Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gerald Forster: Nocturnal

One Bay Area night photographer, who I won't name at the moment, told me that he once placed an ad online for a male and female model to model nude for an outdoor night photography project. At some point in the middle of the shoot, the couple started getting freaky with each other. I don't know if they charged him extra for that. I doubt it because I think this was a T.F.P. arrangement. But I'm not sure.

And that digression brings me to Gerald Forster's new book, Nocturnal:

"In my latest art project Nocturnal I have created intimate, sexually charged scenarios between diverse couples within the context of elaborate and oddly disconcerting landscapes. Each photograph is a nuanced study in the divided nature of human intimacy..."

(Nocturnal #11, by Gerald Forster)

Nocturnal is available from Photo-Eye for $300, and includes one of three limited edition 8"x10" prints from the book.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

J. Wesley Brown

J. Wesley Brown's website features color night photography. Some of his work has a nice Gregory Crewdson feel to it.

(Photo by J. Wesley Brown)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Photographing Fire Performers: Part 1 of 3

Last month I photographed three members of the Santa Cruz fire performance troupe Nocturnal Sunshine. The term "fire performers" includes fire spinners, fire dancers, fire swallowers and a host of other fire-based performance arts. Fire performance photography is be a great way to combine night photography with the chance to photograph people and take advantage of the beautiful ambient light from the fire performers' props. The fact that very few people seem to have seriously pursued fire performance photography is also a plus.

The California Bay Area is home to many fire performance groups. This may be because the Bay Area is also home to the annual Burning Man Festival, which features many professional and impromptu fire spinning events. Earlier this year I came across the work of two local fire performance photographers: Wildermar Horwart and Tristan Savatier. I soon started photographing some friends and co-workers who spun fire, then I worked up to public events, such as the Crucible Fire Festival, and eventually to private shoots with local professional troupes.

So, back to Nocturnal Sunshine... the photograph below was taken near the beach. For all of my shots, I used the ambient light from the poi for stationary shots, and added an off-camera flash covered with an amber gel for motion shots (the burning poi rarely give off enough light to shoot faster than about 1/30th of second). Below is an example of a stationary shot using only the light from the fire hoop.

(Rebecca with a Fire Hoop, by Andy Frazer)

I was able to pull this one off at 1/60th at f/1.8 at ISO 200. Below is more of a posed portrait shot of Briana using only the light from the caterpiller on her arms, which I shot at ISO 1600:

(Briana with the Fire Caterpiller, by Andy Frazer)

Below is a shot Julie with a fire umbrella (yeah, I'd never heard of a fire umbrella, either...). Like the earlier shot with the fire hoop, I was able to shoot this at ISO 200 because the umbrella gave off so much light (just count how many burning poi are on her umbrella), although I also added an off-camera flash to open up some of the shadows from the poi.

(Julie with the Fire Umbrella, by Andy Frazer)

The ladies of Nocturnal Sunshine were thoughtful enough to use a special mixture of fuel which burns brighter than normal fire spinning fuel, although it also burns out faster. Since the fuel burns out after about one minute, I found it necessary to shoot with auto exposure and continually check the viewfinder readout and the histogram while I was shooting (neither of which I normally do). When you're photographing people holding fast-burning fuel, you only have a few second to set-up, meter and fiddle with your exposure. Shooting the motion shots with the help of an off-camera flash was, in some ways, even more challenging.

If you enjoy the slow, peaceful pace of night photography, you might want to stick with abandoned buildings under a full moon, or even urban locations. But if you want to try something different, and if you're willing to run yourself ragged after one hour, take a stab at fire performance photography.

In my next blog post, I'll talk about shooting motion shots of fire spinners using an off-camera flash.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lost America Lecture

Troy Paiva will be presenting a lecture of his recent night photography at the San Francisco City College (50 Phelan Ave, San Francisco, CA) on Monday, Oct 20th. The show begins at 6:30pm, and will be held in the Rosenberg Library, Building A-305.

(Necking, by Troy Paiva)

Troy will show many of his photographs, and will discuss, "light painting, abandoned locations and whatever else you want to talk about". The presentation is open to the public (otherwise, I wouldn't be telling you about it).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tom Paiva Book Signing

Night photographer Tom Paiva will be at a book signing for "Art Deco San Franciso: The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger". The book was authored by Therese Poletti, and photographed by Tom. You may remember Tom as one of the instructors of The Nocturnes workshops, as well as the author/photographer of Industrial Night. The new book is not a night photography book, per se, but you will recognize Tom's signature style and immaculate compositions.

(Castro Street Theater, by Tom Paiva)

The free reception is at 5:30 pm at the American Institute of Architects, 130 Sutter Street, Suite 600, San Francisco.

There will also be a tour of some extant Pflueger buildings downtown at 4:00 pm with Poletti and Paiva. The tour meets at 140 New Montgomery, San Francisco, CA (aka, the "Telephone Building"), and will end at the reception. Cost is $15 for AIA members ; $20 nonmembers, with the proceeds going to the AIA.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Review: "Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration"

Many night photographers credit Troy Paiva’s light painting work as their introduction to night photography. Troy has been shooting abandoned towns and salvage yards under moon-lit skies for over nineteen years. After building a large following of admirers through his website Lost America: The Abandoned Roadside West he published his first book, Lost America: The Abandoned Roadside West, in 2003. Although this book filled a big void in the world of color photography books, and it included great textual descriptions of his explorations in the desert, many readers felt that the print quality did not do justice to Troy’s photographs.

Since 2003, Troy has switched from film to digital photography. Fueled by the new possibilities of the digital medium, and the great reception to his new work on the photo-sharing site, Troy released his second book Nignt Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration in mid-2008.

When I interviewed Troy in 2003 for my short documentary film Night of the Living Photographers, he told me that part of his fascination with abandoned locations was the reality that many of them ceased to exist soon after he visited them. We talked about how we were heading to a point where all of the good photo locations would be gone someday. Fortunately, photo-sharing sites such as Flickr have opened up the possibility of exploring many new, previously-unknown locations thanks to new limitless social networks. Many of those “new” locations are featured in this book.

Readers of Troy’s Flickr site Lost_America, will already be familiar with most of the photographs in Night Vision: automobile wrecking yards, abandoned resort hotels, abandoned train stations and Naval shipyards and, everyone’s favorite, airplane salvage yards. If you’re wondering, “Should I buy the book when the photographs are already online?” The answer is “yes”. Far superior to the first book, the print quality of Night Vision is excellent. The photographs are larger, and immaculately printed on a black background. Although Night Vision does not include the long writing that was present in the first book, each photograph includes informative captions.

If you already own Lost America, then you’ll be very impressed with Nignt Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration. If you don’t own any of Paiva’s books, yet; then start with the second book.

BTW, Lost America
is out of print. Remaining copies are going for as high as $116 on Amazon Marketplace.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Studio Nocturnes

The San Francisco conglomerate of night photographers, The Nocturnes, will be hosting Studio Nocturne once again as part of the San Francisco Open Studios. Studio Nocturne will offer work for sale by ten local night photographers at the historic Fort Mason. The roster of photographers will include Tim Baskerville, Rebecca Chang, Todd Friedlander, Mark Jaremko, Marilynne Morshead, Deborah Rourke, Greta & Manu Schnetzler, Lena Tsakmaki, John Vias and Roxanne Worthington.

(Photo by Tim Baskerville)

The gallery will be open from 11am-6pm on October 11 & 12 in Landmark Bldg A, at Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA (directions). Admission is free.