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Colors Of Night; Hidden Details And Moods:
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In the past when we shot film, fluorescent lights and mercury vapor fixtures turned blue/green on film. The shot I took in Burma (#8) shows this. Digital technology has solved that issue, and now this kind of lighting is recorded as white light with no color bias.


In most latitudes, the amount of time you have to shoot during twilight is limited. As you travel closer to the Equator, the shorter this time becomes. In south Florida, for example, twilight photography may last 15 minutes, while in the summer in Alaska it could last for three hours. Once twilight passes, the rest of the time you’re taking pictures will be with a black sky, and this offers a stark contrast that in many instances is extremely effective.

The Christmas lights I shot at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville (#9) is an example, and so is the night picture I took in Rangoon, Burma (#10). If you are shooting in a large city, the mass of lights reflect off the clouds and the sky takes on an other-worldly look. You can see an example of this in the shot of the Cooper River Bridge in Charleston, South Carolina (#11). In this 16mm ultra wide angle shot, I included the moon as an interesting focal point because I liked the glow around it.




Note that the moon has no detail—that it’s entirely overexposed. The only way to get lunar detail in a picture with a much darker earth-bound foreground is to take two exposures. You shoot the moon with a daylight exposure (1⁄250 at f/8 with 100 ISO on Manual Exposure mode) and then you expose correctly for the foreground. You must then combine these two shots in Photoshop, and then you have the best of both worlds.

You can always depend on amusement parks and county fairs to provide great colors at night. The neon lights are dazzling, and when you use long exposures to capture the moving lights, the resulting pictures are a great deal of fun. I photographed a local county fair in Tennessee (#12) with a one second exposure from a tripod, and you can see how incredible the abstract colors are. In large cities where neon signs dominate the night (like Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and New York), you can also have a lot of fun. Don’t try doing this without a tripod, though, because at night, especially, it’s important to minimize digital noise by using a low ISO. I shot a sign on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles (#13), and after cloning out power lines the brilliant yellow and red neon colors look great together.



Photographing streaks of traffic is an old technique, and it produces a lot of cool images. A variation on this theme is to shoot trucks or buses that go by close to the camera position. They have lights at the top edge of the vehicles, and those streaks of light and color mix with the normal traffic lights to add complexity to the abstracts you’ll get. I used this technique on Lindau Island at Lake Constance, Germany. A ten second exposure captured a bus going through the narrow streets of the old village (#14).


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