Tag Archives: Rice Restaurant

Twilight Walkabout, Contax G2

A while ago a friend of mine asked me to shoot a roll of Tri-X through my Contax G2 so he could see how it performed in low-light situations, as he was thinking about getting one himself. I took a walk around my neighborhood one evening in the spring, put a roll through the camera, and these are some of the results.

One thing I notice about the shots I’ve been taking with the G2 is that my composition has been freer, less formal and less insistent on everything being nice, tidy, plumb and square. I’ve been shooting more off-angle shots and I don’t know if that’s because I’m shooting hand-held, eye-level, or because I’m trying out more ‘grab shots’ where the camera isn’t even really being brought to my eye, I’m just aiming and trusting the auto-focus. I know in the past I would have found a lot of these off-angle ‘grab shots’ objectionable and they’d have gone straight to the reject pile. But I’m reconsidering them now and I’m starting to like them. Well, maybe more appreciate them for what they are, and not reject them out of hand.

Etto Bistro
Etto Bistro

Cars at night are interesting. Depending on how you shoot them, they can be sharp, they can be blurred, or they can even disappear, leaving behind only the light trails of their head and tail lamps as proof they were once there.

The BMW was stopped fully at the traffic light when I started the exposure, but the SUV next to it was in the act of stopping, and the car turning onto 14th Street was in continuous motion.

BMW Convertible
BMW Convertible

Cars and people have to co-exist on city streets. Here a pedestrian follows a speeding car through the intersection, hoping to make the other side before the change of the light.

Le Diplomate, Twilight, Car
Le Diplomate, Twilight, Car

People in low light are a similar problem – they don’t ever really sit still. Combine that with needing to use large apertures with shallow depth of field in low light, and the requisite slow shutter speeds, and you have a recipe for blur. This was something else I used to always find objectionable; blurry people. Now, I think of it more as a sign of our humanity and our alive-ness.

Rice Restaurant, Interior
Rice Restaurant, Interior

This isn’t to say we always need to be in continuous motion – quiet contemplation in a sea of motion is often called for and a needed respite.

Sidewalk Patron, Rice
Sidewalk Patron, Rice

Architecture at twilight is in some ways easier to shoot because the subjects aren’t moving. But that still has challenges because the contrast range of dim exteriors and bright interiors, combined with hotspots from outside spot lights, can be just as difficult to balance.

Old Schoolhouse, 14th Street
Old Schoolhouse, 14th Street

The fun thing about these lighting situations, though, is that it sets up the viewer to make a psychological interrogation of the building- you are literally being pulled into the interior of the space to examine, investigate and interpret something illuminated from within that in daylight is muted if not hidden.

Bike Rack Store
Bike Rack Store

The Colors of Twilight in DC

This is an exploration of twilight into dusk in and around the 14th Street and U Street corridors in Northwest Washington DC. All these shots were taken in the same evening, and are within walking distance of one another (although in the name of time efficiency I drove from one area to the other so I wouldn’t lose the last light in the sky).

Nellies is a gay sports bar (betcha never thought you’d hear THAT particular combination!) at the corner of 9th and U Street and Florida Avenue (U Street turns into Florida Avenue at 9th). I’ve driven by hundreds of times and always thought about photographing their lights, specifically the “OPEN” arrow on the corner. The night I started this project, I decided to shoot the building from two different angles, one to capture the general ambiance of the intersection, the other to specifically address the OPEN sign.

Nellies Sports Bar, From Florida Avenue
Nellies Sports Bar, From Florida Avenue
Nellies Sports Bar, From 9th Street
Nellies Sports Bar, From 9th Street

Around the corner from Nellies is this abandoned warehouse which has some really wild and cool and somewhat disturbing graffiti on it. I shot some of this graffiti through the chain link fence around the side lot. The disturbing piece I intentionally cropped out of the shot, as it is the nude lower half of a female body that appears to have been severed from its torso.

Graffiti, Chain Link Fence, Twilight
Graffiti, Chain Link Fence, Twilight

Over on 14th Street, we have had an explosion of new restaurants in the last five years, with a huge spate in the last year alone. Rice Restuarant is arguably the best Thai restaurant in DC, and certainly the most innovative. A good friend of mine opened it gosh, maybe ten years ago, virtually pioneering the restaurant boom in the neighborhood. Now next door to Rice is Ghibellina, an Italian joint that opened this year, and next door to that is Pearl Dive, an oyster bar, which opened perhaps 2 years ago. Le Diplomate is a French bistro across the street in what was originally a car dealership in the 1920s, then became a laundromat. Le Diplomate also opened earlier this year.

Ghibellina
Ghibellina
Le Diplomate
Le Diplomate
Rice Restaurant
Rice Restaurant

At the intersection of 14th and Q Streets, I pointed my camera south on 14th to try and capture the energy of the neighborhood, through the traffic, the lights, the construction boom represented by the crane, and the people on the sidewalks.

Crane, 14th Street, Twilight
Crane, 14th Street, Twilight

Here is a second version of the shot, a longer exposure, that captures the car sitting at the traffic light, then traffic taking off when the light changed. The funky stuff in the sky is a combination of reflections of the tail-lights and head-lights of the cars reflecting off the clouds and lens flare caused by the lights directly shining into the lens.

Crane, Traffic, 14th Street, Dusk
Crane, Traffic, 14th Street, Dusk

I’m not sure if I like this one well enough to keep it or if some other night I go back and try to re-shoot it. Feedback welcomed. All shots, as is becoming normal to say now, were taken with my Rolleiflex 2.8E, on Kodak Ektar 100 film. This was in part an experiment to see how well Ektar would fare against Portra 160 as a low-light film. I’ve loved Portra as a low-light film for its ability to handle mixed lighting conditions. I’d say this put to rest any thoughts of Ektar 100 being inferior- it does look different, to be sure, but I’d say it did a pretty darned good job. I think I might even prefer it in some cases.