“By Night” by Peter von Seth (Or What Lurks In The Dark)
Sometimes, photos can play tricks on the viewer. Some photographers strive to create optical illusions in their work through techniques like forced perspective (Ever see a photograph of the Leaning Tower of Pisa without some tourist trying to hold it up?). But playing tricks on your audience isn't always that obvious, nor is it always so complicated. There are much more subtle – and more unnerving – methods. By Night, a photograph by Peter von Seth, seems to be hiding something: Is there something in those shadows?
Light can be a tricky thing. To view this scene with your own eyes, you may actually be able to see something lurking in the shadows. But the human eye is far more talented than your camera's sensor. The camera cannot see such a dynamic range of light. To some, this might be a severe limitation of the camera. But this can be used as an advantage. Peter certainly took advantage of this so-called limitation to it's full potential in By Night. There is a stark contrast between the darker areas of the site and the brightest spots. The light helps to feature the textures in the scene: Of the tree bark, of the bricks and of the grass. But the darkness is really what sparks the imagination. It's only fair to note that many viewers won't think anything of the shadows and they will be drawn naturally to the textures. But some of us – perhaps the most paranoid of us – will question what might be lurking in those shadows.
The reason for featuring Peter's photo is not to talk about technique. Technique and your skill set is only a tool, much like your camera is a tool. You of course need to know your tools, know their limitations. This is the only way you can create imagery like the above. Technically, the photo is not so very complicated. But as I've said time and time again, your viewers may not care about your technique, or your skills. In the end, all that matters is the finished product. So why not explore the possible insecurities of your viewers? Why not make them think there might be something hiding in the shadows? Why not leave those questions unanswered? In fact, I would challenge you to do just that as often as possible.
Peter von Seth is a long time member and contributor to the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group, and we've featured Peter’s work here before. If you were to follow Peter on Flickr, you'd be inspired by each and every one of the photographs he shares. His genre is both architecture and landscapes (urban and natural). He also works in color, but I personally believe that he is strongest working in black & white. So head on over to Peter’s photostream and stay a while.