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Urban Night Photography Tip #1

The pursuit of nighttime architecture photography can be a hazardous one. Car drivers, whether in parking lots or whizzing by on streets, have trouble seeing photographers at night, particularly because we always use black tripods with black cameras and are usually wearing dark clothes! Reflective tape is chancy at best. So until our clothes glow in the dark, we must use another solution.
To distinguish myself in such urban nighttime environments, I originally tried using flashing LED lights that clipped onto my clothes. It was a good idea, and it calmed my wife down a bit. But these lights kept flopping around while I was rushing about and often committed suicide by dropping off onto the hard pavement. The ideal solution I found is a headlamp on a band that I can wear with the light facing either backward or forward. My choice ended up being thePetzl Tikka 2. (Please note that this is not really a review of the Petzl Tikka 2. Doubtless there are other brands of headlamps out there that probably work just as well. I’m actually reviewing the concept of using one, which seems to me both sensible and safe.)
Petzl Head Lamp

The unit is relatively cheap (about $25) and features a switch with three settings: maximum beam, economic beam, and flashing mode. The flashing mode is the one you use when you turn it around, because it announces your presence even to the most distracted drivers. For hours (actually ten days on a fresh battery). Using the economic beam setting, you can see your camera controls in complete darkness.

What wrong with the LCD monitor? Why not depend on it? Well, it’s just not enough that this monitor lights up, or that the camera settings display on top of some cameras briefly illuminate. A photographer must be able to light up all of the buttons, dials, and controls scattered around a camera’s backside and find them quickly before the light departs. And nothing accomplishes this like a no-hands headlamp.

Peter Bates

Peter Bates is a writer and photographer living in Florida. He is the administrator of this blog and runs the blog Stylus.

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