In a remote area of the Nevada desert is a Navy training range. Scattered amongst the remaining ruins of former ranches are tanks, trucks, cars and other simulated radar targets. Unlike the other closed training ranges in Nevada, this area is open to the public. No live bombs are dropped here during training, it's 100% electronic target practice. Driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere under a full moon and coming across a series of tanks in a field is a surreal experience. So is shooting all night and then using a tank as a windbreak at our campsite. Finding all of the vehicles and ruins in this area has been a fun night photography treasure hunt. After many hours looking at satellite views and two multiple day trips to the area, there's still a lot to explore.
The full moon was bright enough to drive the Jeep down a dirt road with the lights out. It didn't matter, because there was nobody around for miles and miles.
In a remote section of the Nevada desert, we found a series of simulated small villages for military training. Built in clusters, some of the structures featured courtyards with difficult access points and sight lines. One series of buildings had fake brick repairs, burn marks, and patched concrete. A simulated gas station featured pumps with printed gauges.
The metal containers and gates were creaking and banging in the wind. Moonlit clouds streaked by in an endless multi-layered Rorschach test. Perhaps we were near the pinnacle of paralleling the post-apocalyptic.
Tim Baskerville is the founder of The Nocturnes, and has been teaching photography for 25 years. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a variety of night photography workshops with Tim, and highly recommend him as an instructor.
Tim will be leading a Photo Tour of Western Ireland this year from October 10-20, 2016. Photographing Ireland, both day and night, is the subject of our interview below.
Joe: How long have you been leading photography trips to Ireland?
Tim: This will be my ninth or tenth journey to Ireland - mostly to my home base of Westport, in County Mayo - tho' I've travelled all over Ireland, on occasion. Amazing changes in the "Celtic Tiger" over the last decade or two - and yet, many things, especially in the West, remain much the same. Truly a magical place, where the landscape and history are deeply intertwined. The past is never far away, in Ireland.
Joe: I understand that you have a special connection with Ireland, and were granted dual citizenship a couple of years ago?
Tim: Ireland is a very special place for me - the home of my ancestors. My maternal grandfather was born in Ireland. Through a process known as Foreign Birth Registration, I applied for and was granted Irish Citizenship in 2014, and I now travel with an Irish Passport.
Joe: Do you currently have family in Ireland? When did you first visit?
Tim: I have cousins in Northern County Mayo. I’ve traveled many times to the area, starting in the 1980s - first as a participant in Workshops offered by Ron Rosenstock, the very photographer whose Hillcrest House we will be staying at during our fall 2016 workshop.
Joe: You and Ron Rosenstock have been friends a long time, right? Tell me more about his Hillcrest House.
Tim: Ron is an East Coast photographer who purchased Hillcrest House to host photography groups visiting Ireland. Ron and I go back almost 30 years - to workshops I took with him in the 1980s! Hillcrest House is a former bed & breakfast, registered with the Irish Tourist Board. Ron purchased Hillcrest House exclusively to accommodate photo groups, and its homelike quality adds to the relaxed atmosphere of the trip.
My favorite feature of the house is the view from the sun-room and library (as well as a few of the bedrooms). You have a view of Croagh Patrick, which is Ireland's sacred mountain that’s named for St. Patrick, and the surrounding hills of Westport.
Joe: I really appreciate the style of travel where I’m integrated with the locals instead of staying in a generic hotel. Hillcrest House sounds fantastic. How is the food?
Tim: Hillcrest's wonderful cook Emmajane is a bit of a foodie, and fixes breakfast every morning. She also cooks a delicious hot dinner each evening. We'll have lunch at local restaurants and pubs along the way, or perhaps stop for a picnic.
Joe: Sounds fun. Are the Irish generally receptive to small photography tour groups?
Tim: The Irish are very friendly, welcoming people, and our group always enjoys visits to local artists’ studios, galleries, concerts, and the like. My thought on this “integration with the locals” is “to tour like you live there!”
Joe: Perfect. And there’s the pubs. I’m guessing you’ll spend a bit of time there.
Tim: Of course, the pubs! They serve as very efficient, local community centers, known to all. The fact that we enlist local musicians as guides/drivers, guarantees our group front row seats at traditional Irish music sessions. There is a great video on YouTube of Olcan Masterson on flute, and Cormac (Connie) Cullen on guitar. Two of the best Musicians/Drivers/Tour Guides in all of Ireland.
Joe: The scenery, music, food, and pubs all sound wonderful. How much formal photography instruction do you do on this trip?
Tim: This Photo Tour appeals to a broad base of photographers. I've come to the conclusion that the trip is not so much about teaching, tho' I'm certainly there to help in any way I can. These trips are more about experiencing the Irish countryside, history, people, and culture, with a group of like-minded photographers.
Joe: That sounds like a good approach. Focus on the landscape and culture first, and get help with your photos if you need it.
Tim: Yeah, this is a Photo Tour, rather than a Workshop, where my role is more like a tour guide, or interpreter, in a way. And of course, our Irish Guide/Driver is a great asset on the trip. It is really a cultural tour, which just happens to include a LOT of photography. We’ll even do some night photography, for those brave souls who are so inclined!
Joe: What are the logistics of getting to Western Ireland?
Tim: You would fly in to Shannon Airport, which is LOTS better than Dublin – a very civilized, nice pace. There, our Irish guide and I will meet up with the group, load everyone and their gear into our rather large 'Coach' that seats 12! We’ll go for a nice ride thru the countryside of the West of Ireland and up into Westport, County Mayo. We may even take a few "unscheduled f-stops", and have some photographic opportunities on the way!. The first day is largely a decompression day to get over jetlag, adjust to the new pace, note the exquisite light, etc. From then on, we're off and running!
Joe: Where do interested photographers get more information about the Ireland tour? Who should they contact about signing up?
Tim: For detailed information about The Light of Ireland – October 10- 20, 2016 - visit Strabo Tours.
Joe: I understand you have a special print offer for early sign ups.
Tim: As an incentive, and a glimpse into the kind of imagery that awaits you in Ireland, we have a print offer. A free 10" x 15" Crystal Archive color print of Moher Lough, County Mayo, Study I (shown above). The print will be signed and window-matted to 16x20, and is a $300 value. Just submit your deposit before June 1, 2016.
Yesterday I attended a Nocturnes AlumNight at the former Mare Island Naval Shipyard. These bi-annual events typically feature a daytime tour of Mare Island's historic buildings, followed by a chance to share photos and eat pizza with fellow night photographers. The events are held at the Mare Island Museum, where you can learn more about the history of the shipyard. Amongst the interesting artifacts are a working periscope with a view across the Napa River. You can almost see what's on tap at Mare Island Brewing Co.
I hadn't photographed Mare Island since 2014, and was surprised at how much some of the brick buildings have deteriorated in the last 2 years. A 6.0 magnitude earthquake on August 24, 2014 caused a significant amount of damage. Many buildings had severe cracks and fallen bricks. Some buildings have been completely leveled since my last visit.
The building pictured above used to be flanked by a series of interesting metal stacks. The changes on Mare Island have given me a new sense of urgency to photograph there more often. Sign up for The Nocturnes mailing list to find out about workshops and future Mare Island events.
Earlier this month I took a drive out to West Marin. I stopped at the famous Point Reyes shipwreck in Inverness to eat lunch. I also wanted to test a new 360 pole panorama setup with the Rokinon/Samyang 12mm fisheye lens. For under $500, this full frame compatible lens is sharp from corner to corner, and comes in Canon and Nikon mounts.
Panoramic photographer Thomas Bredenfeld recommended shooting the 12mm fisheye in a slanted position on the Nodal Ninja R1. By rotating the lens about 33º in the mount you get more vertical coverage, and a zenith shot is not necessary. The shipwreck panorama above was taken on a 10 foot Nodal Ninja carbon fiber pole. Shooting 6 around worked perfectly, and I also took an extra offset shot to remove my shadow.
During the time I was hanging out at the shipwreck, a constant stream of people stopped by to see the old boat and take pictures. Everyone from locals to tourists, from hipsters to families.
I wasn't planning on posting this panorama because the light isn't particularly spectacular. But I just learned that some careless night photographers were light painting with steel wool, and burned the ship earlier this week. Shoot 'em while you got 'em, folks. And enjoy the shipwreck 360 panorama.
Troy Paiva has been photographing abandoned places under the light of the full moon since 1989. The colorful light painting style featured on his website Lost America has been highly influential. Troy and I have been friends since 2005. He’s having a big art show next month at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Twenty-nine of Troy's night photos will be on display in sizes up to 6 feet wide. If you're in the Bay Area, don't miss it!
The opening party is on Friday, March 4th from 5pm-11pm. The photos will be up through March 26th. The show will feature work from Troy’s 25-year night photography career, as well as work by photographer Peter Samuels. In the following interview, Troy and I discuss the details of preparing for the show at 111 Minna Gallery.
Getting a Gallery Show
Joe: How did you get the show at 111 Minna Gallery? Did you have a connection introduce you, or was it just old-fashioned self-promotion? Did you show them a print portfolio in person, or just send them work online?
Troy: 100% self promotion. I contacted them in late ’14. This was coming off my successful appearance in a summer group show at Heist Gallery in Kensington, London, where they sold everything I gave them: four 14"x22" archival inkjets I had left over from that show we did at the University of Kentucky. They sold for $1100 each, unframed. They told me “Hit of the show, coulda sold more, we want to give you a big show” etc. So I was also in the throes of preparing a big solo show at Heist.
I was feeling pretty confident when I sent 111 Minna curator Micah LeBrun that e-mail. He gave me a show on the spot, based solely on my work online. Unfortunately, the next open slot was 14 months away! But when he said “I never give anyone a show on the day they first contact me!” I knew he believed in the work.
I dreaded the day in the spring of ’15 when I had to tell Micah that the Heist solo show had vaporized, but he’s been relentlessly upbeat and positive that this show is going to be something totally unique.
Joe: Do you have a print portfolio to show curators? What size are the prints, and how is the portfolio put together? What do you use for leave-behinds?
Troy: Ha, no I don’t have any of that stuff. I use the online profiles and websites to break the ice. Prints come later.
Up to this point, I’ve never really done any self promotion to galleries. Selling prints is not something I’ve ever really pursued directly. Until I accidentally fell into the Heist show, I had no idea that I could sell prints for prices like that.
If this show does well, I’ll parlay that success into something else and grow it that way. But I doubt I’ll ever really promote myself in a traditional manner, do cattle call reviews and all that.
Editing for a Photography Show
Joe: How on earth do you whittle down 25 years worth of photographing abandoned places at night into 29 prints? Are there particular themes or locations, or is it a sampling of everything? What was the editing process like? Did you make any test prints or just look at images on the computer? How much input did the gallery have into the selections?
Troy: Yeah, it was a long, difficult process. It took months. As curator, Micah wanted a lot of input. I had to resist of some of his choices on technical grounds, but was careful to choose my battles: one of the reasons for my fail with the Heist show was that I flat refused to agree to some of their selections. So I was much more diplomatic and willing to compromise this time.
We both agreed that doing an overview of my career was the right approach to introduce my work to his customers. The earliest image is from 1992, the most recent was shot last fall and inserted into the show as a last minute change when one image wasn’t printing well.
Micah really wanted to feature super bright and colorfully lit work. There are no straight moonlight shots in this show. I know there are images in this show that are going to make long-time followers say “Really? That one?” but there are plenty of others that are known favorites, and things I’ve successfully shown before. The two 6 foot prints are images shot in early 2015 that I’ve never shown publicly before.
Micah started by combing my Flickr stream, which is the one place where you can see every single night image I’ve put online since 2005. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it’s all there. I also sent him a stack of about fifty 4"x6" test prints, done on the metallic paper I planned to use.
He compiled a list of about 50, some from the 4x6s, some from Flickr and my website. After still more test prints, lots of lobbying and compromise on both sides we culled to this show near the end of 2015.
Printing Night Photography
Joe: What kind of paper/process are you using for printing? What lab? How many different sizes are you printing? Are you doing smaller test prints before ordering the larger prints? Did you experiment with other labs or types of paper? Are you happy with how well the color and tone matches your monitor?
Troy: Printing my work has always been really hard. I use colors that don’t exist in the CMYK universe and I’ve seen some horrible reproductions of my work over the decades. I used to love the pearly Cibachromes back in the film era, but that costly and toxic process disappeared 15, 20 years ago. I didn’t print much until around 2009, when I found a maker of archival fine art giclee editions of paintings who made beautiful rag-paper prints of some of my work. But the color gamut, especially in the purples, just wasn’t there.
This show is printed on Kodak Endura Metallic. The color gamut of this paper is the largest I’ve ever seen, cleanly reproducing super the intense reds and purples in my light painting. The metallic finish gives the prints a pearlescent quality reminiscent of the old Cibas. Under direct light the color screams off the walls.
This is one of the reasons why now is the time for this big show: I’ve finally found a printing process that can actually reproduce what my work looks like on an LCD screen.
I’m using WHCC for printing. I’ve used them off and on for years. But I wanted to do this right, so I ran some tests last summer, sending the same images to about 6 different labs and seeing what I got back. The best looking 2 were WHCC and another lab, but the other lab fell down on customer service. If there’s a problem, WHCC fixes it immediately.
Framing Your Photos
Joe: How are you presenting each size of print -- are you framing the prints or mounting them? Is the lab doing this work, or a custom frame shop? Are you working with a standard size so this work can be re-used in a future show?
Troy: They are framed. Black wood, about an inch. No mattes. The images are all dry-mounted to gatorboard for rigidity.
I’m using a custom framer in San Francisco, Dave Fallis, who was recommended by Micah at 111 Minna. Dave’s work is super clean and very reasonably priced.
Yes, all the work in this show is printed to standard paper sizes, mostly various extrapolations of the 4x6 aspect ratio. There will be a salon-wall cluster of 8"x12" prints, mostly of ancient film work, and groups of 16"x24" and 24"x36" prints. There are a couple of 36" wide prints in panorama format, as well at the two 4x6 footers.
Print Pricing and Editions
Joe: How did you arrive at the pricing for the prints. Has your previous success moving into a higher price bracket affected your online print sales? What kind of editions are you using for each size of work.
Troy: I followed Micah’s lead on pricing and editions, factoring in the production costs:
8" x 12" - edition of 10 @ $300
16" x 24" - edition of 10 @ $800
24" x 36" - edition of 8 @ $1,250
48" x 72"- edition of 6 @ $5,000
Each image will be available in multiple sizes. My online sales have always been flat. But again, I haven't really pursued these type of sales - I usually just print when people ask me to. This show is for the collectors market, not casual online viewers.
Marketing an Art Show
Joe: Besides the web and social media, are you doing anything special to promote the show?
Troy: I’ve called in all my favors, tried to throw water on all those burning bridges, etc. I think pretty much everyone I’ve ever met has heard about this by now. The press releases have gone out. It’s really up to the gallery to bring the buyers, and I know they have a strong, large database and solid media connections.
Joe: I’m getting my cumberbund pressed so I look sharp for the show. Anything special we should know about the atmosphere. Will there be a DJ playing jazz-rock fusion? There’s going to be lots of beer, right?
Troy: I just picked up a stack of promo postcards yesterday and the music is listed as “DJ Bald Elvis”, so maybe we’ll get some Dread Zeppelin, I dunno. The place is a bar, expect to buy drinks, don’t bring the kids, it’s gonna be a party!
Joe: What’s next for you in 2016. Any special travel plans or shoots coming up?
Troy: I’ve basically taken the winter off from shooting. Virtually every nickel I have, all my focus, is going into this show. Again, the future’s all kinda hinged on this show. How, what and where I shoot in the future is TBD.
Joe: Thanks for taking the time to talk about the show. I hope everything goes well and I'll see you there!
The famous Roy's Motel Cafe is on a lonely stretch of Route 66 in the Eastern Mojave Desert. Restoration work has been in progress since Albert Okura bought the town of Amboy in 2005. Currently, you can buy gas and beverages here. The famous Googie/mid-century modern sign has been photographed a lot over the years. Stand underneath the Roy's sign on a full moon in this 360 night panorama.