Neon, Anyone?

Neon, Anyone?

Back in 2009 I signed up for an evening photo shoot called “Neon Lights Reflections” with the Mountaineers Photography group. The idea was to “create colorful abstract images of neon lights reflected in puddles and pools”. These activities are posted on the website several weeks prior to the date of the event, but somehow the leader had an idea the streets might be wet on the date of the outing in Seattle in February. And of course they were.

Starbucks World Headquarters, Seattle, Washington

Starbucks World Headquarters, Seattle, Washington

We met at 5:00 PM on a Sunday evening in the parking lot of Starbucks world headquarters. The Starbucks building itself is nice, but the real draw was the neon sign shop across the street. It seems you can get pretty much any design made into a neon sign, and these guys are the pros. Of course they were closed on a Sunday night, but that’s what we wanted – the lights in the store would be off, but the sample neon signs in the store windows would still be on. Perfect!

Light Bulb Neon Sign, Seattle, WashingtonIf you’ve ever tried to shoot photos through glass, you’ve probably noticed this thing called “reflections”. Sometimes they can be great – other times, not so much.

Clock With Neon, Seattle, Washington

Clock With Neon, Seattle, Washington

In this case, we wanted the neon without any distractions from the street, so the only way to accomplish that is to put the lens flush up against the window. It limits you a bit, but that’s life. In this case, the signs were placed just far enough back from the glass for this to work, given the right lens, while others were on the wall further inside the store.

Rotary Grocery, Seattle, Washington

Rotary Grocery, Seattle, Washington

After we’d had our fill of the sign shop, it was time to head to Pike Place Market for the real wet street shots. If you, like me, are accustomed to seeing Pike Market when it’s jammed full of tourists on a summer day, a visit on a rainy Sunday night in February might surprise you. The place is deserted, and neon is everywhere.

Pike Place Public Market by Night, Seattle, WashingtonAnyway, that’s the night I discovered a new creative technique that works only with zoom lenses. The idea is to take a long enough exposure of something so that you have time to spin the zoom ring on your lens. It doesn’t work in most situations, but it turns out that neon is perfect for this trick. So I played around with it and got some interesting effects with the main Public Market sign. What I found interesting is that although the neon and neon reflections are streaked as you would expect, the rest of the scene looks like it was just a straight shot without any zoom effect. I thought they worked pretty well for a first attempt. And no, there’s no Photoshop trickery here.

So, the next time you’re sitting around on a drizzly Seattle evening (and you know it’s coming!) with nothing to do, grab your camera and go find some neon. Match the light with some rain soaked streets and you just might capture something interesting!

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One Response to “Neon, Anyone?”

  1. Sue-Z says:

    The Pike Place Market shot’s are mine and Marielle’s favorites.

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