Mare Island Night Photography with The Nocturnes

Save Em - by Joe Reifer

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.

Brick Picnic - by Joe Reifer

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.

Relaxin' at Mare Island -- by Joe Reifer

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.


Point Reyes Shipwreck 360 Panorama

 Point Reyes shipwreck in Inverness - click the image for an interactive view

Point Reyes shipwreck in Inverness - click the image for an interactive view

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.



Interview with Troy Paiva: Night Photography Show at 111 Minna Gallery

 Troy Paiva - Planet Claire (2014)

Troy Paiva - Planet Claire (2014)

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. 

Photography Portfolio

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.

 Troy Paiva - Second Floor Landing (2007)

Troy Paiva - Second Floor Landing (2007)

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.

 Troy Paiva - Bobby Peru's Room (2013)

Troy Paiva - Bobby Peru's Room (2013)

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.

 Troy Paiva - Mac's Red Nose (2011)

Troy Paiva - Mac's Red Nose (2011)

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.

 Troy Paiva - Postmarked By The Moon (2012)

Troy Paiva - Postmarked By The Moon (2012)

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!

What's Next

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!

Troy Paiva & Peter Samuels
Opening Reception on Friday, March 4th, from 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
On display through March 26, 2016

111 Minna Gallery
111 Minna Street, San Francisco, CA 94105
Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. | 21+
Happy Hour from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Facebook Event Page


360 Night Panorama of Roy's Motel Cafe, Amboy, California

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


360 Panorama of Madonna Inn Room 143: Rock Bottom

 The bathroom in Madonna Inn Room 143: Rock Bottom features stones on every surface and a rock waterfall shower.

The bathroom in Madonna Inn Room 143: Rock Bottom features stones on every surface and a rock waterfall shower.

Room #143 at the Madonna Inn is called Rock Bottom, and features rocks on the ceiling, walls, and floor. What a surreal experience. And the Flintstones never had this much luxury - the bathroom in Rock Bottom features a waterfall shower. Step inside this amazing room in the 360 panorama of Rock Bottom. You can also see 360 panoramas of 3 additional rooms.


The 40 Best Books That I Read in 2015

 If you're looking for me, I'll be in my cave, reading a book.

If you're looking for me, I'll be in my cave, reading a book.

The 40 best books that I read in 2015 in alphabetical order. Some titles are recent, and some are older. Most of these books were new to me, but a couple were re-reads. My top picks are in bold. Links go to Amazon. Enjoy!

Another Happy Day - Jonah Samson

Asylum of the Birds - Roger Ballen

Chewing Gum and Chocolate - Shomei Tomatsu

Chuck Close: Photographer - Colin Westerbeck, Chuck Close, Terrie Sultan

Codex Seraphinianus - Luigi Serafini


The Collected Hairy Who Publications 1966-1969 - Dan Nadel, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, Karl Wirsum

Definitely Maybe - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

The Dog of the South - Charles Portis

Drive - Andrew Bush

Eye in the Sky - Philip K. Dick

Forming - Jesse Moynihan



Hard to be a God - Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Hitchcock - Francois Truffaut

Hustlers - Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Invisible City - Ken Schles

Japanese Photobooks of the 1960s and 70s - Ivan Vartanian, Ryuichi Kaneko

Journey to Onomichi - Wim Wenders

The Lines of My Hand - Robert Frank

Megahex - Simon Hanselmann

Ninety-two in the Shade - Thomas McGuane

Oryx and Crake - Margaret Atwood

Pomona Queen - Kem Nunn

The Queen's Gambit - Walter Tevis

Raised by Wolves - Jim Goldberg

So Long, See You Tomorrow - William Maxwell

South of Market - Janet Delaney

Subway - Bruce Davidson

Sunburn - Chris McCaw

True Grit - Charles Portis

Very Casual - Michael DeForge

Weathercraft - Jim Woodring

Worst Behavior - Simon Hanselmann

Thanks to J.E., J.L., J.J., M.E., S.M. and C.S. for the book recommendations.
 Check out Goodreads to see what else I'm reading.


Toy Camera Photos and 360 Night Panoramas from the Archives

This blog has been around since 2006. When I transitioned my website to Squarespace last year, I pulled a bunch of older content down for review. A lot of the photography news related posts were ephemeral, but they featured some fun toy camera photos. Thanks to a few rainy days, I've restored some of these posts with the photos only. Enjoy a bunch of Holga, sprocket Holga, Lensbaby, and pinhole photos in the newly refreshed Toy Cameras category.

I also updated and restored four 360 night panoramas. These images benefited greatly from using newer software for RAW processing, stitching, and presentation. Click on any of the panos for a virtual tour.

 Dumbarton Railroad Swing Bridge

Dumbarton Railroad Swing Bridge

 Mare Island Warehouse Fire

Mare Island Warehouse Fire

 Virginia & Truckee Railroad

Virginia & Truckee Railroad

 Desert Center Gas Station

Desert Center Gas Station