LO 2, 3, 4 Slow shutter speed, light

The Christmas at Kew event was the perfect event for painting with light and working with slow shutter speeds. The artificial light used to illuminate the trees at night, plus the light displays themselves, presented a number of challenges and opportunities. I experiemented with ‘painting with light’ on the slightly longer exposure. I used a tripod for almost every shot as exposures were several seconds long in each case. I also tried to use creatively the people walking past, eg in the mirror-ball snowman, were a person who at my request agreed to walk slowly in front of the camera created an impression of a ghostly image passing by.  The bottom image is a case of natural light shining through, the moon breaking briefly through the clouds to light up the autumn leaves, which on a long exposure looked beautiful.

There were many crowds, and it was important to observe the health and safety restrictions at Kew – staying behind barriers etc, being careful in the dark not to do anything that could put myself or others at risk while manoeuvring for a good shot. There is a lot of water at Kew that can be fallen into, and many things that can be walked into and fallen over in the dark. Also permission had to be negotiated with individuals who might appear in shot, or who were in the way of a shot. (Kew is a registered charity so it is not a public space where it is legal to take photographs of anyone without asking permission. In any case, it is considerate to ask permission.) Just walking around with a tripod meant taking care not to bang people on the legs or bodies in the dark and the crowds.

Although the working conditions here were very different, I was aware when shooting of the influence of the British photographer Jem Southam, and the night enhanced by artificial light I felt almost created some of the luminescence of his landscape photography, though naturally the moon did it best of all, unaided by our human artifice.  I had also learned from and was aware of being influenced by the work of German photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg, who manages to make the ordinary manmade light/dark contrasts in urban landscapes appear extraordinary by the use of intelligent composition.

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