Night Photography in Winter

 Evening, Melbourne Skyline and Yarra River from Southbank

Evening, Melbourne Skyline and Yarra River from Southbank

Evening, Melbourne skyline and Yarra River from Southbank. Canon 5D camera and Canon 24mm f1.5 L series lens, 1/4 second @ f1.4.

This photo goes back a few years. It was made on a rainy night in Melbourne, Australia looking across the Yarra River from Southbank towards the city. It's a straightforward image that records the low hanging clouds, illuminated by the city lights, the neon lit train carriageway and the reflections on the river.

The Moment Between Events

But there's something special about night photography. It's an eerie time of day, to be sure. Perhaps it's the sense of quiet, the moment between events, that allows the enthusiastic photographer to more completely immerse themselves into their work. No doubt there's an ethereal quality associated with city lights. A quality that's often amplified when working under inclement weather. It's amazing how the extra moisture in the air is effected by the city lights.

But there's other factors that affect the sense of quiet and stillness within the image. For a start there's usually a lot less people in the city at night compared to the hustle and bustle associated with normal daytime activity.

White Reveals, Black Conceals

The only reason we can differential one note from another in music is because of the space (e.g. silence) between those notes. Theres's an important rule in digital photography which states white reveals, black conceals (e.g. hides). In the case of photography it's the surrounding darkness that both adds a sense of mystery, by hiding some potential image detail and, at the same time, enhances the perceived luminosity of adjacent brighter areas within the image.

Have no doubt that black effects the perceived brightness as well as the actual contrast of an image. If you want your photos to jump of the screen or print consider the relationship between important highlight and shadow areas within the image. And that's as important when composing the image, in camera, as it is working on the desktop.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru