Cool! So What is This Stuff?
Most of the images you see here (with exception of the lightning and fireworks photos) were taken by the light of the full moon. Light behaves very differently at night and while some subjects photograph well in the moonlight, others tend to get lost in the strong shadows cast at night. It is in these situations that I paint with light, using colored lighting gels and a flashlight or strobe to bring these dark places back to life. My exposure times under a full moon are seldom less than five minutes so I have plenty of time to wander about and add a colored flash here or there, or play the narrow beam of a flashlight on a small object in the shadows.
The photos are real...
Many people first react to these photos by assuming that I have manipulated them on a computer. This is not the case. True, with a little talent and knowledge of Photoshop or similar software, you could probably mold an image into anything you wanted. Personally though, I enjoy the challenge of creating these unusual, striking images using only a camera. A camera so primitive and manual in fact, that it doesn't even have a battery.
FoundView is an organization who believe it is important to know whether all the things you see in a photograph were really there when the picture was taken. To this end, they have created the FoundView standard to differentiate such images from ones which have been altered after the shutter closes. Since I am rather proud of how I create these effects entirely in camera, I am pleased to announce that the photo galleries on this site are certified as FoundView. For more on FoundView as it relates specifically to my work, this letter from FoundView articulates the relevant points far better than I could by paraphrasing.
When do you take these photos?
That depends upon what I want to do. If I am shooting lightning I would probably want the sky as dark as possible and hope to avoid the full moon. Lightning rarely comes on your terms though. If I am shooting in an urban setting, I'm usually relying on artificial light so in most cases I could shoot anytime. When I wish to shoot using moonlight, I have found it is best to do so within two or three days of the full moon. The amount of available moonlight drops quickly either side of the full moon, greatly increasing exposure time. This gives me only a few days a month for shooting so I have to make the most of it and hope the weather cooperates.
Why Night Photography?
There are many reasons why I find myself drawn to night photography. First, it is the perfect form of photography for a nocturnal critter such as myself. I'm not really a morning person. Sometimes I'm barely a day person. My most productive time seems to begin in late evening and carry on into the wee hours. As such, I'm wide awake and at my best as I wander around in the dark looking for my next shot.
Secondly, it is less crowded. I enjoy the peace and solitude of the night as I silently explore shooting locations long after most people have gone to bed. For that matter, the field of night photography itself is less crowded. While there are plenty of artists doing this, they represent only a small fraction of the number of daytime photographers. If I were to post a site of my daytime work I'm sure it would get lost amongst the tens of thousands of photo albums on the web, ranging from the brilliant work of talented photographers to wedding albums and fuzzy vacation pictures of people I've never met.
Thirdly, it has turned out to be an unexpected source of adventure. Adventure, you say? In terms of an "extreme sport" I'm sure most people would not rank photography in the top ten. No more of a thrill seeker's pursuit than, say, stamp collecting. Despite this preconception though, I have come closer to meeting my end doing night photography, than I ever have while skydiving, white water rafting, downhill skiing, mountain biking, or swimming alone 9 miles across a lake. You just never know what sort of situation you might stumble into at night. People who meet in abandoned places at 3:00 in the morning are probably not there to take pictures. Believe me, I've had unexpected visitors and my share of narrow escapes where I've had to grab my camera and run. Viewers of these photos might find it interesting to know that the film for a few of these shots made an unexpected detour through dense bush and across a frozen swamp, as I ran for my life. I don't even want to think about what I was running from, suffice to say that they probably didn't want a guy with a camera there.
The fourth, and perhaps most important reason I enjoy night photography is that it's a great excuse for a road trip. When I was younger, my friends and I wouldn't think twice before jumping in the car and traveling 1000 miles or more, just to get a hamburger in a different city. Perhaps as an adult one needs a little more justification to hit the open road but the desire to do so remains the same. Night photography serves as the excuse; the night photography road trip, as a welcome escape.
Night Photographer Dot Com began mainly as an excuse for a road trip. Five years later and counting, it continues to be a fun ride full of excitement and new experiences.
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