Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Can You Really See in the Dark?

Top of a Cabinet in My Office During
The Lower Manhattan Power Outage
Driving on a partially lit turning into unlit Williamsburg Bridge, I was immediately surprised at just how poorly my lowbeams actually illuminated the roadway and the bridge itself. It was a stark difference from the lit roadway.

Driving through normally lit streets that were totally unlit was also surreal. It was not the commute I was used to.

Getting to work and having the building itself totally blacked out, with even the emergency lighting failing, and it struck me just how totally unnerving it was to explore and unlit floor with hallways and rooms and wandering people with just a simple flashlight.

Imagine if all you had were a sputtering torch or a sloshing lantern in your hand?

I have a huge newfound respect for dungeons as an adventure location. There is simply an untapped potential to use the darkness as part of the dungeon dressing. I need to think on this when I have more free time, but I like the potential i see.


  1. But then people do vary in their night vision. I used to amaze my brothers by getting around a cluttered pitch dark room without tripping over a thing. I've simply got excellent low light vision.

    (No wonder I'm an aspie, I needed the points for the low light trait.)

  2. there is dark and there is pitch dark, with no light (like the bathroom at work). You need low light of some sort to see in low light - pitch dark is no light. Unless you have infravision ;)

  3. Got a little sample of what its like driving in rural PA pretty much every night. I didn't know dark until I was in a cavern (I wanna say it was they Shenandoah Caverns) and they shut off the lights. Literally you could not see your hand if was in front of your face. You knew then it wouldn't matter how long you stayed down there, you were not going to see a damn thing. Eyes were not going to get adjusted. There was just dark.

  4. Raggi posted about a similar experience here: http://lotfp.blogspot.com/2010/09/darkness-light-and-exploration.html

    I remember a photo from another post (that I can't locate) of the same incident that became the model for one of the Grindhouse color pics.

  5. Heropress posted a video of people in a storm drain/tunnel with torches made in various ways. They only lit an area of a few feet in diameter. They also had to get close before they could see anything around the torch. Over 50 feet the torches were just a dots of light. Mostly they just looked like the blazing eyes of some monster. Which should cause a morale check for those sneaky goblins sneaking up on you. Also, the torches only lasted a few minutes.

    Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP2sLe-tSLk

    Seriously, if you don't have infravision you've got no business down in the dungeons.

    1. I have seen that video before but I wonder about it really. I have done some maneuvering in the dark due to my job and I have been amazed at how well even small lighting can illuminate a large area (though, to be frank never a torch per se). I think here we are seen yes, some low light effects, but also a degree of the digital camera adjusting for the lighting and making everything look like poo. Course, I could be wrong too.

    2. I agree, matt. Taking good, truly representative pictures in low light is hard.

      I've got some LUSAR (Light Urban Search And Rescue) training. I've spent a fair bit of time in the Funhouse (darkened, fairly trashed -- constructively trashed -- house we train in). Given some time to acclimatize you can actually see a surprising amount with only small amounts of light. The flashlights we used in training, you can't even see if they're on if your in normal office lighting, but they're enough for the exercise (and more importantly, durable; you drop one it won't shatter).

      I can navigate a dark room with just a decent LED. I wouldn't want to move fast, as in a fight, with that kind of light, or try to do detailed work, but for just moving around and searching it's enough. We were even able to read, but it was reasonably high contrast between the writing and the material written on, and time-consuming; ink on old parchment wouldn't be nearly so good.

  6. The darkest place I've ever been? A mine tour at a coal mining museum I did a summer internship at. Scary as hell, but great inspiration. http://shortymonster.co.uk/?p=163

  7. My family ate dinner by candlelight during the storm it was a great way to see the candles.Dark is darned dark. I was using our 1st floor bath room in what I thought would be total darkness and I realised I could just make out the toilet, sink, showerstall and walls. There was a repair truck down the road and a minute pathetic amount of light was coming in through a vent.... going to have to fix that vent before winter hits.


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