Tuesday, September 29, 2009

There's daylight at Spokane Night Scenes

This summer, there have been a number of daylight "excuses,"to capture some colorful photographs. One of the "excuses," was the Annual PoW Wow in Spokane's Riverfront Park. This was a great source of color in 2008, and in 2009 the Pow Wow easily surpassed the moment this year.

I have installed a flash slide program of assorted Pow Wow images, online: This is a LARGE Flash program, and it is designed for those visitors who have high-speed, or broadband internet connections.


One other daylight project this summer, was the Gallery display of very large color prints (24 X 36, and 20 X 30) at the Liberty Theater in Toppenish, Washington. Known for it's historic murals all over town, it was fun to display down there. I had a chance to speak with local photography Pro's and that was a blast.

Then I got a chance to setup at Unity In The Community this year, at Riverfront Park. My daughter Erin Gibson was able to display her pencil Art with me, both at The Liberty Theater in Toppenish, as well as the booth setup in Riverfront Park here in Spokane. Her art is available at:


Lets face it, I am a night shooter. Yet, once in a while doing some things in daylight can be classified as fun (more or less). This weekend I had a chance to complete a community service project for the Friends of the Falls (FOF) in their Spokane River Cleanup event. I shot about 450 images this weekend, and I edited about 75 of those for FOF to use online and in their ongoing efforts with the Spokane River. One of the Spokane City Council members asked for a number of my FOF images from this weekend, and he displayed those at the City Council Meeting held last night at Spokane's City Hall.

I have a feeling that the images from this years event will be used by a few other non profit groups locally, since many were involved in the work on the banks of the Spokane River this year.


Shadle Aquatic Center sculpture, Spokane, Washington

Last week, one of the News releases I got from the City of Spokane, listed about 6-7 art objects, which either had been, or would be, installed around Spokane. Seemed to me an opportunity to try and capture these art objects, if possible, after dark. I emailed my contact at City Parks, and they were informed of the effort, in case any of the images could be helpful to Spokane Parks.

The first visit was to the Shadle Aquatic Center, on West Wellesley. This art (sculpture), contained three ten foot tall objects, standing side by side. The surfaces of the sculptures were fairly shiny, so it appeared that this would actually help reflect any projected light from a colored flashlight lens. Bad news was, that almost directly overhead was a high-pressure sodium streetlight. It totally bathed the entire area in orange light, and it so overwhelmed the color schemes, I thought the project might be doomed from the start.

Each of the parts of the sculpture were bathed in a different color light, although I was unable to use amber because of the streetlight. I used regular white light on the center of the sculpture, although it turned to gold because of the streetlight. Red was fairly consistent with the actual colors used, and blue was almost totally eaten up by the direct light from above (streetlight).

Putting all of the bracketed images on the computer screen the next day, gave me some hope that I could make my way out of the mess created by the streetlight. One way was to create a layer of totally desaturated color. That layer became black and white, and it eliminated all of the intense color from the streetlight on the surroundings. I was able to add additional layers for the colored objects in the sculpture, and as a result I got rid of the streetlight impact on the area, and was able to display the colors used on each part of the sculpture.

Sometimes this night stuff cam drive you crazy, but if you don't get in a hurry, and the tripod gives you a very stable platform, you can just keep shooting as you make the adjustments at the scene.



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…..