Barry Underwood is a contemporary photographer who has been featured at more than two dozen exhibitions across the United States. His focus is creating surreal photographs using light installations that help highlight environmental issues. The elaborate installations of his most coveted works are built in the light of day and shot in the dark of night. His original focus in college was theater and he uses his knowledge of set building to expertly place his lighting. I was fortunate enough to be in contact with Mr. Underwood and learn some specific techniques that he uses. The first thing to note is that he uses a film camera to capture his photos. Due to the technical difficulty of night photography the fact that he uses a film camera, which removes the option of immediate feedback, highlights his advanced skill. If the moon is full he is able to use an exposure time between 15 minutes and one hour. If there is no moon he will take a twenty minute exposure shortly after the sun has set and then take another photo with an exposure range of 1 to 6 hours later in the night. This double exposure technique allows him to capture details of the surrounding landscape while still ensuring his light installation is properly captured. His suggestion for aperture was either f/4 or f/5.6. Mr. Underwood also uses the lowest ISO possible to reduce the noise that is inherent to this type of photography. He explained that he uses LEDs and glow sticks for the light installations. He even went so far to explain the affect of battery charge on LEDs and the affect of temperature on the glow sticks. His informational email was not only vital to my foray into his world but also inspirational in that he was kind enough to divulge the “secrets” that have taken him so long to perfect. In an interview from 2009 I was able to learn that Mr. Underwood has shifted the purpose of his photography from blending theater, art, and photography to highlighting the affect of photography itself on the environment. His early works used the landscapes as a stage setting. In 2009 he started focusing on how film and digital photography can impact the environment through chemicals and E-waste from manufacturing all the elements DSLRs need to function. His dedication to his art is awe-inspiring and produces fruitful results. It’s hard to look away from any of his images but when you move from one work to another they continue to capture your attention, imagination, and respect.
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