the other 9 to 5
By Olivia Ting
11 May 2013
I went to the Night Safari and it was really amazing experience - a tip of the iceberg glimpse of the other half of the population that come to their 9-5 in the nocturnal hours. It was pretty dark all around the park, so it was a pretty darn challenge trying to capture anything visible with a camera. We were not allowed to use flash because noctural animals are extra sensitive to light. To begin with, I hate flash (mostly because I don't know how to control it) and almost never use it anyway. So I resort to long exposures with all of these images. I crank my ISO way up to 3200 and open the f-stop as big as my camera allows. I used whatever surfaces I could improvise to steady my hand. Meanwhile, the mosquitos are having a field day (or night, rather) pillaging the sitting-duck blood bank, as I was.
It was a bit of trial and error of getting the exposure where you can see *something*, and because I didn't have a tripod, most of it was kind of blurry. But at the same time, I liked how the images look surreal, almost eerie. For some reason, with these images, I feel like they exist in a calm of very little sound, even though in reality, there were plenty of communication (vocal and otherwise) among the animals in the night. With long exposure the colors seems to come out more vibrantly, and the contrasts are more pronounced. And of course, animals never stay still, and there are motion blurs where they suddenly decide to shift directions and carry on with their daily lives. I like the fact that they are kind of blurry and grainy - like great dots of memories that came together to coalesce as a formative image in the retina at the back of your brain, not your eyes. Sometimes the smeared blurriness reminds me of Francis Bacon's paintings of raw emotion; I am reminded that nature has never intended these animals to be neatly categorized in domesticity, but a part of the primal existence as beyond predictability as our unconsciousness.
I feel like these are more interesting seen as a series for each of the animals. Usually photographers probably are looking for the one perfect shot that tells the whole story in one moment, but I feel the movements of these creatures warrant several frames. I don't think videos would quite give the same feeling- it reveals too many in-between transitions, I think. Dreams are, after all, a resurrection of a story from snatches of things you can retrieve, never in its entirety.