•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rainy Night, Lunenburg


PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL - My intention was to wake before dawn and shoot in the early light. I'd set my alarm and closed my eyes early. That had been my habit whenever possible in my travels. It had never been my habit to wake at 2 AM to go out shooting in thunderstorms. I'd barely napped, but if the rain persisted, sunrise wouldn't be worth shooting anyhow, and I was out the door.

The truth is that after I took the photo on yesterday's blog, later that night, Lunenburg was watered down by a drenching rain. We were all in the common room working on our final assignments, and reluctantly I decided not to go out. I was deep in preparation, but the missed opportunity nagged at me. I was hoping there would be one more big storm. Be careful what you wish for. I didn't expect it then.

I've had several inquiries following the last two images wondering if they were HDR or what special techniques were used. In fact, I did nothing special unless using a tripod constitutes, "special." In fact if all you have is a point and shoot, you could have rested it on the hood of a car and taken this shot or yesterdays. If there is a trick, it is in learning to see places where surfaces reflecting a bit of light will glow under a long exposure. The shutter speed for this shot was 102 seconds but that let me keep a deep focus. The aperture was f22. I thank Neal Parent for pushing me to explore low light photography.

As my camera will only time exposures to 30 seconds, I carry a timer, but I've found that I can come pretty close counting in my head. Since there's only a stop of light difference between 45 seconds and 90 seconds, being off by 5 seconds in my timing means I'm off by less than a tenth of a stop - insignificant. Besides, there is a certain amount of guesswork in a shot like this. I know I will have to blow out the highlights in the street lights. The question is, by how much? One can only experiment. Digital makes that easy as feedback is immediate.

I should add there is a special time in the evening or at dawn when the sky is bright enough to illuminate exterior surfaces, but not so bright as to drown out the lights behind the windows. Yesterday's image was made at that special time as was New England Farmhouse.

I often worry about the redundancy of images. If two images are redundant, it seems to me neither has quite made its point. I was puzzled by this pair until one of my workshop colleagues suggested this might work best as a monochrome. I think she was right.