paris, rue montorgueil

after the magic hour

rue montorgueil | after the magic hour

i don’t usually talk about camera equipment or technique regarding my photos, but this was a bit special to me. so please forgive my indulgence.

i’m old school, by which i mean that i was trained in photomechanical-chemical photography, using film, development tanks and darkrooms. i’ve also been interested in night photography for as long as i’ve been taking photographs ‘seriously’. night photography has always been technically restrictive. there used to be several approaches, all of which had their constraints and flaws. none was fully satisfactory. you could flash, but that advertises your presence aggressively, and looks like flash. if that’s what you want then fine, but i didn’t. then there are ‘fast’ films. the fastest film i remember using was something called ‘kodak recording film’. kodak rated it at 3200 iso (‘asa’ as it was known then) — pretty poor by comparison with today’s digital cameras. a monochrome film, it had its own aesthetic, like film noir from the late 1940s. all high contrast, lost shadows and very grainy. again, if that’s what you were after very good. for fast colour film there used to be a film called GAF 500 (if my memory serves) beautiful muted colours, and again softened by a very grainy emulsion.


but now i think i’ve found my holy grail for night photography. there may be better cameras out there, and digital technology is improving constantly, so i may be laughing at this in a year or two, but i now use a nikon d750 which has a remarkable capability in low light, operating at high ISO rating and producing remarkably little noise even at the upper end of the settings which is 51,000i ISO. for these shots i changed my camera program. generally i use manual settings religiously, unless i’m shooting in a hurry — rarely — here i used the camera in aperture priority mode, with auto ISO capped at 12,800, and with a minimum shutter speed selected at 1/60th second to avoid camera shake. another problem with night photography on auto settings is that the camera tends to average out the tonal values for an arbitrary evenly lit daylight scene. night photography involves imaging very high contrast points of light against large picture areas. the auto setting tends to produce images which are badly over-exposed. i compensated for this by under-exposing by up to 2, 2.5 stops.

now that’s enough techno-babble.

click on the pictures.

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