Happy accidents


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 7 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 100)

Managing editor Don Blount gave me a heads up on a possible shot at the construction site of the addition to the Sutter Gould Medical Foundation on Hammer Lane in Stockton. He said that it looked pretty cool lit up at night. I had only seen it during the day, a large 3-story cube-like structure still under construction, its steel girders surrounded by a thin blanket of dark fabric ( a worker told me that once the roof is on, it’s put up to keep out the rain). Channeling my inner Trekkie, I guessed that at night it would look a bit like a Borg cube from Star Trek. Don said it was lit from within and it looked more like the Beijing Olympic swimming venue the Water Cube, just a different color.

Just after sunset, a couple days later I had some time, so I went out to do some time exposures of the building. Don was right and it did look very similar to the Water Cube. The sheeting, darkly opaque during the day, was translucent at night, the incandescent lights on every floor giving an eerie yellow glow from within. I mounted my camera on a tripod for some long exposures and proceeded to shoot with shutter speeds between 5 and 20 seconds.

I got a few shots from the sidewalk, but I wanted to get some light streaks from passing cars, so I moved to the median of Hammer Lane. Traffic was loud enough to drown out the sound of the shutter clicking, so I counted silently so I could estimate the end of the exposure. That enabled me to move the camera without doing so prematurely.


(Camera: Nikon D300. Lens Nikkor 17-55mm @ 17mm. Exposure: 15 sec. @ f/8. ISO: 100)

I must have miscounted on one shot. Thinking that the shutter had closed, I moved the tripod and camera to another location. When I reviewed the image on the camera’s screen, I inadvertently picked up my equipment before the exposure had ended. I had left the camera in position long enough to get detail in the street, but the highlights of the lightblubs look like multiple lighting strikes due to the movement of the camera. It’s similar to the painting with light technique, but in this case the camera was moved and the light source was stationary rather than the other way around.

It was a pretty cool shot, perhaps not one we might use in the paper, cool none the less. Sometimes photos are well planned and executed while others are the result of happy accidents.

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