As some readers may recall, I cut my night photography chops in San Francisco in the late 1980s, studying with Steve Harper at the Academy of Art. Steve had some strong opinions about what night photography was, and was not. Mainly, night photography was about images that had a certain sensibility, atmosphere or mood about them. Night photography images portrayed melancholia, loneliness, solitude, peacefulness and, perhaps above all, a sense of mystery.
To Steve, night photographs were not taken during the blue hour, in twilight, at sunset or sunrise, and they did not very often feature black skies. Most of all, night photography did not include taking pictures of nighttime sporting events, theater productions or Christmas lights. It also did not include—as is pertinent to this weekend—Fourth of July fireworks!
In the many years since, I’ve expanded my own definition in ways that Steve might not agree with if he were still here. For example, he never could come to terms with high ISO images of the night sky. Having been a film shooter for most of his career, Steve was a star trails man through and through. Even after he switched to digital, Steve’s images were all about long exposures–– there was just more of the surrealistic aspect of night photography in star trails than in star points.
But I’ve digressed. As the 241st birthday of the United States approaches, there will no doubt be countless articles and videos all over the web about how to take fireworks photographs. If that’s your thing, have at it. (And be sure to read our post from last year, “Tips For Getting the Most Explosive Fireworks Photos.”)
On the other hand, Steve thought and I think there are more creative ways to photograph the night on this holiday weekend. As an alternative, I’d like to offer you: