How I Got the Shot: The One I Don’t Like But Everyone Else Does

I think anyone who is honest with themselves can look back at things they’ve done and go “well that was stupid.” The story behind the above image is one of those. Back when I lived in Massachusetts my friends and I would regularly go to an abandoned insane asylum called the Belchertown State School. We had got wind of rumors that the asylum would be demolished soon so we went there quite frequently. The Belchertown State School specialized in treating children, but their methods in those days were probably closer to what we call torcher than treatment today. Not a nice place. The “school” had been closed down for years and many buildings were in various states of decay. It was also a hot spot for “paranormal research.” We ran across people who were “paranormal researchers” there and got to hear some of their (not quite compelling) claims. Due to the decay many of the multiple story buildings were very dangerous to navigate thru.

Outside of our normal assignments at the Hallmark Institute of Photography (which was pretty much a trade school for photographers) we would have various contests as well. One of which was all about breaking the traditional rules of photography. The above image was my entry.

This image as shot inside one of the many buildings comprising the Belchertown State School. I had my camera set on a tripod and lit part of the hallway with a flashlight (yes an ordinary flashlight not a traditional camera flash). I moved the camera on the tripod (by changing the camera from horizontal to vertical orientation) and lit other parts of the hallway. This was done by using a very long exposure. I did several tests with this exposure being my favorite at the time. I did some minor global (affecting the entire image) adjustments in Lightroom. This image ended up winning the aforementioned contest.

At the time I thought this image was cool. Some people even thought they saw my reflection in the image (the dark shape which looks like it is wearing a driving cap and a black sweater). There’s nothing reflective in the image so I don’t buy it. Looking back now this image is a far cry from the things which encapsulate my style (clean simple elegant timeless). Does this image showcase the good, the true, and beautiful? Not really. It shows a place with a dark past lingering in decay shot using a weird gimmicky technique. Not very aesthetically pleasing. Never the less people still really like this image even though as my understanding of art and aesthetics have grown with age I have grown to dislike it.

Shot using a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a tripod with a pan and tilt head. ISO 1600 24mm f/13 30 second exposure.

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