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Japanese Night-time Street Photography

by | 2019-02-26 4:54am Asia/Tokyo

Over the weekend, I did a little night-time photography in Saga city. I wake up early in the morning when Saga is still mostly a ghost town. The only vehicles out at around 4:30 are trucks and taxis. On Sunday morning, I decided to go out and see if I could get any interesting photos at that ghostly hour.

The challenge of night-time photography is that you actually want to show something, so you need some light, but light is hard to come by. You have to take what you can get. When a taxi comes to an intersection, you have to move fast to take advantage of the headlights.

But, it would be difficult to tell from the above photos that they were taken in Japan. Nothing in them screams Japan! The first one could easily be in an English speaking country. So, here’s some Japan.

Once I got some light, I discovered another challenge: lighting in public almost never is a neutral white. I’d say the light shining on the red shrine is fairly close to neutral, likely to emphasize the structure’s beautiful red paint. Typically, public lighting has either a strong yellow or green cast. My expectation was that it would be difficult to make attractive photos with different competing colors. However, in post-processing, I decided to lean into the mixed lighting–I cranked up the color saturation and boosted exposure. That created a more iconic, comic book look to the Saga streets.

Look at the way the light reflects off of the power lines and manholes. Night-time street lighting creates dramatic, colorful silhouettes. This is a fun style that I’ll try developing a bit more in the future.