Photographing Jimmy Page and Jack White: Creating your own opportunities

I met and photographed Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Jack White of … well, all sorts of things. To do this, I had to make it happen. Here’s how I managed to do so.

It never hurts to ask

In 2009, my friend Christal Smith announced on Facebook, “So excited! I am going to be interviewing Jimmy Page and Jack White!” Excited, I mentioned this to my girlfriend. “I’d like to photograph them!”

“She works for The Huffington Post. They have their own photographers. And you just have that little cheap camera.”

“Sure. But I want to photograph them anyway.”

I immediately asked, “Christal, please let me know if you need a photographer. I would love to do this.” She messaged me minutes later. “Actually, I could use a photographer. I don’t have one yet. I can get you in.”

Bam. It was done.

It might get loud

Director Davis Guggenheim filmed a documentary movie, “It Might Get Loud,” featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White hanging out and playing music together. The movie was really, really good.

I’m usually not in fanboy mode. However, this was Jimmy Page, one of my favorite guitarists. Led Zeppelin is one of my favorite bands. Furthermore, Page was notoriously reclusive. But now … now I was going to photograph them at a press conference!

Scotch tape, the diffuser for the rest of us

Davis Guggenheim and Jimmy Page.
Davis Guggenheim and Jimmy Page.

I had a very modest camera, a Nikon D50 6.1MP camera I had purchased used in 2005. And I didn’t have a speedlight — only the built-in pop-up flash on the D50. I wondered if I would be able to get decent photos with such a horrible flash. 

I stuck several layers of Scotch tape over the pop-up flash diffuser. Then I taped a piece of white paper on top to bounce more light. It wouldn’t look great, but it would provide a look that was slightly better. I repeatedly checked my camera far too often to make sure it was working.

This was 2009. It would be years before I became obsessed with night photography, before National Geographic, before Smithsonian. Years before I would have any clue of what I was doing. But I was going to make this work somehow.

Hanging out with the other journalists

I got there early and sat with some other journalists. One journalist mentioned that he couldn’t sleep at all the night before. This was incredible. Here were seasoned journalists. And they were nervous! I wasn’t alone!

The journalist asked me if I could take a photo with him and Jimmy if the opportunity arose (it didn’t). Everyone was genuinely excited. The energy was palpable. I was twitching with nervous energy.

The other journalists and I talked about our favorite scenes from “It Might Get Loud.” I especially loved the scene in Jimmy Page’s home where he lovingly took out a Link Wray record from his very large record collection. He put it on the turntable. He then smiled profusely while playing “air guitar” to every strum and tremolo. “Wobbles,” he called them. Page, still ever a music fan. Perfect.

Jack White.
Jack White

I’m too far away!

Jimmy Page.
Jimmy Page

Eventually, the press conference began. We were seated. Jimmy Page, Jack White and Davis Guggenheim came in and sat behind a long table.

However, I was too far away. I was sitting in the fourth row. However, it felt like it was far away. And my wimpy little pop-up flash covered in Scotch tape wasn’t reaching that far. It was woefully underpowered.

Jimmy Page.
Jimmy Page

As a kid, I had learned that if you act like you know what you’re doing, people often do not say anything. I promptly got up, strode over confidently and sat on the floor, right in front as if I did this all the time. 

This was working! My horrible pop-up flash was no longer holding me back. Sure, I was getting shadows in back from my on-camera flash because the wall was very close. However, I didn’t care. I was going to keep photographing until either the press conference was over or security commandeered my camera. I’d get The Huffington Post those photos. 

Wait, there’s more?

After half an hour, the press conference was over. They left. I was elated. I had managed to kneel next to the front row for the entire press conference, shooting photos unimpeded. A big smile crept across my face. This was a good day.

Outside, however, Christal was upset. “We’re not on the list for the one-on-one!” 

“One-on-one? An interview?” I had no idea.

“Yes, we’re supposed to have a one-on-one interview with the three of them, but my name’s not on the list!”

We asked several organizers. “The Huffington Post doesn’t usually do press conferences,” Christal pointed out, “so we won’t be able to do an article.”

Four minutes and forty five seconds

One woman who seemed to know and respect Christal, said, “I’ll get you in for five minutes. But just five minutes!”

“We’ll do it in 4:45,” Christal said, “I’ve been on both sides of this. We’ll be out of there in 4:45.” They knew Christal, and knew that she would be good to her word.

I could not believe my luck. I hadn’t even known about this several minutes ago!

Christal Smith interviewing Jimmy Page one-on-one.
Christal Smith interviewing Jimmy Page one-on-one.

Interviewing Jimmy Page and Jack White

Mere minutes later, we entered the room. Everyone was fussing with the microphones, doing things. “Hello gentlemen,” I said.

Jimmy turned to me and said, “Did ya take a picture?” 

“Yes, yes, I did, thanks.” I had managed to because I had snuck up front.

“I saw you in the fourth row, it didn’t look like you took photos,” he said.  

I was incredulous. How did he notice that? I had indeed been in the fourth row! This was because I had been sitting in front of the first row for almost the entire time until returning to my seat when we were all asked to take photos row by row.

Fanboy mode. Jimmy Page, me, and Jack White.
Fanboy mode. Jimmy Page, me and Jack White.

Christal and I couldn’t help ourselves. We took photos with Jimmy and Jack really quickly before Christal got on with the interview. Journalistic professionalism had been cast aside. This was Jimmy Page.

And we were out in 4:45 minutes, just as Christal had promised.

Jimmy Page, Christal Smith, and Jack White.
Jimmy Page, Christal Smith and Jack White.

And being ever responsible, I raced back and worked the second half of the day. Sure, I bailed from work that morning. But seriously … wouldn’t you?

Make your own breaks

I had no idea what I was doing, and I had a 6.1MP camera with a pop-up flash. “6.1MP” is not a typo. The images were so small that I had to enlarge one or two portrait-oriented photos for this article. Despite this, I managed to get photos of Jimmy Page and Jack White in The Huffington Post (you can see the article here). I processed them in GIMP using a nine year-old computer running Windows XP with a cheap flat-screen monitor I had gotten for free. 

You may not have high-end equipment. However, you can find a way to make it happen.

If I hadn’t asked, I would have never had the opportunity. If I hadn’t strode up front and plopped myself down, I would have never gotten any photos. If I hadn’t modified my pop-up flash with three layers of Scotch tape and a strip of white lined paper I borrowed from a journalist, the light would have been too harsh.

Sometimes, you need to make your own breaks. I hope you, as a photographer, you as a human being, also seize the moment. We never know if we will have these opportunities again.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

BOOKS AND PRINTS:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure prints and more.  My books are 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, thanks!

NIGHTAXIANS VIDEO YOUTUBE PODCAST:

Night photographers Tim Little, Mike Cooper and I all use Pentax gear. We discuss this, gear, adventures, light painting, lenses, night photography, creativity, and more in this ongoing YouTube podcast. Subscribe and watch to the Nightaxians today!

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

VIDEO PRESENTATION:

How We Got the Shots: Five Photographers, Five Stories – Night Photo Summit 2022

VIDEO INTERVIEW:

Ken Lee’s Abandoned Trains Planes and Automobiles with Tim Little of Cape Nights Photography
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

Advertisement

Photographing Jimmy Page and Jack White: Creating your own opportunities

I met and photographed Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Jack White of … well, all sorts of things. To do this, I had to make it happen. Here’s how I managed to do so.

It never hurts to ask

In 2009, my friend Christal Smith announced on Facebook, “So excited! I am going to be interviewing Jimmy Page and Jack White!” Excited, I mentioned this to my girlfriend. “I’d like to photograph them!”

“She works for The Huffington Post. They have their own photographers. And you just have that little cheap camera.”

“Sure. But I want to photograph them anyway.”

I immediately asked, “Christal, please let me know if you need a photographer. I would love to do this.” She messaged me minutes later. “Actually, I could use a photographer. I don’t have one yet. I can get you in.”

Bam. It was done.

It might get loud

Director Davis Guggenheim filmed a documentary movie, “It Might Get Loud,” featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White hanging out and playing music together. The movie was really, really good.

I’m usually not in fanboy mode. However, this was Jimmy Page, one of my favorite guitarists. Led Zeppelin is one of my favorite bands. Furthermore, Page was notoriously reclusive. But now … now I was going to photograph them at a press conference!

Scotch tape, the diffuser for the rest of us

Davis Guggenheim and Jimmy Page.

I had a very modest camera, a Nikon D50 6.1MP camera I had purchased used in 2005. And I didn’t have a speedlight — only the built-in pop-up flash on the D50. I wondered if I would be able to get decent photos with such a horrible flash. 

I stuck several layers of Scotch tape over the pop-up flash diffuser. Then I taped a piece of white paper on top to bounce more light. It wouldn’t look great, but it would provide a look that was slightly better. I repeatedly checked my camera far too often to make sure it was working.

This was 2009. It would be years before I became obsessed with night photography, before National Geographic, before Smithsonian. Years before I would have any clue of what I was doing. But I was going to make this work somehow.

Hanging out with the other journalists

I got there early and sat with some other journalists. One journalist mentioned that he couldn’t sleep at all the night before. This was incredible. Here were seasoned journalists. And they were nervous! I wasn’t alone!

The journalist asked me if I could take a photo with him and Jimmy if the opportunity arose (it didn’t). Everyone was genuinely excited. The energy was palpable. I was twitching with nervous energy.

The other journalists and I talked about our favorite scenes from “It Might Get Loud.” I especially loved the scene in Jimmy Page’s home where he lovingly took out a Link Wray record from his very large record collection. He put it on the turntable. He then smiled profusely while playing “air guitar” to every strum and tremolo. “Wobbles,” he called them. Page, still ever a music fan. Perfect.

Jack White

I’m too far away!

Jimmy Page

Eventually, the press conference began. We were seated. Jimmy Page, Jack White and Davis Guggenheim came in and sat behind a long table.

However, I was too far away. I was sitting in the fourth row. However, it felt like it was far away. And my wimpy little pop-up flash covered in Scotch tape wasn’t reaching that far. It was woefully underpowered.

Jimmy Page

As a kid, I had learned that if you act like you know what you’re doing, people often do not say anything. I promptly got up, strode over confidently and sat on the floor, right in front as if I did this all the time. 

This was working! My horrible pop-up flash was no longer holding me back. Sure, I was getting shadows in back from my on-camera flash because the wall was very close. However, I didn’t care. I was going to keep photographing until either the press conference was over or security commandeered my camera. I’d get The Huffington Post those photos. 

Wait, there’s more?

After half an hour, the press conference was over. They left. I was elated. I had managed to kneel next to the front row for the entire press conference, shooting photos unimpeded. A big smile crept across my face. This was a good day.

Outside, however, Christal was upset. “We’re not on the list for the one-on-one!” 

“One-on-one? An interview?” I had no idea.

“Yes, we’re supposed to have a one-on-one interview with the three of them, but my name’s not on the list!”

We asked several organizers. “The Huffington Post doesn’t usually do press conferences,” Christal pointed out, “so we won’t be able to do an article.”

Four minutes and forty five seconds

One woman who seemed to know and respect Christal, said, “I’ll get you in for five minutes. But just five minutes!”

“We’ll do it in 4:45,” Christal said, “I’ve been on both sides of this. We’ll be out of there in 4:45.” They knew Christal, and knew that she would be good to her word.

I could not believe my luck. I hadn’t even known about this several minutes ago!

Christal Smith interviewing Jimmy Page one-on-one.

Interviewing Jimmy Page and Jack White

Mere minutes later, we entered the room. Everyone was fussing with the microphones, doing things. “Hello gentlemen,” I said.

Jimmy turned to me and said, “Did ya take a picture?” 

“Yes, yes, I did, thanks.” I had managed to because I had snuck up front.

“I saw you in the fourth row, it didn’t look like you took photos,” he said.  

I was incredulous. How did he notice that? I had indeed been in the fourth row! This was because I had been sitting in front of the first row for almost the entire time until returning to my seat when we were all asked to take photos row by row.

Fanboy mode. Jimmy Page, me and Jack White.

Christal and I couldn’t help ourselves. We took photos with Jimmy and Jack really quickly before Christal got on with the interview. Journalistic professionalism had been cast aside. This was Jimmy Page.

And we were out in 4:45 minutes, just as Christal had promised.

Jimmy Page, Christal Smith and Jack White.

And being ever responsible, I raced back and worked the second half of the day. Sure, I bailed from work that morning. But seriously … wouldn’t you?

Make your own breaks

I had no idea what I was doing, and I had a 6.1MP camera with a pop-up flash. “6.1MP” is not a typo. The images were so small that I had to enlarge one or two portrait-oriented photos for this article. Despite this, I managed to get photos of Jimmy Page and Jack White in The Huffington Post (you can see the article here). I processed them in GIMP using a nine year-old computer running Windows XP with a cheap flat-screen monitor I had gotten for free. 

You may not have high-end equipment. However, you can find a way to make it happen.

If I hadn’t asked, I would have never had the opportunity. If I hadn’t strode up front and plopped myself down, I would have never gotten any photos. If I hadn’t modified my pop-up flash with three layers of Scotch tape and a strip of white lined paper I borrowed from a journalist, the light would have been too harsh.

Sometimes, you need to make your own breaks. I hope you, as a photographer, you as a human being, also seize the moment. We never know if we will have these opportunities again.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

BOOKS AND PRINTS:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure prints and more.  My books are 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, thanks!

NIGHTAXIANS VIDEO YOUTUBE PODCAST:

Night photographers Tim Little, Mike Cooper and I all use Pentax gear. We discuss this, gear, adventures, light painting, lenses, night photography, creativity, and more in this ongoing YouTube podcast. Subscribe and watch to the Nightaxians today!

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

VIDEO PRESENTATION:

How We Got the Shots: Five Photographers, Five Stories – Night Photo Summit 2022

VIDEO INTERVIEW:

Ken Lee’s Abandoned Trains Planes and Automobiles with Tim Little of Cape Nights Photography
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

Can you photograph at night with lousy eyesight?

I was recovering from surgery for a detached retina in my right eye. Here’s what I found.

Flashes and floaters

24 hours after the surgery I experienced floaters and flashes in my right eye, I was on the phone with an eye doctor. When I saw the first flash of light in my peripheral vision, I had thought, “That was strange. Was that the reflection from a car whizzing past?” The second time, I knew something was wrong.

The doctor said that I had lattice degeneration. This is a thinning of the peripheral retina, the tissue that lines the back wall of the eye. This also helps maintain sharp vision. Lattice degeneration is a cause for concern. Here, the retina is more susceptible to tearing, which can lead to retinal detachment. The doctor made an appointment for five more weeks.

Night photo of an enormous sculpture by Ricardo Breceda, located in Borrego Springs, CA.

Distracting

The next time I went out to the Arizona desert to photograph at night, my vision had grown increasingly worse. The flashes and floaters were more prominent than ever before. Worse than that, my vision in the right eye had grown a little hazier. 

The squeaky wheel

I called the doctor again. I wanted to see him now, not in several more weeks. However, the receptionist said that he was out of town. I kept the old appointment. However, thinking it over, I felt I really should see a doctor, so I called again. Same message. So I called again, saying the same thing again. This time, I got an appointment with a different doctor the following morning. Sometimes, the third time really is the charm.

Uh, oh!

Night photo of dinosaurs battling. Sculptures by Ricardo Breceda, Borrego Springs, CA.

It didn’t take long. The doctor said, “You have a detached retina.” He explained that since I was nearsighted, I was more susceptible to lattice degeneration and detached retinas. Swell. He made an appointment with another doctor specializing in retinal surgery. In particular, pneumatic retinopexy and a scleral buckle surgery, would be done during the same visit. 

Recovery

Recovery involved staying face down for eight days all day and all night. Yes, that means while sleeping. Or attempting to sleep. I am very active and kinetic. Therefore, I was convinced this was one of the Seven Layers of Hell. My face hurt. My back hurt. And of course, my eye hurt. And with that, I also had headaches for the next three weeks. I rarely looked at myself in the mirror for the first few days. I looked like I had gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson.

The blob

No, this isn’t the blob from my eye. In fact, it was larger than this, and yes, right in the center of my vision. This is one of my macro experiments during the pandemic.

I had a weird bubble in my eye from one of the procedures. This air bubble slowly pushes the retina back into place. However, to me, it looked like an enormous blob. Slowly over two weeks, the blob diminished, then broke into several smaller blobs, then went away completely. I was overjoyed when it went away.

Blurry photo near sunset, Borrego Springs. While my vision in my right eye isn’t quite this blurry, it isn’t far off either.

Choosing the location to do night photography

A month after surgery, I was ready to get outside and enjoy some night photography in the desert. I chose Borrego Springs. One of the reasons was that the magnificent sculptures that I was going to photograph were only between five to 10 minutes from the motel. The other reason was that the ground near the sculptures was level and didn’t have many sharp pointy plants. 

And of course, I love Borrego Springs. Borrego Springs was where I had floated in the pool while looking up at the Milky Way, a magical experience I still remember vividly. 

Night photo of a sculpture by Ricardo Breceda in Borrego Springs, CA. April 2022.

Other strategies for doing night photography

While my right eye was healing quite well and I was told I could drive, swim, and exercise, my vision was still blurry. To compensate for this, I began using reading glasses. Rather than fumble around in the dark for them, I purchased eyeglass straps so they could hang around my neck when I wasn’t using them. 

I also used a Coast HX4 80-lumen Clip Light with the red light on to see my way around. Surprisingly, I didn’t need this too much because it was during a full moon, and I could see reasonably well. 

When reviewing my photos, I blew them up more than I usually would just to make sure I had focused properly. I used my reading glasses to make absolutely sure. I often used Live View. With Live View, I found I could also use my reading glasses effectively. If I needed to, I could also shine my light around to see what was going on more.

I also used the autofocus in my camera. I shined a light on the sculpture I was photographing, used the autofocus, and then switched back to manual focus so the camera wouldn’t keep attempting to acquire focus again.

Other thoughts

I was rather pleased that I could photograph so easily in the dark, even with one eye having rather blurry vision. I was able to photograph again the following month as well. I again photographed during a full moon, photographing some unusual art installations in Wonder Valley. And this time, I had also gotten some specially made glasses from the optometrist, so driving at night was much better. I was very specific with what I wanted with the glasses, and they made them with this in mind.

eye on the end of the world
Night photography at the end of the world, or at least Wonder Valley in California. May 2022.

I found that one of the challenges was the extremes between bright lights and dark. If it were mostly dark, I didn’t have that many issues at all. But if there were large bright signs and storefronts in an otherwise very dark environment, that sometimes caused haziness. My new glasses corrected for this. I didn’t have them when I photographed in Borrego Springs, so that’s largely why I chose to photograph a location that was only minutes from the motel.

Technically, my eye has not recovered fully. That takes about six months after surgery. Shortly after that point, I will have cataract surgery. After that, my vision in my right eye should be considerably sharper, and not the blurry mess it is now.

Dragon head. Ricardo Breceda. eye.
Night photo of part of the enormous rattledragon sculpture by Ricardo Breceda. April 2022.

And yes, I did swim at night. While the Milky Way wasn’t arching over the sky, the full moon and the starry skies were. And that’s still magical. And I felt particularly joyous after spending such a long time staying face down in the house.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

BOOKS AND PRINTS:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure prints and more.  My books are 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, thanks!

NIGHTAXIANS VIDEO YOUTUBE PODCAST:

Night photographers Tim Little, Mike Cooper and I all use Pentax gear. We discuss this, gear, adventures, light painting, lenses, night photography, creativity, and more in this ongoing YouTube podcast. Subscribe and watch to the Nightaxians today!

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

VIDEO PRESENTATION:

How We Got the Shots: Five Photographers, Five Stories – Night Photo Summit 2022

VIDEO INTERVIEW:

Ken Lee’s Abandoned Trains Planes and Automobiles with Tim Little of Cape Nights Photography
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

How I got the photo: Organizing 40 night photographers with flashlights

What would you do if you hiked up to Delicate Arch at night, only to find 40 photographers waving flashlights around? I decided to organize everyone, creating order from chaos. Here’s how I attempted this in June 2014.

Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch is iconic, so much so that it appears on the Utah license plate. Rightfully so. It’s one of the most unusual geologic features on the face of the planet. It’s a free-standing 52-foot tall arch on the rim of a large rocky bowl. If that’s not spectacular, I’m not sure what is.

The hike to Delicate Arch

A friend had warned me that even though the hike was only 1.5 miles each way, part of the path became narrow. Worse, it had a steep drop-off of several hundred feet. He was concerned about me hiking back that way at night. Consequently, I prepared to stay the night up at Delicate Arch if necessary. I took ample food, over two gallons of water, a sleeping bag, a light jacket, and much more, along with my camera equipment.

A rock concert

organizing crowds at Delicate Arc
Some of the crowd at Delicate Arch after sunset.

To my utter dismay, there were approximately 150 people there when I arrived shortly before sunset. It was chaos. They were seated around the lip of the bowl as if watching a rock concert. Many were hanging around the arch. 50 people remained long after dark to photograph the Milky Way. They waved flashlights around. They wandered around Delicate Arch with flashlights. Some pointed blindingly bright lights up at the arch from directly below.

Creating something original

Delicate Arch has been photographed many times. To set my photo apart, I had thought I would try a different composition that I had never seen before. I would frame the Milky Way through the arch while looking up at it. Using Google Earth and the Photographer’s Ephemeris, I determined that I could do this after 11:30 p.m.

However, I would not be able to create a good photo if there were 40 people waving flashlights around randomly and wandering around the arch.

Organizing People on arch.
Hanging around the arch after sunset.

Creating order from chaos

By 11:30 p.m., the crowd had thinned slightly. There were probably 40 photographers who remained. And yes, they were still waving flashlights around. 

I decided to coordinate our efforts. 

I spoke to get their attention, telling them that I wanted to take a photo from below. And I mentioned that I could illuminate Delicate Arch for everyone if we coordinated our times. There were murmurs of agreement. “Sounds great to us!” Fantastic. I was now coordinating the efforts of over 30 photographers. 

But there was one more thing to overcome.

Now came the frightening part

The ledge where I wanted to photograph from looked somewhat easy to get to when there was light. But now, it was completely dark. The ledge underneath Delicate Arch was all there was. After that, it was nothing but a steep drop hundreds of feet to the bottom of the bowl below.

Could I safely get to the vantage point needed to take a photo like this? 

I carefully climbed down there. And while I felt reasonably safe, I also felt terrified. Climbing down in the dark made it exponentially worse.

Furthermore, to illuminate the arch, I would have to climb back up, illuminate it, and then carefully climb back down. 

I decided I would only do this once. I kept the camera clicking away while I climbed back up and illuminated it numerous times, changing the angle to make certain something looked decent. Then I went back down to turn off the camera and get out of there. Whew! 

Gratitude

I felt grateful that I hadn’t even slipped. I had been on solid footing the whole time. And my camera had remained rock solid, not plummeting to the rocky bottom below.

Several photographers walked up to me and thanked me. They said that they really liked my light painting of the arch and that they were very happy with their images. 

I created the photo I wanted and helped many people in the process. Win-win.

I will say, however, that I will never do that again.

My photo

Delicate Arch with the Milky Way.
Delicate Arch with the Milky Way.

This is the photo that I planned, which I’ve called “Door to Infinity.” As you can see, I achieved my vision. This is an image looking up, the arch framing the magnificent Milky Way.

For this photo, I “light painted” the arch with a small Streamlight 88040 ProTac Professional Handheld Flashlight. This was done to keep it from becoming a silhouette. To do this, I had to walk back and forth from the scary ledge to higher ground. 

Please note that I photographed this on 25 June 2014 at 12:37 a.m. Since then, Arches National Park has banned “light painting” at night. This was photographed with a Nikon D610 and a Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens at 14mm. For a single exposure, I used a 20-second exposure at f/2.8 with an ISO of 4000.

I should also mention that I was able to safely hike back down to the car at night. The narrower footpath was approximately six feet wide and didn’t feel treacherous. I went on to photograph numerous other locations, staying out until the sun rose.

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

BOOKS AND PRINTS:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure prints and more.  My books are 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, thanks!

NIGHTAXIANS VIDEO YOUTUBE PODCAST:

Night photographers Tim Little, Mike Cooper and I all use Pentax gear. We discuss this, gear, adventures, light painting, lenses, night photography, creativity, and more in this ongoing YouTube podcast. Subscribe and watch to the Nightaxians today!

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

VIDEO PRESENTATION:

How We Got the Shots: Five Photographers, Five Stories – Night Photo Summit 2022

VIDEO INTERVIEW:

Ken Lee’s Abandoned Trains Planes and Automobiles with Tim Little of Cape Nights Photography
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

Creating an album cover and video for my ambient album – my own!!

I’ll describe how I created an album cover and video using the same setup! Even better, I created these for my own album!

Some of you may not know that I play music and have had numerous recording contracts throughout the years. I’ve been doing it far far longer than night photography.

I record music as Eleven Shadows. But I took a reeeeally long break because I played in a rock band and continue to play in The Mercury Seven.

But funny things happen. Stuck at home after eye surgery, I began creating some new music. I was creating it just to create it. After a while, it occurred to me that this could be new Eleven Shadows music!

Every album needs some artwork, right?

Of course it does! Being a musician who is also a photographer has its advantages. I decided I wanted some mysterious macro photography. I grabbed my Pentax K-1 and an old Pentax M Macro 50mm F/4 Prime MF Lens. I set it so it hovered over a Pyrex dish filled with water and some drops of olive oil. I chose a dark room. But then I illuminated the glass dish from below with some colored lights.

Macro setup.
Similar macro setup. I did this in my tiny recording studio.

You can see how this setup looks in my macro photography article, where I describe this in great detail.

Colorful macro bubble photo.
Macro close-up photo of bubbles.

I decided that I wanted the colors more muted. Also, I wanted it to feel more layered and aquatic. So I used an old photo I took of a strange metal undersea creature I saw in a store many years ago.

Album cover for “The Seahorse in the Center of Your Mind”.
The album cover for “The Seahorse in the Center of Your Mind”.

I also created some blurring on the sides with Nik Collection Perspective Efex for good measure. This plug-in has an outstanding tilt/shift feature that blurs beautifully. Oh, and yes, it corrects perspective very well!

Every song needs a video, right?

Of course it does. And being a musician who is also a photographer has advantages here as well.

Eleven Shadows “Marismas Oscuras” from the new album “The Seahorse in the Center of Your Mind”.

While I took that colorful macro above, I also used Pentax’s video feature. I simply gently stirred the bubbles with a spoon. Then I recorded the action.

Macro photography video of oil bubbles.

You can see some of it in the video above. I then incorporated this video into the final video along with all the other patterns, glowing lights, and general weirdness.

The new instrumental tune “Marismas Oscuras” fits in well with the various depths and layers.

Where do I get the new Eleven Shadows album?

You can stream or download the new album “The Seahorse in the Center of Your Mind” on Bandcamp!

Eleven Shadows YouTube Playlist

VISIT ME, VISIT ME!

BOOKS AND PRINTS:
Head on over to the Ken Lee Photography website to purchase books or look at night photography and long exposure prints and more.  My books are 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, thanks!

NIGHTAXIANS VIDEO YOUTUBE PODCAST:

Night photographers Tim Little, Mike Cooper and I all use Pentax gear. We discuss this, gear, adventures, light painting, lenses, night photography, creativity, and more in this ongoing YouTube podcast. Subscribe and watch to the Nightaxians today!

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

VIDEO PRESENTATION:

How We Got the Shots: Five Photographers, Five Stories – Night Photo Summit 2022

VIDEO INTERVIEW:

Ken Lee’s Abandoned Trains Planes and Automobiles with Tim Little of Cape Nights Photography
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

How can you be a colorblind photographer?

“Why does that dog look green?”

That comment led to my parents discovering that I was red-green colorblind. Years later, I am now a colorblind night photographer.

What do I see since I’m colorblind?

Some people think that if someone is colorblind, they see only black and white. That is an extremel1y rare occurrence. 

I am red-green colorblind, also known as deuteranopia. Approximately 8% of males have this, so it’s not unusual. There are different degrees of this. Mine is relatively strong. 

It's a fire truck. I know it's red. Got it. Good.
It’s a fire truck. I know it’s red. Got it. Good.

I can easily differentiate between bold colors of red and green. Traffic lights are no issue at all. Grass is green. Fire trucks are red. 

However, throw in subtle hues of reds and greens, as well as related colors, such as oranges and browns, and I’m usually sunk. When people discuss cyan, teal, turquoise, chartreuse or aquamarine, they hold little meaning to me. 

If someone told me a color were teal instead of blue, I might not know any better. I have little concept about what taupe or chartreuse are. Pale pinks and light gray, subtle shades of blue and purple, bright greens and yellows, or dark greens and gray — they are confusing to me.

How do I take photos?

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Night photo of a strange Mad Max-like bus in the desert. I thought I was lighting it with blue. When I saw this on my LED screen, I then knew that it was a patented color known as GST (Gas Station Teal), developed by night photographer Tim Little.
Night photo of a strange Mad Max-like bus in the desert. I thought I was lighting it with blue. When I saw this on my LED screen, I then knew that it was a patented color known as GST (Gas Station Teal), developed by night photographer Tim Little.

Taking photos is relatively simple. However, I sometimes light my subjects with different colors. Sometimes, I’ve attempted to select blue, only to find that I’ve selected teal. If I select a color like green and I want to be absolutely sure, I will increase the saturation and hold the light against a relatively neutral surface. Same with pink. 

How do I post-process photos?

Post-processing colors is one of many reasons why I would never be a wedding photographer. If someone has a specific clothing and I don’t nail the exact color, that’s not so good. 

Consequently, I try to set a proper white balance when photographing despite already shooting in RAW. I find nailing the white balance really helps me later. It also enables me to see the histogram out in the field.

When I begin editing, I simply don’t mess with the colors very much. I rarely use saturation much anyway. 

How do I really know what color this is?

If I’m really not sure what color something is, I use Photoshop’s Color Picker. I select the color in question on the image. This produces a dialog box that tells gives me a visual representation of where things are on the RGB spectrum. Usually, that’s enough.

The Color Picker dialog box in Photoshop. Most photo editors have something similar for matching and identifying colors. The color I am choosing here sometimes looks like somewhat brown, especially when mixed among other colors. This is a great way to determine the color without guessing.
The Color Picker dialog box in Photoshop. Most photo editors have something similar for matching and identifying colors. The color I am choosing here sometimes looks like somewhat brown, especially when mixed among other colors. This is a great way to determine the color without guessing.

If I need more information or confirmation, I simply copy the color hex code, as shown above. This is simply a hexadecimal way to represent a specific color in RGB format.

An example of pasting the hex color code into a website such as ColorHexa to identify the color. The color I am choosing here sometimes looks like somewhat brown, especially when mixed among other colors. This is a great way to determine the color without guessing.
An example of pasting the hex color code into a website such as ColorHexa to identify the color. The color I am choosing here sometimes looks like somewhat brown, especially when mixed among other colors. This is a great way to determine the color without guessing.

Then I paste the code into a site such as ColorHexa. This provides a lot of information about the color.

Saturation

Green tanks, red lights. Despite my red-green colorblindness, I can see this. More subtle hues, maybe not so much. This is a night photo of an old mine in the Mojave Desert
Green tanks, red lights. Despite my red-green colorblindness, I can see this. More subtle hues, maybe not so much. This is a night photo of an old mine in the Mojave Desert.

If I am not certain about how much of a particular color is in an image, I will crank that color to 100% temporarily using a saturation slider. If that color is not there, little will change. If something does change, then I will make subtle adjustments. I don’t overdo it because other people will perceive that as oversaturated. 

I have trouble using things like hue sliders and color mix panels. If I shift hues, I will crank the saturation of that color by 100% temporarily so I can determine what color that is.

Natural looking photos thanks to LuminarAI

More recently, I have been experimenting with the Templates in LuminarAI. Because Luminar is using machine learning from millions of photos, it sometimes helps me to achieve a more natural looking photo. 

Color Cast in Nik Color Efex

I added a green interior to contrast this with blue during this night photo. This, however, is quite a bold green, so I can plainly determine that this is green.
I added a green interior to contrast this with blue during this night photo. This, however, is quite a bold green, so I can plainly determine that this is green.

I occasionally use the Color Cast function in Nik Color Efex. I’ll click on something that I know is supposed to be white. Even if I don’t end up applying the Color Cast function, this can sometimes help me to become more aware of some of the colors or casts in my image.

Asking for help while post-processing

What colors are in the Milky Way? I don't know. I basically left the colors alone, just saturating them and warming them ever so slightly. This was photographed at about 11,000 feet in elevation in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California.
What colors are in the Milky Way? I don’t know. I basically left the colors alone, just saturating them and warming them ever so slightly. This was photographed at about 11,000 feet in elevation in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in California.

If I create any shifts in color, something that might occur if processing a Milky Way photo, I will ask someone if the colors look amiss. And again, I really try not to change or mess with the colors very much at all.

Is there any cure or treatment for deuteranopia?

No, there’s not. However, there are glasses that somewhat address color blindness. You’ve probably seen the videos on social media where someone weeps because they’re seeing colors for the first time.

Curious about this, I purchased Pilestone red-green colorblind glasses. While I did not experience any emotional revelations, they did help me differentiate between challenging colors. However, the colors looked tinted. It was nothing that would help me edit photos. I returned the glasses.

With some ingenuity and persistence, you can definitely overcome color blindness. While occasionally it might be confusing or frustrating, I would urge you not to be discouraged. Photography is something that has brought me great joy despite my deuteranopia. I hope it does for you as well.

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

VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

Light painting 101: How to photograph a historic Route 66 Whiting Bros Motel sign

I love old signs, especially if they are located along the Mother Road, Route 66. I had two locations to get to for night photography. I thought I would photograph some historic signs in Yucca, AZ, and then drive west to another Route 66 location an hour away.

I photographed this during Blue Hour, a time when many of the colors of the sky come alive in deep hues.

A brief history 

Like many of the towns along Route 66, Yucca thrived, serving the needs of motorists heading west. And when the Interstate Highway system was put in, motorists bypassed the businesses in Route 66. Many of those businesses eventually evaporated, often abandoned along the route.

Once a large complex complete with a station and a motel with a swimming pool along Route 66, all that’s left today are the signs and a large empty parking lot. June 2021, Yucca, AZ.

Three steps to light painting the sign

1. Adjusting the light for light painting during blue hour

I was photographing approximately during blue hour, about 25 minutes after the sun had set behind the mountains. Therefore, I needed a much stronger light than I typically need for light painting near a full moon. I also wanted a warm white light. I set the ProtoMachines LED2 for its strongest setting. I mixed in some yellow color for good measure.

2. Determining the best angle for light painting the sign

It’s important to consider the directionality of the already existing light when light painting if one wants the photo to look slightly more natural. Here, the light was coming from the horizon, already illuminating the sign from that direction. I wanted more of that.

I stood closer to the road. Shielding my handheld ProtoMachines LED2 light painting device, I illuminated the sign at approximately the same angle. This would create additional contrast while looking natural.

3. Waiting for the right moment to open the shutter

I set my Pentax K-1 camera for a 20-second exposure at f/14. This was in part because I wanted to illuminate the sign for a decent amount of time. But it was also so that I could begin the long exposure with enough time to make sure that I got red streaks of light from a passing truck. I wanted the red taillights in particular because I felt they would match really nicely with the sign. That simply meant waiting until a truck was driving north, then beginning the long exposure.

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

VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

 

2021-02 Magical moments in night photography: the loudness of silence

Sometimes we have these moments in nature. They may seem magical. Spiritual. Transcendent. Inspiring. Humbling. But whatever it is, we are left with an indelible memory.

The hike to nowhere

We began our May hike to nowhere. This was the middle of the desert. Almost no cars. No trails. no footprints. We parked our cars off the side of the nearest road. Then we walked. We walked for two miles. The terrain became increasingly strange. Odd-shaped rocks seemingly from an episode of “Star Trek”. Weird alcoves. Shallow caves. Lumpy misshapen rocks.

 

Setting up camp

We had brought in gallons of water, emergency supplies, food, and sleeping bags. No tents, though. Too much weight, too much hassle, and no need. It was a warm night. We set out our tarps and sleeping bags. Each of us chose some flat rocks to attempt to avoid scorpions.

 

Photographing at night

The Milky Way core began to show up in all its heavenly glory late at night. We set about photographing, taking turns or simply photographing different areas. We mostly worked in silence, occasionally talking about cameras or how magnificent the stars were. I illuminated Ojo Oro Arch, one of the secret hidden arches in the area, with light to accentuate its shape and features.

I sat in silence. The glorious silence. I could at one point actually perceive the direction the stars were flowing in. I was completely locked in to the stars, the desert, and the experience. This is what people experienced for most of the time humans have been around. But our cities blot out the skies, and most people have not seen the Milky Way in person.

 

Cocooned by a canopy of stars

I finished photographing. I settled down to sleep under the stars around 3:30 am, cocooned by a canopy of stars and the Milky Way arching directly overhead. Every several minutes, I saw shooting stars streaking through the night sky.  It was so unbelievably vivid. And for so much of dusk or night, I was so aware of the silence. This was a special place where silence is louder and the stars shine brighter. I will always treasure the experience.

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

VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

Finding infinity: seven ways to focus on the night stars

Getting sharp, pin-point stars for a starry sky or the Milky Way may be the hardest part of night photography. However, I’ll try and make it methodical and easy. I’ll discuss seven methods.

 

Focusing on a distant object during the day

The easiest way to do this is to go out some time when there’s some daylight and focus on something extremely far away. Choose the mountains or the clouds.  It may be right at the lens’ infinity marking.  Or slightly to the right.  Or slightly to the left.  Regardless, mark that setting if you can with a grease pen. Or better yet, tape the focus ring down with gaffer’s tape so it will not budge. Now you’re ready for the night.

 

Focusing on a distant object at night

Some people will have a friend stand at least fifty feet away and hold up a light. Then they will adjust their focus manually until the light looks like a pinpoint. If you don’t have a friend nearby, lean a flashlight against a tree or rock. This is far enough away that your lens should perceive this as infinity. This method also works well.

 

Focusing on the moon

Photographing while the moon is out? You’ll get less stars, but on the other hand, the moon may beautifully illuminate the foreground.  Aim your camera so the moon appears in the center. Use auto focus. The moon should be plenty bright enough for your auto-focus to work. If not, go ahead and switch to manual focus and then focus on the moon. You may do this via Live View or looking through the viewfinder.

 

Adjusting using your LED

Set it to where you believe infinity is based on the markings on your lens. Zoom in a star using your LED. Then adjust your lens accordingly. This may take a while.  This is easier with some cameras than others. Be patient.  You want the stars to be as sharp as possible. This method can be more accurate than the first two methods, but takes more patience.

 

Made from 20 light frames (captured with a NIKON CORPORATION camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.1. Algorithm: Median

 

Adjusting using Live View

This is similar to the above method, but is generally easier to see than zooming in with an LED.  Zoom in to a star using Live View. Adjust the focus of your lens manually until it looks very sharp. This should go rather quickly, and is considerably faster and easier than using your LED. If this option is available to you, I would recommend doing this first. It is easy and arguably the most accurate of the ones listed.

 

Lens filters that help you focus

These are filters that use diffraction methods to nail focus. if you want to know more, search Bahtinov filters,  SharpStar2, or similar variations on this theme.

 

Using a lens with true infinity

Some manual lens have a hard stop for infinity. For many of these lens, this may actually represent their true infinity. You won’t know until you test. Other lenses, such as the Irix 15mm f/2.4, have a detent for true infinity. This make adjusting for infinity incredibly simple and easy.

 

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

VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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

 

Creepiest place I have ever photographed at night

People ask night photographers all sorts of questions. One of the most common is: what’s the scariest, creepiest place you have ever photographed? 

 

The last stop for almost 1000 souls

The imposing Gothic stone structure, Moundsville Penitentiary in West Virginia, was the last stop for murderers, rapists, and thieves. Almost one thousand men lost their lives here. Between 1876 and 1995, these prisoners were hung, electrocuted, bludgeoned, or committed suicide. Some met grisly deaths in the outside weightlifting area. 

Moundsville was bizarrely violent. It made the United States Department of Justice’s Top Ten Most Violent Correctional Facilities list. 

Some met their deaths at the hands of prison guards. Moundsville broke men, leaving them shattered. Some feel that these tortured prisoners still remain within the large stone walls. 

Moundsville takes its name from Native American burial mounds across the street. Death was no stranger to these parts.

Dark. Creepy. Imposing. Haunted. Old. Abandoned. Strange.

Three of us night photographers could not resist. During a humid summer in 2017, Tim Little, Mike Cooper and I photographed at Moundsville. At night. With no lights on.

 

Preparing for night photography within the stone walls

We arrived shortly after sunset. We were mobile, having all our camera equipment, water, snacks, and accessories in backpacks. We shuffled past “Sparky”, the infamous electric chair that sent many to their deaths. In the hallway, Tim passed out Motorola CP110 radios. These had a range of 1.5 miles. We were not sure if their signal would go through several thick stone walls, but it’s what we had. We would use these to communicate anything, typically using it to let others know where we were going so we wouldn’t interfere with each other or call for help.

 

The Sugar Shack

The Sugar Shack is dark in more than one way. This was a recreation room located downstairs, and is the most infamous room at Moundsville. This room was basically a free-for-all, a place where the guards looked the other way, a place where gambling, fighting, rape, and murder took place. 

The sky was still relatively bright. However, I wanted to begin photographing. I chose the darkest place. This was the Sugar Shack.

I immediately got the creeps upon coming down here. I am typically not prone to being spooked. However, this room had a really ominous feel. I set up for one photo. My headlamp suddenly died. It was pitch dark. I could not see my hand in front of me. To finish off the photo, I counted steps to the wall and “light painted” the room with my ProtoMachines. I then packed up and left. One photo was enough.

 

Blood Red Cells

I photographed the Block J & K cells. This was foreboding. My footsteps echoed throughout. I decided to go with this, choosing a blood red photo, shining the light in such a way that the bars of the prison cells showed on the floor. I did this with every cell. The entire image was red except for some of the lights from outside shining in through the glass brick windows. At one point, something clattered and sounded like it dropped to the floor. I whirled around. No one was there. I never knew what fell.

 

Psych ward

Near the end of the evening, the radio squawked. “We have to be out of here in twelve minutes!” I looked at my phone. Sure enough, it was almost time to leave. I was upstairs. Broken glass, shattered ceramics, and lots of dust lay everywhere, creating scraping sounds as I walked. I had twelve minutes. I had really wanted to photograph the psych ward. This lay on the other side of a large community room, which I had to cross.

FLU-FLU-FLU-FLU-FLUP! 

I whipped around, shining my ProtoMachines light. I was met with a rush of wings and moving air. Bats! As if this Gothic stone building weren’t enough, bats also lived here. 

I peered into the medical room in the psych ward. I could do this. I set up the camera quickly, shined my light into the room, and focused. I tripped the shutter and illuminated the room with red and blue light from the ProtoMachines into the room. It was pitch dark, so it didn’t matter how long the exposure was. It was all dependent on my light. I wanted to photograph quickly since I had to get back to the front, which was at least five minutes away. 24 seconds later, I was done. I closed the shutter. The photo looked good. I could now leave the psych ward. I would no longer disturb the bats. Or anything else.

 

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

VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Conversation about night photography and my book with Lance Keimig of National Park At Night

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