photo: © David Moenkhaus - all rights reserved 773 612-4166

Nebraska light painting


I made this long exposure image during one of my trips out west in the 90’s.

I had been working a lot of hours as a union camera assistant in the movie business, so once I got the chance headed out west to find some respite between movies, I did just that.  A typical day on a movie  set can be 12 hours or more – a long haul day after day, even if you’re in great shape. I was feeling ground down and really needed some heavy rest. Not just ordinary rest, but real solitude and solace. I found it in places like the Yellowstone ecosystem, the Badlands of North and South Dakota, and the Tetons. I made a total of 13 trips out west,  travelling thousands of miles,  making images,  backpacking the High Plains and northern Rockies, and seeing some amazing country while travelling through  Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and North and South Dakota.

While I was exploring the beautiful Sand Hills in Nebraska, the area captured my heart. I frequently would get lost on the rural roads that carpet the state so efficiently. I fell in love with the fact that the people in the Sand Hills region wave to everyone they pass in their vehicles. The little one or two-fingered salute from the steering wheel knocked me out because pretty much every driver did it 100% of the time!  Because this only happened in the incredible beautiful  Sand Hills, I kept going back  year after year.

It was getting dark when I saw this little group of spools scattered across the landscape while cruising by on I-80.   I decided to find the next exit, go back and try to create something interesting.

The shape of the wire spools reminded me of a big wire spool my dad brought home one day when I was a little boy. It was 4′ in diameter and 4′ high. He put it on our patio and attached a yardstick to it to measure winter snowfall. Back then, the snow would get so high sometimes we couldn’t see the top of the stick.  That was pretty normal for northern Michigan at the time.

When I photographed these spools, I started with 30 second exposures with my Nikon F5 on a tripod and used a flashlight to outline their shape.  I shot so far into and past magic hour that I ended up using a 15 minute exposure by the last frame.

I’ve only made a handful of images like this but it’s really fun and there’s  nothing like shooting long exposures on Fuji Velvia film. Velvia was the film I used most for many years.  Like everyone else at the time,  I loved the saturated colors and high contrast the transparency film gave me.










Magnetic Field – Nebraska









Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s