Cambridge in the Dark

Where during the day, light is not usually a problem in taking photos, at night time, LIGHT – be it ambient or artificial, is a big factor in capturing successful images.  In my case where 90% of time I shoot during twilight, and shoot mostly cityscapes, much of my photography depends on the last remaining light of the day plus sufficient artificial lights in my surroundings. In large urban and industrialized cities, that’s not usually a problem, because there is enough light and even light pollution coming from high-rises and office buildings, and even from popular tourist landmarks. In smaller and more laid-back cities where the city center and businesses close down early, and there are no well-lit buildings to speak of at night, producing a usable image is a challenge.

The historic city of Cambridge, being a university town, has most of its famous landmarks – including beautiful churches and bridges – contained within the school campuses. Although its prestigious colleges are open to tourists for most of the day, they still close down at sundown, or sometimes even earlier.

It’s no wonder that there are not very many images of Cambridge at night, and only maybe a handful of twilight images, if at all. Inspite of that, I still wanted to give it a try, and have even tried a couple of times in the past months only to retreat before twilight because I was not convinced with the light. Knowing that I have to do this sooner or later, this time I made sure I stuck around long enough to see what I can come up with in this sleepy town.

Punts are a popular way of seeing the sights in Cambridge, while winding down the river Cam. These punts can be found by Magdalene bridge at the Quayside. Magdalene College can be seen across the river. 30 sec @ F/16, ISO 100.

The Quayside is one of the few areas lit at night, but even this place is still quite dark after sundown, so I made sure I captured it early into twilight where there's still enough light in the sky. The long exposure also helped in "brightening up" the scene. 20 seconds @ F/16. ISO 100, EV +.33.

The Round Church or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Even with moonlight (though partially covered with clouds), this area was very dark at blue hour. This just shows you what long exposure and some EV adjustment can do to save the day. 30 sec @ F/11, ISO 100, +1 EV.

Two of my favorite shots of the night are of the red phone box I found on Bridge Street. There were quite a few of these on this road, but I chose this one because it was the only one with the TELEPHONE light on. 15 sec @ F/11, ISO 100.

Same phone box as above but facing the opposite side of the street. The buses moved really slow but in a steady flow, which worked to my advantage as it gave me a smooth trail. The bright trails worked as an additional and much-needed light source. Part of St. John's College, bathed in the dark, can be seen across the street. 13 sec @ F/9, ISO 100.

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6 responses

  1. Always like your small-city photos, not only elegant, beautiful , but full of stories;
    (How incredible! couldn’t believe their ISO are only 100)

    Always enjoy your wirting , couldn’t agree with you more !

    • Now that you’ve mentioned it, I think I do enjoy my small-city photos and experiences more. Sometimes it could be a bit more challenging finding an interesting spot to photograph, but in the end it’s worth it.

      I’m surprised myself that I was able to keep it at low ISO. When it got darker, I just opened up my aperture instead of bumping up ISO, and those bus trails really helped me a lot with the lighting.

      Thanks for your comment! It’s a good affirmation that someone’s actually reading this thing 😀

  2. It’s one thing to see pictures, but to have a story behind it is far more interesting. That being said, when is your book coming out?

    • Funny you mentioned that ’cause I’m currently putting together photos for a book project, but I’m still on the hunt for a good publisher. I’m open to suggestions, if you know of one. Hopefully, this new year would be a good time to publish one. Always good to hear from you, Rex!

      • I’m not sure what type of book you want to create but a couple of excellent photographers on Flickr (Dustin Diaz and Vincent Versace) are using Peachpit Publishing. They publish more of a “how to” books and ebooks.

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