Many night photographers explore various artistic genres. With Mojave Desert-based Dave Dasinger, you might find him experimenting in sound design, video synthesis or night photography on any given evening.
I thought it would be interesting to catch up with him to find out more about how he approaches his art.
Exploring sound and video
I first asked about his videos, which he posts on Instagram and Facebook. I was interested in how much they paralleled his night photography. His videos feature both unusual sounds and visuals, with the two often inextricably intertwined.
“I have a variety of standalone analog devices and a couple of Raspberry Pi computers running different open source software that can create visuals from video oscillators and process incoming video, much like a modular audio synth works.”
Contrasting his aesthetic approach between this and night photography, Dave said, “I’d say my video synthesis is wide open as far as where it might go creatively, but I keep my photography constrained to a more narrow focus and style. I think photography makes me think about composition when I’m working with video, and the video work invites a lot of experimentation with color and shape that may end up in a future photo.”
We also discussed the sounds that are often featured in the videos. “I had an early interest in tinkering with electronics and started experimenting with synthesizers, early samplers and tape machines in the mid 80s. I’ve long enjoyed experimental and outsider music, soundtracks and field recordings.”
Sounds of the night
I asked if his exploration of sounds informs his night photography. “Maybe a little more the other way — sometimes while I wait for a long exposure I’ll do some field recording that could end up in a sound piece.” This strikes me as rather clever. It’s an immersive way of recording a visit as well as an efficient use of time.
Other influences on composition
I also asked if other art forms influence his night photography or compositions. “Certainly painting and film. Not just the high brow stuff either. Horror movies from the 1980s often have some crazy lighting going on if you pay attention.”
I asked which in particular. “As far as that more expressive colorful style I’d go back to Mario Bava’s ‘Black Sabbath’, Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria’ or ‘Creepshow’. A good modern example would be ‘Mandy.'”
As you might guess, many night photographers will have unusual experiences. One of Dave’s involved surprising some animals.
“I walked into the middle of a herd of elk that were resting in the grass on a moonlit night. They all stood up and slowly walked away. I stayed perfectly still until the last one was several yards away.”
Exploring the West
Dave is quite skilled at finding fascinating subjects in the desert, including abandoned areas.
“Like many, an early fascination with the landscape and culture of the West as seen on film and in print. When I finally had a chance to move out west I followed as much of old Route 66 as I could. I was enthralled as soon as I rolled over the border into New Mexico. Three days later when I had to get back on the freeway and complete my trip to LA, I really wanted to just keep roaming.”
Dave mentions that what draws him to an interesting photographic subject would be something interesting, perhaps with a fascinating history. He also looks for no artificial light and no other human activities in the area.
This is key for many night photographers. Light pollution can adversely affect a subject. Sodium vapor lights cast an ugly orange glow on a scene. Lights can create too much distraction and dynamic range. And of course, being around humans invites nuisance. It also can detract from creativity and the overall experience that a night photographer often seeks.
“I’m always looking for a unique way of seeing the subject, the environment, and not necessarily in an objective way. I’m open to any subject but I spend a lot of time on abandoned structures and vehicles.”
Why photography at night?
“The darkness provides a lot of possibilities for experimentation with light and composition, and I think many people find the night to be an intriguing subject.”
Many night photographers revel in the creativity, able to create their own light with less barriers than day photography.