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How to do Night Photography with Tom Phelan

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Today’s featured guest is Tom Phelan and his work on how to do night photography.

Tom is an artist using his photography to document the changing Midwestern landscape. Although he does this in a way as I have never seen before. His subjects include dilapidated barns, rusted out cars, and a variety of objects accosted with rural life.

Shot In The Dark

I like to explore.  Since just about everything in the Midwest has already been "discovered," my journeys of exploration, such as they are, tend to have as their aim the rediscovery of things either forgotten or existing in relative obscurity.  Whether old cars or farm buildings, I am fascinated with objects that have essentially outlived their usefulness, but whose presence says something about the society that generated them, as well as the individuals who once used them.  In this sense, my photographs comprise a record of some of the places and objects I have encountered during the course of the past several years.  I find the greatest satisfaction in the discovery of objects that might well be placed in a museum, but which have remained in their original context.   My preference for night photography arises primarily from the unique qualities of light that are available, particularly when the moon is present.    This more subdued lighting makes it much easier to bring time in as a photographic effect.  For example, the use of long exposures allows the cumulative effects of wind to be visible on objects like leaves and clouds and creates opportunities for seeing things in a slightly different way.  A lesser but still important consideration is that shooting after dark also lessens some of the tension created by society always on the lookout for new and potential threats.  That is, I am less noticeable by night, and there are fewer people around to notice me.   My photographs are by no means a random sample of what can be found in Illinois.  They are dependent, above all, on the sorts of things that grab my attention.  Nowhere is this more true than in the case of old vehicles, and particularly cars.  To me, many of the vehicles of the 1950s have a sort of character that is simply not present in modern vehicles, given the emphasis on aerodynamics and efficiency of the latter.  Abandoned farms, which occasionally include old cars, are another favorite subject.  Since unusual atmospheric conditions (e.g., storms, fog) also appeal to me, many of my photographs bring these in as ancillary subjects.  And of course, the stars frequently make their appearance, acting as a perpetual reminder that there is a much broader context to our individual lives.   A primary goal in my photography is to bring the viewer to contemplate the redeeming qualities of objects that may not otherwise seem to possess any and to perhaps feel a bit of the excitement that I have felt upon their discovery.

See his work:

In a sad turn of events, he has blocked me on Facebook due to differences in political views and I am having trouble tracking down a website for him. I don't care what people think about politics... it doesn't shape every aspect of a person. Think what and how you like; personally, it makes no difference to me. His work is truly amazing and he has really mastered his craft.

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