I've been experimenting with photographic techniques for 35 years but it was almost always in order to be better prepared for an upcoming commercial job. A client might ask for images that can only be made by using a flash in a soft box against a big, bright sun. I could know the steps that I was supposed to take, from research and reading, to get the image we might have all had in mind but more often than not I'd be uncomfortable until I was able to go out before the day of the shoot and try the actual set-up myself. I wanted to see where the process could break down or become difficult and have enough time elapsing between the test and the shoot to make adjustments. To lock down the process. To make my mistakes in private instead of in front of a client.
I've never been asked to shoot buildings and street scenes at night. But I've been photographing some late evening and twilight cityscapes recently and wondered how things would look after the last of the sunlight was gone and most of the scenes were lit with the street lights and building lights of downtown. I also wondered how a camera like the Sigma fp would handle these kinds of situations.
I left the house around 5:15 pm and went to the river that runs through town. I hiked over the bridge and into a very familiar downtown carrying, for the first time on a fun walk, a small tripod and my camera with a relatively new lens on it. The tripod was a featherlight Benro carbon fiber model (TSL08C) which comes with a small bullhead on it. When I say it's "featherlight" I'm not using hyperbole; it weighs in at less than the camera and lens. The trade-off is that the tripod only extends to about my upper chest level.
I walked around with my Sigma fp + Lumix 20mm-60mm lens on top of the tripod and stopped to make photos of stuff just to see how it would look with 2 or 8 or 12 second exposures. I also wanted to see how well the "fill light" control, offered on the camera, actually worked. I wanted to know which color balance was best to match what my eyes see in the canyon of buildings after the sun goes away.
I shot a hundred or so images. Some were abject failures and I can now say that I have a better understanding of the extreme dynamic range between black shadows and a spotlit door. I can also see how important it is to do this work on a tripod. Most of you know these things. Or at least you have read "how to" do them. I read the same stuff. But actually working in the dark and trying to find settings by touch and trying to lock focus on a shadowy building exterior with no convenient edges was a part of the process I often overlooked or discounted in my reading. Having to to it in real life was a quick bit of education.
Seeing the final images was a lesson in instant humility. I had to come to grips with the fact that I am not a practiced urban landscape photographer. I am not an experienced low light photographer; at least not on this level. But the real satori I had is that after the excitement of darkness and solitude in the streets wears off I had the realization that stuff doesn't get more interesting just because the light goes away.
In the future I'll try to make better choices of subject matter before I repeat the exercise. I need to find willing human subjects with which to add a spark of life to the images. Better still if the humans have something interesting to do while we photograph.
One thing about doing these experiments in the winter... I have an hour or two of low-to-no light before I have to be home to join the family for dinner. It's fun to play in the free time. It's interesting to see where an image or a technique breaks down in a given lighting situation. So much depends on light.
Again with the mirrors? Come on...