While on the way home from the pub one night earlier this week, I was really struck by just how different Oxford looks under street lighting. Whereas some town centres can feel lifeless and even threatening in the dark, the majestic colleges and the honey-coloured limestone facades and narrow backstreets of Oxford gain a different character entirely. So last Thursday, Agata and I set out on an intrepid adventure into the back streets of Oxford...with cameras of course.
For this shoot, Agata went with the Canon 30D and tripod. I decided to try out my Leica, shooting hand-held with a 28mm Voigtlander lens and my new 50mm Summicron. Leica lenses are fast...very fast, and the camera itself performs pretty well on 640 ISO in terms of noise, so I decided to just open up the aperture, and give it a go.
We started off at Wagamama, filling up on spicy noodles to get our body temperatures up. A couple of bottles of Kirin Ichiban also helped (liquid image stabilisation). I took my first shot while waiting outside for Agata - just shooting the students waiting to get in to the restaurant.
From the restuarant we headed down Brasenose Lane to the Radcliffe camera. This was where Agata's decision to take a tripod definitely paid off. The Radcliffe Camera is massively over-photographed, but I've not seen many shots of it taken at night. From the tripod, Agata was able to get amazing pictures of the building against a star-studded sky. I on the other hand started to hunt around for "available light". This shot of bikes along the railings is probably my favourite.
We then headed down Queen's Lane and back, passing under the Bridge of Sighs (another Oxford photography favourite!). By now I had swapped from the 50mm Summicron to the wider 28mm Viogtlander lens enabling me to get more "full street" shots. Working with just the streetlighing led to some really nice pictures with pools of light suspended in an inky blackness.
Finally from Queens Lane we walked up Parks Road, hoping to get a shot of the magnificent Museum of Natural History and were a bit disappointed to find it totally unlit - I'm sure it would look fantastic if properly floodlit. A little stroll through the back alley between Parks Road and St Giles took us past the Lamb and Flag...mmm...beer....and it was here on the last leg of the journey that I think we both got some of the best shots of the evening.
Although St Giles is a wide, busy road the pavements are also quite wide and in places tree-lined and the buildings of Balliol college and others close in to give a feeling of antiquity. I think this shot of the telephone box on St. Giles is my favourite - backlit by the streetlight to give a strong spreading shadow.
By the time we got back home, this rather short walk had seen us out and about for well over two hours. It was fun and presented us with a new way to look at a town that has by now become pretty familiar to us. Definitely something to try again!