Archive for October, 2012

The Romance of Nighttime Light

Friday, October 26th, 2012

During the winter of 2002 I was unemployed and spent a lot of time wandering around with my Leica M6 and a handful of Tri-X stuffed in my pocket.  One late February night was memorable because of its unseasonable warmth – it felt almost balmy.  Driving my pickup into downtown DC that night, I wandered around The Mall for a few hours.  I remember crouching down along the wall of the Vietnam Memorial for one shot, pointing back towards the only source of light in the scene – the Washington Monument.  Too dark to see the controls of my camera, I judged shutter speed by the unique sound Leica film cameras make as you drop south of 1/30 sec.  Less even than that, at 1/15 or 1/8 sec I understood the challenge.  Like a sniper working on a thousand-meter shot, I triggered several very careful, very slow frames.

Sometimes we’re rewarded with a bit of luck.  That image – a 16×20 – now hangs in my office.

Now, of course, with digital – and especially with the Monochrom – much higher iso’s make those low light challenges seem a bit quaint.  But what hasn’t changed is the luminescent quality that point-light scenes at night often offer.  It’s one of the things I most love about available light, nighttime photography.

© 2012 Jeff Hughes

Lincoln Memorial