News Car at Night

News Car at Night

The ABC 33/40 News Unit assigned to me sits beneath a starry sky in Helena, Ala. after a broadcast news live shot.


This image has been pretty heavily edited to correct the color, improve sharpness, remove noise and bring out the most prominent lights in the night sky. A couple of flares from the headlights bouncing off the lens elements have also been removed. This is intended to be an artistic work, not a photojournalistic one. With all the editing, I’ve noticed it doesn’t present well on all screens.

Creating the image was a lot of fun, both in the field and in post processing. I was out doing a live shot with Ed Burch, an ABC 33/40 multimedia journalist, and it was such a clear night! I had been trying to get a good image of the sky while we waited for our live hit, but the lights I had set up for the live shot were a major hindrance. Being so close to the lights of Hoover, Pelham and even Birmingham, the night sky doesn’t reveal nearly as many stars as you typically see in the really eye-catching long-exposure nighttime shots. After we packed up and Ed left, I thought about a shot I’d seen by Chris Burkard (he’s a heck of a photographer) with his SUV against the night sky, and I wanted to try my hand at getting a decent shot of the car but with the stars as a back drop.

I moved the car several times and tried different angles. This one seemed to be the angle with the least flares on the lens. And getting the headlights not to blow out the image took a little creativity too. If you do night shots a lot, you probably know this trick, but I had never tried it like this before. I set the shutter on a timer for a long exposure, pressed the button, then ran around and got in the car. I tried to be as still as possible and counted in my head to a point when the shutter was open, then flipped the headlights on briefly and turned them off again. Then I sat there counting until the shutter closed. That’s how I got the headlights and the stars without completely blowing out the image.

The photo was taken on September 4, 2015, (that’s also the date on this post) but I’m publishing it many months later (June 10, 2016) because it took me that long to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with it. I’m still not terribly happy with it, and I wish I could go back and do it again to get a better in-camera image. But I’ve received a lot of positive feedback on social media and in person when I’ve shown it, so I’m posting it here.

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James McConatha