Night Photography: A Novel.
Many moons ago, I first found out that RMSP workshop instructor, and our main man at B&H Photo, Gabe Biderman was putting pen to paper and writing a book about night photography. Then I got word that longtime RMSP instructor Tim Cooper was contributing to the effort. Since then, I have eagerly been awaiting the day that the finished book finds its way into my hands. Upon getting home from work last night and cruising through the mail, I happen to notice a large envelope at the bottom of the stack. Before tearing into it, I glanced out the window, and witnessed a large cloud split immediately into two halves. As I stood there with my jaw on the floor I then watched every star in the night sky snap into a perfectly straight line. I knew this phenomenon could only mean one thing.
In anticipation of their book hitting mailboxes around the world, I sent Tim and Gabe a list of questions about the book, the writing process, and how it ties into the Vegas to Zion: Dusk to Dawn workshop they teach together for RMSP. Here are their answers. If you have questions of your own for these two, post them in the comments below.
For starters, give our readers a ten-cent tour of your book, Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots. Obviously it’s about night photography, but what can they expect to find once it shows up in the mail?
It is a “how to” book on night photography with lots of inspirational images. Tim and I go over the gear you need, how to succeed in the many night environments you might find yourself in, light painting, and post processing tips.
Would you say this book is suitable for absolute beginners or is it better suited for the photographer who has already logged many, many hours behind the lens?
It is published by Peachpit Press and is part of their successful Snapshots to Great Shots series, which is geared more to entry/intermediate photographers. That being said, I think even an experienced night photographer will find a few nuggets of invaluable “night info” in the book.
I was approached at Photo Plus last year after they saw my presentation on a night photography panel. The funny thing is we discussed writing the book almost as long as it took to write! We nailed down the final logistics in May and I started summoning the words in June with our deadline the end of September. That’s four months to write a 200+ page book – which was really crazy! Luckily Tim came on board and saved the day by taking on 2 of the 6 chapters.
Gabe, you’re kind of known as the night photography guy. When did you decide to make this your specialty? Why?
I’ve always been fascinated with time and how we can interpret it. In 2008 I took my night shots to the next level by committing to shooting every full moon. I immediately saw results, which resulted in a much better understanding of the night life. When you immerse yourself in a specialty you will either get better or realize it is not for you. The next moment came in 2009 when I had a yearlong traveling exhibit called TIMEXPOSED that featured a combination of my long exposure work during the day and night. My good friend, David Brommer, commented that I should really focus the show and my work more and I went down the nocturnal rabbit hole!
Gabe, I believe this is your first book, correct? As a photo guy, how did you find the writing process? Love it? Hate it? Will you be doing it again in the near future?
Well we are now working on the screenplay adaptation of this book! But yes, this is my first book and the writing was definitely a challenge. I’m the kind of person who loves to write and share my stories but the words don’t always come so easily. Working in a non-distracting place is key – I travel a lot so some of my most productive work came 10,000 feet in the air or locked in hotel rooms across the States! Will I do it again? Never say never, but right now I’m going to enjoy seeing my wife again, the book coming to life, a trip to India with my dad, and putting more words and images up on the blog.
Tim, you have authored and/or co-authored a book or two (or ten?) in the past. How was this process different? Or was it?
Well, it was a little different. Book writing is largely about communication. Your Communication to the readers, the co-author and the publisher. The last publisher I worked with left a little to be desired. Working with Pearson Publishing was a dream. Very smooth. And of course working with Gabriel was a joy as well.
Walk us through the book a bit. What is the progression from chapter one to the end? Would you say it’s primarily focused on teaching technique or educating people about gear or finding locations, etc?
When I wrote out the table of contents I tried to think of someone new to photography picking up this book and wanting to learn. The first chapter goes over the gear you need and then we spend two chapters talking about the exposure and composition considerations. Once this foundation is covered we take a leap into light painting, writing, and other creative effects that incorporate existing lights or adding new illumination to the scene. Chapter 5 is called the “Night Life” and I guide you through many different nocturnal scenarios – from creating stunning shots under the moon and stars to successfully capturing city lights, fireworks and lightening. Tim finishes up the book with an excellent chapter on how to get the most out of your night shots in Photoshop and Lightroom.
Looks like there is a Flickr group set up for readers. Tell me a bit about this. Who, what, when, where, how?
Peachpit suggested we do this and I think it is a great idea – create a community for people who have read the book and are interested in sharing and getting feedback on their night images. It is free and easy to do – just sign up for Flickr and post away! (Here is the link to the community).
You two teach our popular workshop called Vegas to Zion: Dusk to Dawn, which focuses on night photography in two vastly different, yet geographically close locations. Would you say your book is a good compliment to the workshop, or vice versa?
Oh man I love that workshop! Yes, definitely – would you like the Tim and Gabe show live or in book format? The benefit to the workshop is that you get the hands on training in some killer locations as well as your specific questions answered or explored even further. If you own the book, it is a wonderful guide to the night that you can refer back to all year long as well as inspire you to get out there and shoot!
Would studying the book prepare one for the workshop experience?
Most certainly! The more you prepare yourself for a workshop or trip like this the more creative ideas you can bring to your work!
How much of the book – if any – was inspired by, or photographed in Vegas or Zion?
You know, flipping through the book I just realized there are quite a few shots from Vegas to Zion that made the cut! It is a place that we have shot extensively for the past 2-3 years so we definitely have a variety of example shots to share!
Can you share a nugget of your night photography brilliance from the book with our readers? A technique? A tip? Anything?
The longest exposure isn’t always the answer. Really explore time and movement and find out what the best exposure for the given scene is. Even if you are sure that 30 seconds is the best – try it one stop more and less so you have options. This is a great way to better understand time and what you can do with it.
Looks like it is available currently through B&H, Amazon, and Pearson Education. Is it available for download?
It just hit the stores and is in stock at most resellers. If you want to read it electronically you can download the Kindle version from Amazon or Peachpit has their Ebook as well. Of course B&H is carrying it too.