Monday, April 30, 2007

Charity Vargas

At last month's Nocturnes AlumNight meet-up at Mare Island, I met a whole slew of Bay Area night photographers. Many of these people had gotten involved with the Nocturnes through Tim Baskerville's night photography courses at the College of Marin and UC Berkeley Extension. One of the new Nocturnes was Charity Vargas.

(photo: Charity Vargas)

Charity has been very active shooting at night with a group that call themselves the Night Lights Photo Group. Charity has also been very active posting her night work to her website, a flickr site and a personal blog. One of her most interesting projects is her work to photograph the San Francisco Presidio at night.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

China Camp State Park

I've recently been uploading some of my older night photographs to my Flickr account.

(China Camp Pier, by Andy Frazer)

This shot was taken on my first night out with my "new" Canon D60 digital camera back in October, 2002. That weekend I tagged along with The Nocturnes for their Fall Night Photography Workshop. Tim Baskerville had arranged for us to have permission to shoot at China Camp State Park (currently part of the California State Park system) that evening. The orange-yellow glow on the water is caused by a sodium-vapor light in the above-left. The smooth effect on the water is caused by the gentle, six-inch high waves.

The camp once housed 500 Chinese people. Today, only one person continues to live at China Camp. He is a direct descendant of the Chinese family that has occupied this camp for over a hundred years. His fishing boat can be seen at the end of the pier. Based on my imprecise cartographic skills, I believe the lights on the horizon are from either Mare Island or Vallejo.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Boneyard Night Photography Show

Joe Reifer and Troy Paiva will be having a show of their night photography from the "Aviation Warehouse" near the El Mirage Dry Lake, California. Titled "Boneyard", the show will run from May 4 through May 30, 2007 at the Lucky Ju Ju Pinball Art Gallery in Alameda, CA (map). The reception will be Friday, May 4, 6:30-10:30pm.

Joe has a more complete description of the show on his more-awesome blog. I will definitely be there for the reception. I expect at least a handful of other Bay Area night photographers to make a showing, too. I'll definitely be there.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Fire Spinning

Even though beaches and abandoned buildings are my favorite subject for night photography, I'm always interested in trying out something new. A few years ago I had some success doing fashion photography at night, but last weekend I hit on something else that was really fun.

(Leah Fire Spinning, by Andy Frazer)

Leah Bailey and Brian Saccomano have been fire spinning for the past seven years. We shot these photographs in a friend's backyard (fortunately, they seemed to be on good terms with their neighbors). There's definitely an element of random chance while shooting fire spinners. You never know exactly how the flame trails nor the dancer's pose will look until you review the images. You also have a limited time to shoot each setup because the poi only burn for about three minutes (then the spinners have to go through a non-trivial process of re-soaking the poi and priming them before you can set up another series of shots). And, of course, you can only shoot as fast your flash can recharge itself.

We were all pleased with the final shots (and I had a great, private fire spinning show!). This is definitely something I want to do again, even if it's just to breakup the slow, methodical process of "real" night photography.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Better "Dark Frame" Subtraction in PhotoShop

David Pearson, a night photographer from Orange Park, FL, told me that he has developed a technique to automatically remove hot pixels from long exposures without turning them black.

(illustration by David Pearson)

His blog posting describes how this PhotoShop action works, and provides a link to download it for free.

I understand how it removes background pixels, but I don't understand how it would remove background noise (one of the main goals of dark frame subtraction). I haven't had a chance to discuss this with David, yet. I'm assuming that you would normally run this action to remove hot pixels, then run the standard dark frame subtraction technique to remove background noise (which must be big problem shooting at night in plus-90 degree temperatures in Florida).

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chris Hondros - Photojournalism at Night

While many night photographers consider themselves to be fine art photographers, we shouldn't forget that successful photojournalists also need to work at night. These photographers often need to use improvised lighting to "get the story". The photograph below was taken at night in Tal Afar, Iraq by Chris Hondros.

(A girl screams after her parents were killed by U.S. soldiers", by Chris Hondros)

If I ever took a photograph that was as good as Chris' photo above, I would probably never shoot again, because I could never top that one.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


This was a recent "PC and Pixel" comic. It reminded me of one night photographer of note who drives around at night under the full moon with his sun roof open, even if it's freezing cold outside.

(Comic by Thach Bui)

Can anyone guess who I'm talking about?

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Night At Alameda

Last weekend eight local night photographers spent the evening shooting at Alameda Point, better known as the former Alameda Naval Air Station. Although the moonlight is often hidden under tons of sodium-vapor street light, Alameda is a great place for night shooting. It's very accessible to the public, there's lots of large, industrial buildings, minimal traffic and visitors, and so far it appears to be quite safe. I've been there six times at night, and I haven't seen anyone get hurt or get mugged, yet. "Alameda" is also the location where many episodes of the television series "Myth Busters" is filmed.

(photo: Andy Frazer)

Last week's trip included Deb Rourke, Tom Morrow, Steve Walsh, Richard Sintchak, Joe Reifer, who took the great shot below.

("Warning/High Dive", by Joe Reifer)

There were also many other great photographers out there that night, but they don't have websites that I can link to. So I'll have to post more about them at another time.

Little-Known Airfields has some great information about the history of Alameda N.A.S, including information about how this used to be the base for Pan-Am's China Clipper flights.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

One Hour with the Canon 1DsMkII

Alain Briot has been a long-time contributor to the great Luminous Landscape website/blog. A few days ago, Alain posted an article about how he took the image below; a one-hour exposure of startrails behind a tree. The background story about the land dispute between the Navajo and the Hopi tribes is also interesting.

(photo: Alain Briot)

The image was taken with a Canon 1Ds MkII. It's a one-hour exposure, followed by a one-hour in-camera noise reduction exposure (read the article if you're not familiar with in-camera noise reduction).

I'm surprised that the 1DsMkII could make a clean exposure for one hour. Hopefully, some high-end afficianados out there (and you know who you are) could comment about their experiences with uber-long exposures with this camera.