On Thursday night the sky was clear, the moon was full and the mosquitoes were swarming. A perfect night for a midnight bike ride. Well, almost perfect. I took my 46 year old CCM bike, my 20 year old thrift store tripod and my 5 year old 6MP digital camera. Of those three items the camera is the most obsolete. I also brought mosquito repellant. Did I mention the mosquitoes?
I struck out along the vacant residential streets towards a local park that is my favourite for taking photos. It sits atop a high bluff overlooking the river valley and the skyline of downtown Edmonton. Riding the CCM at night is a lot of fun, silent and smooth, with the faint ticking of the SA hub when coasting. The bike has a hub generator and lights but as I’ve never taken the time to get them working I was limited to my helmet lights. I played the beam from my headlamp over the rows of quiet upscale houses fronting on the river valley as I glided past.
The street reaches a dead-end at the park entrance. I hoisted my bike over the shin-level rusty chain, catching a pedal as I did so, and cringing a little at the noise it made. There are a couple of orange street lights near the entrance casting dingy pools of light. I headed past them to the deeper, darker end of the park.
I stopped near a bench alongside the the edge of the bluff. The moonlight shone brightly over the river casting stark shadows into the field behind me. Looking over the edge I could see the path of moonlight illuminating the flowing river far below and I stood for moment in silent appreciation. Then the mosquitoes engulfed me. Gahhh!
I rapidly applied some mosquito repellant and got to work. I have no knowledge of photography and my point-and-shoot camera reflects that. It has a couple of night-time preset modes that I thought might be useful. After a few quick test shots I settled on using the Fireworks mode. It has a longish exposure but didn’t make the resulting pictures look like daylight. A few other technical problems immediately presented themselves. The screen on my camera didn’t show any detail in the dark and I couldn’t tell if I was framing the shots correctly. Holding my helmet in my hand I used it to illuminate the bike enough that I could see an image on the camera screen. Each time I did this I also illuminated the teeming hordes of mosquitoes around me. That was a little scary. Pressing on with the photoshoot, I took some photos just by moonlight and some by the light of my headlamp. Occasionally I ran about ten feet way from the camera to provide a more diffuse light.
When I was finally done and was packing away the tripod, two cyclists with their lights ablaze with rolled past on the riverside trail hundreds of feet below me. Yes, it was a nice night for riding and time to be on my way.
Over the next couple of days I played with my rather limited software (appropriate to my rather limited camera) resulting in a handful of what I think are decent photos. Some of them look more like dusk than midnight but I like them anyway. It almost makes me want to get a decent camera and learn to use it.