How I got the photo: the Car Forest night photo

I wanted a vivid, bold composition of a subject that had been photographed a fair amount by other night photographers. This was photographed at a desert art installation known as the International Car Forest of the Last Church outside Goldfield, NV, a field of old cars that are wildly painted and jammed into the ground at unlikely angles. This was created by Michael “Mark” Rippie and painted by Chad Sorg. Chad had encouraged me to create night photos here.

Bang! Bang!

Out in the Mojave Desert, strange things happen. The still, quiet evening was suddenly shattered by a sudden loud slamming sound, followed by some sort of braying. I whirled around to find several burros circling each other in a cloud of dust, slamming into each other periodically.

Batman tilt

To set the composition apart, I thought a Dutch Angle was in order. When I employ this technique, I want it to be really crooked so there can be no doubt. Full-on 1960s Batman crooked. And I want it to add drama. Lots of drama. I placed the camera so that the bus would block the nearly full moon, using it to backlight the bus and illuminate the clouds that would serve to frame the bus.

Color choice

I decided that a deep blue, which would match really well with the rich blue sky, would match beautifully. I used an Nikon SB-600 speedlight, firing it manually quite a few times. To get the blue color, I used a blue colored theatrical gel secured over the light.

I decided to “light paint” the exterior a lighter blue, which would make it appear to glow a bit rather than accentuating how old and weathered it was. I did this with an LED flashlight covered by a light blue plastic bag to soften the light.

How meeting a night photographer cost me $500

During this photo shoot, I ran into another night photographer named Ron Pinkerton. He showed me a ProtoMachines LED2, a device specifically designed to for light painting and night photography. I was intrigued, and watched as he demonstrated it and methodically went about light painting.

I told Ron, “Thanks! You just cost me $500!” I purchased one six months later and have never stopped using it since. However, I do still keep the LED flashlights and speedlight in the back of the car. You never know what may happen.

What did I use?

Info: Nikon D610 DSLR camera and  a AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens at 14mm. The exposure was 146 seconds, the aperture was f/8, and the ISO was 400.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern California’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

Best how-to night photography books

When I began exploring night photography, these following instructional books were inspirational and informative. That I still love reading them is a testament to how great they really are. The first two books, I purchased simultaneously. Although I knew quite a few night photography and light painting techniques already, these first two nonetheless had a profound impact on my philosophical and general approach to night photography.

Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark (2nd edition) – Lance Keimig

Well-written and informative, this is a worthy second edition that seems largely re-written. The history of night photography is still there, and still absolutely fascinating. The book covers astro-landscape, long exposures in moonlight, star trails, light painting, light drawing, and post-processing for night photography with an emphasis on Lightroom, although the tips for post-processing can obviously be done in Photoshop, Lightroom, or other programs as well. Lance also includes other photographers and their images, their personalities and approaches adding to the book’s vibrancy overall. The book, even more than the first edition, offers a comprehensive look at the many facets of night photography, managing to cover it in one book. And yes, of course, the photos are mesmerizing, beautiful, fascinating, and gorgeously executed. It includes lots of scenarios and technical information about night photography. And that’s what we want, isn’t it?

Light Painted Night Photography: The “Lost America” Technique – Troy Paiva

This incredible e-book describes Troy Paiva’s pioneering, bold light painting techniques very clearly. Easy to follow and understand but very detailed. Although for the past several years, the author has used ProtoMachines, the book tells how the author created his eye-popping lighting effects with handheld flashlights and a speedlight. It discusses his general approach toward creating images and offers a lot of “real world” advice for beginners and veterans alike. The book has many photos with very readable captions describing the thought process and techniques behind the photos. It also discusses post-production techniques. Readable on any smartphone, tablet or computer, and at just $10, is a bargain. Unfortunately, it is more challenging for him to autograph it for you.

Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots – Gabriel Biderman with Tim Cooper

A great introduction on night photography, including basic compositional approaches, camera settings, gear, and “walk-throughs” on how he achieve some of the images, which serve as beautiful illustrations throughout the book. Gabriel’s enthusiasm and encouragement shines through in the book. And like the first two books, this also offers settings and post-processing tips and techniques.

More books worth mentioning

All but the last book are not tutorials, but they are worth mentioning because they offer exquisite photos, which in themselves can teach quite a lot.

In the case of “Boneyard: SoCal’s Aircraft Graveyards At night” by Troy Paiva, each photo caption also offers the camera settings. There’s also a couple of pages describing his technique. The book is crammed full of amazing photos of abandoned airplanes in boneyards.

Also worth mentioning is “The Last Stand: Night Photography and Light Painting in the Mojave Desert” by Ron Pinkerton. More of a fine art museum book or coffee table book, the images always impress. His insightful, poetic writing make me wish there were even more of that.

“Cape Cod Nights: A Photographic Exploration of Cape Cod and the Islands After Dark” by Tim Little is a beautifully executed book of fascinating good night images from the Cape Cod region. I felt like I was being shown the area with a friend. The images are top notch, and showcase many facets of Cape Cod! 

This will look like I am mistakenly recommending the same book again. And that’s sort of true. “Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark (1st edition) by Lance Keimig is an amazing book. I would describe it very similarly  as above except to mention that it has a slightly longer first chapter on the history of night photography. The second edition is approximately 3/4 rewritten, making them extremely complementary. The history section in either book is enthralling. I found the descriptions and considerations to be fascinating, and was especially interested in Carlos and Miguel Vargas, two brothers who operated a commercial photography studio Arequipa, Peru from 1912 to 1927 and made exquisite long exposure moonlight exposures with sophisticated, theatrical lighting from moonlight, lanterns, bonfires, flash powder, and street lamps.

 

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

MY WEBSITE:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure photos.  My latest book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time” is available there and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, Booktopia, Books A Million, IBS, and Aladin. If you enjoy the book, please leave a nice review.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Ken Lee Photography Facebook Page (poke your head in, say hi, and “like” the page if you would, uh, like)
Instagram

PODCAST:
Behind the Shot video podcast – interview February 2020

ARTICLES:
A Photographer Captures Haunting Nighttime Images of Abandoned Buildings, Planes, and Cars in the American Southwest – Business Insider by Erin McDowell
A Photographer Explores Southern California’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

 

Llano Del Rio Star Trails – Mysterious 100 Year Old Ruins of a Former Socialist Desert Colony

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Please click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

You’re looking at the 100 year old ruins of Llano del Rio Colony, a socialist utopian community, established in SE Antelope Valley in 1914. Llano del Rio was founded by Job Harriman, a young lawyer who almost won a bid for mayor of Los Angeles. Not trusting the political system to enact social change, Harriman founded the community out in the desert north of Los Angeles. The cooperative thrived, its population exceeding 1000, until their water supply was diverted by an earthquake fault. They had one of the country’s first Montessori schools, hosted a fertile intellectual and cultural climate, and had innovative low-cost housing, Social Security, minimum-wage pay, and universal health care services that predated the rest of the country by decades. Although Llano del Rio is today considered Western American history’s most important non-religious utopian community, there is unfortunately no protection for the site despite being a California Historic Landmark.

Title: Llano Del Rio Star Trails
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. 20 minute exposure in total, “stacked” in Photoshop CS4 from 5 individual photos of 4 minutes each at ISO 200 f/8, using Triggertrap to control the camera for the star trails. “Light painted” grain silo with LED flashlight and speedlight with gel. 18 January 2014 8:30 pm.
Location: Llano Del Rio, California, USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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!

 

Hot Lips – M*A*S*H TV Site Light Painting Night Sky Photo

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I had gone on a hike a short while before in Malibu Creek State Park, and I thought it would be a fun idea to come back here and photograph – to experiment, trying my hand at “light painting” with surreal colors, something I had done very little of before, and certainly not with vehicles, only creating mist with El Wire.

Although warm during the day, it got down to around freezing. I wore thermals and wool sock and cap, but still was a bit cold, so during some of the star trails photos, I ran back and forth to keep warm.

The older ambulance, left at the M*A*S*H filming site after the TV show was over. I stayed up all night taking photos, light painting the M*A*S*H TV show jeeps, finally getting in about 5 am. You know you are getting home late if the morning paper is already delivered!

Usually when I light paint, it’s in a more “naturalistic” manner, often mimicking how moonlight falls on the subject. Not so much this time! The whole process was a lot of fun, and the hours flew by in a flash despite the cold weather!!!!

Despite the close proximity to Los Angeles, the light pollution wasn’t too bad, and I could still see a fair amount of stars in the sky.

Title: Where did Hot Lips Go?
Photography: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, Feisol tripod. 136 second exposure at f/8 ISO 200 at 12:08 am 21 December 2013. Light painted with LED flashlights, a speedlight, and gels.
Location: Agoura Hills, California, USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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!

 

Chimney Moon: Mysterious Ruins of Llano Del Rio Socialist Colony (Night Sky Light Painting Photo)

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Please click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

The desert holds many mysteries. One of these  mysteries is Llano Del Rio.

This old chimney is mostly what’s left of the hotel ruins, part of the 100 year old ruins of Llano del Rio Colony, a socialist utopian community, established in SE Antelope Valley in 1914. Llano del Rio was founded by Job Harriman, a young lawyer who almost won a bid for mayor of Los Angeles in 1911, obtaining over a third of the votes. Not trusting the political system to enact social change, Harriman founded the community out in the desert north of Los Angeles. The cooperative thrived, its population exceeding 1000, until their water supply was diverted by an earthquake fault. They had one of the country’s first Montessori schools, hosted a fertile intellectual and cultural climate, and had innovative low-cost housing, Social Security, minimum-wage pay, and universal health care services that predated the rest of the country by decades. Although Llano del Rio is today considered Western American history’s most important non-religious utopian community, there is unfortunately no protection for the site despite being a California Historic Landmark.

Today, signs of decay abound at Llano Del Rio. Although a designated California landmark, the site rots, its grain silo tagged, broken glass and automobile debris everywhere. A 150 pound plaque designating the site as a Historical Landmark was erected in 1982, only to be stolen two weeks later. It’s never been replaced.

According to the LA Times, County officials and members of Llano Community Association have proposed a county park that would preserve the site and provide a historical display. There is fear that the area could be leveled by a developer.

But a park costs money, and the county does not have about half a million dollars that it would take. Even worse, the land where most of the substantial ruins are concentrated, including the hotel, commissary, bakery, post office, and horse barn, is owned by two doctors in Illinois, according to the LA Times. And unless the property is acquired, the ruins will continue to languish.

Title: Chimney Moon
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. 109 second long exposure, f/8 ISO 200. “Light painted” the old hotel chimney with LED flashlight and speedlight with gel. The streaks of light on the right are car lights from the nearby highway.
Location: Llano Del Rio, California, USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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 Tree Car: Abandoned Vehicle Light Painting Photo

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This is an abandoned Ford Model T truck that I came across while driving around the back roads of Sonoma County. It’s light painted. The streak on the bottom right is a car driving past. The photo is a 176 second exposure, which is about how long it took me to light paint the whole truck. I hope you like it. Thanks!

Title: The Tree Car
Photography: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, Feisol tripod. 176 second exposure at f/8 ISO 200. Light painted with LED flashlights and gels.
Location: Sonoma County, CA USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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!

 

Hawkeye Star Trails – Night Sky Photo of M*A*S*H Film Site!

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A long exposure photo with light painting, showing the celestial movement of the heavens at the site where the TV show M*A*S*H was filmed.

Despite thermals and wool socks, I felt cold. Instead of laying on my back and looking at the stars or wandering around, I kept warm part of the time by running back and forth between the abandoned ambulances as the camera clicked away.

Title: Hawkeye Star Trails
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Feisol tripod. This is a long exposure night sky photo of 30 and a half minutes in total, with each individual photo exposed for 30 seconds at f/4 ISO 400 and stacked “by hand” in CS4. Light painted with Streamlight LED flashlight and speedlight. Begun 2:36 am D.S.T. on 21 December 2013.
Location: Agoura Hills, California, USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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!

 

Light Painting and Star Trails in Llano Del Rio Ruins

The desert holds many mysteries. One of these mysteries is Llano Del Rio.

You’re looking at photos of the 100 year old ruins of Llano del Rio Colony, a socialist utopian community, established in SE Antelope Valley in 1914. Llano del Rio was founded by Job Harriman, a young lawyer who almost won a bid for mayor of Los Angeles in 1911, obtaining over a third of the votes. Not trusting the political system to enact social change, Harriman founded the community out in the desert north of Los Angeles. The cooperative thrived, its population exceeding 1000, until their water supply was diverted by an earthquake fault. They had one of the country’s first Montessori schools, hosted a fertile intellectual and cultural climate, and had innovative low-cost housing, Social Security, minimum-wage pay, and universal health care services that predated the rest of the country by decades. Although Llano del Rio is today considered Western American history’s most important non-religious utopian community, there is unfortunately no protection for the site despite being a California Historic Landmark.

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Please click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

Title: The Fireplace of Forever
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. 20 minute exposure in total, “stacked” in Photoshop CS4 from 5 individual photos of 4 minutes each at ISO 200 f/9, using Triggertrap to control the camera for the star trails. “Light painted” with LED flashlight and speedlight with gel. 18 January 2014 9:51 pm.
Location: Llano Del Rio, California, USA

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Title: Tower of Utopia
Photographer: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. 136 second long exposure, f/8, ISO 400. “Light painted” grain silo with LED flashlight and speedlight with gel. 18 January 2014 8:04 PM.
Location: Llano Del Rio, California, USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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!

 

Ford Model T Truck Light Painting Night Photo

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I believe this is an old Model T Ford truck, but of course, with the benefit of some light painting added. I popped the speedlight in the interior with a red gel, and used flashlights elsewhere. This was taken in Sonoma County along one of the roads winding through the redwoods. I saw this during the day and knew I had to return at night.

Title: People can have the Model T in any color so long as it’s black
Photography: Ken Lee
Info: Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, Feisol tripod. 121 second exposure at f/8 ISO 200. Light painted with LED flashlights and gels.
Location: Sonoma County, CA USA

Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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!

 

Mystery Ruins of the Desert – Llano Del Rio Socialist Colony

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The desert holds many mysteries. One of these mysteries is Llano Del Rio.

This grain silo is part of the 100 year old ruins of Llano del Rio Colony, a socialist utopian community, established in SE Antelope Valley in 1914. Llano del Rio was founded by Job Harriman, a young lawyer who almost won a bid for mayor of Los Angeles in 1911, obtaining over a third of the votes. Not trusting the political system to enact social change, Harriman founded the community out in the desert north of Los Angeles. The cooperative thrived, its population exceeding 1000, until their water supply was diverted by an earthquake fault. They had one of the country’s first Montessori schools, hosted a fertile intellectual and cultural climate, and had innovative low-cost housing, Social Security, minimum-wage pay, and universal health care services that predated the rest of the country by decades. Although Llano del Rio is today considered Western American history’s most important non-religious utopian community, there is unfortunately no protection for the site despite being a California Historic Landmark.

If you climbed inside the grain silo, and, ignoring the remains of a bonfire and the broken glass, laid down on your back and peered straight up, this is what you would see. I take these risks so you don’t need to, and that’s very sweet of me.

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Please click on the photo to view it larger and more clearly!  Thanks!

The colony’s local economy was almost totally self-sustaining. Their economy included agriculture, orchards, a paint shop, a print shop, and a fish hatchery. Despite the desert climate, their farms succeeded, their farmers using purchased water to create fertile farmland, and growing alfalfa, corn, and grain, stored here in this grain silo. By 1916, Llano Del Rio grew ninety percent of the food they ate. A world class rabbitry provided the colonists with their main source of meat; and a large stable complex just outside the colony could house up to 100 horses.

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Llano Del Rio opened on May Day of 1914, its first inhabitants members of the Young People’s Socialist League. In the beginning, only the community center had been constructed, and during much of the colony’s existence, very few permanent structures were ever built. Many people lived in canvas tents, able to do so because of the warm desert climate.

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Llano Del Rio held a parade, dances, and had a champion baseball team and other sports. They also had a drama society, staging black-face minstrel shows. And Llano were chivalrous and gentlemanly, not allowing f-bombs in the presence of women and children. Liquor was not allowed unless granted permission by a doctor.

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Equipment:  Nikon D7000, Tokina AT-X 116, Feisol tripod.

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). 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!