Lights in the Darkness – My Low Light Film Photography 1957-2002 – By Jordi Fradera

I find the night and the darkness are magical to photograph. When I’ve taken analogue photos in lower light, I have always been doubtful about the result, but that adds emotion to the process.

Since I started photographing as an amateur, one of my objectives was night photography but I did not know its difficulty and techniques. In 1957-1958, together with my friend Enrique, we did several “night safaris” in order to photograph the night in Barcelona. A Contaflex, a Leica IIIf, a Leica M3 and a 1940s tripod seemed enough for the adventure. Then, at Enrique’s house, we developed the Kodak Plus X – 21 DIN and made the copies on paper, rarely the result was the desired, but achieving an image made us happy.

In the cover photo (scanned from a paper photo) you can see how we looked under a lamppost on a cold and lonely night, accompanied by José who was walking us with his car.

Barcelona Cathedral – (1957-1958) – 2 horizontal B / W photos (scanned negatives, stitched with ICE and edited) – Leica IIIf or Leica M3

Now, 63 years later, both retired, Enrique from his work as a professional photographer and I as an industrial engineer, I have compiled from my collection the photos that I define as “Lights in the Darkness”. Between negatives and paper copies, I have found more than 100 images, some of which (the most significant and varied) illustrate this article, not only are they “nocturnal” in the city, but some other images are sneaked in according to the title of the article.

The poor quality of the originals, the use of noisy Kodak Gold 200 ASA film, the negatives degradation and the domestic scanning have forced me to edit all the images.

When I took the photos that I show below, I thought about the memories in them, I did not look for quality or “art”. Sometimes we used a tripod but also a bridge, railing or stone and generally used the camera in automatic mode.

Solsona Cathedral – Spain – 09-10-1977 – Pentax ME
 Amstel (Rokin) -Amsterdam – 27-12-1986 – Pentax ME
 Bayonne – France – 16-08-1989 – Pentax ME
Aven Armand – Cévennes National Park – France – 22-08-1993 – Pentax Z1
Comet Halle Bopp – Galicia – Spain – 24-03-1997– Pentax Z1 + Pentax 200mm / f4 + Pentax 2X Duplicator – edited

I want to admit that I was the first surprised when I saw the result with the Bob Halle comet. And… Isn’t the Sun a light on the dark background of the sky?

Solar eclipse from the roof of my house – 05-30-1984 – Pentax ME + Pentax 200mm / f4 + veiled negative – Edited (160%, γ 0.15)
Camprodon – Spain – 18-08-1995 – Pentax Z1
Blue Mosque – Istanbul – 11-12-1999 – Pentax MZ5 
 Luxor – Egypt – 12-03-2002 – Pentax MZ5

This is possibly the last “night” analog photo I took. After that trip I gave up analog photography and bought my first digital camera.

I love to rummage through my collection of photos because the images I find remind me of experiences and past adventures that are generally pleasant, that is, making articles for 35mmc is a double opportunity: I have a good time while I do it and I awaken almost forgotten memories.

Thanks for reading my article, I hope you liked it.

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About The Author

12 thoughts on “Lights in the Darkness – My Low Light Film Photography 1957-2002 – By Jordi Fradera”

  1. Lovely article. I feel nights is also my genre. In the past, being ignorant of such things, I simply shot in auto or aperture priority and cheerfully accepted the outcome. I find myself now endlessly grappling with reciprocity and worrying about the aesthetic. Did you worry about such things too?

    1. Jordi Fradera

      Thank you for your comments.
      To be honest, I have always taken amateur family photos although sometimes I have tried to be an artist but it is not my thing, I see photos of other people that I like but I don’t know how to take them. I am a technician and that marks my forays into photography, most of my articles are rare inventions, repairs and adaptations or memories of the past and family. Thousands of photos have not made me an artist, I am who I am and at 78 I will not change.

  2. Peter Christensen

    Great story, in those days night photography took a lot of effort, as well as luck…
    The 3rd last picture of the roman bridge reminds me of Puente la Reina on the Camino de Santiago…

    1. Jordi Fradera

      Thank you for your comment and support.
      In fact, reminds it, but the scenaries are different since Camprodon is a mountain town (940 m.) in the Pyrenees of Catalonia, the river Ter is born nearby and it has a ski resort. Their cookies are excellent.
      The two towns are very interesting

  3. Jordi, beauty is in the eye of the beholder as the saying goes. Looking back to people and times long past is one of the joys of photography. I call it the “Force” of a photograph. I always enjoy your articles as they have the warmth of honest remembrance. You say you will not change but you have obviously ventured into the minefield of photo correction software. My hat is off to you for that big step. I too have enjoyed night photography as it is kind of like a super power in that you get to see things that you couldn’t without a camera. Thank you for the effort to put your words out for us to read. Great work!

    1. Jordi Fradera

      Thank you.
      As an amateur, retired and with limited means I do what I can and for me these jobs mean less TV and more fun, although sometimes they give me a headache from thinking so much. As for photo editing, I started with Corel Photopaint 6 around 1995, somewhat less complete than Photoshop but 1000% easier and intuitive, the result very adequate. As with any editing program, I think that success is not overdoing it.

    2. Night photography is one of the most rewarding experiences any photographer should get through. It’s really challenging due to the knowledge and skill needed, especially when film is used. I loved your shots Jordi, will we ever see more of them?

      1. Jordi Fradera

        Thanks, for the article I selected the 50 appropriate to the topic but I already deleted that selection, anyway (I don’t know when) I will spend time searching again.

  4. Love the first shot. I was not around back then but I really do appreciate the beauty of the past. You seem like a very well travelled person. Even if you don’t find your photos beautiful I’m sure many other people would as an insight into what seems like a much simpler time

    1. Jordi Fradera

      Thanks. Yes, they were other times and although I have a good memory the photos help me to remember, they are good or bad photos but mine. Now I take a lot of photos of the family, granddaughters, flowers etc … and of course for 35mmc.

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