Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Season of the night

That sounds like the title of a book, but for a night shooter, it is definitely a season of the night. It is always a good news – bad news season, meaning it’s great to shoot earlier in the evening, but it also means winter is on its way. So, in this area you take the good with the bad, and you search for targets and get out and shoot.

This season, there is an extensive list of do-overs. Reshooting some of the images taken in years past, albeit with much better equipment now. At some of the prior targets, the locations have undergone cosmetic changes, and shooting them once again allows for a comparison of the way “things used to be.” This part of the 2009-2010 season is not overly exciting, but documenting change should be done.

A month ago, I determined to shoot the hardscape waterfall at Mirabeau Park. It is a rather attractive area, and the falling water seems to be very popular with quite a few local people. In my evening spent at the waterfall, I had about thirty people watching throughout most of the process of painting the waterfall with light. I was a bit surprised by all of the watchers, but then again, watching someone shine red, blue, or amber and white light onto the adjacent structures must have been a tad unusual. It got so dark at this location, that the beams of light might have been all the people could see.

At Mirabeau, I wasn’t real happy with the paint job, and it will require another visit. First, it was so dark, that autofocus was useless. It was easily doable after shining a light onto the waterfall, as long as the light was amber, or white. The cameras would focus easily at that point. In switching to manual focus, the total darkness made it hard to focus on a specific point when using the mode for real time viewing on the back of the 40D. Viewing through the viewfinder was impossible in that darkness, and no headset or handheld flashlight that I used made much difference. After about twenty minutes of going back and forth, it became obvious that the best focus would be auto, and it would require white light on the waterfall. So, then it became a challenge to focus the camera, and keep the shutter half-way down, all the while you used a free hand to add a colored filter/lens to the Big Max flashlight, aim it and shine the colors onto the target. That took some doing, and that is one time I could have used a second person at the scene. So, next time out there I am going to invite at least one other photog out there so we can coordinate lights, camera, and action.

Then, there was the couple who somehow came up behind me in the darkness. I was busy doing the camera stuff, and they walked right up behind me, maybe two feet away. I never heard them because of the waterfall, and my eyes were on the colors I was shooting toward the water. The male asked me if I was going to sell any of the photos I had taken, and I literally jumped a foot off the surface. I am sure they had no idea they scared the hell out of me, since it was so dark out at that point. My headlamp was also on, so it likely blinded them a little when I turned around. They departed after some small talk, and I took a few minutes to settle down before I started trying to get back to the focusing issues.

I took about 200 images that night, with two cameras. One camera had an 11 – 18 wide angle lens, and the other used a 18 – 200. I felt comfortable with a fairly wide range at this site, and the choices of glass were fine. The only major glitch on this night was the total and absolute pitch black night. At many sites, I have at least some ambient light, but not on this occasion. The only lights in the neighborhood were lights that I brought with me, or wore on my forehead.

Although the standard practice of bracketing shots at varying shutter speeds was used; I just never got real happy with any of the blended shots. I did add one image using some blended shots, at 20-30 minutes after sunset.


A second image was added, at:


I’m not sure when Spokane County Parks will turn off the waterfall for the season, but I do plan on heading back out to this location for another after dark visit. Next time I’ll have to attack the night scene a little differently. If I only shot things in daylight, a second visit would not be required…..


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