Neon Lights

This post is by Platypod Ultra user Joe Pellicone

I had been noticing the beautiful neon colors of some diners for years. I kept saying to myself one of these days I’m going to stop and shoot photos of them. I mentioned this to a friend and she encouraged me to just go and do it so I did.

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I started the Neon at Night project in the fall of 2018. Since then I have accumulated over 125 diners and other brightly lit buildings located on Long Island and in New York City. The collection started with diners and now includes gas stations, banks, a fire house, a bowling alley, a super market, movie theater, some eating establishments and even a hardware store.

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The challenge for me was to take something that we see daily and really don’t give a second thought to, and create art from it.

When I started off with this project I encountered some problems. Things like excessive numbers of cars in the way because I chose a weekend rather than a weekday to shoot. I arrived at some diners after closing and their lights were off. So I created a list of diners that I wanted to photograph by doing a Google search and looking at street view to see if they look nice. I then created a spread sheet with names, addresses, hours of operation and more to help figure the best times to arrive. I used Mapquest to create the most efficient routes.

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I did my first diners with a tripod and quickly learned that it took too long to set up at each location. I had several encounters with diner employees or owners who came out while I was opening and placing my tripod. Some challenged me and me and questioned why I was taking photos. One was angry and threatened to call the police. I didn’t want to deal with the confrontation, I determined that I needed to shorten my setup time so I could be in and out quickly. One thing that helped me with that was ditching the tripod and switching to a Platypod Ultra.

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Using the Platypod, turned out to be beneficial in several ways:

1: - Before I leave my house I mount my camera on the Platypod. I adjust my cameras settings so I am ready to shoot. I place the entire assembled rig on my passenger seat.

2: - When arriving at my shoot location I park the car jump out and place the Platypod on the ground to take the photos. There is no set up time required and Im not fiddling with a tripod at each stop. I get my shots fast and I’m gone before anyone realises.

3: - Placing the rig on the ground adds an unusual perspective to my photos which I believe is an extra added bonus. Shooting low down gives the focus to the buildings, flattening out the ground in front of them and giving them a ‘hero’ look.

The look is achieved by shooting in Aperture Priority at F22 and ISO 100. It provides me with starbursts on lights and gives a nice clear photo. These usually end up as long exposures running from 5 seconds to a minute.

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Post processing is started in Lightroom where clarity and saturation are pumped up. Then over to Photoshop where Stars and sometimes a Moon are added. Then back into Lightroom for some final tweaks. Some images are then run through Topaz Studios “Basic Adjustment Filter” for some extra pop.

If you like what you see follow me!

ultraDavid Williamsneon