How I Find Interesting Foregrounds and Abandoned Locations

I was asked how I find interesting foregrounds and abandoned locations a couple of times lately, and thought I would answer in my blog, which I’ve resuscitated to go along with my shiny new Ken Lee Photography website.
My philosophy is that regardless of whether it you are photographing the night sky or not, it’s all about the composition, where the subject matter still counts. And rarely for me is the night sky the subject matter. I’m particularly fascinated by the marriage of sky and earth. Astrophotography and deep sky photography hold less interest for me personally.
Ideally, I hike around the area during the day and return at night, although that doesn’t always happen due to time constraints or life throwing one challenges.
I photograph a lot of abandoned items that I found interesting, but really, anything that’s interesting is something that I love to photograph, including fantastic natural landscapes. When I’m in the area during the day, I usually try to make notes about where the moon might come out, how the foreground subject will be illuminated, or where the Milky Way might be, things like that. I use apps such as PhotoPills to help determine things such as this. I also look to see whether there might be streetlights in the area or there might be some danger in walking (sharp cactus, floorboards that are about to give way, possibility for animals or people, homeless encampments, whatever). And of course, I am always thinking about how I might “light paint”* the foreground so that I can create visually strong and creative images. “Light painting” is illuminating the foreground while the camera shutter is open, acting almost like the director of a movie, determining what to illuminate, and what to keep in shadow.
I am constantly attempting to find interesting areas. When researching new locations and determining how to approach photographing them, I use a combination of Google Maps, the history of a region, looking at old photographs, driving around the area, other photographer friends, blogs, old maps, and Facebook groups about a particular subject matter.
I try not to copy other people’s photographs. Also, I don’t actively seek to photograph some locations there despite it having great subjects if 1.) I feel like I can’t say anything that hasn’t been said before, and 2.) they are too crowded, which isn’t the sort of photographic experience I’m after. Locations like this would include Mesa Arch at sunrise, Kanarra Creek Canyon, the sun shining on Horsetail Fall in Yosemite in February, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon. This is not a condemnation of anyone photographing these locations. They are stunning locations for photography. Because of #1 and #2, they simply hold less interest for me.
Finally, I am working on two more night photography books on abandoned sites, both of which have themes. Themes are fantastic because they drive me to seek out these things more, and make it a lot of fun! I also record music this way by having this sort of theme, and it serves as a guidepost for what one seeks out or does. I often find myself thinking about the approach in novel ways, and that can create additional creativity.
What foregrounds interest you? What methods do you use to find fascinating foregrounds and cool abandoned sites? Let us know in the comments section!

Abandoned Southern California book and book signing

NEW BOOK: I’m going to start this blog again after taking a hiatus. And what better way than to announce my first book? I have a new book entitled “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time”. The book features night photography photos of abandoned locations, some of them well known, others rather secret and obscure. The book is published by Fonthill Media/Arcadia Publishing. I am also working on two more books featuring night photography photos of abandoned locations.

BOOK SIGNING EVENT: I will be having a book signing on February 9 2020 at 5 pm at Valley Relics Museum in Los Angeles, CA at 7900 Balboa Blvd. Lake Balboa CA 91406 Hangar C 3 and 4. The entrance is on Stagg Street. Although it begins at 5 pm, I would encourage people to show up early to check out the fascinating museum. Admission is $10. I will also be giving a half hour slide show presentation on some of the locations in the book.

Facebook Event sign-up and tickets

 

BLOG: I am going to begin writing blog posts. However, it’s going to be different this time. I had problems trying to post so many times before, so I am going to slow it down to approximately one time a month. I will write more about night photography in general, including occasionally answering more commonly asked questions about night photography, including star trails, Milky Way, abandoned locations, gear, and other topics, keeping it loose and informal and fun and interesting.

NEW WEBSITE: I have a fresh new look for my website. Check it out! I am super happy with how beautifully it displays the photos and how it seamlessly integrates purchasing prints and various other items. www.kenleephotography.com

Thank you!

-Ken

Red Blood Cells – Abandoned Penitentiary in West Virginia!

Red Blood Cells (7513)


Photographing the abandoned and apparently haunted penitentiary at night was creepy, interesting, exciting, and sometimes challenging. The penitentiary has imposing Gothic stone architecture adorned with turrets and like a castle, and has an extremely violent history, with almost a thousand deaths within these stone walls. Shown here is Cell Block J & K.
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Photos were created with only a handheld flashlight in total or near total darkness. Tim Little and Mike Cooper also photographed here the same evening. The former West Virginia State Penitentiary, a National Historic Places Registered facility, operated by the Moundsville Economic Development Council in Moundsville, West Virginia, was built in 1866, just three years after West Virginia seceded from Virginia, and closed in 1995.
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Nikon D610/14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 255 second exposure f/8 ISO 200. July 2017. I illuminated the cell block during the exposure.
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Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

This Blood Red Room – Abandoned Penitentiary in West Virginia

This Blood Red Room (7517)


Photographing the abandoned and apparently haunted penitentiary at night was creepy, interesting, exciting, and sometimes challenging. The penitentiary has imposing Gothic stone architecture adorned with turrets and like a castle, and has an extremely violent history, with almost a thousand deaths within these stone walls.
~~~
Photos were created with only a handheld flashlight in total or near total darkness. Tim Little and Mike Cooper also photographed here the same evening. The former West Virginia State Penitentiary, a National Historic Places Registered facility, operated by the Moundsville Economic Development Council in Moundsville, West Virginia, was built in 1866, just three years after West Virginia seceded from Virginia, and closed in 1995.
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Nikon D610/14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 194 second exposure f/8 ISO 200. July 2017. I illuminated the rooms during the exposure.
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IG – @kenleephotography
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500px – kenleephotography
~~~
#kenlee #kenleephotography #slowshutter #amazing_longexpo #longexphunter #longexpoelite #longexposure_shots #nightscaper #supreme_nightshots #ig_astrophotography #super_photolongexpo #long_exposure‬ #nightscaper #nightphotography #longexposure #startrails #westvirginia #urbex #abandoned #moundsvillepenitentiary #abandonedplaces #abandonedwv

Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

Photo: Luxury by the Lakeside – Abandoned RV Under The Milky Way

Luxury By The Lakeside (7329)


Someone’s former home near Owens Lake in California, a lake that was fairly large before the DWP and the L.A. Aqueduct sucked it dry. Now it’s common to have enormous dust clouds blowing from the lake. But back in the 1870s, steamer ships cruised across the lake, where silver mined from Cerro Gordo was loaded on to the ships to transport across the lake, part of the trip south to Los Angeles.

I illuminated interior and exterior with a hand-held ProtoMachines LED2 flashlight while the shutter was open on my tripod-mounted camera. Originally, I was going for a 15 second exposure. I never could get all the “light painting” finished. I made it 16 seconds. That I could do. I can only run so fast. I used a Pinout remote controller/app to set and trigger the camera.

Nikon D610/Irix 15mm f/2.4 lens @ 16 seconds f/2.4 ISO 5000 on 2017-06-24 00:44.

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#kenlee #kenleephotography #slowshutter #amazing_longexpo #longexphunter #longexpoelite #longexposure_shots #nightscaper #supreme_nightshots #ig_astrophotography #super_photolongexpo #long_exposure #nightscaper #nightphotography #longexposure #owensvalley #milkyway #owenslake #camper

Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

The Garden of Pompeii: Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting, Abandoned Movie Set

4135kenlee_2016-07-17_0705_joshuatree-backlitcolumns-300sf8iso200-1000pxPlease click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

 The Garden of Pompeii (4135)

A mysterious abandoned movie lot deep in the Mojave Desert. Everything here was very consistently Roman or Greek looking, and the old set location was littered with columns, some standing, some fallen, as well as busts, statues, reliefs, and stands as well as plaster molds. I illuminated the columns while the camera shutter was open with a hand-held Protomachines LED2 flashlight. Thank you to David Dasinger for taking me here. Nikon D610/14-24mm f/2.8. 300s exposure f/8 ISO 200.

#kenleephotography #kenlee #awesomeearth #awesomeglobe #beautifuldestinations #WeOwnTheNight_CA #shutterbugpix #nikon #largaexposicion #longexposure #lightpainting #pinturadeluz #fotografianocturna #nightphotography #protomachines #feisol #nikon #MyRRS #mojave #mojavedesert #studiolot #abandoned #urbex

Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!

 

Lo Gas Eat: Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting

4759_kenlee_2016-10-14_0103_barstow-94sf8iso200-halloransprings-lo-gas-eat-backlit-1000pxPlease click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

 Lo Gas Eat (4759)
Signs at an abandoned highway stop, Halloran Springs, CA, backlit by a bright moon. Illuminated by a handheld ProtoMachines LED2 flashlight and a full moon.

This is a real photo taken at night. This evening, everything was illuminated by a big bright moon, an almost full moon, almost bright enough to read a book. And setting the camera to a long exposure made the camera much more sensitive to light than our eyes on this already bright evening. This is why this photo seems brighter than what we might see at night. It is not due to post-processing. The moon, which reflects light from the sun, also makes the sky bluer, and when the photo is a long exposure photo, the sky will appear brighter, making the blue more apparent. I also illuminated the sign with a handheld LED flashlight while the camera shutter was open. In a rare move, I did remove a distracting telephone pole that just licked into the lower part of the photo, but otherwise, did not alter this photo.

I am fascinated with how a single long exposure photo can show movements and the cumulative effects of light in a single image. Thank you for reading this and looking at the image. -Ken

Nikon D610/14-24mm f/2.8, 94s @ f/8 ISO 200 Oct 2016.

#‎nightphotography‬ ‪#‎night ‬‪#‎lightpainting‬ ‪‬ ‪#‎abandoned‬ ‪#‎california‬ #kenlee #fotografianocturna #pinturadeluz #abandonado #MyRRS #feisol #noche #luna #moon #ruins #urbex #urbanexploration #desert #awesomeearth #awesomeglobe #beautifuldestinations #WeOwnTheNight_CA #shutterbugpix #nikon #halloransprings #mojavedesert

Long Exposure Night Photo with Light Painting

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!
You can see more of these photos here  on my Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like), on 500px, or my Ken Lee Google+ Page. We discuss long exposure, night sky, star trails, and coastal long exposure photography, as well as lots of other things, so I hope you can join us!

And you can go to the Ken Lee Photography website, which has more photos from Ken Lee.  Thank you very much for visiting!