Creating Night Photography Without Tripods

This set of pictures is not at all deep. They are the result of going out to get a pizza one night while staying in a rental condo in Belltown, an area of downtown Seattle right on Puget Sound, while Kimberly, my lovely bride, was out doing something. I was in Seattle to do an Outdoor Photography Workshop with Ron Martinsen.

This night I ended up alone at the condo so I walked through the deserted streets of downtown Seattle at night, carrying a Canon 5D with a Canon 16-35mm/f2.8 lens, to a great pizza place for a bite and a pint, making pictures all the way, handheld and with the camera steadied by various convenient ledges, walls, light poles, etc, sometimes using my 30 year old folding Leica Tabletop Tripod, an incredible piece of gear to have in your camera bag at all times. Made a few twilight shots then possibly slightly staggered back to the rental condo, intrigued by the lights of the city, and those out on Puget Sound where I tried like heck not to think much and simply react to the visual stimuli found along the walk. My mandatory tripods were, well, in California so my fascination with makeshift tripods made of anything stable had to be good enough to make the images you see here. I think it was probably good enough for one walk from a condo to a terrific pizza place….

Photography is like free entertainment. No matter where you find yourself, you can always amuse yourself by photographing anything at all in life, whatever you personally value enough to point your camera towards. Of course, this can vary from place to place and in this case, my wandering self-entertainment was just a few of the lights of downtown Seattle at night… My life as a photographer across America has been a series of self-entertainment sessions and the reason I call photography both a career and a lifestyle. Oddly, these wanderings without conscious thought, reacting only to primitive attraction, often lead to the best paying gigs…. Go figure…


Gary Parker - March 25, 2014 - 2:54 PM

Hi Mark,

A couple of those images are handheld – some ambient night light is brighter than you might think. However, several shots were made by placing my camera on something immovable – like the short concrete wall next to Puget Sound. I either usethe self-timer OR simply place the camera on the concrete ledge (or anything stable) then press down very hard on the camera during a long exposure. If I press hard enough the camera will not move. I once hand held a 1 minute exposure from a hotel room by pressing the lens agains the plate glass window and pushing it – hard – against the window so the camera couldn’t move or jiggle. Tack sharp!!!

Mark - January 30, 2014 - 4:57 AM

Great images! All handheld?