A Night on the Town

Car lights at the corner of Lisbon & Ash Streets at night

A night on the town; That term conjures up images of drinks and laughter with friends. And while my evening both started and finished that way, this story is about the hour or so in between that was spent in the company of a camera.

I tend to think of myself as a nature photographer. Indeed, that’s how I cut my photographic teeth. However, I sort of accidentally found that there was a good following images of the city in which I live. And beyond that, I also found that I personally enjoyed showing off what this city has to offer. And without a doubt, the best time to highlight a city’s beauty is at night; or more specifically, at dusk. Dusk is that time that lasts for about a half hour after the sun goes down. It’s starting to get dark, so the city’s various lights are coming on. And this is what makes dusk photos so intriguing. All the different color temperatures of lights lend different colors to the image. Long exposures create light trails from passing cars. And you can begin to see colors and reflections in windows that just weren’t there during the daylight.

Lewiston City Hall at dusk as seen from Kennedy Park

Lewiston City Hall at dusk as seen from Kennedy Park

The other reason to photograph the city at dusk rather than when it becomes totally dark is that the deep cobalt blue of the shy records beautifully, and creates exquisite backdrops for the buildings. The sky becomes a deeper blue as it gets later, naturally. Also, the blue will be deeper if you are shooting away from the direction of the sun, since the western sky has more lightening effect from the sun that has already dipped below the horizon.

In addition to the aesthetic aspect, a deep blue sky as opposed to a black one creates less of a contrast between the deep sky and the any lights in the image. This makes it much easier to get a correct exposure in the camera.

Another aspect of photographing in the city after sundown is an unintended side effect. It seems walking around the downtown at night with a camera and tripod makes people want to talk to you. I met several people in the shot time I was out; some on the street, some in the park. One couple saw me shooting on the sidewalk and engaged me in a discussion about a “new” film camera they had just bought. They asked for advice and help with their new equipment. Unfortunately, being a film camera, I wasn’t much help, but I encouraged them to persue the hobby, even if it meant buying an inexpensive digital model.

SS. Peter and Paul Basilica at dusk as seen from Kennedy Park

SS. Peter and Paul Basilica at dusk as seen from Kennedy Park

Several people stopped to ask what I was photographing, and when I pointed to the lit up city hall, or the lighted spires of the Basilica, they always agreed that it was a beautiful sight. I was asked if I was shooting for the newspaper more than once, and a young Solmali boy asked if I was the paparrazzi, taking pictures for Hollywood. The camera just seems to bring out friendliness in people.

When I’m shooting in the downtown, especially at night, I find it important to not just look for and shoot the obvious subjects. Of course the beautiful City Hall simply beckons to have its photo taken. Heck, I could probably do a whole book on the beauty of its architecture. But right across the street are the windows of the library. Looking up at them reveals some interesting reflections of the lighted City Hall. Window reflections always make interesting photos, and  the colors these windows were reflecting were simply a photo waiting to happen. If I hadn’t looked up I wouldn’t have seen them. Now the task was to find the best spot to get the best image. After crossing the intersection a couple of times, all the while keeping an eye out for traffic, it turned out the best spot was right where I was when I first saw the image. It’s important not to just take the first shot you see, but sometimes it’s the best one.

City Hall reflected in Library window

City Hall reflected in Library window

So, after about an hour or so, I eventually made my way back to Fuel Restaurant and Lyceum Gallery where my wife and friends were carrying on with our usual Friday night frivolities and lively discussions. I’m not sure if they even knew I was gone. It’s a fun and inspiring place, filled with art and artists; a place I’m happy to call my “Cheers”; and a place I am happy and honored to share my work. Stop in some Friday evening and have a drink and a laugh and some great conversation… we might even talk about photography.




















Color, Shape and Form

Parking Garage snow scene

This image exhibits the epitome of shapes and colors in a photographic image

Maybe it’s my artistic and graphics background; maybe it’s just something that has been in me since I was a child. Whatever it is, it’s not something that I ever thought about consciously as I was developing my photographic style. Indeed, I wasn’t even aware of it until several years in when I started seeing a common theme to a lot of my work. But once I realized it, there it was, staring me right in the face… I was attracted by strong color, shape and form. It seemed that most of my best and most striking images contained at least one of those qualities; and often they had all three.

Now that I realize this propensity and ability to see blocks of shape and color I seek them out even more, and I see them in some unconventional locations. This image was taken during a snowstorm last winter. I don’t often go out shooting during a storm, because it can cause problems with the gear. You have to be careful which direction you shoot. But anyway, I made my way down Lisbon Street, mostly documenting the downtown in a storm, but at the same time trying to be a bit artistic about it. When I got to Oak Street the shelter of the parking garage beckoned, offering a bit of respite from the wind and snow; so I obliged. Once inside I was free to point my camera in any direction without getting the lens wet.

ice and light reflections on the androscoggin river

This image is a good example of shapes and color in a nature image

As I walked around, looking from the inside out, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me. I was seeing the same buildings I saw before, but now they were framed by the columns and rails of the garage. What was before just a couple of buildings with no special qualities now became the backdrop of an image that was broken up into blocks and shapes by the columns directly in front of me. And furthermore, the red and yellow of the two distant buildings now added the color that I crave in an image… and these colors themselves created more shapes. And to top it off I was blessed with horizontal line, vertical lines and diagonal lines. I had it all.

The two buildings by themselves, viewed from outside the parking garage, while interesting for their contrasting colors, do not have the same impact on their own. Not until I viewed them from inside, framed by the rails and columns did the whole picture come together for me. It now had everything that attracts my eye in a photograph. These images are all around; in nature and man made. One just has to be attentive to their surroundings, and learn to look at the details, rather than the big picture.

My Web Site: Daniel J. Marquis Photography