#902. The Dark Night Project

By Dallas Thomas | Art & Creativity

Sep 13

The Dark Night Project is a series of images that depicts moody night scenes in a very dark way, not unlike the film noir style.

Wet night in Paris 2013

What is my attraction to the dark and in particular black in images?

Giverny 2013

In photography, it has an infinite range of tones depending upon shadow or available and/or artificial light. Images are transformed from bright and tranquil to dark and haunting by the addition or removal of light.

Black to me has an ambience to it; it evokes many different feelings, sadness, horror, beauty, depth, light to name a few.

Lanvallay, Brittany, France 2013

I find it intriguing how the mind works. 

After reading Pascal’s post/interview with Anna-Patricia Kahn, the one take away that really resonated with me was that artists spend a high percentage of their time shooting with a project in mind; while amateurs mainly just shoot. That’s me to a tee!

Eureka, I thought,  I need a project to give myself a focus whilst out shooting. A day or so later, I had a lightbulb moment while under the shower of all places.

In 2013 I’d  commenced a project which I called the “Dark Night Collection”. 

Hotel de Vills Paris 2013

When I started shooting and processing these specific types of images I had no idea what was a photographic project.

Wet night at Place de la Concorde, Paris 2013

Trawling through my Lightroom Catalogue some images were added or deleted to refine this project. Thinking now, I doubt whether a project like this will every be complete as I continue along my photographic journey evolving as an artist.

On second thoughts from now on this genre will form another project.

Peak Hour looking up the Champs-Elysees, Paris, 2013

Note, there is a hiatus of some 2 years between images.

Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy, 2015

As time progressed my shooting and processing style evolved. As did the images that were added/removed from the Collection.

Annecy, France, 2015

The majority of images, invite the viewer to explore what can’t be clearly seen, is that you’re feeling?

Piazza San Marco, Venice, 2015

A question that comes to mind what actually is involved in a Photography Project. These are questions quickly spring to mind:

  • Does it need to be documented
  • Can it evolve
  • Do you need to set frames

The old business adage goes Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail; but is this true in the arts?

Yes, No, Maybe. Let me explain my thoughts

The Dark Night Project was formulated and a page added to my website with images added as time went by.

An artistic project should be flexible to encompass changes to ones style as it and you evolve. Also new techniques are learnt and you explore outside your own comfort zone, as the unknown can be daunting.

Ile Saint-Louis, Paris, 2016

2 previous spur of the moment projects have both been published here on Dear Susan, both were completed within hours of conception.

The first #618 A walk in Paris on a winters morning and the 2nd #798 A walk in the drizzle in Paris on a Sunday morning.

The themes were similar but different due to the weather.

Pont Alexandre 111, Paris, 2016

The next 2 shots, evoke Gill Fender waiting to picked up in the old Peugeot to be whisked off to an adventure with Zelda & F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway, from Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris”

Rue de la Pere, Paris, 2016
Rue de Turenne, Paris 2016
Victoria Embankment, London 2016

Some cities are photographic poetry. London is one of those, with its old buildings and abundant history. The above scene along The Thames was too enticing to miss.

Hyde Park, Sydney 2017

My home city of Sydney I find bland for dark night compositions in comparison to those of Europe. Hyde Park on a wet night was an exception.

Uzes, France 2018

Uzes in Southern France is a gem to shoot day or night.

Pont de Bir-Hakem, Paris 2018
Ile Saint-Louis, Paris 2018

As can be seen from some of these more recent images, they have been shot with minimal DOF to enhance the need for the viewer to explore the images further. Use your senses to imagine what may be there!!

Have you missed anything?

I did on my first glance.

Rhone River, Koblenz, Germany 2019

Art is what speaks to me, these images all do in different ways.

 

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  • Sean says:

    Dallas: Lovely collection of midnight rambler images. Not easy to do well, but you’ve conquered it – I struggle with this approach. The last image resonates with me, out of your selections for this post.

  • pascaljappy says:

    Lovely idea, Dallas. Making those photographs so dark means that the composition is dominated by white dots of light and is very clean. So my faves are those with very simple and symetrical layouts such as the Champs Elysées or the Wheel. But also those evocative ones such as St Marco and Rue de Turenne which reminds me of Nighthawks 🙂 But I also find that the blurry ones work superbly well, particularly with the lovely blur of your lenses. Ile St Louis and Pont de Bir Hakeim are wonderful. Thanks for sharing these !!

  • Timothy Naylor says:

    Hello Dallas,
    Thank you for sharing your work. I agree with you, the world at night as so much more drama and intrigue. You’ve let the shadows play such an important role in your images, while my eye is drawn to the lighted subject, as in your Uzes image from 2018, my mind is enthralled with discovering what lies in the shadows. That silhouette of a person walking towards you is almost wraithlike. My wife likes to talk to me about the negative space in images, and how they really make the subject stand out, I feel like you are making the negative space the main element, and I really enjoy that aspect. I really enjoyed your image of Annecy, Strasbourg is one of our favorite cities in the world, and your photograph immediately transported me back to the Points Couverts Bridge. Thank you for that.
    Regards,
    Tim

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    I love your reference to “Midnight in Paris” since that’s exactly what comes to mind while perusing your excellent photos. Each and every one invites the viewer to enter explore the dark and mysterious scenes. Some feel a bit dangerous, and some which have a bit more light are a welcome respite from the darkness. It’s a project to be proud of, Dallas!

    • Nancee, yes the night can be daunting and at times does feel unsafe, care is all that is required. I have tried to recreate “Midnight in Paris” outside Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, but alas, maybe next time. Dallas

  • Dallas, this is a magnificent body of work. I would love to see it on the walls of a gallery where I could spend hours looking and comparing them side by side. The way you handled the blacks is inspiring. Blacks should be black and these are. Perfect. Highlights should have detail, and yours do. Not an easy thing to accomplish at night. And the detail in the shadows keeps drawing me in. Congratulations on a project well done. But, just so you know, the project is not finished…. and never will be. So keep your file open for the occasional addition of Dark Night shots. And you should know, you will need to create more folders for more projects you will add as you go along. There will always be new projects in addition to the ones already started. That’s what keeps us moving 🙂

    • Cliff, the next step of an exhibition would be a great idea. It’s something I will give thought too. I will be on the lookout for further images to add in my travels. You kind words are very much appreciated. Looking forward to new challenges with the camera. Dallas

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Interesting insight for others, on the value of having projects. I’ve been doing it on & off for years, and I wholeheartedly agree with you that it is an enormous boost to learning.
    Snapshooters are happy with what they capture – but they’re not aiming in the same direction as you are, Dallas. The vast majority of them are capturing the moment, so they can share the moment, then move on. They generally use cellphones for their snapshots and can instantly pass them around among their friends and family.
    I prefer to review all my shots first, on my computer, and print all the keepers. The printing process is a large part of the learning curve too, and digital has given us all a magnificent opportunity to get in there & do it. Recent comments on formatting our photos underscored this, but there are heaps of other aspects to it – not the least being the chance to reflect on our photos – look more deeply into the image to see what really is important – make adjustments that simply weren’t possible at the time when we took the photo.
    Looking through the photos in this post, I suspect you’ve done something along those lines, as you worked through these images. Odd cases where there’s almost a sepia touch, to really get into the image – making sure you didn’t overdo it, as so many people do.
    It was interesting to see a resurgence of black & white with these images, too. Having abandoned analogue to explore what digital offers, I’ve rather given up on B&W these days and generally take everything – including night scenes – in colour. But colour can be quite hopeless at times with night shots, because of the weird colours thrown across the scene by artificial lighting of various conflicting types.

    • Pete, printing is something I want to get back into. My poor Epsom 1430 has clogged heads from none use. We plan to continue to travel for long periods in the future and its not worth the effort to fix for a short time. The beauty is once settled I can print to my hearts content. I prefer B&W for night due to the odd colours that the lighting can provide. Dallas

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        The “odd colours” present a challenge, and I can never resist one of those- LOL. But I have to admit they defeated me on several occasions. Including – to my absolute disgust! – the evening I had the opportunity to capture a harvest moon, 50 metres along the street where I live – perfectly framed between the buildings on either side, just where the ground dips suddenly and the street beyond there disappears from the frame, leaving the moon to occupy the gap between the buildings. But blasted street lamps of different colours coming up from below utterly ruined any attempt at printing the shots in colour.

  • philberphoto says:

    Whew, Dallas, what a joy! What a gem! Your pictures show so much, yet leave so much to the imagination. 11 pm in Paris, midnight in Paris, 5 am in Paris. Much to enjoy, much to discover, much to fear, much to admire, much to dream about…

  • Pascal B. says:

    Dallas, hats off, this is a spectacular set of pics. Congratulations.

    Thank you for a stunning collection.

  • Michael Fleischer says:

    Hi Dallas

    Lots of fine photos…you’ve captured the evasive essences of B&W mystique I love…
    clearly a long sitting-time + work and rework…and todays favourites even changed!

    Great set!

    Michael

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Dallas,
    I think you are absolutely right, b/w really suits night photos, not only to eliminate unwanted coloured artificial light, but more, I think, because our night vision is in black and white. We can still see muted colours during late dusk but they fade as it gets darker.

    And you have used darkness so exquisitely; you do capture the nightly feeling, and yet the dark hides unwanted distracting details just enough while showing enough details in the dark to make the photos live!

    You inspire me to nightly photo walks!
    ( I have used snow to cover distractions, and fog, but fog is rare here.)

    > “The majority of images, invite the viewer to explore what can’t be clearly seen, is that you’re feeling?”

    Yes, in a way, e.g. #1 makes me think of the people behind the windows, in #2 the black door of what’s inside the building, #4 of what the buildings look like…etc…

    I can’t pick favourites, but the short DOF photos appeal especially to me.
    Some give me a much stronger nightly feeling, like “Lanvallay..”, “Rue de la Pere..” and “Uzes..”, perhaps because they give me the impression that everything outside is in darkness.
    ( N.b., they *all* feel nightly.)
    In some the pattern of light or the composition is so interesting that to me it takes precedence, like in e.g. “Giverny..”, “Annecy..” and “Piazza..”.

    Thanks, Dallas, for a great post!
    – – * – –

    I come to think of something Anna (<9 years old) said in "Mr God, This is Anna" (biography by Fynn):

    "The sun is nice," said Anna, "but it lights things up so much you can't see very far." … "Your soul don't go very far in the daylight 'cos it stops where you can see." … "The nighttime is better. It stretches your soul right out to the stars. And that," she pronounced, "is a very long way. In the nighttime you don't have to stop going out. It's like your ears. In the daytime it"s so noisy you can't hear. In the nighttime you can. The nighttime stretches you."

    • Kristian, your comments are greatly appreciated.I’m glad you can see something “beyond” what can be seen. My favourite changes; they are all interesting and are favourites in their own right to me. Thank you so much for taking the effort to comment in such detail. Dallas

  • John Wilson says:

    Dallas – Marvellous post and images. You really have gone to the Dark Side. May favourites are by far the warm toned images. There’s and old school, old world feel to them that’s unresistible to me.

    I know what you mean about the “project” imperative. I have several ongoing projects and some thins I’d like to do more “project” oriented shooting around. The other approach is to think in groups of images that may not necessarily be a “project” but complement each other.

    Keep up the good work.

    • John, The Dark Side has its place like many other things. B&W processing can be a challenge to get just right. Many just don’t see the light of day as they are don’t just have the what’s required. Many thanks for your words John.

      Dallas

  • Jaap Veldman says:

    Hi Dallas, beautiful and indeed mythical images.
    Makes me wanna shoot more at night.

    Btw
    The last one is mythical, to an extent only the best magicians can achieve.
    Harry Potter will rest in jealousy…
    You have been able to move a French river to Germany!
    🙂

  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Great idea, Dallas!
    I tried a few times, but never “dared” going far enough, and discovered that while simple “on paper” (!), it is not so simple to achieve…
    Your photos just… work, congrats!

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