Here is the introduction to my Coffee Table Nightscapes photo book project.
This is a collection of photos taken over the course of 25 years with some stories to accompany them. I call it “Coffee Table Nightscapes” to indicate that they are my favorites suitable for that artifact of an earlier time, a book of beautiful photographs and touching captions that adorned the low table in the formal space of a home. This is my contribution to that genre.
A major technological revolution over the last quarter century began when homes really did have coffee tables with books on them. This revolution changed the way we take pictures. The transition from film to digital has had an enormous impact on our lives, how we interact and communicate with each other, and how we experience the world.
We take pictures of everything, share them, save them, discard them (or not), because it is effortless to do so, and the costs are so tiny. This is a major change from the time, just one generation ago, when taking pictures was complicated and expensive and few people took more than the occasional snapshot while on vacation or at a birthday party.
The early photos presented in this volume were recorded during that time, on film, with all the constraints and requirements of that analog medium. The camera was aimed for the best composition of the scene, and when everything was aligned, focused, and the proper aperture selected, the shutter was opened.
And held open. Photons trickled in and the molecules in the film emulsion were triggered to change state, and when subsequently immersed in a chemical developing bath, converted to an opaque silver compound. This was the mechanism that enabled images to be captured from before the Civil War to the start of the 21st century.
Today, film has been replaced by silicon sensors. At first, they were poor imitators of film, but over time they have evolved, developed, and become far superior, exceeding the sensitivity of the old silver-haloid systems. It is now possible for photographers to take clear and noise-free pictures of the night sky without the obstacles and constraints of film. And they do!
That is not to say that taking pictures of the night sky is no longer challenging. There are still the difficulties of being at the right place and time with the right weather! And while there is no longer the need to keep the shutter open for hours at a time, it is now necessary to make many multiple exposures and combine them later via computer. Life is filled with tradeoffs.
I am trying to keep up, and the last images in this book show my recent work. Presenting my favorite pictures in chronological order portrays the evolution of the technology and shows the ebb and flow of my skills using it. If you have a coffee table needing a book to accent it, I’d be honored if you consider this a candidate!