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I knew I had mastered the ability of melting into the darkness when I began scaring coyotes. Such is the life of a night photographer, travelling under the cover of darkness unseen by visitors, residents and wildlife. I’m also very lucky to live in one of New England’s most picturesque retreats, Cape Cod.
Cape Night Photography was born out of the desire to photograph familiar places in unfamiliar ways. Long after the light of the sun fades behind the horizon, the camera captures deep and vibrant colors in the night, often unseen by the human eye. The light of a full moon, and the stillness that accompanies the night reveal the other side of Cape Cod, the one that most people sleep through and only a handful photograph.
Many people don’t visit Cape Cod in the winter, and they are missing out. The various town holiday displays are very well-done and snow covered, small town main streets present a classic New England feel.
Some of the easiest and most rewarding places to shoot or at least visit at night are lighthouses. I live near Nobska Light, and from there I can easily catch a moonrise over Martha’s Vineyard or a sunset over Woods Hole from this incredible location.
Night photography is also about capturing the motion of the seemingly stationary. Stars, for example, move across the sky faster than you may think. If you’ve got the time and patience to wait it out, the stars will really put on a show for you as they parade across the sky for your camera. Couple that with a lighthouse, and you’ve really got something special. Most lighthouses are surrounded by wide-open skies, especially Nauset Light and Cape Cod Light on the outer Cape. A late night visit to either one will make you feel like you’ve stepped into an alternate universe.
One technique in my night photography toolbox is called light painting. In short, it involves lighting a subject with flashlights or strobe lights. Basically, I’m running around shining light in different areas and trying to imagine what that’s going to look like when I’m done. This can turn a seemingly dull shot into a photographic party. Long exposure times allow me to create the effect during the 2-4 minutes the shutter is opened. Night photography can be very physical and hands-on in this way.
I’ve also been lucky with lightning (as in I am still alive to write about it). I don’t chase storms on Cape Cod, but I do have an uncanny ability to be shooting in their paths.
Occasionally, I have the opportunity and the privilege to partner with other creative minds in the area such as Beth Colt of the Woods Hole Inn who recently asked me to bring her popular red chair out on a shoot in support of her Red Chair Travels project.
People often only see the Cape Cod Canal as they pass over the Bourne or Sagamore bridges. Strolling down one of the bike trails on either side can yield some great views and interesting boat traffic. It’s one of my favorite places to shoot, walk the dog or relax and there are several easy access points. Watching the railroad bridge lower to allow a train to pass is an event not to be missed. The lighting around the canal at night is quite beautiful.
Any view from the shorelines of Falmouth will reveal the lights of Martha’s Vineyard on a clear night. It’s one of my favorite places to shoot and reminds me that the Cape is not the only great place to photograph nearby.
It’s not difficult to take a good photograph on Cape Cod. All you need is a camera and the desire. Next time you’re visiting, why not immerse yourself in the moon-bathed side of Cape Cod, and see something that you’ve been missing?
Timothy Little is the photographer behind Cape Night Photography. His book “Cape Cod Nights” is due out this May from Schiffer Books and will be available at bookstores through out New England. To see more of his photography, or to sign up for one of his workshops, visit his website www.capenightphotography.com, and follow him on Facebook.
For more on Cape Cod and the islands, including where to stay and a collection of activities, click here.