The great American road trip has long been seen as a rite of passage, immortalized in novel’s such as ‘On The Road’ and the movie ‘Easy Rider’. The image of the dusty highway tapering off into the sweltering horizon is as much a trope as a reality of American life, but one photographer has decided to alter that perception slightly and take his photographs at night.
Photographer Noel Kerns has traveled across the nation, but also along the Texan section of the iconic Route 66, taking photos of ghost towns at night, capturing both the beauty and the creepy. His creative use of different colored lights combined with moon light helps these old abandoned places come alive as vivid nightscapes.
All of the shots are taken using either his Nikon D80 or D300, and then by very carefully planning out his shot and using flashlights, strobes and colored gels to strategically add light, Kerns captures the final product.
“Growing up in the central Texas hill country, I developed my photographic skills shooting large format black & white landscapes. The slow and deliberate nature of the large format photographic process was a perfect launching pad into the art of digitally photographing the nocturnal world,” the photographer says of himself.
Kerns has a new photo book out called “Night Watch: Painting with Light” that provides “a glimpse into a nocturnal world of abandoned wastelands… both urban and rural.” While you’re basically looking at lost hope and abandoned dreams speckled across the states, the Light-Painting technique that Kerns uses make it all look so beautiful.
The enduring fascination is to see the ‘real’ America and to date Rutgers University have estimated that people spend $132 million annually along old Route 66, which crosses eight states and is marked in some places by ceremonial signs. The heyday of the freeway was in the 1930s and Route 66 in particular became emblematic of the increased car ownership and usage, despite the Great Depression that raged.
Route 66 was described in the John Steinbeck novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ as the ‘mother road’ from the Dust Bowl to the promise of California. It later became the family vacation route to the Southwest and was romanticized in movies, music and on television.
However, now the route is no longer maintained by the federal government, but so repairs are done by various cities, counties and states that took over each section, says the Daily Mail.
In his interview with Petapixel Kerns shared: “I began making photographs of abandonments at night back in the summer of 2007, and sharing my work on Flickr. Interest in my photos began to grow as people in the Flickr community saw and re-shared my work.
“It started out as a purely organic process. I never actively marketed myself or my work in any way, but I began to get requests for prints, gallery showings and, ultimately, in the fall of 2010, an e-mail from Carpet Bombing Culture in the United Kingdom requesting to do a book of my work.”