Field Notes :

Why is the sky purple?

An important aspect of my work is that I don’t use filters or darkroom processes that change or enhance the image.  Working only with film, I believe that I should do the artistic work with my camera and not use lab techniques to create an image that never actually occurred.  I think one of the elements that have enabled me to thrive in the challenging world of fine art photography is the understanding that the images people see in my gallery in Laguna Beach or in my booth at the Sawdust Festival are, in fact, real.

But while I don’t use filters or manipulations to create an effect, I do use my equipment to its utmost capabilities.  And this is an example of that process.  This photograph was taken at night.  And the night sky in Crescent City looks the same as the night sky anywhere – really dark.  But when I set my medium format panoramic camera on a tripod, and use a long shutter speed, the shutter stays open long enough to allow the small amount of ambient light that there is at night to gradually absorb on to the film.  And when that small amount of light absorbs on to the film, it starts at the Blue, Indigo, Violet end of the spectrum.  And since I’ve been at this game for about 30 years, I’ve been able to figure out the general range of shutter speeds that will allow for just the right amount of light to absorb on to the film to capture the light at that end of the spectrum, thereby creating a photograph with a sky colored only by long-wavelength light.

I arrived at the Battery Point light early in the evening and spent a good bit of time finding the point of view that felt the most balanced.  I then affixed my large, cumbersome, medium-format panoramic camera on the tripod and began the process of photographing the evolution of dusk to night.  Each image is a little different due to cloud movement, the reflected light from the moon and the water, the gradual procession of the tide, the splashing of the waves over the rocks and of course, the cycles of the lighthouse beacon itself.  I spent over three hours in the cold, blustery night catching each phase of the progression of dusk to night, and when I finally returned to my car, the thermometer confirmed that my fingers were numb for a reason.  It was thirty seven degrees.

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