Walking in the city with a camera provides incentive to be observant. While living in Manhattan in the 1980’s , I was pursuing a different career. Rarely did I carry a camera back then. I was not a photographer. I was an actor running to auditions, meetings or classes, moving from point A to point B in efforts to secure work. I was visually aware of my surroundings but my purpose was not to preserve the daily sites with a camera or any other creative tool. Revisiting, years later as a tourist, is exciting. I see the city in a different way, and now I carry a camera!
Evening is my favorite time to shoot in urban landscapes.
My setup for low light , motion photography (i’m moving as well as my subject), is ISO 3200, shutter speed 250th of a second and my f stop is f 5.6 (or lower). Basically, unless I take the time and steady the camera for a set up “landscape” shot, my priority is to pay attention to motion control- getting the shot without motion blur. I am shooting from the hip in a quiet, disguised style, trying to capture unposed life, as it is.
I often shoot through windows of barber shops, cafes, coffee shops, bars or retail stores. If something or someone catches my eye, I quickly raise my camera, keeping my right thumb on the back focus button and aim it toward my subject. Below is an image I like. (I just noticed a faint reflection of myself in the window!)
As dusk evolved into the darkness of night, the cobalt blue of the sky was replaced by an ink black sky. This backdrop visually lends itself to exposing the beauty of color and signage.
Walking out into the street of any large city, day or night, yields a buffet of visual delights. I find it exciting, revealing, surprising, invigorating and life affirming. Color and shape emerge in brilliance during the evening hours as storefront signs are illuminated and directional street lighting create exciting scenes around every corner. Camera’s ISO’s are so sensitive in this modern day, that hand holding the camera at night produces good results. Having said that, securing a camera on a tripod produces better results with more creative options, as seen in the image below. I used a tripod resulting in motion blur only on moving objects. Stationary objects remain clear.
As a side note, reflecting back on the trajectory of a career, in my opinion, the components that signify success are the sum of life experience, awareness, open mindedness, passion, mentors, confidence and faith, (not in any order). Plans change. Focus and energy shift from one career path to another and this cannot happen if attention and openness to signals are not attended to during times of uncertainty. I mention this as I contemplate my visits now as commercial advertising photographer, in contrast to why I moved there many years ago. Regardless, then and now, the allure of New York at night has always held visual interest for me. Cameras are much better for night shooting than ever before. It’s a good time to carry a camera in a city at night.