Thursday, January 1

Note: this has been crossposted to Vermont's Green Mountain Daily

I'm a big believer in art. Art, from my point of view, is not exactly about product or, really necessarily anything at all. It's more about simply interacting with the world in a different fashion than people expect.

For me, there are two primary forms of art that engage me the most: music is one, and I'll talk about that some other time.

The other is light.

Lots of people take photos of light. Photos are, at their core, the rendering of light. It's common to do shots of night, with the movement of natural lights. Here I'm going to quote from a book I put together while I was recovering from surgery, The Book of Light:

...what happens when you are not merely photographing the events as they occur at night, but instead focus on light that you yourself manipulate? There are lots of sources of light that make fairly bright images in the darkness, and some of them will create very cool effects by actively changing colors or pulsating while you use them...

I take photos of light, moving and shifting in different fashions. These aren't Photoshop effects or digital manipulations after the fact. These are photos, taken in a single exposure, of various events that involve light.

The above photo, for example, was an exposure that lasted 7 minutes and 22 seconds. During that time, I turned a light on and off in different locations and positions in order to create a tunnel effect. When I looked at the photo later, I thought the color was okay, but the black and white really grabbed me. That's the only role that Photoshop played here: the choice to render it in black and white after the shot was taken.

Note: all the photos here are smaller versions; clicking on them gets you to larger versions with details.

Another few photos:

This one...

...was a 6 minute, 39 second, exposure. In the upper left, you can see a small streak in the sky. That's a planet. On a different night, you would be seeing stars streaking through as well.

I created that photo by using a rope light, putting it in different positions, turning it on for a moment, turning it off again, moving, and repeating the process.

This one...

...was an even longer exposure: 8 minutes, 16 seconds. It was taken on a snowy night, also using rope lights to create the strange object shown. The streaking lights on the right and in the background are lights from the plow going back and forth. The light structure itself didn't take long at all, but I left the shutter open longer just to get that plow going by.

I particularly love this shot:

It uses two different rope lights. In this case, I didn't actually turn them off while shooting. Instead, I would hold them in place for 4-8 seconds at one point, move them, and then hold them in place again. This is why you get that motion blur with the lights from one position to the other. It was a relatively short exposure for this sort of work: just over 6 minutes, but effective.

This next shot is 8 minutes, 41 seconds:

And this one is a whopping 12 minutes, 3 seconds:

Light drawing, using rope lights to create odd effects.

And this one is a very short exposure, just over a minute:

It's not a light drawing, but I like the shot a lot and just took it on the 30th so I figured I'd include it. It's the moon and (I think) the planet Venus, framed by trees and traffic patterns

I'll close with one more photo: an extremely long exposure:

This was a 17 minute, 52 second, exposure. The idea was that I would use one camera to take this photo while using the other to do a fairly complex light drawing. I'll have to try that again another time, as the light drawing in question suffered from what we in the trade call the "protezione di obiettivo" error. This loosely translates to: "I left the lens cap on." Yes: twelve minute exposure, all sorts of really cool lights doing all sorts of stuff and then when I checked the exposure, I realized that there was nothing there.

Oh well. I will try again.

By the way, if you are at all familiar with astronomy in the Northern U.S., you'll actually be able to recognize a specific and well known constellation in this shot. Anyone able to tell me what it is?

I do this work for a variety of reasons, but I think part of it is because it helps me to feel engaged with something beyond myself. There is a truth to it, a brightness to the night that illuminates the world around it.

I also do this because there's something captivating about engaging the night, especially in winter, when most of us are actually a bit afraid of it. It ties back into the natural world, in ways that are difficult to explain well.

But, really, it's just something I love to do. I like the sense of serenity I get from doing this; there's a quiet calm to it. I like the sense of creating something that's uniquely mine. Plenty of people do night photography and manipulated light photography but no one actually does it the way I do. I was originally inspired to do this by Eric Staller, who is amazing, but my work is nothing like his. It was the idea of the manipulated light that got me going in this direction, and little else.

So, that's my story about art and what it can mean to me. What does it mean to you, and what are the rest of you thinking/doing as far as the new year goes?

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