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Charlie, many of my photographs have stories, and this one is no exception.
The shot if from the historic Mare Island Naval Ship Yard, a place that was the first American west coast ship yard way back in the 1800s and which continued to be a vital place until it was decommissioned in the 1990s. The buildings and structures that remain from that history of more than a century are intriguing and provide tons of photographic opportunities. A group of people began photographing there at night some years ago, and I've been able to shoot there at night many times during the past half dozen or so years.
On this night we were there with a group of night photographers including some beginners. After some initial instructions, advice, and technical pointers to the newbies we mostly fanned out among the buildings and so forth to get to work. I was working another photograph of some light poles in an old parking lot (a photo that didn't amount to much, by the way) near this little structure. I kept thinking that I saw a faint red light, but when I looked at the building, central vision being less capable in low light, I couldn't see it. But every time I looked away, I caught the bit of light out of the corner of my eye. I finally decided to investigate more closely.
When I got closer to what seemed to be a small guard shack, I saw that the inside was very faintly lit by the numbers on an old clock (green) and some kind of small security light (red). The effect was, as is often the case with night photography, very hard to see at all. But I figured that a long enough exposure - it ended up being longer than 10 minutes, I think - would gather enough light to make the interior glow. However, the outside of the building was what you might describe as pitch black. I set up very close to the building using a very wide angle lens. I remembered that I had a tiny LED key ring flashlight, so I opened the shutter and light painted the front of the building and the "curb" in the foreground, letting the ambient light take care of the sky and the more distant buildings.
This ended up being one of my more popular night photographs...