Last of the Dark Nights

It was great to celebrate the end of the long dark nights of British Winter Time with a ?Playing with Light? workshop on Westward Ho! Beach. Apologies to anyone who, after seeing the centrefold in the North Devon Journal, had come down to Westward Ho! hoping to witness a light spectacular and missing us. I started the workshop in the warmth of the Waterfront pub, over a coffee, discussing the merits of various long exposure photographers and explaining various technical considerations for the camera. We didn?t get onto the beach until about 7.45pm where we made our way away from the lights of the village and far down the beach to the wetter sand near the sea. Even at this remote spot we attracted a couple of groups of teenagers who had been spending the evening playing around the pebble ridge. Both groups were keen to engage in our activities the first group of I think 6 had read the Journal?s feature and had come specially to get involved. The image above was made through a 50 second exposure each of the workshop participants and the teenagers had torches and Mike Bentley and I added some flash into the shot. Any of the people who participated in the making of this image can click on it to get a larger version for printing out.
A couple of weeks ago I ran a similar course at Spacex in Exeter. Here a lot of image making was achieved in one of their gallery spaces. It was designed for video art projection, blacked out with black curtained walls, so it was perfect for light graffiti. The image above was made by Claire Gladstone and describes the process through the 30 second exposure; the running around with torches swinging on string and flash fired from the sides at a low angle. I?ve cropped the image below because that to me is the part so totally full of life and colour.

I?ll be doing more night photography during a Beaford Arts residential over Easter and look out for the Bideford Bay Creatives Night Light Extravaganza which will hopefully be happening at the Westward Ho! Potwalloping Festival for the late May bank-holiday.

2010 Photographic Workshops

When I started leading photographic workshops last year I thought it would just be a summertime thing that tourists to North Devon might enjoy, boosting their photographic skills and knowledge whilst on holiday. I hadn?t anticipated just how many local people wanted photographic instruction or that I would have already had two successful workshops this year; with two more ?painting with light? type courses in my calendar:

Tuesday March 16th 5.00pm-9.00pm at Spacex Gallery in Exeter

On Saturday 27th March 6.30pm on Westward Ho! Beach

I have been a fan of night photographers for some years now, inspired by Troy Paiva, William Lesch, Mark Klett and the Nocturnes ?fellowship? often based in the desert regions of the USA. Theirs is often a purist image, black or dark blue skies, moon and star trails, old abandoned ghost towns, romantic idyllic places to get away from the heat of the day to. Here in England a clear sky without light pollution is rare, weather is unpredictable and the winter night is cold.

Over the last couple of years I have also been fascinated with the experience of being out at night, far away from the lights. Walking without a torch, on invisible footpaths, sometimes your guide being a slight gap in overhead trees, dark grey as opposed to black, which you use for direction. Your spatial awareness vastly diminished and relying of the rods in your eyes to see a world in monotone.

Photographing at night can be like painting on a blank canvas, adding light, colour, texture and form to a desaturated scene. The whole process is very photographic. Where there is no light we can open a shutter for ever without a single photon of exposure. As soon as we strike a match we have an exposure. Making an image from light is such fun.