When I shoot in the night, I often wish for a digital camera that can boost the iso beyond 3200 or 6400 and produce great looking images. Photojournalism and film making has benefited a lot from this technical revolution. Shooting normal shutter speeds in low light or almost no light situations have changed the way we see the night in photographs and movies.
But how did generations of photographers and film makers shoot in the night? Experimenting with pushing black and white films to their maximum. Lens producers like Zeiss, Leica, Canon, Nikon, had a prestigious challenge of who can produce the most light sensitive lens. The noctilux is just one popular example.
But nowadays, the development even goes back to less light sensitive lenses, because the sensors compensate several apertures by ISO. Current trends show that the f-stop is not the most desired parameter anymore. Lenses get equipped with image stabilization.
So when I walk down the streets at night, with a 400iso film and a f2.0 lens, I am often forced to shoot shutter speeds like 1/15th or 1/8th.
Of course I could push the film up to 1600 easily, but I have a weird philosophy, that if there is not enough light, I don’t take a photo.
Sometimes it happens that against all sense, I try to get lucky, shooting 1/8th in the night. Some of the frames that turned out, are part of my favorite photographs. It is a certain magic of the long exposure, an aesthetic that can’t be produced otherwise.
The mixture of a wide open lens, the background bokeh and a motion blur creates this look that can’t be achieved otherwise.
Now if I had walked down the street, with a digital SLR, shooting f1.4 3200 or 6400 iso, my shutter speed would not have been 1/8th, it would have been 4-5 times faster, so something around 1/125th. The photograph would look completely different - or from a different point of view, just like any other street/photojournalist that shoots like this nowadays.
Para Ganj, Delhi. January 2013.
Konica Hexar, Trix. Negsacn