Gas Station, Monrovia, Liberia

A gas station on Monrovia’s Tubman Boulevard. The quality of illumination from the giant disc-shaped forecourt strip lights grabbed my attention from the first few days of living in Monrovia. I got this shot a month after arriving, entering the city in darkness on a return trip from Robertsport. It was taken from a moving vehicle Something about the two figures, the retro architectures, and the eerie melancholic light puts me in mind of an Edward Hopper painting.

Technique: Taking pictures from vehicles can be surprisingly successful if you practice anticipating the timing of the shot (obviously it helps not to be going too fast). Monrovia probably has less lighting than any other capital city on Earth so the streets were pretty dark that night (the entire city’s power generation capacity in 2010 was only around 10MW, the amount used by just a few streets in London or New York). I turned the camera ISO up to 1600, opened the aperture up to its widest (f2.8) and shot with 1/3 stop underexposure to maintain a shutter speed of 1/100. The focus was set at infinity and switched to manual to prevent the camera focus ‘hunting’ in the dark and missing the shot. The image was later ‘pushed’ in post-production, by injecting extra exposure. Finally, a little additional contrast was added.