Alison Beste is an artist featured in the upcoming Artists of Hawaii 2015, opening July 2. Below is her meditation on her work process while shooting for her series Oil Tanker Sunsets one evening. Since the images require a long shutter, anywhere from 2 minutes to 20 minutes, she spends a lot of time waiting, listening, and watching. For more on the Oil Tanker Sunsets series, see Alison’s previous post.
Check MarineTraffic app. Research type of vessel, location, ship’s trajectory. Determine the evening’s shoot site.
Gather camera, tripod, thermos of tea. Leave house.
Battle traffic. Arrive at Kaka‘ako Beach Park. Set up camera, tripod, remote shutter release.
Destination reached! Breathe. Watch the sun slide below the horizon, in an instant it’s gone.
Wait and wonder when the lights from the tankers will turn on. Drink tea.
Ship lights turn on. Take a test shot.
Run a few more tests of the scene. Check ISO, aperture, experiment with shutter speed.
Notice massive cargo ship leaving Honolulu Harbor. Marvel at the sheer size of the vessel and wonder where all those items come from and go.
Take advantage of lingering ambient light, sky patterns, minimal boat traffic. Click shutter…wait.
Click…wait. Observe the clouds, lingering surfers, feral cats chasing cockroaches. Listen to the waves. (The beeping is the remote shutter release.)
Review shots. Adjust settings accordingly. Click…wait. Notice couples walking the promenade, teenagers skating, fishermen chatting and drinking Heineken.
Click…wait. Spot clouds on the Ko‘olau moving quickly toward town. Take out rain gear, cover camera, hope for the best. Click…wait.
Ambient light is fading. Increase shutter speed. Click…wait. Drink tea.
Click…wait. An elderly woman stops to ask “What are you shooting at this hour?” Briefly explain project. A polite yet puzzled nod from the woman and she continues on.
Review shots. What’s working? What’s not? Hope the sailboat with the green light on its mast resting in front of the tanker will move quickly. Wait.
A homeless man pushing a cart stops to ask for a light. Explain I don’t smoke. He continues on.
Review shots. Consider a longer shutter speed. Click…wait.
Cruise ship heading into harbor messes up shot. Wait to redo.
Starting to rain. Last shot, make it count.
Pack up quickly. Run from the downpour. Take cover in the car.
Drive home, eager to look at files more closely in the studio. Make plans for next shoot.