It was a dark and stormy night…

The Blognosticator in Munich

Two of my students and I were searching for Daniel, one of the important people in a community of artists in Munich. I say he is “one of the important people,” but I cannot tell you his title, nor how many other important people there might be. That information will come later, when I read the interview transcript.

Looking a bit like a sketchy meeting under the railroad tracks, my students conducted an interview for a book we are publishing. Daniel, center, describes his arts community Bahnwärter Thiel, in Munich. On the left is Ana Margarida, and on the right is Sebastian, two of my Master’s degree students. This is the uncorrected photo.

It was getting dark, it was snowing, and it was cold. Sebastian, my student interviewer, had tried calling Daniel a few times, and Daniel had tried calling back, but two-way communication had not yet happened. The other student, Ana, and I were shivering.

Finally Sebastian’s phone rang and the two had a conversation. Daniel was across town, across the river. Could we postpone until next week? No. Our deadline is very soon, and we couldn’t wait a week. Could we get on a bus and meet him across town? Yes, we could!

When we stepped off the bus Daniel found us. We then had two choices for interview location: inside a warm bar/club (requiring a rapid antigen test and a 20-minute wait) or under the railroad trestle with high-speed trains whizzing by every few minutes. We chose the railroad trestle (that isn’t really the word for a concrete structure that supports several train tracks overhead).

…and this is the corrected version. Lots of shadow enhancement, color temperature adjustment, and 60 units of Noise Reduction make the photo perfectly acceptable for our project. I am amazed that the amount of light in the scene allowed for this photo to be enhanced to this degree.

I had my Canon R camera with me, but it was too dark for photography. Our séance looked like a clandestine transaction, but it was an interview where Sebastian asked questions of Daniel, and he responded with animated, detailed answers. Some people are great interview subjects, and he was one of those people. We wound him up and let him go. He talked for an hour.

While the interview was continuing, I took a few photos with my iPhone 12 Pro. These cameras are well known for low-light photography. But this situation stumped my iPhone’s cameras and software. The photos just didn’t work.

So I decided to give it a try with the Canon. I turned the ISO to the highest setting: 32,000. That, combined with my f2.8 lens, and I had an exposure that was at least possible: 1/13 sec. Our subject moved his hands and arms a lot, but I was still able to get a surprising number of good photos.

Then there is the noise. At ISO 32,000, the noise is visible. Sometimes, though, you use the photo that you have rather than the one you wish you had.

In Adobe Camera Raw I lowered the color temperature about 200 degrees, then I added a small amount of sharpening. I suppressed the highlights and emphasized the shadow detail quite a bit, opening up the dark areas at the bottom of the photos.

Then I added 60 units of Noise Reduction and 60 units of Color Noise Reduction. The two combined to give me a few very acceptable photos. Once again, I am impressed by the combination of the camera and Camera Raw to deliver usable photos in situations where I would never have thought it possible.

It wasn’t a low-light situation; it was a no-light situation. I’m dazzled that I got anything usable at all. When printed, these photos will be a quarter-page or less, so I don’t think I will have any visible noise in the final product.

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and was a Guest Professor at Hochschule München from September, 2021 to September, 2022. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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