Car Henge is one of those cool, off beat pieces of “Americana” that you can only find in the midwest. Unlike other automotive effigies across the USA, such as Cadillac Ranch in Texas, Car Henge is 100% awesome. The setting is in a rural part of Nebraska that offers easy access, free parking and a photo friendly environment with access day or night. It is made up of 38 automobiles arranged in a circle measuring about 29 meters (95 ft) in diameter. Some are held upright in pits 1.5 meters (4.9 ft) deep, trunk end down, and arches have been formed by welding automobiles atop the supporting models. The heelstone is a 1962 Cadillac. Three cars were buried at Car Henge. Their “gravestone” is a car that reads: “Here lie three bones of foreign cars. They served our purpose while Detroit slept. Now Detroit is awake and America’s great!”-Ironic considering the TARP bail outs of 2007-08 and the current decay of the once great Detroit=)
The actual park itself, I’m sure is a 9-5 deal, although, I’ve shot here at 3am with no issues. I don’t recall how I found out about Car Henge, if it was thru an road trip blog or elsewhere, but it’s been a great place to go get creative over the years. Located in Alliance, Nebraska, It’s always on the road plan when I travel to Denver, Las Vegas or LA. This image was captured in the winter of 2013 while I was deciding between living in the midwest or moving out to the west coast. I stopped off in Alliance around 4:30am to stretch and take a few shots at dawn. I had seen a few cool sunrises on my way back home and was hoping that this mornings would be similar. It turned out a little more subtle than the previous days, but I liked the look of this shot for the mood of the year. It also juxtaposed well with an earlier shot I had made at sunset in 2010.
If you are hitting the road for vacation this spring or summer and crossing Nebraska, try and stop off here to see this cool piece of America before some zoning committee or Wal-Mart tears it down.
I-94 is the only interstate image to be a part of my Miles Between collection. The Interstate & this place in particular recall many childhood memories. Movies at Vali-Hi drive in, vacations to our cabin or heading to my dads car dealership every Saturday to name just a few. Before there was a bridge here to safely make a photo from, the road just T’d up with the major Interstate. You’d have to play a game of “Frogger” to cross it because it was so busy. As you’d expect a major interstate to be. But this was the 80’s and the highways were still in-between the Eisenhower era designs & Reagan era updates, so there were a lot of whacked out intersections like this. I grew up on the road that T’d up there. Neal Ave.
My parents would drive us thru this crazy intersection often as kids. It was the most direct way to get to Stillwater, and all the other cities north-east of our home. It was also notorious for bad car accidents, many fatal. There was-still is, a 1800’s era cemetery off the westbound lane. The highway department just built around it. When I was a kid, my mom would take us out there often to “help” cut the grass & tidy up the monuments to keep them from disappearing in the over-growth. We’d do more exploring than helping, but my mom didn’t seem to mind. I’d get to play like a young “Indiana Jones” creating rubbing impressions on tracing paper of the weathered headstone’s while my mom ran the “clacky” sounding 2 tone John Deer push mower. I notice today that someone still keeps up the cemetery, not sure who? Wonder if their kids do the crayon rubbings?
My idea for this image centered around the idea of “taking off” and “exploring the unknown” like a rocket launching an astronaut into space. A lot of my life journeys have started here on this path, many were steps into the unknown or leaps of faith, like joining the Army at 18 or getting married.
I decided using a long exposure from the bridge would be the best way to play this idea off and get what I was looking for. Fortunately, the bridge is really wide and had a side area for bike traffic that works well for setting up a tripod. After several exposures with varying degrees of success, I spotted a large convoy of semi’s approaching, lit up like airplanes. I opened the shutter while the road was empty in the view finder, about 10 seconds before the first truck in the center lane came thru followed by 5 more in various lanes. Less than 10 minutes and I had my shot, and a little piece of history as I see it.
Devils Tower, in Wyoming, is famous for many reasons, particularly in popular culture as the center piece of Steven Spielberg’s movie “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind”. It was also one of Americas first national parks. Established in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt, it has a rich history with the Lakota Indians & other tribes of the area who’s folklore tells a tale of 2 girls who went out to play, were spotted by several giant bears, who began to chase them. In an effort to escape the bears, the girls then climbed atop a rock, fell to their knees, and prayed for the Great Spirit to save them. The Great Spirit made the rock rise from the ground towards the heavens so that the bears could not reach the girls. The Indians named the tower things like “Aloft on a Rock”, “Bear’s House”, ” Bear’s Lair” & ”Home of bears” The name Devil’s Tower originated in 1875 during an expedition led by Col. Richard Irving Dodge when his interpreter misinterpreted the name to mean Bad God’s Tower, which then became Devil’s Tower.
I made a trip to photograph it in 2010, but found my initial results disappointing. In 2012, I decided to try again with an epic 12 day road trip across the top of America from Minneapolis to Washington State, then south on PCH all the way to Los Angeles. 12 days to shoot whatever I wanted. It was great. The only rule was to never hit any interstates, just 2 lane roads as much as possible and see small town America. “Miles Between” was born.
I set off from Minneapolis on Highway 212 October 15th. After driving for 10 or so hours, I came upon the Devils Tower National Park and the monument itself, which didn’t stick out all that well in the pre dawn darkness. I had hoped to get an earlier start and arrive there around 1-2am for a few long exposures, but as travel and traffic would have it-4am would have to work. Entering the park, I followed the road to a parking lot at the base of the tower. Man it was dark, cold and kinda freaky outside! I set up my tripod outside my car and rigged a remote so I could sit in my car and stay warm ( and also, because it was pitch dark and I had no idea what kind of animals may have been roaming around the park) Luckily, I found out later it was a brave idea to stay in the car as I was surrounded by vicious, blood sucking Prairie Dogs that woulda killed me for sure.
The tower is a dark, light eating rock, as I mentioned earlier, that was not easy to see in the darkness. Fortunately, I had a spot-light style flash light that I could use on the tower to focus my lens on the features. I was using a Nikon D700 w/24-70 2.8G, which is normally awesome in low light-but this was no light-so it was up to me to do everything manually. No prob, thats what infinity is for on the lens right?
So this shot, my hero from the day, was actually a mistake. Well, maybe not a mistake, but definitely not the shot I was aiming for when I pulled in. This was the first year I had tried long exposures at night with any success, and my formula was to do a test shot at higher ISO, then use reciprocity to recalculate the similar exposures at lower ISO. Easy peazy. I relate long exposures to cooking, because once you know all the ingredients and mixed it up, it’s just a matter of waiting for it to be ready. Even with all that strategy, there are also happy accidents-like this. The image above was actually meant to be a set-up or test shot for focus. I had rigged the spotlight on a stand, with my camera set low to the ground, I peeked thru my view finder to set the focus. Once that was set, I tripped my shutter release to see what kind of exposure would result from ISO4000 F2.8@ 30 seconds.
About halfway thru the exposure, I realized the spotlight was still on. I was tired and prone to errors after traveling and jumping into shooting. This error, however would result in one of my favorite images and certainly one of the more unique shots that anyone has made of this iconic American treasure. I made a few other long exposures before the dawn light took over and the day arrived, but this was the stand out.
The afternoon was beautiful & the light was soft which allowed me to make one last hero portrait as I hit the road west.
Thanks and stay tuned for more stories behind the image.
HEAD SHOTS- I was recently commissioned by a local Minneapolis company to shoot 75 head shots in one day for the folks at S&T Office Supply. A great group of people, their company has recently been acquired by another client of ours who wanted to create some clean, simple images for their new web presence and marketing materials. 75 heads is no easy feat in one day. To achieve a nice, consistent look in a small space on location, I used a 36inch white seamless background with a Profoto 600R for the key light in an octobank set to F11. The background light was a Profoto 600R set about 1ft behind the subject and about 2-3 from the seamless at F16. I also built a few “apple boxes” to hold a large, white fill card underneath the subject and we set a 4×8 white flat opposite the key light. For an alternative look to the high-key setup, I also set up a key light just above the subject in a Beauty Dish and a kicker light with an orange gel in a grid at camera right, both set to F11. We rigged up a black velvet fabric on a dowling rod that could be easily tossed over the seamless background to make it a low key set. Once the lighting was all dialed in, I set up my Nikon D3 and tethered it to my Macbook pro using Adobe Lightroom and Capture One to handle incoming files. With the set all dialed in, it was easy to spend the day focusing on bringing out some great personality and having fun with the subjects. we shot 79 heads in total over 7.5 hours. No sweat=)
Enjoy the preview above and stay tuned for the next adventure=)
Shooting portraits for Guitar Aficionado has been a goal of mine for quite a long time. So, when the opportunity came, I jumped at it eagerly. The writer reached out to me after a client of mine in Las Vegas let him know I would be traveling there for another assignment. They needed a few images to accompany their Effects Profile article on Mike Rayburn. A Las Vegas based writer, performer and speaker. The images needed to be environmental portraits, shot horizontal with space for copy if they decided to run that on top of the image. They also need the image files as soon as the shoot wrapped in time to make selections for the print run. Rush big time, but not impossible. Normally, I’m not a fan of rushing off images right after a shoot as I like to get a chance to pick out the best, do a quick edit and sit on it for 24 hours before sending a selects folder. This schedule didn’t allow for that, and knowing that going into the shoot, I just made extra sure all set ups looked great without much post production help.
Being a guitar player myself, I always love a set full of vintage and high end instruments like these for props. The Van Halen Guitar was the most interesting one to me, although the Martin was a close runner up.
Mike Rayburn for Guitar Aficionado Magazine
Time again to gear up for what has become an annual trip to Las Vegas for our portrait shoot with the champion bowlers of the PBA for the 2014 ESPN World Series of Bowling. This is one of my favorite shoots and I feel so lucky to be a part of this event. The images we create are used thru out the year in many formats to promote all the PBA events worldwide. It has been such a gift to be welcomed into this family and to be able to create such fun portraits-WIN-WIN=)
This year I’m hoping to not only shoot for the clients, but also take the next step and fully complete these images with my retouching and deliver the best work to date. Here’s a couple looks at our past work with before and afters.
I will be in the Las Vegas, Moab and Denver areas November 1-3rd, available for short assignments-by estimate only. Contact us thru the website if you’d like to inquire about availability while we’re in town.
This spring, I decided that it was time I reviewed my strengths & weaknesses in Photoshop after using the program for over 12 years. A lot has changed over that time to say the least. It has been incredibly fun, albeit frustrating at times to learn, then master many of the techniques needed to step up a level or two. My main focus was on retouching people as well as compositing and blending techniques. Along the way I’ve mastered, like a ninja, more than I set out to, including the ability to make perfectly transparent liquid, smoke & fire outlines. These skills are huge for me, not for the show off factor-but for the ability to really get into a shot and create a vision in the minimal amount of time with maximum effect for myself and my clients. I was happy to share these skills on my latest branding project with IOS.
Here’s a fun Video of one of my latest edits from our Flyboys portfolio. Here’s a link to the screen video showing the process
Office Line Magazine recently looked to us to create a series of “real world” looking images for an article about a Minneapolis CFO, Jason Player of Innovative Office Solutions. This was a real treat for me, as Jason is not only a fun client, but also a good personal friend, photographer and beer aficionado who can make a great portrait himself. no pressure there……
To get a natural look (as natural as an office can look=) I used indirect lighting, bouncing the set ups off the celing. We were shooting inside of a glass office, so much like a fish bowl, it was just a matter of using cards and white walls. The final image was a close head shot, not a bad choice. This one was my favorite of the set ups. We also shot in the warehouse and tried a few slow long exposures with the flash and workers moving behind him. The set ups will follow once I have a chance to post the other images.