In which an expedition to photograph beneath the night skies encounters lemons in the form of a thick pea soup fog, so we make lemonade. We had hoped for a starry night and the Milky Way, but the lemonade turned out better than expected.
In online photo circles, one will bump into other photographers through the images they share, follow each other’s work and sometimes meet up to shoot together or collaborate. Mary Burns and I ran into each other through our images on Instagram and have followed each other’s work for a year or so. She does a lot of work with people, and I do a lot of work with night, so naturally our collaboration would involve photographing people at night beneath a starry sky.
Mary introduced me to her friend and fellow local photographer Gabriel Smith and her brother Liam before we caravanned to our destination.
We arrived to find a world socked in with a coastal fog dense enough to do proud the moors in The Hound of the Baskervilles
. The mists thickened and thinned with the varying wind but never gave us a glimpse of the sky. It condensed on the trees and dripped from the leaves like rain from not far away; it dampened the stars from our sight and gave us a wet and gray night.
“You shall not pass!” We encountered The Fire Lord, who required a password. But we had too many passwords already and forgot it. —Gabriel Smith models as the Fire Lord in this re-creation. Humboldt County, California.
Thwarted in photographing scenic landscapes, we tripped down the mindscapes of our imagination. We had lights, sparklers, people, fog and cameras. The sparklers cast dramatic glows in the fog and swirling smoke and our lights threw stark shadows and brilliant shafts piercing through the mists and over the ground.
We played, bouncing light and ideas off of each other. Gabriel and I alternated turns modeling and photographing while Liam held a light on us from behind. Mary photographed and I kept the sparklers going for us. It felt strange being on other side of the camera. Striking a pose and holding the flaming sparkler aloft before me, I felt like the wizard Gandalf challenging the great Balrog of Morgoth.
We didn’t find our landscape and Milky Way but if we had we wouldn’t have had this frenzy of collaborative creativity. Landscape photography is no less creative but it is an entirely different process in which one finds a composition and allows the light to come to the camera. When we made these images, we took active parts in creating the scene itself with our various lighting choices, models and poses.
We might have stayed longer but when we figured the fog had soaked ourselves and our cameras sufficiently, we called it a night. If you’d like to see the photography of Mary Burns and Gabriel Smith, you can visit them on Instagram at http://instagram.com/mary.burns.photography/ for Mary and for Gabriel at https://www.instagram.com/gabrielsmithphotography/.
To keep abreast of David Wilson’s most current photography or peer into its past, follow him on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx or his website mindscapefx.com, where