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  • Brendan McKay

Workin' on Them Night Moves

The unfortunate reality of being an amateur hobbyist at anything is that you tend to become pretty restricted to pursuing that passion during the shoulder hours of the day, especially in the middle of the work week. As much as I'd like to toss my work laptop and phone into the Pacific and run up to Malibu or down to Huntington Beach on a random Tuesday, that just ain't gonna happen. I've had to, reluctantly, accept that I'm just not going to be able to capture amazing sunsets or golden hour lighting all that often, at least during the winter months here in SoCal.

The elusive mid-week Santa Monica sunset in January

The upshot is that I've grown to embrace walking around Santa Monica on weekday evenings, well after the dying light has passed. And unless I want everything shot at ISO 6400, it means I'm usually lugging the tripod around with me and suffering weird looks from dog walkers. While it is a major PITA to fumble around on the sidewalks and in between parked cars to get the camera set up the right way for a long exposures, it's actually taught me a lot of patience. Arranging, rearranging and composing a picture with the tripod, only to realize that something is off, has encouraged me to slow way down and take my time with things. Slowly, I've been able to bring some of that mindfulness into the rest of my photography.

Vienna Pastry + Two Door

These nightly photo strolls have been a great personal study in acceptance of situational constraints, and recognition that I may just need to frame and shoot different than I really want to. Cars will drive by and people out for an evening stroll will invariably interrupt the process. Light balancing is awfully tough when you only have street lamps and the occasional undrawn window to work with. But the moments are beautiful nonetheless, and there is a stillness and (occasional) silence that exists on some of the far-removed side streets at 8 and 9pm on Tuesday evenings. Even if I leave my 90 minutes with nothing on the camera, it is time well spent.

Neon contrails

Night x E. Ruscha's "Some Los Angeles Apartments"

Here's to the night - looking forward to a lot more of it in 2020.

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