I am very excited to announce that, over the past six months, my fine art photography has been featured in four publications: two magazine articles, an Arizona visitor’s guide, and an upcoming book on the 125th anniversary of Paso Robles, California. In the summer of 2013, I was contacted by the former Curator of the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, who requested an interview on the subject of my photography of abandoned places and techniques used to capture and post-process the images. Featured on pages 26-27 of the November 2013 issue of Journal Plus Magazine (the magazine of the California Central Coast), the article consists of an interview and samples of my urbex/rurex work (urban exploration/rural exploration).
The article is titled SLO County Art Scene: Renee Besta’s Photographic Memory and focuses on my passion for shooting decaying and abandoned structures, as well as why the presence of humans is sometimes best demonstrated by their absence in a photograph. You can read the archived article here, or see the screen capture of the spread below.
In early 2014, one of my images of Native American (Sinagua) petroglyphs was published in the 2014-2015 Experience Sedona Official Visitor’s Guide, produced by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and City of Sedona. Located in the upper right corner of page 10, the image – Hymn to Our Culture – was taken in the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness area not far from the towns of Sedona and Camp Verde and Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona. These petroglyphs are located on the V-Bar-V Ranch and can be viewed by registering at the visitor center and hiking out about a mile or so. Unfortunately, there is no direct link available online to the page; however, you can view the publication online after registering or have a copy mailed to you by clicking on this Visit Sedona link.
In the February/March 2014 issue of SLO Life Magazine, my image Ever Returning – taken inside the historic Mission San Miguel church – was featured in a two-page spread and mini-article found on pages 18-19. SLO is the local vernacular for the little California Central Coast town of San Luis Obispo. The article is titled Go to the Light and focuses on my love for this wonderful mission gem and why I was compelled to take the photograph. At this time the archived February/March 2014 issue is not yet available online, but you can learn more about the magazine by clicking here.
Lastly, an image I shot of an abandoned farmhouse in a rural area east of Paso Robles, California, will be published in an upcoming book by Bob Flood on the history of Paso Robles in celebration of the city’s 125th Anniversary. When I receive a copy, I will post the page here. The photograph, Once Upon a Time, is below.
Like many other photographers who enjoy shooting the night sky, I appreciate the frustration of finding a locale with a sky dark and clear enough to ensure success – that is, free of city light pollution and cloud cover. Not only do the phase and exact location of the moon make a big difference when shooting stars and star trails, but the level of darkness and atmospheric clarity are critical components. Although I love viewing images of landscapes taken at night, one of the more compelling subjects for me are churches in isolated locations. There is something very magical and serene being far away from the city, cloaked in the darkness of night, with only my camera, tripod, and a few simple light painting tools to keep me company. Factor in an historic church under the vast starry sky and I am hooked.
With that in mind, I drove up California Highway 101 late one afternoon to the small town of Bradley, home to many employees of Camp Roberts, a California National Guard post. There you will find the lovely Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, a small Roman Catholic church under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Monterey. Since Bradley is in a very rural location, it is a good place to shoot the night sky. Located at the intersection of Bradley Road and Sargent Canyon Road, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a classic mission style church with a lovely cross and statue of the blessed Virgin Mary. The only problem is the small apartment complex located on its western flank, which puts out some light contamination due to porch and street lamps.
This image (a single Camera RAW shot) was taken with my Nikon D800 and a 14-24mm f2.8 super-wide angle Nikkor lens at ISO 250 for 30 seconds, with a focal length of 16mm and aperture of 2.8. I used a small LED flashlight with a handmade snoot to do some light painting on the front and top of the church in order to illuminate the cross and statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (A snoot concentrates the light and helps eliminate light spilling or contamination in areas you don’t want lit.) I also arrived before dusk in order to focus my camera before complete darkness set in, since my depth of field was very shallow. The wider the angle of the lens and larger the aperture (smaller f number), the more stars you will capture. The process to determine the correct exposure for the stars as well as the light painting is simply trial and error. It took me a considerable amount of time to process the image in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as clone out the telephone poles and wires. Many friendly people popped out of their homes and wandered across the street to inquire about my presence, which is expected in a small town. The only thing that could have been better was if I had the power to turn off the porch and street lights. Bradley is located just north of the town of San Miguel, home of the historic Mission San Miguel. I hope to return in the future and set my camera up to shoot star trails by use of image stacking techniques.
If you are interested in learning how to photograph the night sky, I highly recommend the wonderful eBook Shooting Stars: How to Photograph the Moon and Stars with your DSLR by Phil Hart, winner of the 2012 David Malin Astrophotography Award. Shooting Stars, a 129-page eBook with a printable field guide, will show you how to shoot your own stunning images of the moon and the stars with just your digital SLR and a tripod.