I like shooting out of windows. Shooting pictures, I hasten to add. It started on the drive home from the airport after the fateful Lanzarote light writing trip. They have to be moving windows. Car windows. I am in the passenger seat (before you arrest me). I’ve yet to try a train window. This is light writing on the wild side. No control. No idea even of what will come out. Totally aleatory process. Guess the exposure using a bulb setting. Point the camera out of the windscreen. Point and guess.
The lit-up street furniture is fixed, lampposts, illuminated sins, traffic signals, Shop fronts, all can be factored into a light drawing ‘pass’, but the movement and speed of the car are chance elements, as are the headlamps and tail lights and indicators of others cars… Time of day is a factor. More ambient light means the light exposure can be less, and the canvas will be smudged electric blue or pink (or whatever the sky and weather is doing) in tone. It’s all beautiful guess work. And there’s no looking till afterwards, because after every shot the camera has to save it to the disc, and then it’s time to shoot again. My husband is now an experienced light pass driver.
The planning is in what settings to use for a particular pass: the Runcorn Widnes Bridge, for example, is brilliantly lit. Too bright perhaps, but it’s on my list to shoot: its architecture is spectacular at night when, on calm nights, it is reflected perfectly in the River Mersey, so that it becomes one part of a pale oval of steel against the night sky. This is one form of night photography where skill and experience assists the photographer to take the shot. Skill and experience and the sense of an anticipated result affect the technical choices made. In shooting from a moving car, however, the shot is never predictable.
The effect, however, is sort of predictable after a while: I know I will grab parallel lines of bright light in glowing reds and ambers and white. I know these lines will spike across the canvas, in parallels of jittery ups and downs, each jitter recording a jolt of the car over uneven bits of road. I know the canvas will be an average of the time the shutter was open. And sometimes it’s a good result and sometimes less so. But the result is always a surprise.
Maybe this is the parallel of a Jackson Pollock spatter of paint. He chose his colours but the exact trajectories and patterns of the paint spatters were, in the end, defined by the chaos of chance.