As a photographer, I’ve always been a big fan of shooting any city at night, especially Bellingham. It’s both a technical challenge and artistically rewarding. Just recently, though, I’ve started collecting images for a photo series on Bellingham at night. The hardest part so far is covering the ground on foot to find the shots and then managing to capture them without drawing too much attention — any photographer who’s wandered a city at night will tell you people are often uncomfortable with you photographing things they own, even if from a public street. I don’t mind discussing what I’m doing, either — but the few times I’ve been approached people are irate or angry right from the start and it’s hard not to become defensive.
It’s much harder to stay unnoticed when I use a pocket light or flash to fill the shadows, as well. A camera flash is pretty hard to ignore, especially if I’m shooting in a neighborhood. I usually start my nights of shooting in public parks — I can warm up my lighting skills without worrying about the flash attracting negative attention and then transition into the neighborhood with a fresh perspective on what each flash strobe will accomplish so I can get the shot and move on.
Another technique I will use, especially when I feel the flash will be too attention-drawing, is to gently paint the scene with a headlamp. It requires a finer touch to not get an uneven exposure, but it can work really well. With both flash and headlamp the trick is to not use too much additional fill light.
That said, my favorite shots that I’ve gotten so far almost always involve the moon and some fast-moving clouds. It can be tough to time visibility of the moon in this region for a majority of the year because of the weather, not to mention my mood or energy levels also! Just because I can see a bright, full moon doesn’t mean I always have the drive to go shoot it.
I’m planning to work together a series of about eight or ten of my favorite images over the next month or two and then have a showing for Bellingham’s Art Walk in my studio downstairs at Make.Shift Art Space. I’ve been there a few months now and what I’m discovering is the most fun is showing photos specifically of Bellingham and then discussing other people’s memories of the same place. I think these shots, out of the ordinary midnight views of very ordinary and familiar places, would be a great way to start a variety of conversations!
I’m hoping people can point me in the right direction for more good spots to shoot at night. The ideal situation usually involves interesting light fixtures, sweeping city views or historic houses or buildings. If anyone can point me in the direction of those I’d appreciate it!