Elsa Bleda Turns Cape Town into an Atmospheric “Zone” at Night

All photos by Elsa Bleda. Used with Creative Commons permission.

Johannesburg-based Elsa Bleda is among the photographers we keep an eye on for her surreal night strolls around cities glowing in neon. Today, however, we revisit one of her earlier sets, which is just as dreamy and colorful as her other night snaps. Here, she shows us around Cape Town in an atmospheric night stroll, where the mood is both dreamlike and cinematic. If you’re fond of shooting your town at night, we’re sure this is one approach you might find interesting.

Simply called The Zone, this collection of night photos, many shot in long exposures, were captured in 2016. The series is yet another excellent example of the unique imagery that nighttime offers to photographers. Add the fog and neon lights or colors to nostalgic suburban elements and you have an effective formula for a surreal night photography series. We’ve seen it before in the work of photographers like Mark Broyer and his What the Fog series, Michael Streckbein and his Nightland series, and Andreas Levers and his At Night series.

By shooting her chosen locations — all empty and devoid of human presence save for one photo — in long exposures, Bleda captures more of the light scattered by the fog while also bringing a little bit of brightness to the scenes. These foggy spots, in turn, soften the neon colors here, effectively differentiating the series from her neon-centric bodies of work that we’ve previously seen. Another benefit of this style is a mesmerizing cinematic quality (as we’ve seen Henri Prestes utilize effectively in his They Drive by Night series) that urges viewers to follow the narrative that flows from one snap to the next. All these elements come together to present a surreal, somewhat melancholy visual story about a suburban location.

Don’t forget to visit Elsa Bleda’s Behance portfolio to see more of her dreamy photography projects.