In the wee small hours

I feel like artists (in any form) adapt to and are inspired by their environment. During these cold, dark winter months I’ve been making the most of the night hours by spending much of my time outdoors shooting self-portraits. I’ve always been a night-owl, having had terrible insomnia as a child that I didn’t shake until my early twenties. I spent my nights perched on the window ledge in my bedroom watching the street below me. When I was a teenager I would go out for runs or walks along the beach where I grew up in an attempt to burn off the manic energy I had in the AM. For whatever reason, I love exploring my environment when everyone else is in bed and the streets and landscape are free for me to wander. Back then I would write poems and stories, and draw or paint pictures; now I have a camera to capture what I find or create.

There is a park five minutes walk from my apartment which doesn’t have any streetlights in it. This probably sounds like a scary place to put yourself in at 4am, but for me that’s what makes it ideal shooting territory. The dark envelopes me as a figure and there’s very little chance of stumbling upon anyone else walking through there whilst I explore. Isn’t it funny that I find darkness indoors scary but outdoors it’s more of a magical experience? I think it’s why when I couldn’t sleep as a child, it was instinctual for me to go to the window and stay there until it got light. The darkness in my room was far more terrifying than the darkness outside. I found it calming to sit on the ledge and let my imagination run away with itself. I like to think that the photographs I’ve been creating lately are an extension of those old childhood memories of curiosity about the nighttime and the freedom I now have as an adult to actually go out into it.

Light is of course everything to a photographer; understanding it, mastering it’s many forms and ultimately using it to create what you want within an image. Most of my nighttime excursions occur with a plan in mind in terms of the ideas I have, but I also just wander and search for things that might work. I like using streetlights on the roads but I also enjoy on-camera flash. I really don’t have any kind of snobbery when it comes to the light source and favour experimenting over preconceived ideas about what is right and what is wrong. Over the weekend I tried shooting near the pond within the park and lost my camera in it’s black waters after my tripod tipped over. Luckily the camera is waterproof and I only had to say goodbye to the remaining 12 shots on my film roll. The film had been cooked before shooting, and so effects were to be expected (and planned) before developing, so we’ll call the pond tumble a pre-wash! I’m determined to get that pond shot on my next trip though.

What I love most about being out at night is how very much more comfortable I feel within my skin. I don’t have the same anxieties about people seeing me or about how I’m dressed – or undressed. That’s not to say I don’t take care and ensure I’ve told someone where I’m going and to get it done as quickly as possible. In reality I probably spend around half an hour at most on these trips out and much of that time is spent setting up my tripod and making sure I’m not about to stomp around in a pile of beasties. I once came home with a beetle in my coat pocket which the cats were pretty happy about discovering. Eek. I have many, many more images that I have created over the last couple of months, which will be released along with my book this month. *Happy dance*

In the meantime, you can see more of my nighttime adventures here : 🙂

About elegia

I like cats and cake and tea.

Leave a Reply