At Night

photos by Jeff McSweeney

photos by Jeff McSweeney

by Jeff McSweeney

Being a photographer means understanding light.

Thanks to a wonderful middle school teacher I was introduced to traditional black & white photography. Since that introduction I photographed for the high school yearbook, was campus photographer for Eureka College and eventually earned a Master of Fine Arts – Photography degree from the Savannah College of Art & Design.

Over the years I have photographed numerous weddings, portraits, commercial projects and created my own art.

As an artist I have struggled with being original. While on a trip to Alaska I was chatting with my camping buddies about photography when the concept of being too dark to photography came up. I said photos could be created anytime as long as there was any light. They laughed so I grabbed my tripod and headed to the nearby shore of Skilak Lake. I took a series of images shore to shore and stitched them together for the image Skilak Panoramic. I was blessed with a clear, full moon night. The result is a surreal landscape featuring an image that could not be seen by the naked eye and if you were to stand there during the day you could not understand how the image was created when the sun is shining full.

I am now between jobs and have not created an original body of work for a couple of years. Reflecting on past efforts I remembered this image shot at night and have begun to build a body of work titled, “At Night.”

I begun by shooting around Eureka and created “Beanfield Panoramic.” Shot at 11 pm I set up looking north across the bean field. I reacted positively to the farm light that added contrast and depth to the image.

When I moved to the corn field I was aware of the slight breeze and wondered how the corn would actually appear. Interestingly enough there was enough of the image that stayed still while some of the leaves fluttered about. Again, another surreal scene with the sky having a post-apocalyptic effect.

Due to the physics of lenses and the breeze the tree on the right side of “Lake Eureka One Panoramic” appears to be very alive compared to the rest of the image. The light from the street light to my left provided the warm tones while the mercury vapor light behind the scene resulted in an eerie green glow.

“Lake Eureka Three Panoramic” was taken from a point of land on the east side of the lake that allowed for an expansive view of the lake. Again the mercury vapor lights created a green glow while the reflection of the sky in the lake has a painterly effect.

A couple of weeks ago I was on the shore of Lake Michigan at night with a full moon behind me in the clouds. “Lake Michigan Sky 2 Panoramic” appears to be taken during the day. The moon’s light was bouncing through and on the clouds and illuminated the scene from a high vantage point. The high dunes and paths in the foreground draws the eye through the scene while the trees provide a natural framing keeping the viewers attention in the middle of the scene.

Lastly, “Lake Michigan Sky Panoramic” is credited to my companion who told me to turn around to see the moon through the clouds. WOW! Being in the middle height of the dunes I was able to include the top of the hill as a foundation to the image. The warm light to the left is the town of Holland, Michigan adding visual interest to the whole scene. Each of these images has a typical exposure of 30 seconds and in this time the clouds moved a lot through the light source creating a great sense of motion, if not swirling. I was grateful Photoshop was able to take the individual images to sew them together.