Assignment 4: Urban

Campus | Water | Vineyards (well, OK, mountains) | Urban

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(Yet another non-graphical-browser surprise treat) f/3.5; 80 sec.

One of the great aspects about night photography is that you see the world in an entirely different way after the pictures develop. The naked eye can't perceive the streaks of light that make up this photograph. The naked eye, on the thin-mooned night I took the photo, couldn't distinguish the windmills from the sky behind them. Time changes all that.

How do you know how long to take a picture for? Really, you don't. There's some clue in the film's speed, and you can find general guidelines in photography books. Experience, however, is key.

One big secret is to bracket in exponential gaps -- an 80-second exposure is only one stop lighter than a 30-second one! In general, though, for any speed film you can buy in a store, you should be able to get pictures in the span of a few seconds to minutes (with the aperture wide open).

(Photography haiku!) f/5.6; 8 sec.

I packed up my bags and moved down the road, taking this from an overpass at the Patterson Pass exit of I-205. It was cold that night and I was underdressed. The sacrifices people make for good photographs.

I took six exposures at this site, waiting there a total length of perhaps 20 minutes. At least none of the passing truckers sideswiped my tripod along the way.

What equipment do I need for night photography? At the very least:

(Waiting in darkness) f/16; 120 sec.

The short exposure times of the first set of Patterson Pass brackets meant that I wasn't getting a comprehensive effect of steady traffic going both directions. A longer exposure allowed me to even out the picture by catching the headlights from many cars.

F-16 at night? Isn't that a tiny aperture? Yes. Knowing that I had the previous picture's exposure close to correct, I made a spot calculation. I wanted at least a minute or two of traffic -- and to maintain the same exposure as the 8-second picture I had to close the aperture to compensate. Frankly, I like this effect better, so don't limit yourself to large apertures just because light is low.

(Shivering, gathering light) f/8; 4 sec [red] and 8 sec [green]. (That my eyes can't see)

Since this was an urban assignment, I decided to shift my focus to the city streets. Although the sheer rivers of light generated by highways at night are impressive, the vast artificial illumination of the city can be even more so.

Not that Tracy is a terribly large city, but hey, you work with what you've got.

Are you ever going to post any more photos? These four assignments were all I ever took for the class, but I certainly do enough photography work on my own. If there's enough demand I'll keep posting the best of my efforts!

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