|BEST of On The Road - July 2007 - Arlington National Cemetery|
In 1999 I began investigating the technique of Lightpainting (see Workshop at the Ranch articles December 2004, May 2006, October 2006 and November 2006). It was the perfect marriage between my photographic mind and my artistic soul. There were no classes, no workshops and no one to turn to for instruction. It would be up to me to learn this artistically stylized approach to lighting. I continue to pursue my sports photography career today with as much vigor as always, but occasionally I moonlighted (no pun intended) making Lightpaintings both small and large scale, not necessarily with the intention of being hired or commissioned but for my own enjoyment and my heart's desire. Making beautiful images for me was reward enough. But then something happened. An opportunity to came along that was so special and emotionally moving that it has caused me to recap my career and even my life ......................
I had been to Arlington National Cemetery as a small boy. I was young enough at the time that when Rich Clarkson approached me one year ago in June of 2006 about photographing Arlington National Cemetery using my Lightpainting technique for a book project he was doing for the National Geographic and Arlington itself I said that I had never been there. It wasn't until I found myself standing on the steps overlooking the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on July 4th 2006 that my memory kicked in with images of a spring day 43 years earlier during a family vacation to Washington D.C. Bits and pieces came back to my mind. I had been to Arlington.
Rich had been watching the progress of my Lightpaintings over the past few years and believed my Lightpainting of Arlington would be a perfect addition to the book. Ken Gieger of the National Geographic was also excited with the idea not only for the book but for an article in the National Geographic magazine as well. I would be part of an elite collection of photographers including David Alan Harvey, Bruce Dale, David Burnett, Brian Lanker and James Balog. Each of us have images throughout the book along with an individual photographic essay of our work. Also photographing for the book would the military's select group of photographers headed up by Col. Mike Edrington. And so I accepted his offer to photograph Arlington National Cemetery on the nights of July 3rd, July 4th and July 5th of 2006 using Lightpainting.
Lightpainting in its truest sense is revealing the subject from darkness using a long exposure time and a mobile light source to illuminate the scene. Not only does this description define Lightpainting but it also describes my personal purpose in photographing Arlington. I wanted to reveal not just Arlington from darkness but those who had paid the highest price for freedom and their country. I wanted the families of our nation's heroes to see how perfect Arlington is at night. How beautiful and peaceful it is. I wanted to show those who's loved ones that are laid to rest in Arlington are alright. Everybody is alright
I have an image presentation of Arlington
National Cemetery that is set to music. I have presented it to
selected groups a few times. I always find myself choked up and
tearful each time I watch it. It was emotional to put together.
Some might think I'm emotional because of those who have given
their lives ... yes, that's part of it. I think Arlington evokes
emotion from all those who have been there and have seen the sacrifice
some have made for those they did not know. My first impression
of Arlington when I arrived one year ago was not that of mourning
but one of pride. What great Americans they were. What a great
country I live in. What a privilege it is to call the United States
my home. I live free because of them.... sounds selfish when I
say it. And I felt an overwhelming desire to express my gratitude
to those who were resting before me. I wanted to give them something
of myself. I know it's not much but I was honored to give their
families a glimpse of Arlington not seen before ... their loved
ones revealed from the dark of night. I can tell you this, it
is lovely and peaceful and in order. Yes, everyone is alright,
... everyone is alright in Arlington.