Green Cars and Night Photography

Our correspondent in Sweden, Niels Moesgaard Jorgensen, spotted this green Suzuki recently.

2015 Suzuki SX4: Niels Moesgaard Jørgensen

We’ve been logging green cars as the colour looks like a minority taste yet metallic mid-greens can be very flattering. Additionally, the image prompted me to think about how difficult (for me) it is to get good night time images of cars, or rather cars under street lights. My photos end up murky and lack the deep black of this image.
If a photo at dusk is wonderful for bringing out contrasts, the urban night-light image shows a narrowest range yet it has its own atmosphere. As I said before, I once saw a Mercedes W123 under street lights outside the concert hall in Frankfurt. It’s glued to my mind’s eye. The interaction of the light and the metal left a very strong impression on me, though it might only have been a few moments where I paid attention to it. Words are probably inadequate and provide only an impression: saturated colours from the paint surface, deep coloured highlights where the lamps reflected directly, the chrome showing up as a strong white against the duller side glass, the interior merely a few shadows. It’s an impression that only a really good photographer with a good camera can capture. For good measure, the print ought to be big too.

Night time in monochrome: source
Night time in monochrome: source

This image (above) makes use of light, not colour. The monochrome turns your attention to the geometry of the houses and the space. What you don’t dwell on is the surface lustre. The car is there for scale, not as an object of interest. It’s a good photograph, one interested in different things though.

Turning back to Niels’ image, the green has been dampened down to grey but the normally colourless upper surfaces now obey the lighting rules of the sodium lamps. The graphics also dominate the sculpting. Red stands out and rescues the green – that oblong the rear lamp is suddenly important for the graphics of the car.

Do you wonder if car designers ever get to review their cars at night?  Or what would the effect be of sculpting the clay model in a studio with extremely skewed lighting? I suspect they don’t do this and that a car looks good or not at night is a matter of chance.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

2 thoughts on “Green Cars and Night Photography”

  1. I always imagine that designers assessment of their shapes and the way light works on them is carried out in limited and rather clinical conditions. You can often fall for a car’s shape under specific, everyday conditions. Caked in mud, lit by the strip lights in and underground car park, covered in frost, at night lit by streetlights certainly. Once infatuated the image stays. Cars that look quite bland in normal sunlight can take on a new shape. How often is this considered?

    1. Were I so fortunate as to be hired (at little cost!) by a major manufacturer, I´d be getting my designers to look at their cars in all sorts of wierd lights. They´d be at work at 11.00 at night with sodium lights over the clay. And yes, I´d even go on working walks around town to look at competitors cars in places like London and Berlin to see how vehicles looks at night. Car design needs more method designing, as well as the routine shaping under neon strip lights. I notice really nice shadows on cars at night and our beloved Carisma almost looks purposeful at night (there are two near where I live). One might be able to see something nascent in the design that could be brought out and also see which bits are doing nothing and get rid of them.

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