Phoneography Challenge: Night Photography

29 July 2013


1. The Storm, iPhone 4s, June 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

1. The Storm, iPhone 4s, June 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

2. The Storm,  iPhone 4s, June 2013;

2. The Storm, iPhone 4s, June 2013; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2013

Let me know which you prefer and why.


Gracie (, Polly ( and I began the iPhoneography Monday Challenge in February. Recently, we had a re-launch that made the challenge open to everyone who uses their Smartphones as their lens–exclusively, experimentally, frequently, occasionally, or back-up. If you’d like to join the fun, please click here for details. Please use the current badge until a new one is created, which will be ready sometime next month.    

Suddenly, the day becomes night. The progression from light beams to dark seems swift. In truth, the phases can be seen with patience and persistence.

When the day is brilliant, the dimming usually is prolonged. But overcast or rainy, the lightless becomes quickly evident.

Still, I prefer the days when light fades on a continuum. I can relish the sunset, and the lessening of the sun’s daytime power.

While the limelight is centered on the sun’s performance, I am just as enamored by the contrast and tone of what I have framed. As the end-of-the-day scene moves through gentle or sharp changes, twilight is set. That partial dark leads to nightfall. Gradual light keeps escaping. Day becomes night, and night becomes a mysterious yet inviting other place.

It is this banishment of light that brings much challenge and discovery for the photographer. If its pitch black, just enjoy the silence of light. But when small pockets of artificial (e.g., stationary light from homes and street lights and cars moving and light pollution across the skyline) and natural light (moon and stars) co-exist together or act separately, it’s time to practice the stilling of the evening.

Photographing these conditions are most difficult. How to push through the sunless to capture the beauty and flavor of the dark dark or grey dark or light dark is a constant concern.

One of the masters of the shadowy evening was American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). His work was influenced by his training in scientific procedures. He spent much time experimenting and observing. Each giving his work a patina of technical skill and mark of magnificence.

His photographs helped to raise the public’s awareness of photography as an art, which was one of his missions. Click here to read more about Stieglitz.

He consciously aimed to show the aestheticism of a photograph. This quest is evident in his art, which speaks for itself.

Photography, Alfred Stieglitz, Phoneography, Photo Challenge, Writing, Black-and-White Photography, Inspiration

Photography, Alfred Stieglitz, Phoneography, Photo Challenge, Writing, Black-and-White Photography, Inspiration

Alfred Stieglitz, (1864-1946), Google Images

Alfred Stieglitz, (1864-1946), Master Photographer, Urban Images

In the Lens section are my two entries for this week’s challenge. I took them on a heavily rainy June evening. As I peered across the lower roof of my raised ranch, a lamplight spreads its radiance. That artificial light had difficulty cutting through the sheets of fog and rain.

Night photography is not only about the night sky. Once the sun secures itself in the final minutes of a sunset, the world can become strangely eerie and even unsettling. But it also can be stunningly gorgeous with shimmering beams of light and dark tones bouncing off everything or somethings.

Even torrential rain can bring atmosphere that places character onto the landscape. That quality can make a photographer work hard to frame the scene that freezes the memory.

Night photography continues to challenge my sense of what is real and surreal. It continues to push my own experimentation and observation.

Tip of the Week: Here are a few “musts” to use in night photography. Our challenge surrounds the use of Smartphones, and these hints can be helped by the use of an app such as Nightcap, which allows the lens of the iPhone, for example, to stay open longer. It’s 99 cents at iTunes. Click here to read about it. Keep these in mind: 1. Understand the conditions of low light. 2. Use a tripod. 4. Use a wider aperture to increase amount of light and reduce noise level, which an app can do. Night photography is overly challenging. DSLR and SLR cameras are far better suited for this work. Workshops, exhibitions and resources about night photography can be found here.

See other entries for this week’s challenge:

Note: As always I welcome comments about this post or any part of my blog.

Here’s a reminder of the weekly schedule and themes for upcoming Phoneography Monday Challenges:    

1st Monday: Nature

2nd Monday: Macro

3rd Monday: Black-and-White

4th and 5th Mondays: Challenger’s Choice (Pick One: Abstraction, Architecture, Food Photography, Night Photography, Portraiture, Still Life, Street Photography, and Travel).

This entry was posted in Black-and-White Photography, Mobile Photography, Photography, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to Phoneography Challenge: Night Photography

  1. belsbror says:

    Hi! I nominated you for the Most Creative Blogger Award. Please get the badge at and get more info. Have a great day.

  2. Claudia says:

    I prefer the second photo. I like both photos, but I prefer the clarity of the second one. You can see more details. I’m glad I came by your blog today. Almost missed the night photography challenge. I have one photo I took a couple of months ago. It’s a grainy, but one of the streetlights has a nice glow to it. Here’s mine:

  3. Su Leslie says:

    Very challenging; as I don’t often use my phone for night photos. I do like your shots; great to see the same image edited differently. Here’s my take:

  4. Rarely will I choose black and white over colour, but because the trees appear so surreal in the first; it gets my vote. (quite brave of you to risk the storm for the perfect shot)

  5. This is a tough one as I like them both, but I’ll have to go with the color. Because the lamp light is washed out in the B&W, and I think it’s an important element in the photograph.

  6. "Occam Blade" says:

    #2 as it reminds me of early [Autochrome] color photography, Steiglitz notwithstanding. The edges remind me of when I used to do a number of Polaroid transfers with Typ 669 film.

    • You’re comment brings a smile. I still use my Polaroid SX-70, and love the effects of the film (made by The Impossible Project), which is not the same as the original formula. Many thanks.

  7. masadiso79 says:

    I really like night phoneography, although I haven’t experimented a lot with night shots. Here’s my entry:

  8. I definately prefer the colored version, the contrast is compelling and inviting. I’m posting my contribution to this theme with a picture taken in Alfama, Lisbon’s most picturesque neighborhoods.

  9. icastel says:

    Photo #1 for me. I’m drawn to the atmosphere it creates.

    Here’s my entry for this Monday’s challenge

  10. Allan G. Smorra says:

    I like the mood of your B&W photo. It exudes ‘night”.

    Thanks for the tip on the app, I am experimenting with different low-light apps and will definitely checkout Nightcap.

    Here is my entry for this week’s challenge:

  11. number 1 gives a lovely eerie feeling but number 2 is more striking with the capture of the light shining from the streetlamp.

  12. elisaruland says:

    What an interesting post, Sally. I always enjoy your thoughts and important lessons on both life and photography. For some reason I’m drawn to the second shot, but I’m guessing because of the use of the green tone. That mossy shade has always been a favorite.

  13. #1 is mysteriously atmospheric, I would probably keep turning my head back if I were walking there 😛

  14. Sally, the subtle colors and light reflection in your second photo are wonderful. Great choices for todays post.
    My photo is from yesterday afternoon during a bright sunny day, no fog or rain in sight…

  15. Loved the 1st one as it reminded me of the scene in a black & white detective story.

  16. I’ve found night photography to be a challenge with my iPad as it tends to either not get enough light or try to adjust the light so it looks more like daytime. This is a crazy time in my life–keeping a house in market-ready condition, traveling to spend time with my husband and now, getting ready for vacation. So I have little time to appreciate and soak in the knowledge that you’re sharing. But I appreciate it and know where it is when I do have a bit more time. 🙂

    I like both your photos, but I prefer the second as I like the contrast between the light and the rest of the picture. I was planning to do night photography, too, but after seeing these… 🙂


  17. Sally — I’ll lean toward the color version of the twins. More detail, and the glow of the light on the water and the house(s) in the background just stand out better than the B&W version. Frankly, the iPhone is a tough sell for night photography. I’ll have to give it a try for one of the future Phoneography Mondays.

  18. Angeline M says:

    I really like both photos, and have a hard time deciding which I like better, but I’m leaning to the one in color a bit more. I’ve entered my photo, and if you’ve been to Las Vegas, you’ll know this is a bit of a cheat 🙂

  19. I like the first one…more mysterious :-).
    Garage Doors this time:

  20. Pingback: Rewind the memories | Completely Disappear

  21. Aaaahh. I love how you share your black/white passion with us♥

  22. Normally I gravitate towards the b/w which I do like-but there is something about the color image which seems to capture the mood more–at least to me. It seems more atmospheric, moody somehow. But great work on both as usual Sally!

  23. Gracie says:

    Night photography is definitely a challenge with mobile phones, but you’ve done really well on your photos. I personally prefer the first image. The thick fog that you captured adds mystery to the scene. Very well done, Sally!

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