Posts Tagged ‘night photography’

Stairway of Abandonment

Friday, January 31st, 2014

On the Hawaiian island of Oahu there’s a hike called the Stairway to Heaven or the Haiku Stairs. The stairs are 3922 steps that ascend 2800 vertical feet up a steep mountainside. The stairs end at an abandoned naval radio station on top of Puu Keahiakahoe. The stairs have been closed to the public since 1987,  and they’re illegal to climb. These days many people still climb them; you just need to be covert and avoid the guard. I’m not going to go into details how to access them since everything can be found online.


When I see a big red No Trespassing sign on public land it’s telling me to come on in. Behind the danger sign you can see the start of the stairs.


H3 Freeway

Looking down at the start of the stairs under the H3 freeway. I’m only about a quarter of the way up. The stairs are very steep, sometimes ladder-like.



Just when I started to hike the stairs I remembered that I forgot the tripod mount at home. I said to myself there was no way I was going back for it. I would have to figure something out when I got to the top. I found some parachute cord, and that was my solution. It actually worked quite well.


kaneohe bay,haiku stairs, stairway to heaven, oahu, moon, sunset,ocean,

The view from the top looking down at Kaneohe Bay.


navel station, light painting, full moon, moon, abandon, milky way, hawaii, haiku stairs, stairway to heaven, oahu, moon, sunset,ocean,

This photo is of the abandoned naval station on top. The apocalyptic orange glow in the sky is a reflection of the light pollution from the sodium vapor streetlights below. The structure was painted with a high-powered LED flash light. Photographing at this site was challenging with all the wind and moisture in the air. I had to hold my tripod down while blocking the 20mph-plus winds during the 45-second exposure. Keeping the moisture off the lens was next to impossible; even the chamois was damp.


navel station, light painting, full moon, moon, abandon, milky way, hawaii, haiku stairs, stairway to heaven, oahu, moon, sunset,ocean,

I normally don’t like photographing buildings with graffiti, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. I painted the front with natural light. The interior and dish were highlighted in color to make them stand out.


navel station, light painting, full moon, moon, abandon, milky way, hawaii, haiku stairs, stairway to heaven, oahu, moon, sunset,ocean,

Here’s  a different color scheme. I think the composition of the building could be better. I was working without a full-frame camera that night. The terrain dictated where you could shoot from, and a 1000-ft fall to my death wasn’t going to be in the plan.


navel station, light painting, full moon, moon, abandon, milky way, hawaii, haiku stairs, stairway to heaven, oahu, moon, sunset,ocean,

I called my title Stairway of Abandonment for a reason; this is a photo of the tramway hoist. The building sits about 500 vertical feet below the summit. As you see by the shaking of the flora, there was lots of wind that night.


navel station, light painting, full moon, moon, abandon, milky way, hawaii, haiku stairs, stairway to heaven, oahu, moon, sunset,ocean,

A photo of the tramway motor for the hoist.

The next time I’m in Oahu I plan on shooting the naval station with a full-frame camera. Maybe I’ll have a clear night without wind. Hopefully with the Milky Way or a full moon. Whatever the conditions are it will be a different experience and give me new results.



Alice in Goblinland

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

With all the news about the dumbasses who tipped over one of the hoodoos in Goblin Valley, Utah. I figured I better go check the place out. The way things are going these days, before you know, it will be off limits to everyone. I recently purchased a Protomachines flash light. I’ve been using it on my abandoned equipment photos but it’s very subtle. Being inspired by Lost America‘s Troy Paiva, I needed to use its full psychedelic abilities, and Goblin Valley is perfect for that in more than one way.

The Protomachines light is very well made and can omit any color you want with its RGB  LEDs. They have two models. The one I have has power up to 1000 lumen, which comes in very handy when trying to focus in the dark. My only real complaint about it is that it would be nice if you could control the beam. I could write a blog about the Protomachines; maybe I’ll do that soon.

The photos below are done in camera; the colors are added during the exposure. Photoshop was only used to do standard clean-up from RAW images. I didn’t “cook” the images to get the saturation.


goblin valley hoodoos

This is what the hoodoos look like under the full moon at  145.0 sec at f/5.6. ISO 200. When painting with light it’s always nice to take a photo beforehand to see what shadows need to be filled in. It’s also good for getting your photo composition right and any unwanted elements out of the shot.


goblin valley hoodoos

The technical info for this photo is 163.0 sec at f/5.6. ISO 200. In this image I used three different colors.  I like to experiment to see what color blends the best for a more natural feel.


Goblin Valley goblins

Grace Slick would be proud of this alien landscape after eating some kind of mushroom…


goblin valley hoodoos in purple

Alice liking the purple and green landscape of the underworld.


Goblin Valley orange hoodoo's

They say psychedelic drugs can alter cognition and perception. Who needs them when you can add fire orange from your light? In this photo there is no rabbit, but I see a dog’s head and a lady with a poncho. Maybe the lady is the Virgin Mary, and now religious zealots can erect a shrine to her.


goblin Valley dog

It took me a little over 5 hours to get my 4 images. You may ask: Why so long? It takes time scouting the location to find the shot.It took numerous tries to get the light balance and blended right (as you can see above, too hot on the purple). You forget to turn off your headlamp during the exposure, but amateurs find that cool. Oh, I almost forgot about my hallucination; there’s that ghost dog again.


From steam power to nukes.

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

On the Friday of September 28th I decided to drive south below Moab, Utah to do some full-moon photography. My goal was to shoot an old abandoned electric mine train that was long-forgotten. The train sits outside of a uranium mine called the Mi Vida Mine. After wandering around the desert at 1am, thinking I was going to pass out or blow up, seeing signs that say “Poisonous Gases” and “No Open Flame.” I finally found my nuclear honey-hole amongst the fumes from the natural gas wells in the area: it was a short hike from the road, down a draw and back up to the mine.

moab utah

This is how the train looks with just the moonlight.

Uranium train

I decided to light the entrance to the mine with turquoise gel over the remote trigger flashes. I felt this would give it the glowing-Homer-Simpson, nuclear look. During the single exposure the train was painted with light to expose the patina of the subject. It also “pops” the branding of the train. The train was owned by the UTEX EXPLORATION CO.

This photo was a happy mistake. I had no idea it looked this good until I saw it on my monitor at home. I like this shot because the vegetation has a glowing look to it. It almost looks like an HDR photo. The shot was exposed a minute less than the photo above, and I don’t have an answer for that.

I tried this angle looking out of the mine, but as you can see it’s not much of a shot except for my ghost dog, Stoli, that appeared. I think I’ll do a Ghost Zombie shoot for the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.

The next night I moved the location of the shoot to Silverton, Colorado. Silverton has a deep mining history and during the night I saw other photographers shooting buildings in the main street of the town. I decided to move on to the outskirts of the town.

silverton tram

This tramway was hard to shoot because the tram needed a point of reference, so I decided to shoot this carriage with the tram house in the background. I had to paint the carriage with light so it would show up. The moon did a nice job of lighting the building.

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s 493 from days gone-by rests on the track in the Silverton rail yard. I shot this with moonlight and painted the gear drive and wheels with light. The B&W was done during post-processing.

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad

The 493 lit up: I gelled the boiler along with the cab to get the fire-breathing-dragon look these steam engines were known for. The undercarriage was painted with a Coleman lantern to highlight its muscle. The green glow on the coal car is from the sodium-vapor street lights. I wish it wasn’t there, but I’ll live with it.

I love shooting at night because the moon gives out a warm glow that lasts for hours. It also gives the subject and landscapes a different look you won’t see during the day.  The best thing about night photography is the stillness of the night, the silence. Plus there’s no one around to muck up your shot and more chance to have an extraterrestrial encounter.