Night Photography: Big M Automotive

During the March full moon, I made a return visit to Big M Automotive with Troy Paiva. The Big M specializes in 50-60's Mercurys and Plymouths. Welcome to fin-land! We've been shooting at this location since 2009, and revisiting these classic cars was a lot of fun. Many thanks to the owner for his hospitality.

The owner's wife told me that the lettering on this car was from an adventure where the owner & a friend parked this classic Cadillac in front of a casino, and hinted that The Big M might be giving away a car. Viral advertising with a sense of humor.

Technical details: Four exposures of 5 minutes at f/8, ISO 200 were combined for 20 minute star trails. The light painting was done with a Stinger Streamlight flashlight from camera left. A low angle was used to skim the ground for texture, and emphasize the bulbous shape of the car. 
Canon EOS 6D, 16-35mm f/4L IS lens at 21mm.

I was scouting for interesting cars to shoot in the daylight, and was getting pretty free with my compositions. I took almost this exact same shot before sunset, and really loved the off-kilter compo on the back of the camera. Once the moon was up, I returned to do a light painted version.

Technical details: Four exposures of 4 minutes at f/9.5, ISO 200 were combined for 16 minute star trails. You can see Venus setting between the trees. The lighting was done with a Streamlight Stinger flashlight. The door, floor, and lower dash were done from camera left. Some additional fill and the speedometer cluster were done through the back window.
Canon EOS 6D, 16-35mm f/4L IS lens at 16mm.

As a big fan of J.G. Ballard, the Ballard's Mopar Repair stencil on this car amused me greatly. Lining up the tree behind the C-pillar was the key to making the background work. This shot is pure moonlight.

Technical details: 4 shots of 5 minutes at f/8, ISO 200 were combined for 20 minute star trails.
Canon EOS 6D, 16-35mm f/4L IS lens at 16mm.

I saw the blue Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight next to the trees during my daylight scouting. I was testing my personal comfort zone with composition, and purposefully cropped out the headlight on the left. I also chopped off the right side of the Dodge on the right. But it still works. And it's fun. How much of a car in a picture is enough to get the idea of the car? No light painting here, just pure moonlight.

Technical details: Three shots of 6 minutes 40 seconds at f/8, ISO 200 were combined for 20 minute star trails. 
Canon EOS 6D, 16-35mm f/4L IS lens at 16mm.

This shot was purposefully underexposed by a stop to keep the mid-ground dark, and have the sky look like night. I knew the two billboards would blow out, and lined them up in relationship to the car's headlights - almost like an afterimage. The light painting was done with a Stinger Streamlight flashlight from camera right. The lighting plan was just to light the "face" of the car.

Technical details: Four shots of 2 minutes 30 seconds at f/8, ISO 200 were combined for 10 minute star trails. An additional exposure of 6 minutes at f/8, ISO 200 was made to have the option of more moonlit foreground and mid-ground detail, but wasn't used.
Canon EOS 6D, 16-35mm f/4L IS lens at 22mm.

The instant I saw this Plymouth next to the field with the lights from town in the background, I knew there was a picture here. At first, I tried shooting from the side at a lower angle, to emphasize the rear fins. After some experimenting with the composition. a 3/4 angle provided the best view of the car, nice light streaks from the road, a good rhythm with the utility wire, and a cool backlit effect on the plants. I stopped down to f/11 on this shot to get the star shaped highlights.

Technical details: Six shots of 5 minutes at f/11, ISO 200 were combined for 30 minute star trails.
Canon EOS 6D, 16-35mm f/4L IS lens at 30mm.


iPhone and iPad Night Mode: How to Turn Down Your Brightness Even More

Whether you're looking at photography on your phone late at night, or out making your own photos under the moonlight, sometimes your iPhone or iPad is just too bright. This quick tutorial will show you how to turn your iPhone and iPad brightness down even more than the default settings allow.

This helps save battery life, and prevents eye strain. Night mode doesn't require any apps -- it's just a creative modification of your iPhone or iPad's built-in features.

Note: You need iOS 8 to set up night mode.

  • Go to Settings -- General -- Accessibility -- Zoom and switch Zoom to On.
  • Using 3 fingers, you triple tap on the screen to get the dialog box.
  • Choose Full Screen Zoom, and then make sure the zoom slider is moved all the way to the left.
  • Hit Choose Filter on the menu, and then select Low Light. Your screen will magically get darker. Triple tap again with 3 fingers if you need to get rid of the pop-up menu.

    So now the zoom feature gives you a way to dim your iPhone or iPad screen. But that takes a lot of steps. Let's make it easier by making a shortcut:
  • Use the link at upper left to go back to the Accessibility settings.
  • Scroll to the bottom, and hit Accessibility Shortcut, and select Zoom.

Now you can triple tap on the Home key to enable and disable night mode on your iPhone or iPad. If the screen is too dark in night mode, just use the brightness slider to dial it in.


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!