It’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything on here, and I apologize to anyone that was following regularly. A lot has been going on behind the scenes over here as the recent change of Facebook and Instagram names may have hinted. Soon I’ll be able to let you in on a few of the projects I’ve been working on.
During my hiatus from writing here I’ve been lucky enough to roam a few regions in Mexico, along with driving through 20 states and visiting 15 national parks. The image above was taken in Arches National Park during an annual workshop that I lead in the Moab, UT area. As many people that know me have probably assumed, I love to use the light of the moon or the stars to often illuminate my landscape images.
Even when I was younger I was quite a bit of a night owl. Staying up until well after midnight watching the Honeymooners on Nick-at-Night when I was 10 years old felt like a badge of disobedient honor that I could wear proudly. In my teens my love of staying up late and not waking up early did not waiver! Waking up just before 6am to catch the bus to high school was like some kind of medieval torture. During my brief stint in college I made sure to schedule the classes that started as late as possible.
When I started getting intrigued by photography I was shooting slide films and using graduated filters to balance the light in my landscape images, something I still do to this day in my daytime digital work. Fatefully I stumbled across a coffee table book (in the days before sites like Flickr or 500px) that was entirely night photography. Not only was I captivated by the star trails that seemed to encircle cacti or mountain tops but by the way you could wander around in your shot “painting” things with light to create a glowing crack in a rock or interior of a car. Immediately I started finding out everything I could about shooting at night. This was in the days before digital so not only did I have to learn how to take a picture in minutes instead of fractions of a second, but I also had to learn about how different films worked during long exposures because of an effect called reciprocity failure. Luckily I was working at a camera store and got discounts on my film and processing, because it still cost a fortune to figure out the basics. I would write the specifics of each shot along with the number of the frame to try and learn from my data matched to the result. For people learning these days with digital, you don’t know how good you have it with the metadata being stored with each shot. I sound like an old man, “Back in my day we didn’t have playback buttons! I had to walk 20 miles in the snow up hill both ways just to see if my pictures came out!” But I digress, in these days of digital there is always an ability to go back and look at your exposure information to try and figure out what’s going on. This makes the learning curve with a new technique go through the roof.
Flash forward to current times and I am still drawn to both staying up late (still wearing that childhood badge) and photographing landscapes at night. Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge of using graduated neutral density filters to balance the light in my sunset (and occasional sunrise images), but using the differing cycles of the moon to create a surreal look within an image will always hold a special place for me. Not only that, but a place like Turret Arch pictured above, there will be thousands of people herding through during a sunset. As soon as the sun goes down it’s you and a few other intrepid souls in these amazing places. There is a place I take people to on the last night of my Death Valley workshop where if you can’t see headlights approaching on the road, rest assured you are the only person for a 20 mile radius in any direction. To be able to experience that in a National Park that has nearly 1 million visitors a year is an incredible feeling.
Now that I am teaching and sharing my techniques and favorite locations, I love seeing people light up in the field when they create that first exposure that has them saying, “Holy crap! I just shot that?” With night photography being so different from what people are used to seeing and also photographing it is always fun to see it click when someone figures out how easy it actually can be!
I am heading back out on the road now to scout for another workshop in 2017, but don’t worry, I won’t keep you in radio silence like this again! I’ll be posting regularly from my adventures along with a few new projects that I will be able to share with you in the not too distant future.