Night Walks, Night Photography.

It pleases me to walk around my part of town after the vehicle traffic dies down. Freed by the night to walk on the sidewalk or in the middle of the road, I often bring a digital camera to document interesting things encountered along the way.

I can sink into the night further by walking away from the major streetlights or through the alleys between streets, where there are less lights and less chance of passing vehicles. But for a barking dog or the dryer sheet fumes emanating from a house, it’s more pleasant than walking by someone’s porch light or motion sensor.

There is a good chance of coming across animals—birds, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, the random cat or dog in a yard, insects, etc. The chances for night photography are lessened in the alleyways because of the greater darkness but with some thoughtful use of the flash, the darkness can create suggestive scenes. In the dark, some ivy vines look as if they are slowly devouring a shed. There are areas of greater and lesser darkness in the alleys and it can be somewhat fascinating to move silently through the trees on these gravel and dirt road trails.

On the streets themselves, walking in the middle of the street brings my attention to random designs left in road tar. Some of these designs are unique combinations of construction work and built-up wear and tear. They can be visually curious when seen looming out of the dark surroundings. I’ve taken pictures of every interesting road tar design in about a ten-block radius. The flash bulb may work here to bring out a starkly surprising element to the mysterious designs left in road tar, accidental artwork that goes completely un-noticed unless one is dowsing the paths of the night on a bicycle or on foot. One also comes across cracks in the concrete, areas where weeds and plants have grown through the cracks or created interesting scenes of their own. If the streetlights enable it, I take pictures of shadows.

There’s also the chance of curb-scores if it’s trash pickup the next day. Every now and then I find things like cabinets, little tables, abandoned art canvases, chairs, boxes of books and other such items on the sidewalk next to the trash cans. Should I come across the remains of a yard sale there’s a chance of finding numerous other interesting items which fall into the category of found objects which can be used for assemblage or left somewhere else. It’s easy to check out moving & construction dumpsters late at night; just climb the ladder and shine your flashlight in to see if there’s any treasure amidst the debris.

The unused and overgrown section of train tracks up by the wildlife preserve is fun to walk. You could almost see it as an experimental discipline–trying to walk as quietly as possible through the night, down the mystery tracks which lead to a barricade and then to a forested trail. You can listen to the animals nearby.

The drawback to wandering the roads at night is always car traffic, and secondarily unpleasant porch lights. But there is a lot to learn about a neighborhood and city by hitting the streets after dark. The streets are also accessible via bike but that tends to bring another kind of awareness into play and many details of the journey are necessarily overlooked since one is driving. But a bike ride opens up so many other avenues to pursue elsewhere. Riding a bike at night is a more nervous affair due to the lower visibility and the danger of negligent drivers, but it can get me to the underside of an old bridge just north of town which can open up adventures of its own, photographic or otherwise.

Most of the time I enjoy the night well off the beaten path, away from bars and the party house district, but I do occasionally find myself at a basement show or more rarely at a bar to see live music and socialize. A drink or two only makes the journey home that much more of an adventure. What sudden detour can I make that might present a fresh encounter or discovery?