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?

Freestyle Cross Country Photo Cycling Around Seattle

A phrase I’ve been hearing lately in Workshop circles is “Photo Walks” where students hike around a visually loaded area looking for compelling photographs to capture. I’ve been doing a version of photo walks professionally for over 30 years, during my off time and even during assignments for publications, corporate and advertising agencies. The concept of shooting literally anything of interest no matter where you are or what you are doing is a solid one. Found-photography of this nature can yield stunning results since, in theory, you wouldn’t bother to make the picture during your spare time if you were not intrigued or, better, inspired. Inspired photography is always best.

My habit of doing what amounts to my own personal version of Photo Walks, based on living photography as an all-consuming lifestyle, has likely yielded more portfolio-worthy photographs than actual paying assignments. It is often these casually photographed, off-work, typically unexpected moments captured while simply carrying a camera which sometimes work best in a serious portfolio. I’ve scored major corporate annual report and national ad campaign shoots based on having scattered fun pictures made in my off-time throughout a more focused portfolio. My websites are filled with these kinds of found images. SO…if you are trying to build a portfolio or simply out to have a fun time photographing the world, carry and use your camera to help create a great set of photographs!

Freestyle Cross Country Photo Cycling is exactly like Photo Walks, only riding a bike allows you to cover more ground. It is not recommended for folks who are seriously out of shape but possibly fine if the ride is flat. As long time mountain bikers in The Bay Area of Northern California, we’ve discovered dozens of unique and amazing locations the average person cannot access and would never know exists due to the time it would take to hike to where we ride. (Photo Ride Workshops & other Workshops coming soon!)

The images below document assorted moments discovered during a 20 mile ride around Seattle, a city which has a vast network of bike trails running through the city and around Puget Sound. These images were all made on a lovely day for a bike ride with my lovely bride as the constant, though reluctant, model. My feeling is including a human being actually enhances most photographs, even landscapes, so it’s great to have a potential model with you on photo walks and rides.


On a rented bike, the lovely bride heads out from our rental condo for a good long ride around Seattle.


One of the joys of Freestyle Cross Country Photo Cycling is in your ability to quickly get from one great place to slam on brakes to another, making photographs of stuff that’s real or a bit more abstract, as you see it.

These images are somewhat progressional as we rode the bike paths from the condo in Belltown, an area of Seattle smack on Puget Sound, mostly on paved paths over only mild hills, so this place is great for just cruising around, stopping for coffee/lunch, etc, checking things out, being in no hurry while practicing CONSCIOUSLY SEEING cool stuff you download and process into friggin’ art! After all, you’ve gotta see something anyway,right, so why not try to see cool stuff to photograph…. , doing what Photojournalist’s call “looking for wild art” or “enterprising,” ie, coming up with pictures by your own enterprise. My early career was spent at (thankfully) great picture newspapers, beginning at the end of original Life Magazine era, where the legendary “greats” like Jay Maisel (my greatest hero, for his views on the joy of SEEING)