By Vicki Uthe
I have to be honest, night photography is not my jam, but I was asked to join this workshop at the last minute, was able to, and I have a hard time saying no to new experiences. I had worked with the other volunteer before and we got along well and I had never worked with the photographer, Beth Ruggiero-York, but knew her husband (who is a volunteer) and always wanted to meet her.
I was not disappointed. If you are truly interested in learning how to shoot the Milky Way or night sky in general then Beth is your gal. She knows her stuff and is very good at it.
This was a very different workshop for me. My experience thus far with Arizona Highways included the philosophy that there is only one sunrise and one sunset each day and a good photographer doesn’t waste either. Not so with night photography.
It was billed as a three-day workshop, Friday to Sunday. But unlike previous three-day workshops with 4-5 shooting opportunities, this one gave us two: Friday night and Saturday night. But let’s be clear, it was a jam-packed three days with lots of class time, teaching, information, image processing time, and shooting time. Here’s how it unfolded.
We met Team Highways at the hotel conference room at 11:00 am on Friday to set up the tables, chairs, computer, and projector. I think the participants joined us at noon for three hours of introductions and instruction. We had a late lunch and at 4:30 met in the parking lot of the Gold King Mine just outside of Jerome, a former mining ghost town nestled in the hills above Cottonwood, AZ.
I love photographing at this location. It fills my desire to shoot patterns, colors, textures, and shapes.
There are a whole lot of old things to photograph here. Admission is $5 last time I checked.
As the sun set, I put my camera away to be available to our clients. Tonight was a lesson in light painting, something I had only learned about on the Best of the West trip in May. This workshop was in December so we were dressed for the Arctic. When you are standing around taking time exposures it can get pretty cold, even in Arizona.
My job was to splash light across the subject, check-in with my charges, and adjust said light splash time according to their exposures. We also set small battery-powered candles in the seats of old vehicles to add interest to long exposures of said cool old vehicles.
It was a cold but fun evening of photography. We ended the night with a stop in Cottonwood along Main Street. There we found an old gas station turned burger joint that has a 1950’s vehicle out front. Beth placed some lights around it and under it and we did time exposures. We didn’t head back to the hotel until well after 9:00 pm.
I didn’t write it down but I think we met in the conference room the next morning around 10:00 am. The morning and afternoon were spent learning about what we had captured the night before through critiques and discussion. We then learned about shooting the night sky, Saturday night’s assignment.
Here is my less than impressive image of the Milky Way soaring over the ruins of Tuzigoot. Night photography images can be far more beautiful than this. But if it sparks your interest, contact Arizona Highways PhotoScapes and look for Beth Ruggiero-York, she’s your gal. She also does trips to Alaska to shoot the Northern Lights.
I enjoyed learning, or at least exposing myself, to something completely different in the field of photography. Shooting at night requires a lot of patience as each image is a 30-60 second exposure if you don’t want the stars to move and can be hours if you are trying to shoot star trails, those images where lines streak across the sky on purpose.
Workshops are a great way to see if what you think interests you actually does without investing a ton of money in gear only to find out…it’s not your jam.
Vicki Uthe is a Photo Guide for Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.