Some more of my night photography. I went to Philadelphia for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day this year. I wanted to see the Mummers’ Day Parade on New Years Day, which is a uniquely Philadelphia tradition. The best way to describe it for those who’ve never been is to say that it’s a bit like a PG-13 Mardi Gras (it gets the PG-13 for the alcohol consumption and the occasional bawdy reference in some signage). I’ll post my photos of the parade later – I still have several rolls of negatives to scan, plus a couple hundred digital images to edit before that’s ready. I went out on New Year’s Eve to have dinner, and dragged the Rollei along with me because I had seen the lights in Franklin Square Park on my cab ride from the train station to my hotel. I also thought about trying to get photos of the fireworks with Independence Hall in the foreground, but the buildings between the Hall and the river where the fireworks launch are too tall and you can’t see them. But I got my good night shot of Independence Hall anyway, so that’s my lead-off photo for this post.
Archive for the ‘Night-time’ Category
This is looking West on G Street, across the street from the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum (they’re housed in the same building, the former US Patent Office, once the largest building in Washington, occupying an entire square block. Designed to be fireproof (although proven later due to budget cuts during construction to NOT be as fireproof as designed), it was home to Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball). If you saw photos of this street from 30 years ago you would barely recognize it – the entire neighborhood was in rough shape, and despite the museum’s presence, not a safe place to be. They wouldn’t let school groups wander beyond the museum – it was straight from the bus to the building, and back directly into the bus in those days. The whole neighborhood smelled of Eau de Homeless. Now, drinks at Zola are $10-15 each for bottom-shelf liquor, and dinner for two at Rosa Mexicano around the corner will routinely set you back $70-100.
As you can see, sitting on the steps of the Portrait Gallery is a popular pastime, although not as popular as it used to be amongst teenagers who used to congregate there in large numbers pretty much all year round. The downside was that they weren’t absorbing culture – they were there being teenagers, being rowdy and noisy, sometimes getting into fights, and other inappropriate behavior. So the museum installed speakers that play classical music. Beethoven, the ultimate teenager repellant!
More of my DC nightscapes- I was testing out the Fuji NPZ 800 that I had in my film inventory. A surprisingly good result from a film I’ve had sitting around again for the better part of a decade.
You can definitely see the grain in these images, but it’s nowhere near as pronounced as the grain in 400 speed 35mm film. It also handles mixed lighting pretty well, but it’s not Kodak Portra.
Oh, by the way, these were all hand-held. THAT’s why you shoot 800 speed film!
A few nighttime photos in the fog. I think these really captured the atmosphere of the evening. It had been warm in the daytime, then rained, and when the rain stopped, it was already dark, so we ended up with this cool fog. I wanted to capture that feel of the streets at night in the fog, and since I live somewhere very residential, I figured this was a pretty safe place to do it as there wouldn’t be much traffic to worry about if I stepped into the street for a four second exposure. All these were taken with my Rolleiflex, on expired Fuji NPH 400 film. The reason why I’m shooting all this expired film is not that I’ve got some kind of outdated film fetish, or that I’m a cheap-ass bastard and refuse to buy fresh film, but rather I’m just having fun experimenting and I don’t want to use “good” film on experimental stuff if I have some old film that nowadays is for all intents and purposes free but for the processing cost.
But what about the square, you say? Aren’t all Rollei photos square? Well, I do love square photos, and that’s one of the reasons why I love the Rollei so much. But there does come a time when you have to look at the photo and decide if a crop makes the image stronger. In all of these cases, the original square composition had too much something – too much sky, too much foreground, etc. So I cropped for more dynamic compositions that didn’t have so much dead space in them. I think these are much better.
Another image in that nighttime series. Palladium print, Bergger COT320 paper.
Here’s another of my 5×12 panoramics of Dupont Circle here in Washington DC. This was several exposures on the same negative, yielding an approximate minute and thirty seconds or thereabouts. We were printing from this negative in my Advanced Topics in Platinum/Palladium Printing class out at Photoworks Glen Echo this past weekend. The print I scanned for this image was printed on Bergger COT320 pre-treated with fumed silica. The fumed silica yields a definite boost in dmax.
The next print is of the same negative, but printed as a Ziatype. Ziatypes are a variation on palladium, but they use either Lithium Palladium or Cesium Palladium and Ammonium Ferric Oxalate instead, which yields a neutral-to-cool tone image more like platinum in color, and they are a printing-out process developed in water as opposed to a develop-out process that requires Potassium Oxalate or Ammonium Citrate as a developer.
The distinction between printing-out and developing-out, in addition to the chemistry variations, is the fact that a printing-out print’s final exposure is judged by visual inspection – what you see when you pull the print from the contact frame is pretty much what you’re going to get when it is washed, cleared, and dried, but a developing-out print will have some kind of ghost image that is anywhere from almost imperceptible to a partial rendition of the final image prior to development. Neither one is better than the other, except that the Ziatype is easier for beginners until they gain confidence in their coating and printing skills. Ziatypes also have a wide range of contrast controls that will also affect image color in addition to contrast.
The fresh noodles and Peking duck house on 6th Street, NW. I think someone needs to teach them about Windex, as the “OPEN” sign is fuzzy not from being out of focus in my composition but from the splattered duck fat on the window. And no, I’ve never eaten there to know if the food is any good or not. But if you’re lucky when you wander by you can watch them making traditional Chinese noodles in the window, stretching and re-folding the dough over and over and over again, then cutting the ends and BOOM! you’ve got all these separate strands of pasta.
I liked the juxtaposition of the empty sidewalk out front, the lone Prius in the parking lot next door, and the intimate diners in the window.
This one gets a cutesy title because there’s just something so post- and meta- and ironic and all that kind of stuff about having a sushi joint on the ground floor of Mary Surratt’s boarding house, where the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln was hatched. Don’t believe me? Read the plaque on the wall of the house, like the two time-blurred figures in the photo are doing. It’s a very odd vestige of what downtown Washington looked like in 1865, and despite what Robert Redford would have had you believe in “The Conspirator” (by filming in an albeit lesser mansion in Savannah, Georgia), evidence of the utterly middle-class lifestyle of Mary Surratt.
All the above images were shot with my Canham woodfield 5×7, using my Kodak 12″ Commercial Ektar, using Kodak Portra 160nc film.
Three more in my DC at night series. These were all shot with the Canham 5×7 wood field, and if memory serves, all were taken with the Kodak 12″ Commercial Ektar lens.
Here’s another in my DC at Night photos – the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Water Street, under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown. I was down there shooting some other scenes, trying to finish off my 5×7 color negative film stock (I bought a 50 sheet box when it was only $150 a box…now, over $400!!!!). This was taken with my 12″ Kodak Commercial Ektar lens. A roughly 30 second exposure. I was a bit nervous during the shoot as I was out in the rain, with a carbon-fiber tripod, and sheltering under a gigantic steel overpass. I think the lightning was a few miles away though, and nothing happened. I was a little bummed that none of the lightning recorded in the sky as anything other than general fog, but hey… the headlamps and tail lights of the cars recorded very nicely, don’t you think?
More fun with the Rolleiflex. All of this series was shot with Kodak Portra 160 NC, which is a fantastic film for night photography because of the way it handles color in mixed lighting conditions. In my opinion, it’s probably the best color film for this kind of shooting, ever. Others may disagree.