From Engagement to Marriage – A Nine Month Love Story

From Engagement to Marriage – A Nine Month Love Story

A silhouette of Brett and Heather kissing from their walkthrough at the Key Bridge Marriott.

Last year, I had the privilege of photographing Heather and Brett Pocorobba for their engagement and wedding. I am not a traditional wedding photographer, but they wanted a real street vibe to their collection, so it was a good fit.

As we discussed the project, I suggested a series of street engagement shots, one every month. The idea was to show the evolution of their relationship as they moved towards marriage. It was kind of a crazy fun idea, and made it interesting from an artistic perspective. Heather and Brett are big fans of art (Brett is the bassist for DC rock band Skip House) and they really liked the concept.

I think we caught some street style in this, but we also evolved beyond that, too. Looking back at the project, we added a sense of style to the classic engagement shoot that’s not quite street, but definitely beyond the usual soft white engagement picture.

The following photos show the project month by month, each with a little side story. Because people always ask about equipment, these shots were taken with a variety of Nikon cameras, including a D810, D750, and Df. If a unique lens was used, I note that. Otherwise, assume the shot was taken with a Sigma Art 35, Zeiss Planar 50, or a Nikon 85 (1.8 version) lens.

January

Love reflected through time.

Love Transcends the Rain.

I took this outside of St. Elmo’s coffee in Alexandria, right after we agreed to work together. Since it had just rained, and we were executing a street-themed concept, capturing a kiss in a puddle offered a great way to set the tone for the project.

February

Brett and Heather in the Cathedral

A classic engagement moment, ring included.

The National Cathedral added a sense of grounding to the series. First, it was cold out, so yeah, we wanted to shoot indoors. The open, almost universalist spiritual nature of the building made it welcoming. And of course the soft reddish purple light was perfect for Valentine’s Day.

The Journey Together

The Journey Together – If you follow my work, you’ll definitely see some familiar themes, with Heather and Brett framed by symmetry and isolated from crowds that may be present.

This one is really about intentional light and dark contrast with the couple featured in the light. Many spiritual overtones to this photo, one with a grand sense of scale.

March

Rock Star Couple

Rock Star Couple

It was still cold outside so we went to the National Gallery of Art. And boy did we get a sense of avant garde style and power from the couple. These are not your usual engagement shoots. They look chic and cool. These shots may have been the best of the whole series with the tunnel shot as my favorite portrait of Heather and Brett from the project.

Sensual engagement shot

Steamy! More of a sensual shot.

Engagement shoot going down the National Gallery Art stairs.

Love the stairs at NGA, shot with a little fisheye effect compliments of Nikon’s killer 14-24 mm lens.

Hello, Beatles!

Hello, Beatles! An intentional take on the fab four’s penchant for staircases.

April

An Epic Love Story

Classic engagement shoot, again with a sense of grand scale thanks to the Capitol Columns.

We finally got outside in April, and went to the National Arboretum for our next shoot. I even brought in some lights to get some stronger classic engagement pics. While I like this shoot, it lacked the street portrait and scene edge that the other pics in the series have. If this were music, then these are your top 40 pop songs.

Classic spring engagement shot.

Engagement shoot in the azalea garden. What’s unique about it is the bokeh, a signature look from the Meyer Optik Trioplan 100 lens.

His and her engagement rings.

His and her engagement rings.

May

Classic street shot of a couple.

Coffee Shop Days: I really like this one because it shows Brett as I think of him. Classic street.

A rainstorm brings us back to the street. The top shot was taken through a window at le Madeleine’s in Old Town, Alexandria. The rest of the shots were taken underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Most notably, these latter three are within my normal street style, a bit of subject isolation mixed with grand scale.

Engagement shot mimicking Hollywood style.

Ocean’s 2: Hip, cool and slick: Pure Hollywood.

Engagement shot under a bridge.

So this is Love: A good natural moment.

Engaged couple walking away together.

The Walk Off: Love this shot! It is grungy, and stylish, and fun.

June

A sense of naughtiness with this one as Heather and Brett are captured in a city fountain.

June was not a great photo shoot. I was experimenting with the Sigma Art 135 mm lens, and just really did not produce many outstanding shots outside of the above fountain shot. I rented the lens for two weeks and remained mixed with its performance overall (Stay tuned for a review of three 135 lenses next month). The good news is that we did capture this awesome summer couple shot. The photograph has a great street vibe to it, and really fits well within the project’s direction.

July

Engaged couple in a tunnel.

Forever: Again, grand, stylized with strong contrast. Shot in one of my favorite locations, the Wilkes Street Tunnel.

Oh July. So we tried a crazy photoshoot on some railroad track with a smoke grenade. And it bombed (so punny). We then relocated to the Wilkes Street Tunnel in Alexandria to make some lemonade. I got a sense from Heather and Brett that they were starting to feel the wedding tension, but that it was bonding them. They were really together now, married spiritually.

Engagement shot on railroad tracks.

Ready: The couple is bonded together and ready for their wedding.

The lighting and wall texture makes it a nice street portrait.

August

Engagement shot

Brett, Heather, and their dog Sora on long boards.

August was a much more natural shoot, featuring Heather and Brett enjoying one of their favorite activities together, paddle-boarding on the Potomac River. We had a special guest star for this shoot, their dog Sora. I like that there was a great sense of calm with this final series of engagement shots. All photos were taken with Nikon 200-500 mm lens. Next up is the wedding.

Engagement shot while paddle-boarding.

Together in the water.

The Key Bridge in the background adds a grand sense of scale.

September: The Wedding

Bride and groom kiss in the elevator.

Now, that we are alone…

The wedding was super fun, and Dwight Jefferson and I shot it from a journalist perspective. We did have our fair share of standard wedding fare (portraits, the ceremony, etc.). In all, we delivered several hundred photos to Heather and Brett.

Here are some of my favorite shots that I think met the spirit of the overarching project. A new lens is introduced to the mix here, a Tamron 24-70/2.8.

Dancing in the street!

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The bridesmaid and bride gowns and shoes.

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Brett catches a lift with the bridesmaids.

Can You Say Honeymoon?

The Bride and Groom Dance

The Bride and Groom Dance.

The walk off.

A special thank you to Heather and Brett for having fun and experimenting with our shoot!

My Exposed DC Crystal City Isolation Exhibit Takes on Self-Identity

Blue Isolation

This year’s Exposed DC Crystal City Fotowalk Underground Exhibition features 13 local photographers, including me. I contributed a 12 photograph series focusing on isolation and self identity.

Modernism as a movement interested me because of its take on the isolated individual in the industrial world. My favorite modernist was Franz Kafka, with his characters often alienated and trapped alone in a mad ironic world they cannot escape. While 20th century modernism deals with isolation in a time of factories, cars, and new skyscrapers, I feel we are in a new modernist era.

The current sense of alienation finds us alone in a crowd, both in the city and with social media. Our sense of self is exacerbated, a brilliant signal in a vast barren field of noise. For many that noise is defined by the digital noise they experience on their phones, TVs, and computers. It is often malevolent filled with self-indulgent over-spun social media posts, Trumpian vitriol, and fear-mongering tabloid news.

When we are in the world, surrounded by crowds (and that person taking an over-contrived selfie to add to the digital noise) we feel relief, but see ourselves as a unique signal in the noise. The rest of the world doesn’t even see us, just more noise. So last year when shooting street photos, I tried to capture the 21st century sense of self, surrounded by millions, yet alone.

This Friday Exposed DC is hosting a happy hour at the Gallery Underground in Crystal City to unveil the 2018 exhibition. If you live in DC, please join us and come see the exhibition. I will be there on Friday, and the photos are gorgeous, blown up so you can see them in large format.

You can also find smaller virtual copies of the exhibition photos in this gallery, and five of the 12 shots below with the back story behind each image. Cheers!

Modern Isolation

A dark sky and gritty take on an idyllic Laguna Beach scene makes this walk beautiful, yet fraught with trouble. It’s an image that typifies what I believe represents the isolated self in the 21st century. The beach was actually quite crowded, but there was a five second pause in pedestrian traffic around her on both sides. I actually sat in this spot for 30 minutes waiting for the shot.

Highway to Hell

Highway to Hell

Taken during a foggy morning in DC, this photo features a man walking alone on the Pennsylvania bike path towards the U.S. Capitol building. The last vestiges of the fog are burning off in the distance, and his silhouetted hoodie add a sinister element to the image. To me this is how many of us feel alone and powerless when we consider the modern political environment.

Run for Joy

Run for Joy

I was sitting in the pillar of the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress, waiting for people to walk out the entrance for the perfect shot. Suddenly, this little girl ran into my frame and went tearing down the passage oblivious to the world. The image typifies an innocent beautiful sense of isolation that children have as they enjoy their surroundings. It also illustrates hope, the belief of what could be in this crazy world.

Isolation in Love

Together at the End of the World

When you are in love, one often feels a sense of positive isolation. No one else exists almost, it’s just the two of you enjoying life and facing the world together. This silhouetted shot typifies that sense of love, in my mind.

Trapped

Stuck on the Train

This poor fellow pushed his luck and found himself trapped in the metro. The doors eventually opened, and let him enter the train. What a great visual for modern isolation. It screams awkwardness, isolation, and humiliation for an individual alone in a large crowd.

Street Pics for the ADWKDC 2016 Trespass Campaign

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The Georgetowner

I had the great fortune of serving AAF-DC as photographer for their ADWKDC 2016 campaign, themed Trespass. Above and below are my favorite shots from each frame that I submitted. I affectionately call the set “the Georgetowners” as the photos were all shot in Georgetown, where I went to graduate school.

If you haven’t registered for ADWKDC 2016 yet, definitely consider doing so. It’s a fantastic celebration of Washington’s advertising community. There are dozens of events, culminating with a two day conference filled with speakers sharing their best practices. If you want to learn more visit the site, or check out this five reasons to attend blog post.

Special thanks to Julia Sarver, Creative Director at Merritt Group and Josh Belhumeur, partner at BRINK for selecting me to work on this campaign.

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Glamour Walk

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Chatting on the Bridge

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Early Runner

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Selfie City

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Man’s Best Friend

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The New Commute

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Happy Hour

Which of these 5 Photo Networks Is Right for You?

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Most pro and enthusiast photographers want people to see their photos, and that means promoting your work online. A wide range of options are available to photographers from branded networks like Fstoppers and National Geographic all the way to mega-networks Facebook and Twitter. There are also five social networks that have distinguished themselves with content focusing primarily on photography; 500 Pixels, Flickr, Google Plus, Instagram, and YouPic.

Unfortunately, one person cannot be in all these places. It’s probably best to do well on one or two of these networks unless you have the time to invest in a serious social media marketing campaign. That’s why you will need to select the right place for you and your content.

Here is a brief review of all five networks in alphabetical order.

500 Pixels

500px
If you followed our Kickstarter campaign for the Trioplan 50, then you know we like 500 Pixels quite a bit. This social network is filled with serious photographers, people who are committed to their craft and want to excel. Most of the photographers’ expertise levels range from professional to serious amateur.

500 Pixels has some really strong features for photographers who are just getting established. You can host your portfolio on 500 Pixels, and you can also license your photos via their site.

If you are on 500 Pixels, please follow me there.

Flickr

Flickr

The original photo sharing social network, Flickr has suffered quite a bit of criticism of late thanks to parent company Yahoo!’s missteps and woes. As a result, traffic on the social network has suffered as of late.

Still the social network has its strengths, including incredible search traffic for photographers who are seeking to be discovered via free Creative Commons licensing. The community tends to range from serious enthusiast to consumer. It also serves as a photo storage network. If you want to see the best of Flickr, check out its daily Explore feature. Also, a new owner (Verizon) may create a momentum change. We shall see.

You can follow me here on Flickr.

Google+

Google+

If you are concerned about Flickr losing traffic, then be very concerned about Google+. The network has waned in the past two years as Google reduced its commitment to the network.

With most casual users gone, this is a network that primarily serves photographers now, and there are many vibrant photography communities there still. Like Flickr, Google+ offers photo storage via its Google Photos service and that is its saving grace, in my opinion.

I am currently inactive on Google+.

Instagram

instagram
Instagram is the largest photo social network, and competes with Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is definitely a consumer network, but there are many photographers on the network who share their images with friends, family, fellow photographers, and yes, potential clients.

This is a great social network for branding your photography business or just sharing pictures with friends. It will give you the most access to wide varieties of audiences, but offers the least control over your images as anyone can re-share your photos.

If you are on Instagram, please follow me there.

YouPic

YouPic

The newest of the photo-based social networks, YouPic offers a more gamified version of social networking. There are contests, user feedback, and levels of photography excellence. Because YouPic is newer than the others, it is easier to make a big name for yourself on the network.

It’s definitely a network of reciprocity. The more you give, the more others will remark on your photos. Of course, the design is meant to keep you engaged and posting, too. Unlike 500 Pixels and Flickr, you don’t have to pay to get access to analytics, which is nice.

I am on YouPic, but am an infrequent contributor.

What do you think of these five photography networks?

A version of this blog was originally published on the Meyer Optik Goerlitz blog, and was authored by Geoff Livingston.

Flickr Enters Downward Spiral

Traffic for Flickr

It seems like every year or two you see a Flickr is dying post that sparks a major conversation about whether or not the photography social network will survive. Unfortunately, it seems that the time may finally be arriving for one of the longest standing social networks out there.

The most recent round of the “Flickr is dying” debate happened two months ago right around when Yahoo! announced it would stop investing in the network and sell it off. That one was sparked by Photoshelter CEO Allen Murabayashi’s Petapixel rant (I am a Photoshelter user) and sparked a strong defense by Thomas Hawk (I am an active friend of Thomas’s on several social networks).

Murabayashi’s rant seemed motivated by his competitive service offering, but in hindsight the Yahoo! public lack of support at that time may have been the network’s undoing. Things are not the same on the network with interaction and dialogue feeling slow.

flickr vs 500px

It’s more than a seasonal slump, which you would expect with warmer weather and enthusiasts running outside to use their dusty cameras. While uber photography social network 500 Pixels has experienced a small decline in traffic, too, their overall page views have declined a little more than a half a percentage point since December. Flickr has declined by more than 4 percent, and is in danger of falling out of the top 200 websites globally.

Instagram comparison

The two photography sites are not quite the same with 500 Pixels catering to “serious” photographers, many of whom are pro or semi-pro, while Flickr serves more of the photo enthusiast and consumer crowd. Yet Flickr’s decline is palpable as consumers fly away to more attractive and easier to use options like Instagram. As a result, for the first time that I can remember Flickr is not ranked as a top 10 social network.

Yahoo! Chases Away Whole Groups of Photographers

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Remember when Flickr rebranded itself as a consumer site last year? The new interface has been lacking in my mind (as I noted last May). Load times are slow and the interface was wonky. Yet, this was Marissa Mayer’s grand plan to challenge Instagram.

At first traffic increased, but the new traffic was not the traditional photography enthusiast, semi-pros and pros that made up most of the social network’s audience. It was consumer who used their smartphones as point and click cameras. Meanwhile, the people that made up the more sophisticated photographers on Flickr began to leave for other places.

You know what? That worked for Apple when it stopped catering to the Quark and Final Cut crowd. But Yahoo! is not Apple, and so when the plane crashed this winter, things began to fall apart.

Weekly photo contests suddenly stopped. Load-time issues, upload snafus, and other bugs increased. Auto-upload support for nonpaying Flickr users was taken away. And on the last note, consumers began leaving (because pro-photographers rarely upload scores of photos at a time for anyone other than a client, and when they do they use DropBox or Google Photos or Photoshelter or…).

Can you blame this new generation of Flickr photography enthusiasts? Why bother? After all, other sites are easier to use, have more interaction, and if you’re going to pay, it may as well be with a more reliable entity than a company cutting itself into pieces for an estate sale.

So who’s left after the pro and consumer exodus? Enthusiasts who like to upload nature and landscape pics, often the domain of photography hobbyists. And if that’s what you do, good news! Flickr may still be right for you.

More difficult types of photography — portraits, architecture, nightscapes, monochrome, artificial lighting, etc. — do not perform as well, though. The number of photographers that could create those works are dwindling on Flickr as they seek other networks like the 500 Pixels and YouPics of the world. The feedback is faster and more meaningful there, peer-to-peer. As my friend Richard Binhammer (an infrared photography specialist) says, “My photos seem to be getting more pop on 500 Pixels.”

And event and selfie pics? We all know Instagram is the place for those.

Can Flickr Be Saved?

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A lot depends on who buys Flickr. Doc Searls made an impassioned plea for Adobe to buy the social network, saying that Flickr was the best site for serious photographers.

I’m not sure about the latter anymore, but I do believe Flickr still has value. I’m still there and still use it to house my library. I still get occasional media inquiries to use my pics from Flickr, too. I know others like Thomas Hawk haven’t given up, either.

The question is who will buy it? If Google or Facebook buys Flickr, I will be downloading all of my photos that day and closing my account. Warren Buffett would be more encouraging. At least you know Berkshire Hathaway would invest in the network again.

Maybe the right question is, “Will the sale be in time?” Each month that passes, engagement dwindles. Resuscitating a dead social network is beyond even the brightest minds as we have seen with many attempts to restore MySpace (sorry, Justin Timberlake) and Digg.

Whatever happens, Flickr has been good to me and many other photographers for the past decade plus. If it does fade away, it will be missed.

What do you think?

The Special Nature of Night Photography

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The blizzard of 2016 is upon us. I am hoping the wind isn’t severe during the latter hours of the storm so that I can take some night shots of the blizzard before everyone steps all over the snow. Yes, I know. It’s insanity, but that’s how much I love night photography.

Most photography is about capturing the beauty of a moment or a scene. Light plays an essential role in magnifying that beauty. Night photography is much more than that to me.

Night is defined by the absence of the greatest light of all, sunlight. When you photograph outdoor images after the sun goes down, you attempt to capture the precious beauty usually hidden by night.

How many times have you walked outside in the night and needed to let your eyes adjust so that you can see your surroundings? When light appears it is stark, almost like a splash of paint in an empty negative space.

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Today’s digital cameras use sensors that are more sensitive and can better capture those details in the dim night. Many photographers use wide-open aperture settings to try and brighten the scene, often sacrificing detail in the foreground and background. But I think the real value of today’s full frame digital cameras are their ability to read deep amounts of light data across a nightscape at small apertures.

These long exposures can produce fantastic photos. If you have the patience to set up and sit by a tripod with a remote trigger for 1/2 second, eight seconds, 30 seconds or even longer, you can capture some amazing, stark, color-rich night shots.

You will see the subtle oranges of the not too distant day, the blues of an LED light, or the yellows of a tungsten bulb. Shadows dance across the scene hinting at deep colors of green or brown. Stars and planes twinkle in the night sky. Metal and glass reflect the scant light available creating mirror images. Streetlights and beacons in the distance proclaim the nearness of safe harbor if you can just traverse the nightscape before you.

It Takes More than a Smartphone

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The beauty of well-executed night photography is exceptional and rare. These pics stand out in a world filled with everyday black and white street photos in photo forums, grumpy cats on Facebook, and selfie shots proliferating Instagram. It is extremely difficult to capture a fantastic night image on a smartphone, at least with the current models (and here come the pics in my comments section).

Instead, a photographer must know her or his camera well, how the light impacts a landscape or an object, and the best ways to capture the essence of a night scene. Heck, in some cases you may even paint the scene with your own artificial light (flood or flash light, for example). Even then, you must know how to edit the RAW file produced by the camera and bring out the color, tone down light flares, and highlight details that may still be hidden in the shadows.

Night photography is truly an interpretation, a visual art form that cannot be minimized by popular technology. You have to have a vision of what you want to see, and you have to know how to shoot.

Here are thee tips beyond the usual (e.g. get a tripod and a remote trigger) for those who want to take their night photography a little further. I will warn you that one of these is unorthodox.

Spend the Time

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Serious enthusiasts and pros tend to shoot manual. And as most of them will tell you this requires a balance of light sensitivity (ISO), how far open your lens will shoot (aperture), and shutter speed (length of time it takes to capture your photograph).

In the most well lit situations you are photographing at 1/60th of a second or faster and at a relatively low light sensitivity. Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO vary depending on how much depth of field a photographer wants to expose. These are the benefits of artistic choice in normal photography.

With night photography, to get a workable capture you need to make some sacrifices. You have to shoot with a very shallow depth of field. Or your need a high ISO, which can make your photo extremely grainy. Or you need a low shutter speed, which in turn can require a tripod and trigger release to avoid shake. You may need a combination of these things.

I almost always choose to make my sacrifice with time. I prefer an extremely deep field with lots of detail for landscapes, so sacrificing on aperture is a no-no. And I hate photos that are too grainy, so I prefer a lower ISO setting.

I usually ignore the advice of experts who say to shoot between f8-and f16 to maximize lens sharpness. Frankly, my camera sensors are good enough to make up the difference, and I want as detailed a nightscape as possible.

Most of my night pics take between 5 and 30 seconds. In some cases, long exposures at night can take two minutes or more. This gives me the most detailed RAW file possible for editing. And that in turn allows me to bring out the best in my nightscape photos, at least that’s what I currently believe.

Don’t Spend the Time

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There are always exceptions to the rule. In my case, as much as I love a well defined nightscape, if I am photographing the moon or an outdoor action scene, I don’t have the luxury to go for a long exposure. I will open the aperture to f9 or 11, and then try to make up the balance with the ISO setting.

The above photograph is a Super Moon shot from 2014. The photo was shot at f10 at 400 ISO over a half a second. I am certain the focus was on infinity as the shot was taken at 160 mm. I may have done myself a favor if had shot it for 1/4 a second or even faster, and upped the ISO accordingly. The detail in the moon would have been better.

Nevertheless, the focus was on capturing a moon shot that was detailed and yet not too bright. This is the primary issue with moon shots, overexposing the subject. It was a fine line, because I also had to capturing the much dimmer Washington Monument to give the photo context. This was an extremely hard shot, one that a long exposure would have simply ruined.

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Another example is when you want a shallow depth of field. The above Little Snowman pic is an example. I wanted the focus of the shot to be on the snowman and not the Jefferson Memorial. With this one I went for an extremely shallow depth of field (f1.4) and let the lens render the Memorial as a bokeh blurred background. CNN, HLN and local TV picked up the photo for their iReport, social media and broadcast properties, respectively.

When to Break the Rules

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Digital photographers rely on their histogram to tell them when a photograph is well exposed. Most schools and experienced photographers will tell you to shoot and correct to get a balanced histogram. Some would even tell you to overexpose in a dim situation and correct later. Be careful. Instead, I am going to tell you to make your own educated decision when it comes to night photos.

I have corrected and overexposed photos to meet the mantra and almost every time I am disappointed with the result. Usually, I get a night photo that looks like a day shot or a sunrise/sunset pic.

My point is that if you are taking a night shot, it should look like it was taken in the blue hour or at night. The above frozen river picture was a two minute and 12 second exposure. It was dark outside, really dark. The photo looks like it was dark, too, but you can clearly see that a sunrise was approaching on the horizon.

Below is the histogram.

Histogram

This chart makes sense to me. There really wasn’t a lot of bright things to balance the histogram. When I went to correct it, the scene looked like it was moments before the sun peaked. In reality it was a half hour before sunrise. Sometimes you just need to break the rules.

I believe this to be true even when things are white such as buildings or snow, like the previously mentioned snowman shot. It is my view that night shots should look natural as if they were taken at night with delicate, yet illuminating light. The histogram should be secondary in the editing process.

What do you think about night photography?