Night Photography by David Baldwin




Night Photographs 1981 - 2018

On my images of Avebury " .... the best photos I have ever seen of these stunning stones. What I love is the way David Baldwin’s photographs show how different each stone is from the next and how perfect they would be to provide a set of distinct locations to encode information."

Dr Lynne Kelly, Author of "Knowledge And Power In Prehistoric Societies" and "The Memory Code"

"Your night photography is beautiful, especially love Windy Night and the Lady Chapel at Wells. I am a lover of night photography, mainly discovered via the internet and yours is special. Carry on!"

Susan Hill, Author of "The Woman in Black"


Welcome. I hope you will enjoy your visit to my site. If you are a night photographer yourself you will need no convincing that night photography offers an amazing portal into a beautiful and timeless reality. If you are new to night photography then I invite you to browse through the various notes and photographs on the site.   I include carefully chosen links to my favourite night photography galleries.  

Below are some statements I would like to make about night photography, if my thoughts here are too boring please feel free to ignore them and head straight to the image galleries!:

1. Night Photography - Seeing Our World With Visitors' Eyes

In the daytime our vision and minds work together to produce generally "ordinary" views of our world, and as a result of over familiarity most of us are in real danger of failing to really SEE anymore.   At night our vision and perceptions are less secure, become questionable.  This hopefully gives night photographers a better chance to see beyond our often jaded assumptions about our daylight world.  We aspire to experience our world with purified vision without the bias of familiarity, as if we were visitors here. We are transported to a state of mind where our world becomes, or is shown to be, magic. In this sense night photography is sacred. This unworldly state of mind combines with technical opportunities inherent in the nocturnal photographic process to allow us a great latitude in visualising and then actually producing our images. The night encourages individual responses to our visual environment, night photography is very rarely just a record of what was actually there in the scene before us. The boundaries between the “objectivity” of photography and the “subjectivity” of an artist's vision blur together very rapidly indeed at night.

Additionally the ordinary nature of our earthly environment can be dignified by combining it photographically with the night sky, making us see that the mundane tree/building/landscape in front of us is in fact as remarkable and beautiful as the stars above them.   The universe is one grand continuum, and it is only sheer scale which gives us the illusion that we live separately from the heavens.

2. Night Photography's Special Links with Mystery and Memory

Night photography often echoes the way we remember the past.  Night photography, like memory, retains some details, and omits others, we never retain everything. The balance of what is shown in a night photograph, and what is hidden, can be deliberately manipulated both in the camera and later at the computer, changing the meaning of the image to suit our intentions.   "Forgetting" unwanted details in our images is a creative act, and darkness abets forgetting. Over time I have therefore been more and more concerned not to fill every part of my images with light, I encourage the shadows because these amplify the importance of things which are lit. To me shadow and mystery are linked. Mystery and doubt are at the heart of our experiences as human beings, and for me night photography gains dignity and meaning if it attempts to reflect this.

3. Night Photography As An Experience

Speaking for myself, a night photography trip is a purifying, simple and highly personal experience.   This feeling of simplicity and purity is emphasised by my solitude on site.   A promising night photography location is like a theatre set when everyone has gone home, the location and atmosphere draws extra power precisely because people are absent, either "safe" locked up in well lit homes and cities, or lost in the past.   I am therefore mostly interested in night photography away from direct electrical lights, I want to avoid suggesting the presence of others nearby. I like to explore the loneliness of night.  That is not to say I can escape the lights entirely, living on a small island I must come to terms with the inevitable light pollution from city lights, so I am often paradoxically exploring country locations against the backdrop of urban skyglow.   My work sometimes feels like a conservation of what remains of mood and atmosphere before England totally fills up with roads, hastily built housing and office blocks. Then Night in its true sense will be forgotten, and we as a culture will be even further cut off from our real identity.

Being outside at night is a primaeval experience too, and for me raises the same questions repeatedly. Apparently simple ones, for example is night just like daytime with less light flying around, or is it made from different colours and moods?   Is night just a deficit of light, or is it in fact the time when the real fabric and aspect of the universe is revealed to us?   Day can be viewed as just the lucky proximity of a star, whereas most space is far from bright light, night therefore rules most places in creation most of the time.

4. Night Photography And My Place In The World

After my years of night photography it is no mystery to me that our prehistoric ancestors, in many times and places, aligned markers of stone with the stars.   My work has shown me that subconsciously I have the same obsession with uniting the landscape and sky.   I believe that is why so many of my images attempt to join dark earthly silhouettes with the unattainable sky above.   Trees, churches and other elements replace stones as markers*, but for me all serve to mysteriously give meaning and accessibility to the stars beyond.   For that reason my work is landscape not astronomical photography.

* (although as you can see from my Avebury gallery that I have now had the opportunity to photograph real neolithic stones hence my feelings of having come home at last!)

My time as a night photographer has also given me a kind of composite mental library blending my memories of different locations and times with the starry "landscape" above.  Now if I look up at particular bright stars I can remember other occasions and accompanying moods when I photographed under those stars.   The sky has become a kind of personal diary in my head, and this website is my attempt to project at least a flavour of this outside of myself.   

5. How My Images Were and Weren't Made!

I almost always use ambient light (I did light paint some of my Avebury stones images). My work here effectively documents the change from silver halide film photography to digital capture, and accordingly each image is labelled to show which technology was used to make it.

My images are digitally manipulated to an extent, usually in line with how I would change cropping, colour, contrast and local brightness in the darkroom. I much prefer achieving strong colours by choosing to photograph scenes inherently rich in hue, rather than just jazzing things up in the computer later.   As for the manipulation of photographic details, I do sometimes remove aircraft contrails and aerial power line cables from my work, but I never build images by combining components from different scenes.   I do focus stack sometimes, and apply luminosity masking, but in both cases I am not inventing a new scene, instead I am having to work hard in post processing to overcome the inherent technical limitations of my equipment.   For some more complex light painted projects I might combine differently lit shots of the same subject to simulate a multi-light setup, but again I am seeking my own subjective interpretation of one real scene made with one fixed camera.



Copyright Notice - David Baldwin asserts his copyright over all his night photography images shown on this website.  Unauthorized use forbidden.