Seizing the Moments

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On a recent trip to San Francisco, I got together with a bunch of Nocturnal guys and celebrated the Full Moon with a night shoot at the Sutro Bath ruins at Ocean Beach. I have to say that it was the warmest night I have ever spent on that beach. The moon was shining bright, the tide was pulling in, and the continual crashing of the waves brought a truly spiritual feeling to the evening.

Even though I was with 4 other guys, we all spread out and searched for our shots. I always have considered myself a solo shooter but I have really enjoyed being out with like-minded souls lately.
When you leave your camera open on a tripod for 3-15 minutes at a time, it’s comforting to have some friends with you. You’ll also be surprised with the type of conversations that arise in the wee hours of a long photoshoot. This got me thinking about the most common question a photographer is asked in life: What type of photography do you do?

Frequent pigeonholing answers for me have been – fine art photography, pinhole photography, travel photography, and night photography. But in reality, like a method actor, I enjoy the process of photography. The film, the developing, the darkroom, the lightroom, the time, and all the magic that comes from creating an image.

Good friend, and fellow pinhole photographer, Tom Persinger, recently debated TOP’s Mike Johnston over the importance of capturing the moment or moments. When most people pick up a camera and press the shutter, they try to capture a moment in time.
We all love that. It’s difficult though, your child doesn’t smile, or the moment is fleeting and gone by the time you raise the camera to your eye and trying to recreate it is, well, contrived. Without us realizing it, when we press the shutter, we are dealing with fractions of seconds and how do you click on the right one?
Henri Cartier-Bresson proved there was a fine art to capturing the decisive moment and became famous capturing 1/60th of a second his whole life. He was a very prolific photographer but when you think of the moments he captured during the 45 years of shooting at 1/60 of a second it probably amounted to 15 minutes! Geesh, I can do that easily in one or two exposures! When you take pinhole or night photographs, you are no longer dealing with fractions of seconds but often minutes and hours of time.
Tom Persinger says: The artifacts of motion revealed by extended exposures show the world as fundamentally impermanent and constantly changing.
He refers to this as a continuity of moments. For example, an airplane can fly through the sky and you will have the lights permanently recorded as a light trail in your shot. Instead of capturing the moment, you are seizing time itself! Why are there star trails in night shots? Well the earth is moving constantly and when you take a picture including the sky for over 8 minutes on a clear night, you’ve captured the earth revolving! Pretty cool, eh?

So I guess that makes me a photographer of time. And instead of seizing the moment, let’s seize the moments and capture the essence of the subject matter!
Stay tuned for a little history of the Sutro Baths and the rest of the group’s shots from that night.

Red Hook Nights

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Visitation St Beard St Warehouse sugar factory boat
beard lady liberty diamond trolley 2 gabe trolley
water taxi 2 Red Hook House sunnys

“We gotta do a night shoot!”

These were words I spoke to my good friend, awesome photographer, and fellow industry man Andre Costantini, over the last 6 months. You see, we’re neighbors here in Brooklyn, but we also travel so much that it’s sometimes easier coordinating on the road than it is seeing each other in Brooklyn!
However, in early October, we finally got our schedules straightened out and went out for a 4+ hour night photo shoot in the nearby neighborhood of Red Hook.

Founded by the Dutch in 1636, Red Hook still remains one of the most unique and isolated neighborhoods that Brooklyn has to offer. The Waterfront days of the Longshoreman, when Red Hook boasted 21,000 people, were starting to decline when Robert Moses finished building the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Battery Tunnel in the early 1950’s – effectively cutting off Red Hook from the rest of Brooklyn. Along with the loss of the dock jobs to New Jersey soon after, Brooklynites began to disappear from the Hook. Red Hook now harbors 11,000 residents, most of whom are activists and artists drawn to the old world charm and astounding waterfront views. Because of its isolation, Red Hook has remained relatively unchanged. It is home to the largest concentration of Civil War warehouses in New York and offers the closest full frontal views of Lady Liberty herself as she faces Red Hook and looks towards the statue of Minerva at Greenwood Cemetery.
Al Capone got his start as a small time criminal in Red Hook, along with his wound that led to his nickname “Scarface”. Red Hook also has been a literary inspiration to: “On the Waterfront” by Budd Shulberg, “A View from the Bridge” by Arthur Miller, “Last Exit to Brooklyn” by Hubert Selby Jr, and “The Horror at Red Hook” by H.P. Lovecraft.

Looking for photographic inspiration, Andre and I started out around 8pm with tripods and cameras in hand. Andre was shooting with the Nikon D200 and a variety of Tamron lenses and I had my trusty Mamiya 7 with the 65mm lens loaded with black and white TriX 400 film. Knowing that it was going to be a busy night we decided to energize up with some excellent burgers at the scrumpdiddlyumptious restaurant/diner named Hope and Anchor. With burgers and Brooklyn beers in our bellies, we set forth!
The first shot of the night was Andre’s “Visitation St” sign with what seemed to be a rebar cane hanging from it! The cobblestone streets led us to the recently refurbished and “gallerized” Beard St Warehouses, which can be seen in the second photo. Behind the Warehouses lie the remains of the Sugar Refinery as well as a small dock where some of the locals anchor their boats, as seen in photo number 3.
The second row of photos leads off with the old trolley tracks that lay between the Beard Warehouses. In the distance you can see the pillars where the water taxi drops off tourists as well as Lady Liberty dressed in white light. The tracks actually lead to two abandoned trolleys cars that were once owned by Bob Diamond. A modern day Don Quixote, Bob discovered one of the world’s oldest subway stations under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn in 1980. Built in 1844 by the Long Island Railroad, it was quickly abandoned, sealed, and forgotten by 1861. Bob had hoped to reopen the station and connect it with a trolley service to Red Hook as there’s no subway line that comes close to the neighborhood. It was never funded and Bob’s trolleys lie in a beautiful state of ruinism behind the Fairway Market that moved into the Van Brunt warehouse. This beautifully revitalized pre Civil War coffee warehouse now holds a vast amount of fresh food and veggies as well as killer lofts above. The middle two shots are Andre’s take on the trolley as well as documenting me demonstrating my night shooting techniques!
The first image on the last row is a Michael Kenna inspired shot of the Water Taxi docks in Red Hook. 26 Reed St is the next photo. This original Red Hook house is Ralph Balzano’s car shop and Men’s club for the locals. Speaking of locals, Ralph’s brother Sunny owns the bar in the last photo. Sunny’s great-great-grandfather opened this bar in 1890 and I can only assume that is Sunny’s car parked in front!
It was a great shoot that ended around 2:30am with a little nightcap at The Bait and Tackle Bar.

For further reading on Red Hook History check out:
For further info on Bob Diamond’s abandoned subway discovery:
And to learn more Night Photography shooting techniques follow my man Joe Reifer’s inspiring nightshots and super informative blog at:
To see more of Andre’s work click here.

Steel Bridge, Portland Oregon

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Steel BridgeHow many times do you find yourself driving around when you pass by something interesting and say “I should photograph that.”? And how many times do you actually do it?

It is always a constant battle with me because if I truly stopped and took all the pictures I wanted while driving I think I’d still be on my honeymoon!

On a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I found myself in this very predicament as we approached the Willamette River on our way to Voodoo Donuts. It was night time as we slowly passed over this very unique looking bridge and I uttered those magic words: “That would be cool to shoot”. Everyone was game, so we parked the car and walked back over the bridge. The Steel Bridge is named after the original double deck swing Steel Draw Bridge that was built in 1888 and was one of the first bridges to use steel instead of wrought iron. The current Steel Bridge is the only double-deck bridge with independent lifts in the world and the second oldest vertical lift bridge in North America, after the nearby Hawthorne Bridge. Over 9,000,000 lbs of concrete counterweights help raise the lower section up to 216ft. to let large boats pass. The real ingenuity, however, shows itself when the lower section is raised 72ft. and telescopes into the upper section without disturbing it, thus letting traffic continue over the bridge. Pedestrians, Cars, Amtrak, MAX Light Rail and bicycles all use the Steel Bridge to cross over the Willamette River to get into downtown Portland.

This shot was taken on my point and shoot digi camera on the best travel tripod in the world, the Gitzo 1550. The light streaks are from the MAX Light rail and cars that passed through my photo during the 30 second exposure.

And always remember the next time you see something, don’t just say something, click something!

Allora Tuscany

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San Donatello RuinsSorry for the delay folks, but I wanted the 1st blog after the Tuscany trip to obviously be about Tuscano! But in order to do that I needed to develop all my film: 23+ rolls of 120, 25 sheets of 4×5 pinhole, and 6 rolls of 35mm! I’m also in the process of revamping my digital darkroom. I added a new scanner, the Epson V750, which did a dandy of a job scanning this shot of the San Donatello church. San Donatello is one of those hard to find secret places that is in the small town of Ossaia and was built in 1060. Lucky for us, David had found this place on a previous trip. The image was taken on our last night in Tuscany, David and I had to drive up a very narrow, dirt and stone road in the complete darkness of the night. I think it was well worth it and can’t wait to see David’s 8×10 version. The moon was rising behind the church and I had to act quickly using my flashlight to light up the front of the church in order to get this effect. I’ll soon be making a digital print of this on the also newly acquired HP B9180 printer and see how it fares against the silver fiber print.

Tuscan BBQThe trip was amazing! David, Barbara, and Elvira (momina) were beyond amazing hosts! We were all great friends before, but now we will always have Tuscany! The food? So fresh, so simple, sooo good, and so much pork! I think it is an understatement to say that we took some pictures… Elvira named Nancy, Gabe, and David: Click, Clack, and Cluck respectively! We traveled to San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Orvieto, the Monster Gardens, and of course all around the Cortona area of Tuscany.

So be prepared to live vicariously through the website over the next week or so!

Ciao for now!