Featured Artist for August: Peter Ray

Peter Ray
“As Above – So Below”
After last year’s Vashon By Night photo show I felt like I had exhausted most of the possibilities of night photography on Vashon- at least with the parameters I had set for myself. There are, after all, a finite number of light poles and otherwise artificially lit areas on the Island, and I wanted to stick with that concept and avoid the sweeping drama of star traced, natural light scenes. There are, of course, an infinite number of possibilities in photographing the wispy tracings of cloud movement revealed through the reflected urban light that surrounds us, but to find them would require staying up longer and later than I am able to force myself into, although it still makes me wonder what else might be found out there if I were to turn wholly nocturnal in my worldly dealings.
Part way through this ensuing year I acquired a crazy piece of technology- crazy in terms of what one might have expected to find available to the relatively common person. As a youth 50 years ago I can recall marveling at the wonders of a gas powered model airplane guided in a circle by a flick of the wrist to a plastic handle connected to a set of strings that both tethered and controlled the small plane at the end as one spun around I place will waiting for the gas to run out, and then to safely guide it back to the earth. At that time I had no idea I would one day be guiding a battery powered, four-engined aircraft into the night sky and seeing what it is seeing from above, all through a personal phone the size of a graham cracker sandwich.
As I learned the basics of flight with this marvel I began to wonder what it might be able to see and record at night, so I went out into the darkness with most of the same parameters as before, seeking streetlights and other light sources that I thought might reveal curious scenes as observed form above. My discovery of the “tripod”, super stable function on this aerocopter made the possibility of low light night photography very real.
In doing this I noted that there were two distinct points of imagery that were of interest. The main one is of course the final spot in the sky, where in looking straight down one sees a common scene from a completely different perspective. The other point occurs just before taking off with the camera on, where one sees an ant’s eye view of things looking out from the drone at ground level. The images I came up with in this vain were not taken with the drone, but with a standard DSLR camera and a macro lens so that the focal plane is as narrow as could be- focusing on a sliver of the scene out front while leaving most of the background a curious and mysterious blur.
These are two new perspectives I have found for revealing parts of Vashon in the dead of night- two very different perspectives on what can be found in the darkness and the light.