A shot in the dark – photo competition

THE NIGHT is a magical time to be out with a camera and can becomes a creative opportunity to immerse yourself in a surreal world, out of reach of your own eyes.

The compression of time in a long exposure photograph – the trails of light crafted in the fourth dimension has forever been captivating to me, especially since picking up an SLR camera in 2006. As a night photographer, I grew from shooting any interesting scenes I could find around Emmer Green, Caversham and the Reading area, to travelling across much of Eastern Europe. Here I chased the thrill of exploring abandoned remnants of the former communist regimes and Europe’s lesser-known landscapes. I combine these subjects with my love of long exposures and the night sky.

Besides the wonderful variation of ambient and artificial light which blossoms once the sun has gone down, the illumination of scenes with torchlight can draw out the textures and scars of the buildings. The atmosphere of the night adds to the mood of the scene, and the sky can produce rainbows of colour with long exposures. Their experimental nature can really test one’s patience, especially in the harshness of a winter night. But the rewards of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be stunning and the experience unforgettable. With the stars above, what better view could you have to watch while you wait?

On my journey I learned a few key points on how to take great photographs at night:

  • A sturdy, firmly placed tripod is the foundation to a good long exposure photograph

  • Arrive before dusk to get a feel for your location, then shoot through dusk and into the night to vary the colour palate of your images

  • Develop your images further by experimenting with different exposure lengths, lighting and perspectives

  • Try illuminating your subjects with a torch to selectively highlight areas of interest

  • It gets cold at night, so wrap up nice and warm to ensure your comfort and enjoyment

  • Happy accidents can happen at any moment, but only if you’re there to make them

With Spring in bloom, the sun setting later in the evening and temperatures rising, there is no better time to grab your camera and step into the unknown for Caversham Bridge’s night photography competition. Submit your best night photographs of the elements of the night that most capture your imagination for a chance to win a £25 John Lewis gift card. Following the closing date of Thursday 1 July 2021, I will select what my tastes tell me are the most compelling images, then announce the winners in the following August issue.

Good luck and don’t forget your tripod!

Mark O’Neill

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