Available Light

Friday… there was going to be a lot going on down in the Dallas Arts District. It was the end of spring break week, the streets would be blocked off and all the venues would have events scheduled. I decided to take some pictures. My plan was to get out of work and take the train down before the sun set – taking advantage of Daylight Savings Time to get some shots off during the magic hour.

Unfortunately, everything wrapped around the spindle and I didn’t get out of work on time. When I reached the Arts District it was dark as pitch. I wandered around – there was a band playing in the garden of the Nasher, and they were going to show Hugo in 3D on a giant portable screen, but every square inch of space was already spoken for by blanket-toting families and groups of partiers that had invaded while I was still in my cubicle. Their multi-colored quilts marked off the territory of every clan like patchwork Balkans that no tardy invader could penetrate.

I retreated from the Nasher Museum and wandered the streets. A short time ago only a handful of food trucks would show up down in the Arts District for these events but the phenomenon has rapidly grown and well over a dozen lined both sides of Harwood street. There was music and food and a huge crowd surging in the darkness. Folks poured in and out of the Nasher, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Crow Collection of Asian Art.

Despite the lack of available light I experimented snapping some shots. Some day I want to learn how to use a flash properly, but, still, I have a strong desire to use available light only. I want to steal the stories of the people I’m shooting and a flash warns them of the upcoming thievery. Forget about a tripod in a crowd like this.

The problem is when there isn’t enough available light. I set ISO all the way up (grainy photographs), Aperture Wide Open (no depth of field, everything out of focus) and Speed as Slow as Possible (anything moving is extra fuzzy). There was no way to avoid blurriness, so I tried my best to minimize and control it. I’d prop my camera on a pillar or lean against a light pole, trying to gather in all the photons I could before it all goes to crap.

I don’t know if the blur is artistic or simply poor technique. I like it though… I guess that’s something.

Waiting to order at the Ssahm Korean BBQ truck.

Sharing a foam plate and a quiet moment in the surging crowd.

The colorful blur in the left is a guy walking around selling light sticks from a bag - ten dollars a piece.

(Click to Enlarge)

(Click to Enlarge)

I didn’t stay long. Shooting all these people in the dark filled me with a terrible loneliness – the kind you can only get inside of a festive crowd. So I packed in all in and headed back to the train station. When I got off in my neighborhood I still had about six hours left on my train pass so I stuck it into the money slot of the ticket vending kiosk. Hopefully somebody else could use it, out for a night on the town.