I’ve always enjoyed night photography, especially on a weekend in Dunedin. Within a couple of hours, I can take in the tranquility of the peninsula, or the bustle of the bars in the city centre. Being someone who enjoys standing around in wind-whipped fields late at night to take pictures of the scenery, I often skip the city centre.
To mix things up, I set myself the challenge of photographing both the urban areas, and the peninsula, all in one night. Without further ado, here come the fruits of my labour.
It’s deathly silent at night on the Otago Peninsula. Besides the odd motorist, possum, or person ambling across a mudflat by torchlight, there are few signs of life. It does get rather cold, especially with a breeze. Surprisingly, though, the temperature seemed to increase a little the longer I stayed out.
It’s quite a different view at night: the lights of the shipping channel snake through satin sheen of the harbour, whose outline is picked out by the golden glow of civilisation arounds its fringes. It’s a nice change from the greens and blues that permeate the daytime view.
I normally pass the time during long exposures by stargazing. The peninsula is great for this, even though there is sometimes (especially on an overcast night) a little spillover pollution from the city. On the flipside, light pollution does add a bit of warmth to a scene.
I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a series of light trails in the city for a few months now. During the week, I decided to see what would happen if I rotated my phone cradle, so that the lens faced out the windscreen. The results were promising, so I thought: if I can do it with a phone, why not with a camera?
After realising I didn’t have a suitable camera mount, I settled on jury-rigging the PEN Mini into the cellphone holder. Thanks to the Flipbac grip that has continually fallen off since Cambodia over the summer, I was able to prop the camera up so that I had a level horizon. To take the pictures while driving, I used my remote release, set the focus to approximately 100 m in front of the car, and closed the aperture down to f/8.
While this was purely an experiment to see if mounting in a moving car at a slow speed would work, I’m pretty happy with the results. Thanks to our pockmarked road surfaces, there’s a wave-like pattern to all of the light trails, which I think adds a bit of dynamism, and gives the photos some life.
The one thing I’m unhappy about is forgetting that I was shooting through (dirty) glass at an angle. But, that’s a simply a lesson for next time: use a polarising filter, and open the aperture up a couple of stops (which implies I’ll also need to add an ND filter).
Night shooting has always been something I do to relax: find somewhere quiet, trip the shutter, have a cup of tea, do some stargazing, and wait for the exposure to finish. Shooting within the city was surprisingly enjoyable, too; although, using a remote, while sitting inside a heated steel box, does seem somewhat lazier and less adventurous.
Overall, though, I’m satisfied that I fulfilled the challenge I set myself, even if it overflowed from the night I started and spilled into the small hours of the next morning. Much like writing this post, actually. I should probably go to bed now.