Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday's Fab Photographer: Ron Matson

Today's Friday's Fab Photographer (a weekly feature here on my blog) is Ron Matson.

Take it away, Ron!

Several years ago Eric Curry was a guest speaker at my camera club. He first showed us some of his images and I was totally blown away by them, particularly with the lighting. I had never before seen anything quite like it. He then proceed to tell us he shot illuminating his subject with a powerful spotlight, taking many exposures, each exposure illuminating only a specific portion of the scene, and then he would combine the exposures together in Photoshop. 

With nothing more than that, I proceeded to experiment to emulate a similar technique. It took some time and numerous failures, but I eventually came up with a somewhat unique style of my own using light painting techniques.

Above is my first serious attempt. I shot it five times over about as many nights before I was satisfied with the results. Many people think it is still my best effort. I got lucky with it because it inspired me to further aggressively pursue the technique. This image was illuminated with a small $2.50 flashlight from Home Depot. I took 178 exposures (but ended up using only 125 in the final image). Each exposure lit only a small portion of the scene. The exposures were then layered up in Photoshop and each layer was gently tweaked to fit into the overall image. Yes, it is a lot of work.

Because my particular style works well with old machinery, I spend considerable time searching for candidates to photograph. It turns out that a great deal of the enjoyment is in doing the searching. 

With my lighting technique I must shoot in the dark of night. About half of all my shots have been where I have surreptitiously snuck into some location to do the shoot. Seldom have I been caught, even though I spend about 45 minutes with each shoot shining my flashlights around. 

I took the above image in an outdoor exhibit of mining equipment south of Tuscon. It is of a non-powered road grader (had to be pulled with a tractor).  Up until this time I had always waited until total darkness before I began shooting. This night I had several shots to do so I started a little early and when I combined my many long exposure images I saw that I got the sunset appearing through trees in the background and thought it significantly improved the image so after that I have attempted to do it whenever possible.

This was part of the display at Nevada City, Montana, a largely recreated ghost town. Sadly, I returned six months after I did this shoot to provide photographs to the officials administering the community only to find that the crane had been cut up and trashed. I mentioned before I used a simple, small flashlight. I still usually do, but with this one I had to use a spotlight to reach the top.

Above is one of my latest works. I learned of an old flour mill and negotiated my entry to it. It was a five story tower and I got quality images on four of them. I was actually locked in overnight. I find that most people owning or managing old artifacts are generally quite receptive to giving me access to photograph, with the understanding that I will provide them with photographs. 

You can see more of my work at my website.

One of the galleries is exclusively of my light paintings.

Ron Matson

• • • 
Thanks Ron, great job!

Explore the light,


Mark said...

Rick, thank you for this post and highlighting Ron's work. His photos are great!

Hutch said...

Love it. Thanks for Highlighting Ron's work.

Judy Host said...

Beautiful work, gorgeous lighting and very inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing your work with us and explaining how it was done. Brilliant, really