Nocturnal velos

by Raymond Parker on January 28, 2013

in Cycling, Photography

night-ridingWandering city streets at night can be unnerving. A shoulder check; who’s there? Watch this cab; has he seen me? Who’s that shady character? Is he following me? Oh, it’s just my shadow.

But I’m drawn by the play of light and colour on wet streets, the sound of music drifting from a cabaret, laughter spilling from a crowded pub, and the variety of bicycles tethered to parking meter, lampost, and bike rack. Tonight, I’m not tracking unlit cyclists; I’m looking for signature cycles.

Those lonely bicycles, awaiting the return of riders, reveal a lot about their owners … or maybe not. Some are likely chosen for their relative disrepair—Who’d want to steal that heap?—secured with locks worth more in dollars than the bike itself, while others maybe represent the only transportation available to its owner.

New bikes with thousand-dollar electric assist units and German-engineered dynamo hubs, sit cabled together with humble ’70s Apollos, rescued from oblivion to grace the street once more. These shared security arrangements tell of the relationships between cycling comrades. I glance through adjacent bar and cafe windows, to catch perhaps a glimpse of those people joined by two-wheeled travel.

Back home, I download the files, tweaking colour, highlight and shadow, to mirror the velos of night.


Photo notes: Camera: Nikon D600, Lens: AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4D. Shot between ISO 1600/6400. In most cases, I’ve tried not so much to reproduce colour fidelity as represent the feeling of the scenes.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Ryan January 29, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I actually enjoy riding at night. Something about the lights from the city, generally quieter streets makes for a nice ride.
My main concerns are people not seeing me and more drunks on the road.

The pictures look quite sharp!
Best buy for my Canon T1i was the 50mm lens (although I picked up the 1.8, not 1.4).
I find once I go ISO 1600 and above, there is a considerable amount of noise. Nikon does seem to handle noise quite well!

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Raymond Parker January 30, 2013 at 11:57 am

The 50mm f/1.4D is a beautiful prime, not as expensive as the newer ‘G’ lens. Plus it accepts standard 52mm filters, of which I own many.

There is noise, but it is remarkably unobtrusive. These are just low-res 640 pixel images of course, but Nikon does a stellar job in this department. I also take advantage of the in-camera high-ISO and/or long exposure noise reduction.

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jim January 30, 2013 at 3:37 pm

What a diverse set of bicycles and wonderful photos. I use a 24mm 2.8 as my prime lens. I loved it for film, but do not like it so much for the digital on my D90, it looses most of what I liked due to cropping. Need to get a wider lens.

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Raymond Parker January 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Thanks, Jim. I’m enjoying this project. I won’t bother going out again though, unless it’s raining. I love the reflections, such as the blue light spilling from a doorway in the 6th picture.

I also have a 24mm 2.8, an excellent lens. Before I got the FX, I bought a 12-24 f/4 G ED IF for the DX camera (useable from 16mm on FX). I’d recommend that or the 10-24.

It’s been interesting experimenting with the 1.4. Wide open though it has limited use … and focus is critical, of course! It’s really nice at f2.0 and smaller.

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