Go Up: Airplane Boneyard Night Tour

A staircase sits in front of two nosecones and a chopped up airframe at a Mojave Desert airplane junkyard. There are now 7 panoramas in the boneyard night tour, and I'm slowly adding more.

I've switched to using the krpano viewer, because I like the thumbnail-based user interface. If you're viewing this tour on the desktop, you'll notice a fly-in effect when you open the tour. The little planet view morphs into the standard view. You can also play with the different views by right clicking.

Enjoy the boneyard tour!



WRLD: End of 2014 Art Intake Report

1959 Ford Levacar Mach 1

1959 Ford Levacar Mach 1


Los Angeles Plays Itself [Netflix, Amazon] - A documentary about movies made in Los Angeles. I don't always agree with CalArts professor Thom Andersen, and some of the sources are a bit obscure, but this documentary is a must see for any cinephile.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present [Netflix, Amazon] - I'm not typically a fan of performance art. This documentary about the godmother of the genre is very well done, and brings up a lot of interesting questions about the nature of art. Worth watching for artists working in any genre.

Frances Ha [Netflix, Amazon] - Not as dour as Baumbauch's previous work, this film explores a dancer coming to grips with not making the cut. Along the way, we get a wonderfully shot exploration of that time in your late 20's when relationships change, living situations change, and you may have to decide who you want to be when you grow up.

Inherent Vice - Paul Thomas Anderson did Thomas Pynchon proud with his screen adaptation of this hilarious novel. The Big Sleep meets the Big Lebowski is still an apt one line description. Wonderfully wild and woozy, this opens in wider release on 1/9/2015.



Redheaded Peckerwood / Christian Patterson - This was on a lot of best of lists in 2011, and I was just able to get a copy of the third printing. Documents Charlie Starkweather's killing spree that was the inspiration for Terence Malick's Badlands. Astonishing and essential.

How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment / George Nelson - This could be titled curmudgeon with a camera insteadA 2003 reissue of a 1977 book on how designer & photographer George Nelson evaluates the man-made world.

A Criminal Investigation / Watabe Yukichi - A press photographer follows a murder investigation in 1958 Japan. The photography, editing, sequencing, and book craft are all superb. One of the best photo books that I've acquired in the last few years.

The Cage / Martin Vaughn-James - A precursor to the modern graphic novel, this 1975 cult comic from Canada was out of print for a long time. Very surreal, mysterious, and haunting. A book that I still think about long after I finished reading it. Highly recommended.

Annihilation / Jeff Vandermeer - Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. Many of the expeditions into this zone have not returned...this is the story of the 12th expedition. The first book in a trilogy that was universally applauded by my book club, which is unusual. 

Hard Rain Falling / Don Carpenter - A story of being down and out in Portland and San Francisco with a great cast of lowlifes and outlaws. I couldn't put this one down. A hard-boiled classic.

Nijigahara Holograph / Inio Asano - Like David Lynch's best work, something unsettling is lurking just beneath the surface. Wonderfully drawn, elegant storytelling with a dark and twisted feel.

Pikin Slee / Vivian Sassen - Pikin Slee takes the photographic language that's so familiar, and rearranges everything into a different blend. Art and documentary. Color, and black and white. Light and shadow. People and still life. Texture. Mystery. And a short 1 page essay at the end that doesn't ruin that mystery. The editing, sequencing, and printing are all superb. Highly recommended.



Live in Paris 28.05.1975 / Fripp & Eno - My favorite music purchase of the year. These concerts were often bootlegged, but not officially released until 2014. Eno's original loops were found and painstakingly synched to the best available bootleg. The first track has a lot of crowd noise, but beyond that the fidelity is pretty great, as is the performance. And the original loops are included on disc 3. I could listen to these discs on repeat for a long time. Highly recommended.

Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything / Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra - I have mixed feelings about the evolution of this group. I'm a big fan of GYBE, but sometimes Efrim's vocals are a little bit much for me. That being said, the song What We Loved Was Not Enough really struck a chord, and seemed to nail the zeitgeist of 2014.

IAO Chant from the Cosmic Inferno / Acid Mothers Temple - A 51 minute album length tribute to the band Gong for 99 cents, and a nice entry point into the rather prolific catalog of Acid Mothers Temple.

Unrest / Henry Cow - I recently digitized my old LP of this 1974 album, and the music continues to amaze after all of these years. More on this classic album on The Quietus.


A cloudy night at the airplane junkyard: part two


"Junk is the most pervasive product of technological society. There is little or no junk visible in backward countries, for everything is cannibalized, cleaned, reused, sold. One might say, with a reasonable probability of being right, that come war or peace, affluence or depression, junk is our ultimate landscape."

"Many artists have been fascinated by junk and by the inexhaustible richness of forms it assumes. Artists have been painting landscapes for centuries, and if ours fills up with junk, junk is what they paint. Artists always know where the action is."

"If you have never gone through a large junkyard, it is a strange out-of-the-world experience. There is poignancy in these transformed relics of technology. They have a startling power to evoke images of human use and ephemeral dreams of affluence. It may well be that artists turn to junk as a raw material from time to time because this is the only moment in modern life when a consumer product relates directly, intimately and deeply to the human condition."

All quotes are from designer George Nelson's book How To See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment.


A cloudy night at the airplane junkyard: part one

I spent the December full moon photographing an airplane junkyard in the Mojave Desert. There was a lot of residual moisture on the planes, ground, and in the air from a downpour earlier in the week. The dew point was in the mid 40's. I kept an extra pair of gloves over my lens to help prevent fogging.

The first night was cold and clear, and I shot 360 degree panoramas. The second night was very cloudy, so we shot interiors for a couple of hours until the moon broke through. The clouds acted as a big softbox for the moon, giving the light a quiet feeling.

By keeping the exposures short, I was able to maintain definition in the clouds. Most exposures were 1.5-3 minutes. I wanted to shoot at the optimum aperture of f/8 or f/9.5, so I bumped the ISO to 400 to combat the filtered moonlight. The weather was in the mid 40's, so long exposure noise wasn't a problem for the EOS 6D.

Light pollution bounced off the clouds, creating a complementary orange and blue dynamic in the sky. A little bit stronger contrast and curves settings were needed in the RAW conversion to make the images pop in this softer light. Stay tuned for more airplane boneyard night photography, and eventually I'll get around to processing the 360 panoramas!



School Strict: Light painting a Fox Body Mustang at the Valley Junkyard

During the fall Valley Junkyard Night Photography workshop, we reviewed a photo of a car in front of a school bus during the critique sessions. The image resulted in a lively discussion about how your eye gravitates to any words that are in an image, and the importance of their placement.

The following night, I took a closer look at this section of the junkyard, and found a Fox Body Mustang behind one of the school buses. I set up on a 3/4 view of the car that looked good in the moonlight. I made sure to leave room for the detritus in the foreground. I made a point of keeping the strong vertical lines on the left side of the frame clean in the composition. I experimented with the camera height in order to layer the Mustang's grill and window louvers against the lines of the school bus.

I checked the composition, exposure, and focus using high ISO test shots. Once everything looked good, I set my timer remote to make 6 shots in a row. Each exposure was 3:20 at f/9.5, ISO 200. Stacked together this would give me 20 minute star trails.

Taking 6 shorter exposures allowed me to work without using long exposure noise reduction (LENR). I planned to leave one exposure with moonlight only, and light paint the rest. After reviewing the results on the back of the camera, I made 2 shorter exposures to make sure I nailed the light painting.

The 6 image star trail stack in Lightroom, plus 2 additional images for light painting.

The 6 image star trail stack in Lightroom, plus 2 additional images for light painting.

The light painting plan for this shot had 3 objectives:

  1. Light the hood and front grill of the car at a hard angle from camera left. This would emphasize the grid pattern on the grill.
  2. Provide some subtle fill light on the interior of the car by crouching behind the open door.
  3. Emphasize the strong lines of the window louvers by lighting through the rear window.

I used a Stinger Streamlight flashlight for all of the light painting. The warm color of the Xenon bulb blends nicely with moonlight and city lights at a color temperature of 3800K. The louvers and interior lighting were handled nicely during the 6 image stack, but I didn't put enough light on the front of the car. The lighting on the final 2 images solved that problem.

After developing all of the images in Lightroom, I used Photo -- Edit In -- Open As Layers in Photoshop. Then I put the images into Layer Groups to stay organized. The images below show how the star trails were stacked, and how the light painting was fine tuned with layer masks during post-processing.

Once the light painting was dialed in, there were a few more steps before the image was ready for output:

  1. Enhance the orange against blue color palette of the image using a LAB conversion technique. You can see this technique in action at my workshops.
  2. Select the sky, and use Curves to darken it down.
  3. Retouch a distracting piece of trash on the left edge of the frame.
  4. Output for the web using Lightroom.

So that's a lot to digest. Did you notice the placement of the letters on the school bus as framed by the car window? This took a lot of test shots to get right, but the little details are worth it.

The Valley Junkyard is an amazing place for night photography and light painting. Troy Paiva and I will be announcing a spring 2015 workshop at this location soon. Registration opens in mid-December. The best way to get a spot is to sign up for our email list.


Imagining New York City