A shot in the dark
Itâ€™s 1:00am, Iâ€™m sitting in a small dirt hole. Not sure exactly where but somewhere in western Kandaharâ€˜s Maiwand district. How did I get here? On a journey that has involved too much time spent waiting. Waiting at Forward Operating Bases, waiting for planes, waiting for people, waiting for helicopters, waiting for convoys, waiting for patrols.
The short version is it hasnâ€™t been the most productive assignment. I am itching to get â€˜out thereâ€™ and shoot. So I have jumped at the offer to join an observation post patrol on a moonless night in a flat and treeless landscape, looking for militants laying IEDs.
Iâ€™ve bumbled my way out the back of an armored Stryker, across rocky ground, closely tailing a few soldiers who unlike me are equipped with night vision gear. Itâ€™s inky black, no illumination permitted. I even have the small red indictor lights on my cameraâ€™s back covered with tape. So now Iâ€™m in this little dirt hole. Itâ€™s dark, really dark. No light at allâ€¦â€¦ Well, except the billion or so stars above.
f1.4 offers such a tiny depth of field Iâ€™d be wasting my time attempting to manual focus accurately in the pitch dark on anything close and even a soldier sitting behind a night scope wont stay still long enough to be sharp for such a long exposure. But those stars arenâ€™t close and they arenâ€˜t exactly whizzing past either. It takes about 10 exposures with some fine adjustment to get them sharp. My tripod for the evening is a convenient and infinitely adjustable model. A small pile of pebbles and sand between my feet.
It takes a while to get the combination of focus, exposure (including balancing the light from the night scope reflected in the soldierâ€™s eye) and a subject that doesnâ€™t move too much to make this picture but time is one thing I have plenty of.
For those of you who like all the details.
Exposure – 20 seconds @ f1.4. ISO 2500. 24mm lens. Canon 5D MkII.