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Photo Assignment 3: Shooting in Low Light

I couldn't just choose one. I had parts that I liked for all. So here's my favorite three.

Minutes before lights go out for the night in a home on Beverly drive, resident Randi Eiland descends the stairs alongside furry friend, Oliver in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5, 2023. (Arden Eiland/SMU)

Locking the doors and turning the lights out, Randi Eiland is accompanied in the nighly runthrough by dog, Oliver in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5, 2023. (Arden Eiland/SMU)

The street grows dark on Beverly drive as pet, Oliver Eiland keeps watch over his home in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 5, 2023. (Arden Eiland/ SMU)

I quite liked this project. I never shoot in dark areas or lighting considering I feel as though the photography I am most invested and interested in are very bright. However, I liked how this turned out. It made me feel like I am watching people and let in on someone else's world. The woman in these photographs is my mom, and beside her my favorite dog, Oliver. I captured these images in front of my parents home.

I knew I wanted to shoot from the perspective of someone looking in, or just playing with the idea of people watching our lives without ourselves having the knowledge of someone observing our ways of life. I think about this a lot. My parents live on a relatively busy street here close to campus. One that connects and flows straight through Highland Park from the tollway to 75. I used to think a lot about how many people observed us that we didn't get to reciprocate back. During Christmas, all the carriages drive down our street. It takes approximately 9 minutes on a good day to be let out of our driveway during the month of December. 15 minutes the week leading up to Christmas. No time to a minute any other time of the year. In that month of December growing up in this house year after year, you watch as people are stacked in carriages, buses, cars, trucks, or on foot watch you. Sitting in the dining room doing homework, eating dinner, fighting with a family member you look up through the window and there is at least six to ten smiling faces back at you just looking. It's a weird thing and I hadn't really thought of it but I guess I do this too, although when I'm driving. I look to my left and see people getting out of a car, entering a building, or from an upstairs window. I tend to never think of it again, but sometimes I do still remember the faces of those who return year after year to partake in a carriage ride during Christmas to see the lights. I know the people who steer the horses. Quite the coincidence with this story and my dog being included, but Oliver is from a family who runs the carriage rides in Highland Park and occasionally stop by to pay a visit. You don't know who you are watching when you are observing their life. Sometimes you make up stories of what you think their lives are like. How perfect it all looks. It's funny though, to think that there is always someone like that for everyone. We are all chasing after each other. The family I see eating dinner inside their beautiful decorated home with walls covered in Gracie wallpaper appearing as a happy family sees imperfection that my eyes are hidden from. They see other families and think that family is perfect, I wish we were like them. We don't see what we have ourselves. How lucky we are to be where we are. I include the street name in my images for a certain reason. My mom grew up in Desoto just 16 miles south of Highland Park. Her and her best friend growing up would write their return addresses on their envelopes to each other as Beverly Drive. It was an inside joke, and maybe a little bit of a goal, between them that one of them would live on Beverly Drive. At the time and with the distance of their reality and this dream it made the street seem perfect. They spent weekends driving through these streets looking at the houses, observing the people. People who are idolized for "luxurious lifestyles" or life inside The Bubble. They would visit Highland Park Village just 3 streets from my parents now home. I like to think my mom drove by our house and observed the people who lived here once too. Although has long forgotten them and what they looked like, for the split seconds of crossover where she would have been able to take a small glimpse into their life I'd like to think she acknowledged them. Just as I do now, when I pass other houses from one errand to another. Or intentionally when I pass by one of our old houses or a friends old house. Hoping to just see a little bit of what life is like now in the same space you once occupied. Over the summer, every night I rode my bike around town always making sure to pass by my favorite house. Never at the same time each night but constantly every night, some nights more than once. It's the house I tell people I hope to live in one day. It is located only a block away from my favorite place in Dallas, Highland Park Library. My bike rides naturally turned into car rides once it was too cold outside, but I observe them. Not in a creepy way more like in an admiring kind of way. I don't know who actually lives there but I've seen an elderly woman there on a few of my pass bys. She, I believe, owns two golden retrievers who lay on the cement steps on the porch out front as the sun goes down. Sometimes the windows will be open letting the warm air inside the, I'm sure of it, historic home. I like to think of the summer parties the front lawn must have held decades previous. If when the window is propped open, you can hear the whistle of the lifeguards from the town pool just three or so blocks down the road. If there are any other historical elements that makes the home so special inside of the tall white structure. For now though, this is my home. This is where I like to think people have observed me. As I still observe those who pass by us.

For this project, I think I was successful in imitating the guidelines of including someone as a main subject (dogs count as people too). I also think I proved my ability and expressed my attempt in working in low light settings. I think I would like to experiment more with images like these. I think it would actually make for a really cool photo project. Kinda like a meet the neighbors. I think visually that might be really cool, telling different stories from different windows of varying houses. I really like how in the first two pictures you can see the light from a tree creating the light and shadow onto our house on the second story. It almost makes this look like a scene from a movie. I had a hard time being able to tell if it was all in focus due to my small screen and it being dark outside. I think for what it is I did capture it to the best quality as I could. I find it difficult to capture more crystal clear images when it is dark however, I was researching and playing around with my settings hoping to find a solution for that. I think I did fix it, however it was hard balancing the ISO brightness which I needed to emphasize the little light I was provided. Balancing the ISO and trying to not let it be too much to emphasize and draw out the grain was a bit time consuming. I want dot get above the house peak and get stars but it must've been cloudy tonight and I didn't notice because I was really struggling to get any star to show up and locate many of them. I will admit I wish I were able to have access to my tripod because I think that would've been much easier when stabilizing it and making sure to get clear pictures but I was unable to find it when preparing for this project. I did bring a book outside with me and tried to stabilize it on my knees under the camera so it would provide as a barrier for shakiness which I do think got rid of some of it. I really like the second and third pictures the best. I think the first one gets the point across clearer but I like how the others look. Taking it from the yard instead of the street makes it feel much more welcomed to have been photographed. I don't know if I explained that well but when I was shooting from the street it added to a presence of "I shouldn't be here and I am watching them", more like stalker vibe. I think if I were to do this again I might take it just about an hour before so it is still a little light outside not pitch dark which I think would help with clarity, more interesting possibility for activity of subject, colors, and overall image would be more visually pleasing. I would like to take one where one of our Old English Sheep Dogs (we have two, Penny and Oliver- yes I did say he was my favorite, no I do not feel guilty for claiming a favorite when having 3 dogs). Id like to capture one of the dogs on the benches in the dining room (to the left of the front door in these images) and one where Oliver is at the front door. If I could get them to behave well enough for long enough I think it would make for a really cool picture.

These steps are now where my mom, without fail, has waived me off every single time I have left their house -which has been at least once every two days- for the past two years since moving out. She waits on the steps and occasionally accompanied by a dog or two for me to pull out of the driveway and waive goodbye. I know I'll think about that too when I pass by this house on Beverly decades to come. To observe who now enjoys this space that we love so dearly right now. I hope they know what a privilege it is to observe and be observed. Traffic during Christmas and all.

more xo:

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