Night Shots, Seattle and Boston
Walking with the camera at night forces me to slow down my pace to a shuffle. I feel more contemplative. I have to pay attention to everything. Not just technically, but with my surroundings. Night is an unfamiliar territory for me. I do it, but not enough to feel comfortable. So I've got to pay attention, be present. Notice the details.
The evening activity on Aurora Avenue North, a major thoroughfare that runs north and south through Seattle, is one place I go. There is usually enough car traffic that I don't feel isolated in long and dark empty stretches of roadway, and in normal, non-Covid times, there are plenty of people walking the street to make things interesting.
Aurora also has E-Line Express bus that passes by every 15 minutes. A two-second shutter on this Siam Bistro shot gave the bus enough time to pass by and create those horizontals above and below the bus windows. I've got hundreds of shots of the E-Line. There is no better bus for night shooting in Seattle.
A 1/3 second shutter, my thinking went, would give the impression of ethereal beings loitering around the Psychic storefront. I have a ton of problems with this photograph. I regret not re-taking it while the snow was still on the ground. But I play at night. My night play doesn't usually result in anything I can share, but it can give me photographs that I like for other reasons. This picture reminds me of that evening, which I think is a fine reason to keep it around.
In early April, at the height of the pandemic shutdown, I wanted to capture the Seattle's night club scene on a Saturday night. I stood in place on a median strip across from the Central Tavern -- a bar surrounded by bars an both sides -- for nearly 20 minutes before someone finally walked by.
Just as my adrenaline peaked and I was about to snap the shutter, one of the few cars that drove through the Pioneer Square that night cut my shot off. You learn to live with what you can't rise above, as the song says.
I also love what night and neon do to brick.
Out of my travels, my night shooting in Boston's Chinatown in the summer of 2019 is the one I think about the most. Everything about the stay was perfect for what I wanted. I bedded down in the middle of Chinatown. I had meetings all day, so the only time I could shoot was in the evening. Night time was my introduction to Chinatown.
I got mesmerized by this street cleaner. I've since developed a thing for street cleaners at night. Their loud, vibrating power washers soften everything the water blast touches at night and brings a soft, glowing light across the frame.
These Seattle street cleaners are city workers cleaning a pedestrian pavilion near the International District. They seem more biotech than maintenance.
Back in Boston's Chinatown, this is a picture I probably shouldn't have taken. I set my camera on its mono-pod five yards inside an alleyway -- enough distance to frame the image with the building walls but still be able to catch someone passing by.
Then for twenty minutes or so I shot the random cars and passersby. This guy and his friend were not so happy with that set up. I didn't blame him for not trusting my intentions. It was almost midnight.
This was taken outside the entrance to my Chinatown AirBnB. The place was advertised as a "Beautiful Apartment for 4 with a Stunning View." Every piece of tech we're using today will one day be as useful as this phone.
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