Sunday, April 01, 2012

Night in the city

click photo to enlarge
"Night in the city looks pretty to me,
Night in the city looks fine.
Music comes spilling out into the street,
Colors go waltzing in time."
from the song, Night in the City by Joni Mitchell (1968)

The countryside figured very large in my childhood and teenage years. Unlike most of my contemporaries who were aching to be off to the major towns and cities where more happened, I was very happy with my rural surroundings. I appreciated the beauty, the opportunity for outdoor solitude, the natural history and, in most cases, the community that rural living entails. In fact, and on the basis of fairly limited experience, I imagined that I didn't like urban areas much at all. But, when I eventually went to live in a city, I found that I liked it just fine: it wasn't worse, it was just different. Some things were not as good, of course, noise and traffic for example; but some things were better, such as the ease of meeting like-minded people and the wide range of visual stimuli.

That latter advantage isn't, I guess, one that most people would list among the benefits of city life. But for a person who has wide-ranging interests and derives great value and enjoyment from what he sees around him, it immediately hit me right between the eyes as well as in them! The fact is, cities have so much to look at and what there is to see is always changing.This facilitates photography because there is always something at which you can point your camera. So it's perhaps not surprising that I regularly head out from my rural Lincolnshire fastness towards the larger towns and cities, as much for photographic reasons as any other. Having a son living in London means that I go to the capital fairly regularly and as far as UK cities go none is bigger.

It was on my most recent visit, when walking on the south bank of the very full River Thames one evening, looking at the sparkling towers of Canary Wharf, that the words of Joni Mitchell's song chorus, quoted above, came to me. "Night in the City" seems to me to be one of those songs that have been somewhat forgotten, which is a pity because it is melodic, basically simple yet with some complexity, is distinctive, has great honky-tonk style piano, time-signature changes, and a strong contrast between verse and chorus. It's perhaps that it was written for her own vocal style and range, and fits it so well, that other singers cover it much less than formerly. It must be time for that to change!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 32mm
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/10 sec
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On