Five Tips All Night Photographers Would Love To Know

Night photography has its own quirks and needs. After all, you’re photographing in the dark, maybe not the most normal thing to do. I decided I would avoid the more obvious sort of tips, such as “know how to operate your camera in the dark” or “understand how to shoot in manual” and get to physical sorts of tips that can help immensely. Let’s dive in.
1.) Gaffer’s Tape
Let’s start off with one that every night photographer could use. Gaffer’s tape. Yeah. This all-purpose tape is used by gaffers in film and TV production. The gaffer is the chief lighting technician, and is typically the head electrician. They need to use tape that is strong but doesn’t leave a residue. This is where we come in. We can use this for all sorts of purposes, so it’s always great to have gaffer’s tape in your bag. Break something? Tape it together. If you break part of your tripod, such as the ballhead, you can tape your camera to the tripod. Need to keep something in place, such as a prop or piece of equipment? Gaffer’s tape to the rescue. With some old cameras that don’t have a self-timer and you are missing your external intervalometer, you can even tape a pebble to the shutter button to hold it down. Need to tape down your focus ring on your lens so you can keep the same focus while moving around? Yes, gaffer’s tape. Too much light coming in to your room when you need to sleep late? Tape a blanket over the window. Want to use some tape to find things easier? I use orange gaffer’s tape (among other things…see below). All this and more, gaffer’s tape is indispensable.
2.) Velcro Your Intervalometer
Do you have an external intervalometer? If so, use hook and loop fasteners to “Velcro” your intervalometer to the leg of your tripod. This allows you to keep it up high without either dangling and swaying from your camera or dragging in the dirt when you are operating down low.
Above: My ProtoMachines LED2 light painting device is not something I want to go missing. There’s gaffer’s tape and glow-in-the-dark tape to help me locate it easier, and that’s a beautiful thing.
3.) Working In Pitch-Black Indoors
I photograph a lot of abandoned places. Many of these places are indoors, so even if there’s a full moon overhead, it’s likely very dark. I’ve photographed abandoned mining houses, penitentiaries, tunnels, factories, and more indoors. They’re completely pitch black, quite often. A great tip is to take dim electric tea lights or even a headlamp, or really, anything that creates a dim light that illuminates the room. Place this anywhere, and then get to work. You can see what you are doing and see the room, but the light is dim enough that it doesn’t adversely affect your light painting of the room. This is also nice because I don’t blow out my eyes, but it’s just bright enough that I can see what I am doing. I also use a red LED headlamp so I don’t blow out my vision as well.
Above: The room here isn’t completely pitch dark, but it was dark enough that I couldn’t really see things very well, and tripped over some huge floorboards upon arrival. I busted out a dim light so I could see the floor, and that really helped prevent further tripping.
4.) Find Your Belongings
I use both reflective tape and glow-in-the-dark tape for finding my equipment. I have both kinds of tape wrapped around my tripod legs and my ProtoMachines LED2 flashlight. Why do I use both? Glow-in-the-dark tape works almost all the time, and 99% of the time, this is enough to find the equipment. But in those cases where it is too dim or it didn’t get enough light to activate it, I also have reflective tape that alternates red and white so if I need to, I can shine a flashlight around and have this reflect back. I prefer not to do this because I like to work in the dark, but also because I might ruin my exposure if I inadvertently shine my flashlight into the camera lens. For other things that are dark, I sometimes use orange gaffer’s tape so that it is a little more visible.
5.) Kneepads
I kneel on a lot of surfaces that are sort of rough, whether it is rocks, sand with sharp little rocks, or abandoned locations. I also climb around sometimes. In those instances, it’s really nice to have kneepads to go a little easier on the knees.  I have knee braces that have pads in the front so they provide a little bit of support for going down hills or bending a lot. This is really nice when I am photographing for 6-8 hours, especially during a cold evening.

Above: I had to climb into this airplane cockpit and squat and kneel around some rather hard and sharp metal. Kneepads would have helped immensely here. I used a blanket, but still managed to scratch up my leg.

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

 

 

Learn in the Time of COVID-19: Photographers, What Will You Do With This Time?

Hello everyone. I hope that you are doing well, and that you are staying safe and healthy.

It is a strange time. Most of us have probably been asked to “shelter in place”, not going out except for essential things.

If you are passionate about photography like I am, what will you do with this time? Will you continue processing your backlog of photos? Try to create new content (blogs, etc.)? Learn new post-processing techniques? Take on new challenges to photograph the things around you that you usually don’t do?

Related to that last question is an awesome exercise where you try to photograph as many cool things around your apartment, back yard, house, or whatever and make it really compelling, practicing new compositions, new techniques, different genres of photography, utilizing new lenses that are ordinarily not used for that purpose, and approaching everything with a fresh perspective. I would heartily encourage you to do this if you don’t already.

If you never do portrait photography, perhaps this would be a good time to experiment with this. Or if you’ve never tried your hand at “light painting”, give it a go. Macro? Why not? Panos, sure, even if it’s in a tiny apartment!

What post-processing can make your images better? Perhaps it might be time to figure out how to dodge and burn. This is a technique going back many decades, one. utilized, as the name “dodge and burn” implies, in the darkroom. Luminosity masks is a great thing to learn, and can help target specific areas. For instance, I use luminosity masks to target the night sky specifically so that I may apply some noise reduction to the sky but not to the foreground or the stars. Layer masks is a beautiful thing. We could learn how to do a better job organizing our photos in Lightroom or whatever program we use that has some sort of file management system.

We can go to lynda.com, YouTube, Phlearn, National Parks At Night, or other places to learn new techniques.

Although we may not be able to run out and photograph, this is a time when we can still step up our creativity, knowledge, and techniques.

Let me know how you are doing in the comments, and what part of your photography or art you might work on during this strange time.

LET’S CONNECT!

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 Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

 

 

 

 

Why Should You Do Night Photography When It’s Cloudy?

It’s the weekend. You’re finally have some time away from your job. You’re ready to hop in the car with your camera gear, ready to drive a few hours at night listening to weird music and get good and dusty. You’re ready for night photography.
But it’s cloudy.
Should you pack it in and fire up Netflix?
Maybe not.
Clouds can add immense drama and interest to your photo, and can sometimes make a night photo better. They can frame your subject or add interest to the night sky or glow from the moon or even light pollution. They can add a beautiful mysterious glow to the stars. Moon or no, clouds can look magnificent. Just as with day photography, they can add interest, so it is with night photography as well.
For long exposures, it’s usually best when they are moving a bit and not completely covering the sky, although even then, it’s possible to get some good photos.
Let’s look at a few photos.
The photo above has quite a few clouds. I checked my app, Clear Outside, and it stated that that the sky could be as much as 100% total cloud cover. The app does describe whether the clouds are high clouds, medium clouds, or low clouds as well as giving total cloud cover, so you can tell the character of the clouds, which is rather useful. Additionally, the app gives other information, such as when the International Space Station is visible, visibility, fog, rain, and wind. On this particular night, I saw that there was some wind and that there was between 80-100% high clouds. This sounded grim. And it was a long drive to this location. But we had received permission, so we perservered. We were rewarded with beautiful dramatic skies that glowed profusely from light pollution, streaked wispily across the sky, yet revealed the glorious Milky Way over head. In this photo, I quietly observed which way the wind was blowing so I could pre-visualize how the clouds would look. I knew that they were sort of coming toward the camera and would dramatically bracket the airplane in the foreground. And here, because these clouds are higher, wispier clouds and because they are moving from wind, they don’t completely occlude the stars, but add a gorgeous, diffuse glow.
The next photo, shown above, is absurdly cloudy. It was initially somewhat clear, but as the sun melted into the horizon, more and more clouds appeared until finally, almost the entire sky was covered. Initially disappointed, I began to realize that the clouds might add a certain eeriness to some of the photos of houses buried in sand. Here’s a photo in which I actually desaturated the photo slightly to go with the cloudy feel and exaggerate the already eerie feel.
Partially cloudy skies work as well, even when the clouds are low, as with this photo above, taken in Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. The blurring of the moving clouds adds drama and movement to the composition, and bracket the rocky foreground, adding to the already surreal landscape. Although this would be more romantic if we knew the glow were from a setting sun, the reality is that this is light pollution from Coachella Valley.
The above photo, also taken in Joshua Tree National Park, shows quickly moving low clouds, and again, the long exposure adds a sense of drama and movement. Here, an almost full moon backlights the Joshua Tree and adds a beautiful glow to the clouds.
This last example of night photography with clouds is admittedly more obvious since it’s accompanied by the additional drama of a lightning storm. This is of course the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I was doubly lucky because to the back of me was a full moon that was beautifully illuminating the canyon below, with the Colorado snaking through the rocky terrain. Here, the clouds are also in movement, coming almost right toward the camera and adding, once again, drama and movement to the photo.
When you see clouds before going out to photograph, remember that this doesn’t mean you are automatically hosed. Sure, maybe it may block your Milky Way. But maybe it won’t. And maybe, it will add drama to the night sky that you never even imagined possible. I hope this was helpful or inspiring. Please share if you like it, and please leave a comment below.

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 Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

 

 

My “Abandoned Southern CA” book featured in Business Insider!

Hello, I was recently interviewed by Business Insider journalist Erin McDowell for my new book, “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing Of Time” (America Through Time). Click here to see the article and 25 night photography photos!

Here’s some photos from the book, available on Amazon and kenleephotography.com. Thanks so much for looking.

 

Interview On “Behind The Shot” video podcast!

I AM INTERVIEWED ON A PODCAST ABOUT THE COVER PHOTO FOR MY NEW BOOK:
Please join me on the latest episode of the Behind the Shot podcast as I sit down with Steve Brazill to take a look at how I created the image that graces the cover of my new book “Abandoned Southern California: The Slowing of Time”. There is a video podcast, but you can also download an audio podcast as well. Either way, it promises to be good fun. Watch, listen, and subscribe here: https://behindtheshot.tv/2020/02/13/capturing-the-slowing-of-time/
LOS ANGELES MAGAZINE RAN A SHORT STORY ABOUT MY NEW BOOK:

https://www.lamag.com/article/abandoned-southern-california/


BOOK AUTHOR EVENT MARCH 22 2020:
And hopefully I will see you March 22nd at 5 pm Valley Relics Museum for a brief slide show and presentation. Get there early to check out the museum.
Address: 7900 Balboa Blvd. C3 & C4 Entrance on, Stagg St, Van Nuys, CA 91406

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 Caoifornia’s Desert Ruins – Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols

How I find interesting foregrounds and locations for night photography

Composition is key

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.

What I use to find new locations

I devote quite a bit of time to finding 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. If I think there are some ghost towns or abandoned houses in a particular region, I’ll also try to see if I can find abandoned places on Google Earth.
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.

Scouting the location

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. 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. 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. This helps the image to tell a story about the place.

On the lookout for anything weird or interesting

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 or unique features. Often, the weirder, the better. Sometimes, I’ll look for something of historical interest. I also love locations that have captured my imagination as a kid, such as anything with dinosaurs or the house from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Safety

I also look to see whether there might be streetlights in the area or there might be some danger in walking. I look for sharp cactus, floorboards that are about to give way, the potential for for animals or people, homeless encampments, or anything else that makes me wary.

Inspired by themes

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!

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

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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IG – @kenleephotography
fb – kenleephotography
500px – kenleephotography
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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 #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!

 

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.
~~~
Nikon D610/14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 194 second exposure f/8 ISO 200. July 2017. I illuminated the rooms during the exposure.
~~~
IG – @kenleephotography
fb – kenleephotography
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!

 

Big Blue Bus Burrowing Bottomward (International Car Forest of the Last Church)

3163-2014-007-11-0020-146sf8iso400-bluebus-kenlee_carforest-1000px

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

How this bus stays up, I’m not sure. I came up here Thursday evening. There were two photographers, Matt and Justin, already here, but they left shortly afterwards for Bodie ghost town in California. I immediately began shooting, a bit dissatisfied with the shots I had taken the previous night, as the moon was blotted out by huge thunder clouds, and everything was very dark, not so conducive for this sort of light painting photography. Tonight was much better!

Outside the historic mining town of Goldfield, NV, in a desert dotted by Joshua Trees, you can see a field of old cars that are wildly painted and jammed into the ground at unlikely angles. This is the International Car Forest of the Last Church, created by Michael “Mark” Rippie and painted by Chad Sorg. In July 2014, I stayed in Goldfield and created night photos with light painting to enhance the bold colors of the painted cars even more. Light painting photos of this nature are often best done near a full moon, and during this evening, the clouds mostly cooperated!

With a nod of gratitude to Troy Paiva and Lance Keimig, who largely pioneered this sort of light painting photography. I don’t do this sort of light painting often, but their two books definitely had an influence on this photo.

Title: Big Blue Bus Burrowing Bottomward (3163)
Photo: Ken Lee Photography
Info: Nikon D610, AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens at 14mm, 146 seconds, f/8, ISO 400. 2014-07-11 00:20. Light painted with LED flashlight and SB-600 with gels. All colored light work was done during the exposure, and is not a Photoshop creation.
Location: International Car Forest of the Last Church, Goldfield, NV, USA

Título: Big Blue Bus Burrowing Bottomward
Foto: Ken Lee Photography
Info:. Nikon D610, AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED en 14mm, 146 segundos, f / 8, ISO 400 11/07/2014 a 00:20. Luz pintada con la linterna del LED y el SB-600 con geles. Todo el trabajo ligero de color se hizo durante la exposición, y no es una creación de Photoshop.
Ubicación: International Car Forest of the Last Church (Bosques de Coches Internacional de la última Iglesia), Goldfield, NV, EE.UU.

#night #carforest #nikon #kenlee #goldfield #lightpainting #nightskyphotography#desert #nevada #bigbluebus #artinstallation

Equipment:  Nikon D610, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens, 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), 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!