Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Night Vision

I've always been fascinated by the way things look at night. If you gaze up at the sky (on a clear and moonless night away from the glare of city lights) you can see the hazy swath of our own Milky Way galaxy -- a blurry swoosh of the millions of stars that snuggle around a central black hole. We can be thankful for our rod cells—one of two types of photoreceptor cells in the retina -- that allow us to see by the fuzzy starlight of a dim night. The rod cells are blind to color and only work in very low light. The other type of photoreceptor cell -- the cone -- kicks into action when bright light is available, and is responsible for high acuity vision as well as color. My poor little rods and cones must wonder who is leading their dance as I prowl around in the wee small hours: wandering under bright street lights and then turning down a shadowy sidewalk...step, step, step, step, rod/cone/rod/cone... no wonder I get eye strain in the dark.

Which is why I love night photography. Unencumbered by something as limiting as biology, the camera sees nightscapes in a wholly different way. I think the camera captures night the way it looks in dreams. I don't recall this corner of Mission and Fair Oaks being quite this magical when I actually shot this picture. Or, maybe it was ... and I just needed the camera to reveal it to me.

27 comments:

Jim said...

I love taking night shots also. This one looks peaceful, waiting for the next day.

Mister Earl said...

Nice shot, Laurie. Reminds me of the early morning before anyone gets up. That old bank building is too much. The green tiles, the slats for window shades. The front door hasn't been used in ages. Furniture, manicure, and fitness businesses sneak in the side doors, but it's as if no one wants to boldly grab on to the front of that building and say, "Yes, we're here, come on in!" It's like a family with a special needs child that everyone knows about, but the family doesn't want to quite acknowledge.

Tanya said...

Your photos make me miss Ca...especially now that it's turning so cold, but then, that is part of why we left, to experience all the seasons :)

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Love the glowy green traffic signals, the "go" despite how still this photo is. You're so good with night scenes!

Wayne said...

That's the building from 'Almost Five...'.

Another well crafted photo from LA (a double entendre it's taken me months to finally recognize).

Trish said...

I love the abovementioned things about the pic and your photography, but being an original SoPas'er and a bit different I noticed a few other things first.

The barricade. There used to, years ago, be a fire hydrant there. My first thought was "Did someone smack it and take it out, AGAIN?".

The shopping cart, abandoned at the traffic signal. Not something SoPas is known for and certainly not acceptable at the center of town in front of FORx.

The window, decorated and full. Something I love about small towns, the character is amazing.

Finally, the Security Pacific building. I like misterearl's take, the door no one uses and the family that hides. I saw the baffles on the windows, realized they face opposite directions and wondered if they were installed incorrectly and whether at some point, the windows opened and this was for air flow. I absolutely love the symmetry of this building running down Mission too. The windows, the white sills, the light bouncing off the tiles. Just amazing!

Almost so lifelife for me that I want to run across the street to Fosselman's!

Benjamin Madison said...

Delightful photo and very interesting text - I didn't know that about rods and cones.

Dixie Jane said...

Laurie, you make my rods and cones happy. A nice way to start a day with memories of your special night scenes. You do magical things at night with your camera. And stars, always stars.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

I wonder why men have more problems with their cones and rods then women...color blindness for example. I'm a fan of the door that dare not open.
Dixie Jane, a link to the song Ramona. Was this the version your familiar with?

Ken Mac said...

Love the crinkled awning, the empty street, the light. The stars...mostly the empty street!

Mister Earl said...

Dixie Jane,

I'm not touching your opening sentence.

Laurie,

In order to capture the soul of Baranger Studios, you'll first need to remove the accountants!

babooshka said...

Due to the island having vast ares of nothingness, we don't really have that city orange glow. The green sparkles are captivating. I like traffic lights, much underated as a photography subject.

Cafe Observer said...

mr earl: remove the accountants from that Bldg!? They've kept it up very well, especially inside. I've known good people who worked there.
However, i agree with u on that dead bldg on the n/e corner of Fair Oaks & Mission - it's there, but it seems fairly old & somethings missing like soul.

altadenahiker said...

Wow, you and Ken Mac seemed to be on a similar stream today.

Blognote said...

You described that very well, Laurie!! I also like the quiet atmosphere you captured in the photo!

Petrea said...

A walk in the wee hours with a camera. What a lovely night, lovely shot.

Jutilda said...
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Jutilda said...

The lights are like glistening emeralds in the night.

Jutilda said...
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Tash said...

You've got the power -- of night vision! Very cool.

USelaine said...

It brings back memories of my late teens/earliest twenties, up late with friends in safe, empty spaces with the night illuminated (or not) and the damp of watered lawns filling the arid void left by the summer sun. We had no cares, did no harm, just were there.

Hilda said...

My dad would've loved you for this post alone! He loved blabbing about scientific trivia and I think I actually picked up quite a lot from him, including the same love for knowledge. ;D

Wonderful night shot (again!), Laurie. It looks like the street is all dressed up too, not just the shop window.

Laurie said...

Hi kids!

I appreciate all of your thoughtful comments and so many kind words. You make it so much fun to blog.

Babooshka, I agree that traffic lights are underrated as subjects. I have always loved their symbolism. In fact, my final project in my senior year high school photography class was of traffic lights. I hadn't thought about that in 20 years!!!

Something about the digital sensor really makes for spectacular night shots. Babooshka and Ken have been coaxing those gorgeous multi-rayed twinkles lately with theirs -- I really should learn how they did that.

Trish, Mister Earl, Cafe -- you knwo, i love that old bank building. I just think it's a great diamond in the rough.

Elaine, you reminded me of some of my own memories. Thank you!

And thank you to everyone for being here and keeping things so interesting. Until tomorrow...

Jilly said...

This is just beautiful. You've created such a lovely atmosphere with this shot. I'm learning night photography. Still getting too many flaring lights but I so agree with you, it's so exciting, so enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed looking at your photos/descriptions!

Thanks!

David

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-K- said...

This has a very strong Van Gogh in Arles feel to it.

(Sorry it took me so long to respond to this...)