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.
Personal email exchange
Since the beginning of my passion for photography I have been enraptured by night photos. Night photography presents unique challenges for each setting and yet the results are extremely rewarding. The middle of the night is an intimidating yet magical time of Earth’s daily cycle that few people appreciate and even fewer people are able to effectively capture on camera. Barry Underwood is clearly an exception to that rule. His work with night photography is vibrant, captivating, and inspiring. As soon as I glimpsed his photograph Aurora (Green), 2007 I knew I found a photographer whose work my own could aspire to. While I may not immediately have the skill or opportunity to assemble an impressive portfolio such as Mr. Underwood’s, his work has helped me realize that surreal “nightscapes” are something I will be photographing for years to come. The image above is the beginning of a long quest to put together a set of photographs that blend my love of nature, photography, and fantasy. Let this photo take you to a world you never thought could exist. It’s filled with creatures you’ve never imagined and they’re all waiting for you. Let this photo take you into the gathering.
This photograph is titled Brush Brook, 2012 and it was taken by Barry Underwood. Although it’s hard for me to choose just one of his works I believe this one is the best representation of what I strive to achieve as a photographer. This photograph combines many of my favorite elements of photography and is supremely executed. The long exposure of the photo gives the water a very smooth texture which is juxtaposed next to the rough river boulders. The bright reds contrast very well with the dark forest that surrounds them. The final aspect to this photo that I find fascinating is that even though Mr. Underwood only shoots late at night it looks as if this might be an overcast day. The supreme knowledge of his equipment that has to exist to create his photos is what led me to choose Barry Underwood as the photographer to emulate. Mr. Underwood is a contemporary photography who focuses on creating surreal scenes in nature by using LEDs and other luminescent materials. Especially impressive is his use of a film camera as opposed to a DSLR. He has removed the immediate feedback element of photography and to me that shows a mastery of photography that I could only hope to achieve.
Portraits have been around since Neanderthals started painting in caves. In some cases we’re almost forced into them. Almost no one is excited about “yearbook photo day” in grade school and yet a high percentage of the population has been subjected to the uncomfortable chair and the bright flash year after year until they get their diploma. On the other hand, it has become quite popular to be active in portraiture through what is now known as a selfie. Hop on any social media site and there are selfies abound. What most people don’t realize is that they’re participating in a slightly less artistic form of self-portraiture. What sets a good portrait apart from the rest is its ability to tell a story or create a mood for the subject without any background information. My work tends to focus on the subject’s character. If the subject is playful then their portrait will show you that. If the subject is a serious person then that should be relatively evident. When a photographer forces a feeling or emotion on a subject the results are usually awkward and unflattering. I prefer candid shots when possible because you can see right through the subject’s exterior and catch a glimpse of their true self. This set is made up of posed shots, however all of the photos were captured when the subject was focused not on the camera but on their individual thoughts. When attention is taken away from the artist, whether it be a Neanderthal cave painter or a contemporary photographer, the results will be more natural and better represent the subject.
Photographer: Jodi Champagne
This photograph is from the Life Line series of photos by Jodi Champagne. I chose it because there are multiple elements that keep drawing me in. The first is the subject choice. The woman shown here is obviously elderly but what’s more striking is that I can see the compassion and humor in her eyes. They hold wisdom and good nature. The detail that Ms. Champagne was able to capture in this image is incredible and makes it a perfect candidate for this particular series. I also believe the choice of black and white for this photograph adds to the contrasting values and increases the depth in the shadows. The final elements that stand out to me are the depth of field and the perspective. Ms. Champagne had the camera slightly higher than eye level with an aperture setting that allowed for a shallow depth of field. These two components used in conjunction pull the viewer’s attention right to the woman’s eyes and isolate any distractions. It is a very compelling photo in a very compelling series.