Night photography isn't easy, over-exposure can lead to loss in detail in the neon signs you're trying to capture, under-exposure can lead to noisy images when you try to make it visible for the viewer. So for those that strictly shoot at night, there's a talent that it is to be respected, and Oliver Botfeldt is one of those talents. Capturing the essence of cold, gloomy evenings, Oliver's work demonstrates a visual representation of music producer Burial's track 'UK'. In fact, here's a link to the tune, hit play and view the incredible work of Oliver Botfeldt.
First of all, let’s talk equipment, what do you use to shoot with?
I mainly use the Canon 70D. I've recently borrowed a Canon 5D Mark III from my school, which I have been enjoying quite a bit, so I'll be looking to upgrade in the near future. As for lenses I'm currently using a Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 and the 18-35mm from the same series. Before I recently bought the Sigma Art 50mm, I religiously used the Canon 50mm f/1.8. That was the first lens I bought and I highly recommend it for anyone just getting started.
What draws you to night time photography in particular?
I've always been drawn to the night. Whether it would be in movies, photography or even music I have just always been fascinated by it. So when it came to my own photography, it made perfect sense to go down that road. I'm also a huge sucker for everything noir related and draw a lot of inspiration from there. When I started shooting a little over a year ago, I almost only did it on rainy nights. The atmosphere on these nights really fitted the mood that I wanted to capture. All the lights and colors of the night was being amplified on the wet concrete and it made for some striking photography. I also enjoy how everything becomes empty and quiet late at night. The cityscape becomes more special without all the noise surrounding it, and the people left in the night turn into individuals.
One of your pictures has just done very well on Reddit, can you please talk us through the process in creating that shot.
The procedure of creating this particular shot was actually quite difficult. The main reason being, that the person in the picture is actually myself. I didn't have a tripod with me, so I had to place the camera on a nearby ledge and then set the self timer. The problem was, that the timer only goes to 10 seconds at maximum. This combined with the fact that the camera had to be a fair bit away from the beam of light, in order to fit the whole thing in frame, resulted in me sprinting back and forth like a maniac, just to be able to stand in the light before the shutter went. When I finally got the shot I was ecstatic. Many people on Reddit have asked how the beam of light was created and there was even some drone + duct tape + flashlight theories going on. In reality, it was just a concentrated streetlamp on a foggy night.
Can you talk us through 3 of your favourite photos so far and the process behind them?
From the neon sign and foggy weather to the lone person in the street, this picture just oozes noir. I think it captures my style and what I'm trying to do with my photography quite well. As mentioned before I get a lot of inspiration from everything noir and that definitely shows here. All while still trying to put my own spin on the genre.
I shot this picture a little over a year ago, when I was just getting started. I remember just having seen the original Blade Runner and felt really inspired by it. I went out that night to try and capture something that could fit inside that universe. I found the spot just outside the metro station where I had arrived at and began to wait for the perfect stranger to pass by. After a while this guy that looked like he was straight out of a crime noir film came by and I snapped the picture. I really felt like he could be the main protagonist in a Blade Runner-esque movie. This was also one of the first of my images that gained a bit of traction and has since become kind of a trademark of mine. Not long ago the picture made it onto a vinyl cover for a synthwave artist named Android Automatic.
I thought a lot about what my number 1 spot should be, but after a great deal of thinking this definitely takes the cake. This was shot right outside of a sports arena near Copenhagen, where I had been doing some commercial photography. I had been there all day and was tired as hell. As i finally went outside to go home, I saw that the weather had become really foggy. I debated with myself whether I should go shoot or go home, but as you can see I ended up with the first option. And damn am I glad that I did. The conditions were just perfect as the light of the big arena spotlights pierced the fog. When I saw the boy standing alone, waiting outside of the arena, I instantly knew that I had a good picture on my hands. But it was then, that he went up on this small rock, that he had previously stood next to. And as he stood there, raised from the ground with his silhouette perfectly visible, every aspect of the scene became ideal for my shot. When I finally returned home to edit the picture, I realized how much it reminded me of a swedish movie called "Let the Right One In" which made me like the shot even more.
Lastly, with street photography, what do you look for when arranging your compositions?
That's a though one. I honestly don't think too much about it when I'm out shooting. But with that being said, there is definitely some recurring themes in my work. I'd love to think that my pictures could be stills from a movie. I also like to imagine the backstories of the people that occur in my pictures, as if they were characters from a movie, so I guess I'm trying to create something cinematic. A lot of the people that I photograph also appear alone in the pictures and that's something that I'd very much like to portray in my work; loneliness. From a technical standpoint I like to keep my compositions as clean as possible. I don't want any distractions in the way of what's important to the image. It's crucial to be aware of the lighting that you are shooting in. I always try to think of ways that I can play with the light and how it can be used to my benefit. I think a lot about what kind of weather it is when I go shoot. For example the rain and fog can really help set the mood in a lot of situations. I work a lot with lines and symmetry in my pictures. That's something I don't really think about when I'm shooting, but looking back, it's pretty clear that I'm looking for those kind of sceneries, even if I don't really know it myself.
Check out Oliver Botfeldt here: @oliverbotfeldt