The weather this week has been pretty miserable. Fortunately for Joel, Michelle, Ivy and me, we completed our “painting with light” assignment on the one night it hasn’t rained yet this week (Tuesday).
Painting with light? Huh?
It’s a pretty fun technique wherein you…
…make a photograph at night or darkened rooms, utilizing time exposure with light added to reveal something that otherwise would be unobservable at this time of day. Examples are unlit monuments, buildings or features of the landscape; movement of machines, people or animals; and illustrative or imaginary concepts and constructs. This is a photograph which is really a picture of light — because there would be no picture without the light.
Originally, we wanted to photograph the Renz Correctional Center — a women’s maximum-security prison outside of Jefferson City that was discontinued after flooding in 1993. But the property owners weren’t too keen on letting us on-site, much less in the dark.
So Michelle contacted the superintendent of Ha Ha Tonka State Park, which is about two hours south of Columbia and has castle ruins.
That’s right. Castle ruins. In Missouri.
You can read about why the hell there are castle ruins on a cliff in the middle of Missouri if you click HERE.
Anyway. Although Nancy the superintendent was initially reluctant to allow us to stay in the park after dark, which is when the gates are locked, she gave us permission to remain until 10 p.m.
We arrived at the park at dusk, when we could explore the castle ruins and scope them out. We also checked out the water tower, an old stone construction that is on the other side of the parking lot and about half a mile away from the ruins.
So here’s what we did: We could see the water tower from the ruins if we stood at a certain point near the ruins’ balcony. Joel had two-way radios with him, so we decided that one team of two people would remain at the ruins with the camera and a few strobes, and the other two people would go to the water tower. This way, we could light up both the castle ruins and the water tower within the same frame.
The exposures averaged about three minutes apiece. Ivy and I illuminated the water tower using strobes, and Michelle and Joel lit up the castle ruins and “ghosted” Michelle with strobes. It was a lot of fun, although we had a few scares involving bats, howling dogs in the distance and the superintendent’s surprise visit.
Here’s the result, which I screen-captured from Joel’s blog:
High on a hill in Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Mo., it's easy to imagine that ghosts might haunt the ruins of the old Snyder mansion, built by a wealthy Missouri businessman who died long before his dream retreat was completed. The castle-like structure was gutted by fire in 1942, while the nearby water tower survived until vandals set it ablaze 34 years later. Photo ©2009 by Joel Kowsky.
We were at the park for about two hours and only got seven frames. But hey — we had a concept, and we were able to lit up two structures, one of which was half a mile away from the other. I think we did pretty well.
By the way — Ha Ha Tonka State Park is beautiful. I highly recommend that anyone in the mid-Missouri area take a day trip there.
The park is also where Ha Ha Tonka the band gets its name. (Read the band’s reasoning here.) No one paid me to say this, but I really enjoyed the band’s performance as one of the opening acts for the Avett Brothers in the last Summerfest 2008 event in Columbia. If you like the Avett Bros. or a hard-to-describe mix of country, blues, rock and college band-esque music, you should definitely check out Ha Ha Tonka.
(Thanks to Michelle for the idea for this post’s subject!)
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