Realism in night exterior lighting
Meek’s Cutoff, directed & edited by Kelly Reichardt, is a very well-crafted, interesting film with an ethereal contemplative tone, with many sequences that utilize unconventional framing and cadence. This is kinda a pretentious way of me saying “I liked it”.
Yeah so anyways, there are also some scenes that are lit unconventionally as well. The standard fare in lighting night exteriors is to have a bluish kicker that’s boorishly motivated by the moon, lots of soft fill, some sort of visible casted shadows, and hosed-down shiny wet asphalt if it’s in a city. But in Meek’s Cutoff there are shots that get pretty realio realness with night exterior lighting levels and ratios… like you can just barely make out the form of someone’s face– which is pretty accurate for what an 1800s western prairie would be like at night.
Above is a frame from the trailer, which may be a tent interior shot, I dunno, but it shows the kind of ratios/exposure stuff I’m talking about. Whether you agree with it as a creative decision or not, it’s interesting to see how it looks when executed by a DP who knows what they’re doing (Chris Blauvelt, who was a camera assistant & operator for Harris Savides). It also was released in 4:3 aspect ratio which is both ballsy and creatively appropriate since it helps depict the endless landscape in a different, non-cheesy “hey look at this widescreen vista of an endless landscape” way.