August — A Year in Photographs / by Adrian Galli

The light of night, captured.

 Solo, Chicago, 8/17/2017

Solo, Chicago, 8/17/2017

It is a challenge to head out at night when you've been relaxing on the sofa for an hour or two, after work, after dinner, watching a movie, sipping on tea. But night is a favorite time for me to photography.

Shooting August entirely in black and white, I'm very fond of dark, high contrast, dramatic imagery; the night so easily provides. August is the only other month to be shot entirely in Black and White. January too, was all black and white but there were no other guidelines to my month's theme.

The other challenges to night photography are simply technical. Aperture, ISO, and shutter speed are all very important. If one's shutter is too slow, any minor movement of the camera produces motion blur in the image. If the shutter is too fast, the image is too dark.

With apertures, the wider the more light but also the shallower the depth of field resulting in challenging focus scenarios. Stopping down (smaller apertures) increases depth of field but reduces light.

ISO, on the other hand, boosts the light available but invariably adds noise to one's image. Sometimes noise is acceptable giving a gritty, street photography look. Other times, it simply muddies the image.

All of these are a careful balancing act. They are part of a triad of water buckets. As one fills up, the other two empty. Finding the right mix of volumes is important to get just the image one is looking to achieve.

A tripod is always welcome. This will allow for one to decrease shutter speed and use low ISO while also stopping down the aperture. The result can be very clear and sharp black and white images. The caveat, but possibly the goal, is motion blur of moving object. A favorite from this month is from August 1st where I setup my Olympus E-M5 with a 45mm lens on my tripod. Opening my window, a waited for a train to pass buy and captured the movement.

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At an f/8, ISO 200, -1 ev stop compensation, and a 1.6 second shutter, a very clear background of Chicago appears while the Brown Line train streaks through the frame.

A few other nights I used a long exposure but it does take a bit more effort. One must almost always use a tripod or other stabilization. However, occasionally, as with Run and Train, these were both handheld. Run, with an eerie, ghostly appeal, and Train, things moved quickly enough it  didn't matter. But if you look closely, you can see that the subject blur is achieved but also background.

 Run, Chicago, 8/30/2017

Run, Chicago, 8/30/2017

 Train, Chicago, 8/15/2017

Train, Chicago, 8/15/2017

I did not find this to bean issue but I am one to usually express great concern with how important the background is while other photographers are concerned with blurring the background to the extent it is nearly completely unrecognizable.

Tripods are one of the most valuable pieces of equipment a photographer can have but they are usually big and carrying one around every day for thirty-one days was not something I could pull off. However, the crafty and resourceful photographer finds other ways to stabilize. In Flight Path, I was in a position to just set the camera down on a ledge. And by ledge, I mean, five stories in high with nothing but the air between the camera and certain doom. 

 Flight Path, Chicago, 8/21/2017

Flight Path, Chicago, 8/21/2017

Photographers and filmmakers take risks all the time to get their shots. And while I have no real fear of heights, I can safely say I did fear for my camera. I had a death grip on the camera strap that would have squeeze the juice out of an apple. But (!), my camera survived to shoot another day (night)!

I thoroughly enjoyed August for night photography. Perhaps September would have been easier as the days are shorter but I overcame the couch potato in me to head out at night an explore the dark. I'm certain more night photography is in store for the rest of the year as part of other themes but for now, I move onward; a merging of photography with filmmaking with a theme rooted in cinematography.

Up next: SeptemberCinematic

The Thirty-one Nights of August