F A Q
Q: Do you have a book?
Yes. My first book, Nightwatch: Painting With Light was published in 2013, and is available at major book retailers around the world, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For more details on the book itself, click here.
Q: Do you teach workshops?
Also yes. At present, I offer night photography & light painting workshops in association with The Spot Studio in Dallas, Texas. For more information on the curriculum, scheduled workshop dates and other details, click here.
Q: Do you sell prints?
Q: What kind of (camera, lenses, tripod, lighting, gels) do you use?
I shoot with a Nikon D300 D-SLR camera, and for probably 99% of my night shots, I use a Tokina 12-24 wide angle zoom lens. On rare occasions when a composition demands a bit more 'reach', I will mount up my Nikon 18-200 VR zoom lens. My tripod is a Manfrotto 055XB with a 322RC2 Pistol Grip Ball Head. As for lighting...here's a list of strobes and flashlights I often use:
Vivitar 285 Strobe (Versatile, powerful 70's vintage unit...MUCH more reliable than the current "HV" models!)
Vivitar 283 Strobe (Also from the 70's...now serves as a backup to the 285)
Quantaray Q15 (Cheap low-power, small space strobe)
X2000 (VERY bright, very compact, very inexpensive...best value in a powerful, focusable flashlight)
NEBO Redline (220 lumens, also focusable)
Streamlight Twin-Task (Great "swiss-army knife" flashlight)
Maglite (2 C) (Decent power, and very focusable)
Mini-Maglite (AA) (Lost and replaced with the AAA version)
Mini-Maglite (AAA) (Perfect for small interior / still-life paint jobs)
Wagan 2,000,000 Candlepower Spotlight (Now broken and out of service)
I use gels from a mixture of sources. I started out using gels made by a company called Rosco, and while those were fine gels, they were ultimately more expensive and less durable than these gels I wound up buying from Musician's Friend. There are two sets available; one with the four primary colors (RGBY), and another set with pink, purple, turquoise and amber. I carry a mxiture of Roscos and Musician's Friend gels now.
Q: How do you get those unusual lighting effects in your pictures? Do you create them in Photoshop?
The lighting effects in my photos are produced by the careful application of the lighting devices mentioned above, often with colored gels placed in front of the light source to create the color effects. Those of us who shoot this "light-painting" style of night photography take a great deal of pride in the fact that the lighting effects we produce are created in realtime, while the shutter is open, NOT after the fact in Photoshop or some other post-production software. What you see in my images is an accurate portrayal of the scene that presented itself in the field.
Q: OK, but how do you get the lighting effects inside the buildings in some of the pictures?
When you see supplemental lighting in my shots inside a building (through a window or doorway for example), this is accomplished by actually walking into the shot, inside the building and executing the lighting effect, all while the shutter is open. Several images on the Home Page are examples of this technique.
Q: So when you walk through the scene to do the lighting, why don't you appear in the picture?
Due to extremely low light levels associated with night photography, the length of exposure in most of my photographs ranges typically from 30 seconds to 5 or 6 minutes; it simply takes that long for the image to "burn in" to the sensor. As a result, the amount of time it takes me to walk to a point in the scene, conceal myself from the camera, execute the lighting technique and walk back leaves me in any one space in the shot for only a second or two at most. So for example, when it takes 2 minutes for any given spot in the photo to be properly exposed, the second or two that I'm obscuring any given part of the scene is undetectable. Now if I were to stand in one place for 30 seconds or a minute of that 2 minute exposure, you'd absolutely begin to see me...as a semi-transparent, ghost figure! Some folks go for that exact thing, but that's not my bag; I prefer to focus on the building or the object and present it as the subject, with no human distractions.
Q: How do you find all those interesting places to photograph?
Some I find by scouring the internet, and other simply by keeping my eyes peeled while driving around. Interesting old buildings and abandonments are all around us, but we often get so caught up in the hustle of our daily lives that we fail to even notice them. There are several excellent resources on the internet to help locate interesting abandonments and other photographic subjects.
Q: Wow...a lot of the places you photograph look really spooky...don't you get creeped out poking around in those old places?
This is probably the question I get asked the most. The answer is...yeah some places can give you a creepy, spooky feeling for sure, but ultimately, one has to remember that the reality is...it's just an abandoned building. A lot of folks seem to freak out and let their minds get the better of them, imagining that every little creak or noise is an evil spirit, waiting to take them away to their doom! The reality is, ghosts aren't lurking around every corner...in fact, I've yet to see anything that couldn't be explained by rational deduction or a minimal amount of detective work. I hope this doesn't ruin it for you! :-)
Now, that's not to say that some of the places I go aren't potentially dangerous; some of them absolutely are. One must always exercise utmost caution and care when exploring abandoned places, as you never know what conditions you'll encounter. People have written entire books about the art of "Urban Exploration", and while they're a good read, there's no substitute for firsthand experience with a knowledgeable and experienced explorer. And of course the element of doing all this at night simply adds to the degree of difficulty.
Q: So do you normally shoot & explore with other people, or do you go out alone?
The majority of my nocturnal photographic excursions are done alone...I can generally work faster and get a lot more done that way. In the last few months, I've started venturing out more with other people, which is enjoyable, but really does cut down on my productivity.
Q: So have you ever encountered any transients or homeless people while shooting these type places?
Actually, only once. One night I was out at a location in Fort Worth shooting with a friend and, through a window, we saw the silhouette of a person stand up in the building we were walking towards. We decided to change course and skip that building...