Art

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Photos: 39th Annual Lantern Floating Festival

Posted By on Tue, Aug 9, 2022 at 5:22 PM

A large crowd returned for the in-person 39th annual Arcata Lantern Floating Ceremony on Saturday evening at Klopp Lake in the Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary after a two-year pandemic break.

The emotional event, linked to the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, was described by organizers as "an opportunity to offer spiritual consolation for everyone affected by the pandemic, those we miss, departed loved ones, ancestors and all we hold dear." The event began with participants creating their own personalized lanterns at a workstation on the Arcata Plaza during the morning farmers market. The low cloud cover lasted until sunset, when the sky turned colorful. The lanterns entered the water after twilight.

The event was hosted by Arcata Mayor Stacy Atkins-Salazar and included Humboldt Taiko's drumming, poetry reading, shakuhachi flute music by Rick Kruze, songs by the McKinleyville Choir and the Raging Grannies, and other speakers. See the slideshow below for highlights from the event.
The city of Arcata’s Nuclear-Free Zone Committee started the Arcata Lantern Floating Ceremony 39 years ago to commemorate the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and to affirm Arcata’s dedication to the cause of peace, to bring awareness to the dangers of nuclear proliferation, and to advocate for environmental sustainability. Community groups helping to create this event include: the city of Arcata, Humboldt Buddhist Peace Fellowship, GI Rights Hotline, Shinnyo-en, Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Social Action Committee, Veterans For Peace, Humboldt Friends Meeting (Quakers), United States Servas and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
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Friday, July 29, 2022

Former Arcata McKinley Statue May Soon Have a New Home

Posted By on Fri, Jul 29, 2022 at 5:16 PM

The statue of President William McKinley's removal from the Arcata Plaza in March of 2019. - CITY OF ARCATA
  • City of Arcata
  • The statue of President William McKinley's removal from the Arcata Plaza in March of 2019.
After being kept at an undisclosed location since being removed from the Arcata Plaza in the early morning hours of March 8, 2019, it appears the statue of President William McKinley is one step closer to regaining his place in the sun.


The Canton Repository reported July 22 that the Timken Foundation of Canton — which officially took control of the bronze work by noted artist Haig Patigian — has decided the Stark County Courthouse, where the 25th president once practiced law, should be the sculpture’s new home and asked Stark County commissioners to “accept the statue as a donation for the corner of Tuscarawas Street and Market Avenue.”

"It's an exciting project for the city and the county," Commissioner Janet Weir Creighton told the newspaper. "It's a way to honor William McKinley and have a statue of him downtown."

The county commission, equivalent to the Board of Supervisors, still needs to cast an official vote on the matter.

More than three years have elapsed since the nearly 9-foot memorial to the president felled by an assassin’s bullet in 1901 was placed on a bed of tires in a flatbed truck to make the 2,600-mile trip to McKinley’s one-time home of Canton, Ohio, where he is buried and his presidential library is located.

Commissioned by Arcata rancher George Zehnder as a tribute to the slain McKinley, whom he had admired, the statue survived the Great San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and held court over the plaza for more than 100 years before being removed.



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Monday, May 16, 2022

Artist, Poet, Activist and Karuk Ceremonial Singer Brian Tripp has Died

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2022 at 3:38 PM

After a long and painful battle with illness, 77-year-old Brian D. Tripp, born in Eureka and raised in Klamath, died May 13. A nationally renowned artist whose work echoed traditional forms in painting and sculpture, Tripp was the 2018 recipient of the California Living Heritage Award from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. His mural "The Sun Set Twice on the People that Day" can be seen beside the Clarke Historical Museum, where it was relocated in 2021.
Brian Tripp at the 2018 California Living Heritage Award ceremony. - FILE
  • File
  • Brian Tripp at the 2018 California Living Heritage Award ceremony.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Photos: Celebrating Charlie Moon, Chinatown and the Year of the Tiger

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2022 at 5:05 PM

The rain held off Saturday afternoon as a grateful crowd gathered by Dave Kim's mural "Fowl" on E Street between Fourth and Fifth streets for a ribbon cutting ceremony for Charlie Moon Way. The street sign on the alley bisecting the block where Eureka's Chinatown stood pays homage to Moon, one of the Chinese residents who resisted and remained in Humboldt County after a white mob expelled most Chinese in 1885 under threat of hanging. Descendants of Moon, who married and had eight children with Minnie Tom, a Native woman of the Chilula Redwood Creek Tribe, were on hand for the event, along with the family of Ben Chin, the first Chinese American to set up a business in Eureka after the expulsion in 1954. 
Members of the Eureka Chinatown Project and other supporting community members gather with the Lion Dancers at the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for Charlie Moon Way in Eureka. - PHOTO BY DAVE WOODY
  • Photo by Dave Woody
  • Members of the Eureka Chinatown Project and other supporting community members gather with the Lion Dancers at the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for Charlie Moon Way in Eureka.

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Sunday, November 7, 2021

Heading for Charlie Moon Way

Posted By on Sun, Nov 7, 2021 at 12:04 PM

This summer during the Eureka Street Art Festival, artist Dave Young Kim painted a mural depicting a Mandarin duck and Ben Chin, the first Chinese American to open a business in Eureka in 1955, 70 years after the mass expulsion of Chinese people from the town. That mural, emblazoned with the word “hometown,” stands in an alley between E and F streets and Fourth and Fifth streets, where Eureka’s Chinatown once served as home to more than 200 immigrant workers. And at the Nov. 2 Eureka City Council meeting, the council voted to approve renaming that alley Charlie Moon Way, honoring one of the Chinese residents who resisted the expulsion and remained in Humboldt County.
Representatives from mural sponsors Papa & Barkley, as well as the city of Eureka, join artists Dave Kim and Cate Be posing with Mary Chin, widow of Ben, and their youngest son Don, with ECP members Alex Ozaki-McNeill, Patty Hecht and Brianne Mirjah D’Souza, and Jean Pfaelzer in front of the completed mural “Fowl.” - PHOTO BY ALEXANDER WOODARD
  • Photo by Alexander Woodard
  • Representatives from mural sponsors Papa & Barkley, as well as the city of Eureka, join artists Dave Kim and Cate Be posing with Mary Chin, widow of Ben, and their youngest son Don, with ECP members Alex Ozaki-McNeill, Patty Hecht and Brianne Mirjah D’Souza, and Jean Pfaelzer in front of the completed mural “Fowl.”

The hope is to “create a space for learning about those stories,” according to Brieanne Mirjah D’Souza of the Eureka Chinatown Project, which first proposed the renaming before the city council in May. While a number of names for the alley were considered, “We really thought naming this after a person specifically would be a way to color in the lines of the story” of Chinese people in Humboldt. And Moon, she says, “represents so much more, and a crossing of communities.” Given the number of local Native people who can trace their lineage back to Moon, Mirjah D’Souza says, “We’re not just honoring someone who’s passed — it’s his descendents that will be around.”

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Friday, October 22, 2021

North Coast Otters Art Initiative Raises $300,000

Posted By on Fri, Oct 22, 2021 at 10:35 AM

Live In-Person Silent Auction, North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative, Clarke Plaza, Eureka, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (“Johner the Logger Otter” by Claudia Lima in the foreground). - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Live In-Person Silent Auction, North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative, Clarke Plaza, Eureka, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (“Johner the Logger Otter” by Claudia Lima in the foreground).
The North Coast Otter Art initiative, which saw more than 100 otter sculptures scattered throughout five North Coast counties, has raised $300,000 that will support continued otter research and student internships at Humboldt State University.

The initiative led by wildlife professor Jeff Black began in 2019 with the hopes of launching the initiative in 2020, however, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, plans were changed and the otter sculpture scavenger hunt was postponed.

The goal of the initiative was to celebrate professor Black's 20 years of “citizen science” river otter records study, where residents who spot otters catalog when and where they were seen, and raise awareness about wildlife conservation and celebrate the arts.

This summer residents in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties were able to find otters scattered throughout businesses, however, more than 300 "otter spotters" participated in the raffle and submitted entry forms for a chance to win one of the 32 raffle prizes donated by local businesses.

“Hundreds of people, including grandkids with grandparents, families, couples and, well, everyone, seemed to fall in love with these otters,” Black said. “The merger of art and science was an absolute joy throughout the North Coast.”


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Thursday, September 9, 2021

North Coast Otter Sculpture Auction and Preview

Posted By on Thu, Sep 9, 2021 at 12:01 PM

Did you get a chance to hunt for any of the 108 North Coast Otter Art Initiative otter sculptures throughout Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity and Siskiyou counties this summer? If not, no sweat! All of the otter sculptures will be on preview this Friday from noon to 7 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in Eureka.
MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson

Thirty-two otter sculptures that were a part of the massive five-county scavenger hunt will be up for auction on Saturday, Sept. 11, from noon to 3 p.m. at the Clarke Historical Museum, followed by an online auction of the remaining 70-plus otters the following week.

The North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative was created to celebrate life, water and otters, support local businesses and raise funds for student projects.


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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Time to Start Looking for Otter Sculptures!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 22, 2021 at 3:25 PM

Michelle Kunst, program and project organizer at the Land Trust, joined Jeff Black to look over Maureen McGarry's otter location. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Michelle Kunst, program and project organizer at the Land Trust, joined Jeff Black to look over Maureen McGarry's otter location.
The long-awaited North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative's treasure hunt of 108 otter sculptures painted by local artists spread throughout five North Coast counties has finally begun and will continue through September.

The initiative's creator and Humboldt State University wildlife professor Jeff Black says he's really excited about finally getting the otter sculptures out.

"I've been getting phone calls from people in the community telling me that they're excited about getting to look for [the sculptures]," Black told the Journal. "I'm very excited about giving people something to look forward to."

All otter sculptures are up for bidding through an online silent auction open throughout the summer, and the highest bid sculptures will be sold in a live auction in September. The funds will then be used to fund HSU otter research and student internships with community-based watershed projects.

The North Coast Otters Public Art Initiative was created to celebrate life, water, and otters, support local businesses and raise funds for student projects.

You can download the otter sculpture guidebook (or artist location key) here, or simply head to the nearest shop, gallery, school or other North Coast locations to pick up a copy.

“The initiative arose from a desire to share what we are learning about wild river otters with the community,” Black said. “River otters are at the top of the food chain in coastal watersheds, rivers, and wetlands, and just like us, river otters need clean water and fresh food each day.”

Black says that "Bunty," the sculpture that inspired him to create the initiative, will make "special appearances" to promote the treasure hunt. 
Jeff Black and Bunty the Otter (Art) - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • Jeff Black and Bunty the Otter (Art)

Happy hunting!

100+ Otter Sculptures on Display in Public Arts Initiative to Raise Awareness about California's River Otters

The much-anticipated North Coast Otters have arrived! The North Coast Otters public art festival, treasure hunt, and online auction begin today.

North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative is a community “treasure hunt” tour of more than 100 sculptures painted by local artists, with an aim to celebrate life, water, and otters, support local businesses, and raise funds for student projects. Visit the North Coast Otters Public Arts Initiative website for more information.

North Coast Otters merges art and science, encouraging imagination and observation from our region’s rich creative community.

The project commissioned 108 unique pieces of Otter Art now displayed at shops, galleries, schools, and other North Coast locations. Participating artists decorated three-foot-tall otter sculptures for an educational art trail throughout Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Trinity, and Siskiyou counties.

Use the maps and guidebooks to locate the otters. Learn all about the charismatic critter, which shares our wild rivers, coastlines, and wetlands. A Junior Otter Spotters "activity booklet" will be available to inspire the young and young at heart.

Otter Art sculptures are available for bidding in a silent auction online throughout the summer, and the highest bid sculptures will be sold in a live auction in September. Proceeds will go to HSU otter research and student internships with community-based watershed projects.

A guidebook—available at each host location and downloadable on the website—shows locations of participating shops, restaurants, and visitor centers. This public arts initiative provides an accessible opportunity to explore our connection with the natural world.

“The initiative arose from a desire to share what we are learning about wild river otters with the community,” says Jeff Black, HSU Wildlife professor and project lead. “River otters are at the top of the food chain in coastal watersheds, rivers, and wetlands, and just like us, river otters need clean water and fresh food each day.”

The project encourages community members to participate in the ongoing citizen science river otter records study by consistently reporting when and where wild river otters are observed throughout the North Coast region.

Since 1999, HSU students have been collecting otter records from citizen volunteers as a means of tracking the quality of North Coast habitats. River otters, seen at all times of day in our area, have captured the attention of thousands.

“Some of these wild river otters travel far and wide to find enough food each and every day,” Black says. “River otter numbers are beginning to recover thanks to efforts to restore and clean up habitats, but they need our commitment to ensure their presence in the wild.”

Send details of wild otter observations to otters@humboldt.edu or call (707) 826-3439.


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Thursday, June 10, 2021

North Coast Night Lights: Eclipse of the Super Flower Moon

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2021 at 1:00 AM

d-banner2-2021-05-26_lunar-eclipse-1500px.jpg
The full moon of May, called the flower moon, was a real doozy: it was a super moon, an eclipse, and a blood moon — the first Super Blood Flower Moon into which I can ever remember having tuned. So how does it come by all of those monikers?

The moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical, a squished circle, which means that sometimes the moon is closer to Earth than at other times. When the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach, called perigee, the full moon is called a super moon, and naturally, being closer, it is a slightly larger full moon than otherwise.

Blood Moon is a term referring to the deep reddish-orange that the moon becomes during a total lunar eclipse, which we saw on May 26 this year. A total lunar eclipse such as this occurs when the moon passes directly through the densest part of the shadow that the sun casts behind Earth. The plane in which the moon orbits Earth is offset from the plane about which the Earth orbits the sun, so it isn’t often that Earth, the moon, and sun line up in this way. When the three celestial bodies line up with the moon behind Earth, the moon passes into Earth’s shadow and is eclipsed.

The Super Blood Flower Moon sets over Kneeland Road and the hills of Humboldt County, California. Finding it cloudy on the coast at 2:40 a.m., I knew I’d find a good view at this spot. I’d forgotten about that tower, though, much to my chagrin at the time. But it has grown on me since, and I find it adds to the otherworldliness here. The light streaks and flare on the left were from a car approaching along the curves. I stopped the shutter just before it topped that rise, 4:20 on May 26, 2021. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Super Blood Flower Moon sets over Kneeland Road and the hills of Humboldt County, California. Finding it cloudy on the coast at 2:40 a.m., I knew I’d find a good view at this spot. I’d forgotten about that tower, though, much to my chagrin at the time. But it has grown on me since, and I find it adds to the otherworldliness here. The light streaks and flare on the left were from a car approaching along the curves. I stopped the shutter just before it topped that rise, 4:20 on May 26, 2021.

Do you think a photograph is always going to show reality? Or that it has to? Since I began teaching Digital Photography at College of the Redwoods, a beginning class, I’ve noticed a common conception that photographs always show “reality,” and that they capture instants in time. It’s understandable, since this is how we typically use our cameras — to capture and freeze what we saw. The typical photograph does often capture an instant in time and space pretty much the way we saw it, or remember it. It can even become the way we remember it, whether it was exactly how we saw it or not. This makes an interesting topic for discussion in class.

Cameras see the world differently from the way you or I see it, and sometimes what they capture is either beyond what we can see with our own eyes, or else it falls far short of what we see with our own eyes. I call those phenomena the camera’s superpowers and limitations. To have powers beyond ours, while also having limits greater than ours, means that it is possible to capture photographs that do not closely resemble what we saw with our flesh and blood eyes. So which was reality: what we saw, or what the camera saw? I tend to say either or both, for our realities are a matter of perception, and seeing things in new ways is useful.

This image represents both the camera’s amazing superpowers, and its severe limitations. The camera’s superpower here is its ability to see so much better into the low light of night than my naked eye can. It was still the dark of night for me, just enough light cast by the moon to throw a shadow behind me as I watched its face darken and redden. The Milky Way was visible, too, but as always it was fairly faint to the eye, and color on the landscape was almost nonexistent, though I could discern some yellow in the stripe.

The Super Blood Flower Moon rests in the clutches Scorpius as it sinks in the southwest over the hills of Humboldt County, California. With the cloud cover obscuring the celestial landmarks, I am uncertain of the precise orientation of Scorpius’ tail, but Antares and the stars around the Moon are unmistakable. May 26, 2021. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The Super Blood Flower Moon rests in the clutches Scorpius as it sinks in the southwest over the hills of Humboldt County, California. With the cloud cover obscuring the celestial landmarks, I am uncertain of the precise orientation of Scorpius’ tail, but Antares and the stars around the Moon are unmistakable. May 26, 2021.

Our eyes see the world moment-by-moment, and staring into the night for seconds at a time does not make the night any brighter. But unlike our eyes, the camera’s patient eye in this case gathered light for a full thirty seconds, building up the image lightness and detail with each passing second. The camera’s more patient eye was able to capture the road, landscape, and night sky with far more clarity, detail and color than I could. The sensor’s ISO can be turned way up, too, allowing it to capture even more detail in near darkness. These are superpowers of the camera that can bring us views of the night that we will never see with our naked eyes. It’s still reality.

But what about the moon? It didn’t fare as well in the exposure; it ran into a severe limitation of the camera and became over exposed, which resulted in it not looking the way I saw it at all. To my eye that morning as I photographed beside the road, the eclipsed moon glowed a beautiful amber-red, bright enough to easily see color and detail in it. But to the camera, which was set to capture the much darker landscape and night sky, the lighter moon became a featureless bright white spot in the sky. The camera was not able to capture both the relatively bright eclipsed moon, the dark landscape, and faint Milky Way all at once because the difference in brightness values between the darkest and lightest elements was simply too great. Its superpower of seeing into the darkness did not allow it to see both the dark landscape and bright moon at once, and the moon became too bright.

I wanted to bring home the full eclipse experience that I’d had, with the moon appearing the way I had seen it, and the Milky Way accompanying it with the landscape visible beneath it. To do so, I made a second exposure in which the moon looked normal. But though the moon looked good in this one, now the sky and landscape were nearly completely black, much darker than even my naked eye had seen it. My solution was to use the moon from that image on top of the too-bright moon in the photo of the landscape and sky, with the result that now my image of the Super Flower Blood Moon eclipse of May 26 more closely resembles what I saw that early morning.

I had to work at it to bring you the eclipse as I’d seen it. A single snapshot couldn’t do it. Some might say I should have left the sky black and had a normal-looking moon surrounded by blackness. Some might say I should have left the moon a bright white spot with the Milky Way and landscape as you see here. Neither of those is what I saw, though. I chose to share this.

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or purchase a print, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx and on Twitter @davidwilson_mfx . David teaches Art 35 Digital Photography at College of the Redwoods.

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Sunday, May 30, 2021

North Coast Night Lights: iPhone 12 Pro Night Mode vs Nikon D750, D850

Posted By on Sun, May 30, 2021 at 12:29 PM

banner-2021-05-20_d850_trinidad-lighthouse_05.jpg
Before I purchased an iPhone 12 Pro, I was curious about the “night mode” that Apple had introduced in the previous model — how good was it? How would it stack up against my Nikons for the kind of nighttime photography I love so well? The reviews were very favorable, and many included amazing nighttime photographs shot using night mode. Could professional-level nighttime photography be built into such a small and useful device as an iPhone? I wanted to know. So I found out for myself.

This review is an entirely subjective comparison between the Apple iPhone 12 Pro night mode and the Nikon D750 and D850 DSLR's*. I wanted to find out how night mode performed the way that I would like to use it, which right now is nighttime landscape photography. Bear in mind that the iPhone 12 Pro is the current “Pro” model as of this writing (May of 2021), while the Nikon D750 was introduced seven years ago in 2014 and the Nikon D850 was introduced in 2017.

Night mode is amazingly capable and fun, but it also has some serious limitations. In some situations, it is remarkably good, but in the extreme low light of a moonlit landscape it will lose a lot of detail and produce a lot of digital noise.

The iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode did very well on Arcata’s well-lit H Street at the Arcata Minor Theatre. With enough light from the city’s lights and passing cars, there was very little problem with noise (the grainy look). Compared to the Nikons, though, detail was lost in the highlights and shadows — note how the theatre’s name is blown out on the marquee. In all examples here, the size of the detail images reflect the higher resolutions of the Nikon D750 and D850, respectively. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode did very well on Arcata’s well-lit H Street at the Arcata Minor Theatre. With enough light from the city’s lights and passing cars, there was very little problem with noise (the grainy look). Compared to the Nikons, though, detail was lost in the highlights and shadows — note how the theatre’s name is blown out on the marquee. In all examples here, the size of the detail images reflect the higher resolutions of the Nikon D750 and D850, respectively.

Using the iPhone’s built-in Camera app, night mode becomes available when the iPhone’s light meter detects a low light situation. In night mode, the camera will take a series of shots of the scene using different exposure settings, and then intelligently create the best image that it can from the series (an example of “computational photography”). The photographer can choose the duration of the night mode process, but one cannot adjust the actual shutter speeds involved.

The 68 percent waxing gibbous moon and the lights from Trinidad behind me were insufficient illumination for all but the brightest surfaces of the lighthouse for the iPhone 12 Pro Night mode. Compared to the Nikons, the image suffers when there is too little light. It looks ok on the phone, where it is small, and maybe it would be fine as a small image on social media, but it’s far too noisy (the grainy look) for me to print it as an enlargement. It simply needs more light; no doubt it would look better with a larger moon, but I doubt even full moonlight is enough. I look forward to trying this with a full moon. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The 68 percent waxing gibbous moon and the lights from Trinidad behind me were insufficient illumination for all but the brightest surfaces of the lighthouse for the iPhone 12 Pro Night mode. Compared to the Nikons, the image suffers when there is too little light. It looks ok on the phone, where it is small, and maybe it would be fine as a small image on social media, but it’s far too noisy (the grainy look) for me to print it as an enlargement. It simply needs more light; no doubt it would look better with a larger moon, but I doubt even full moonlight is enough. I look forward to trying this with a full moon.
Longer durations allow objects that are in motion — like the cars and clouds shown — to blur as they move through the frame, but one has no control over the actual aperture, ISO and shutter speeds involved in any of the shots that make up the final night mode image; these will be automatically set by the camera.

Night mode shines best outside at night in fairly well-lit environments like city streets or similar areas such as the Woodley Island Marina examples included. It is also best if you can mount the iPhone on a stable tripod, but it will perform admirably even hand-held in those situations if you’re steady, as my 5-second and 10-second hand-held examples attest.

An 84 percent waxing moon and the lights of Eureka’s Woodley Island Marina provided enough light for the iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode to make a good image. In fact, it looks great at first glance. But zooming in (see the Details), one sees that the highlights are blown out again. In editing, I was unable to bring up the shadows very much without exposing lots of noise. As expected, the Nikons both did really well with the shadows, highlights, and noise, partly because I could control the actual shutter speed, and partly because I could select a low ISO (lower ISO yields less noisy images). The iPhone’s Camera app doesn’t allow me to adjust those parameters. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • An 84 percent waxing moon and the lights of Eureka’s Woodley Island Marina provided enough light for the iPhone 12 Pro’s Night mode to make a good image. In fact, it looks great at first glance. But zooming in (see the Details), one sees that the highlights are blown out again. In editing, I was unable to bring up the shadows very much without exposing lots of noise. As expected, the Nikons both did really well with the shadows, highlights, and noise, partly because I could control the actual shutter speed, and partly because I could select a low ISO (lower ISO yields less noisy images). The iPhone’s Camera app doesn’t allow me to adjust those parameters.

Night mode falls utterly flat for my purposes when photographing landscapes, even under an 84 percent waxing gibbous moon. It leaves most of the shadows dreadfully  underexposed and full of noise. One can eliminate the noise in Adobe Lightroom, but it requires a very heavy setting that wipes out far too much detail, leaving the images looking unnaturally smooth, like plastic. Indeed, in other reviews I have seen online, the landscape photos have just that look. In my Trinidad Lighthouse image, I deliberately left most of the noise in to preserve more image detail. Editing is always a matter of personal taste.

What one considers “good enough” is both subjective and dependent on the intended use. I would not want to depend on the iPhone 12 Pro’s night mode to produce a nighttime image that I intended to print very large. There is simply too much noise when it is underexposed. Under ideal conditions, it can capture images that would make decent enlargements, but the real world often deals less than ideal conditions.

The iPhone 12 Pro whupped the pants off of my Nikons when it came to hand-holding it for long shutter speeds. Under a nearby streetlight and the 84% waxing gibbous moon, it performed admirably with me hand-holding the phone for both 5-second and 10-second exposures. I attribute this to a combination of the Night mode’s computational photography, in which it combines details from many exposures into the result, and to the built-in optical image stabilization of the iPhone’s camera. The Nikon, having no image stabilization nor any computational photography abilities, relied entirely on my steady hand, which was not at all steady for a 5-second exposure, let alone the 10 second one. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The iPhone 12 Pro whupped the pants off of my Nikons when it came to hand-holding it for long shutter speeds. Under a nearby streetlight and the 84% waxing gibbous moon, it performed admirably with me hand-holding the phone for both 5-second and 10-second exposures. I attribute this to a combination of the Night mode’s computational photography, in which it combines details from many exposures into the result, and to the built-in optical image stabilization of the iPhone’s camera. The Nikon, having no image stabilization nor any computational photography abilities, relied entirely on my steady hand, which was not at all steady for a 5-second exposure, let alone the 10 second one.

Is night mode a “professional” feature? I will say this: if you’re a professional and you find yourself out at night with something to photograph, and all you have is your iPhone 12 Pro, then it’s professional. A professional photographer wants to create the best images possible, and if one didn’t have a DSLR or modern mirrorless camera handy, then night mode could get one by in many cases.

In brighter nighttime situations such as scenes with city lights, night mode does amazingly well — extremely well for a phone camera. And if you need to hand-hold your camera for a several-second exposure, night mode on the iPhone 12 Pro will produce an image with very little motion blur — while my Nikons yielded extremely blurry images in the same situation. That could very well save professionals who find themselves without their real camera or a tripod.

But for all other low light occasions, if you also have your DSLR, a tripod, and the time, the DSLR will give you better results; the Nikons produced much larger, crisper, richer, and less noisy images. Except when it came to hand-holding the camera for multiple-second exposures, where the iPhone 12 Pro’s night mode did a phenomenally better job, there was really no contest.

The relative sizes of the images produced by the three cameras in this comparison have a bearing on how much the images can be enlarged as prints. Generally, higher resolution images produce better large prints — but size is not everything; even with a large enough image, if it is blurry or noisy it will produce a low quality enlargement. - DAVID WILSON
  • David Wilson
  • The relative sizes of the images produced by the three cameras in this comparison have a bearing on how much the images can be enlarged as prints. Generally, higher resolution images produce better large prints — but size is not everything; even with a large enough image, if it is blurry or noisy it will produce a low quality enlargement.

Notes: All images for this review were shot in RAW format (except for the iPhone angel photos; those were shot in Apple’s regular .HEIC format (I forgot to change it to RAW). Because editing is important to my process, all images have been edited with the attempt to show them at their best — just as I would for any other purpose — with particular attention to maintaining detail in highlights and shadows.

Untested: Night mode also works with the front-facing camera for selfies; it works in Portrait mode; and it works with the iPhone’s time-lapse video features.

* “DSLR” is short for “digital single lens reflex”; you may recall that 35mm cameras were SLRs (with the exception of point and shoot cameras). I used DSLRs in this comparison because that is what I have, but having seen many results from modern mirrorless cameras, I am sure most current models would produce results similar to my DSLRs; the differences between the mirrorless cameras and my cameras would be minor compared to the difference between my cameras and the iPhone 12 Pro’s night mode.

To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or purchase a print, visit or contact him at his website mindscapefx.com or follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx and on Twitter @davidwilson_mfx . David teaches Art 35 Digital Photography at College of the Redwoods.

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