“INFINITE NIGHT, Photography by STAN HONDA” debuts September 6, 2022, at the Schaefer International Gallery of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center (MACC) showcasing 25 of Honda’s dynamic night-sky photographs from six national parks.
New York-based photojournalist Stan Honda has been an artist-in-residence at seven national parks: the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Wupatki in Arizona; Rocky Mountain in Colorado; Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico; Fort Union National Monument in New Mexico; and Haleakalā National Park in Hawai‘i.
This exhibition will highlight his recent photographs of Haleakalā and other works from the Night Sky project. In 2018, southbrooklyn.com featured the release of Moving Walls: The Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps, produced by author Sharon Yamato with Stan’s images. his personal journey as he documented the Japanese Internment camps where his family was relocated during World War II.
“In March 2019, I was artist-in-residence at Haleakalā National Park in Maui, Hawaii. At the end of my residency, Neida Bangerter, director of the Schaefer, offered to show my work at the gallery. Well, a year went by, and we all know what happened then,” says Honda on his blog.
COVID brought all exhibits to a halt but the director at Schaefer has a love of photography and Stan’s work is finally getting its due. Fifteen of the images are from his residency at Haleakalā, with ten from other national parks. The show will run through October 22, 2022, in the 4,100-square foot museum-quality exhibition space.
The Night Sky Project has grown from his love of this aspect of photography and his journey to learn how to do the images even better. Stan and I have worked together for decades and his mastery of this genre is striking. For Stan, the images are about showing how the universe relates to us on Earth. As photojournalists, our pictures should tell a story.
“I call them night sky landscapes,” said Honda. “At night you actually can see where the earth is in the solar system and our universe and where it’s going on this big voyage. I think people like the pictures because there is a much more human perspective.”
His use of foreground shapes on the earth shows the beauty of dark skies. Living in the northeast, we don’t see the cosmos. But Stan has shown his eye for the stars and planets in one of the most washed out skies available, New York City. NASA has shared several of his NYC night-sky images as the Astronomy Picture of the Day including one of my favorites, Manhattan Moonrise.
Outside of New York City, his photography of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and Wupatki was used in presentations that led to both parks being designated as International Dark Sky Parks. As an artist-in-residence at the parks, he received unlimited nighttime access to impressive landscapes. At Chaco he was given keys and a radio and told let us know when you go in and when you go out, and watch out for snakes. What an opportunity to do something no one else is seeing.
Digital has given a new look at the night sky. “I don’t think I could have done not any of these images on film,” said Honda. “Well a few of them, maybe.”
Being able to use high ISOs and very fast lenses with great resolution is one of the benefits of the digital photography era. In Honda’s photojournalism career, he was taught to capture the story in one image and that has followed him into the night. Almost every image in the exhibition are single images. His panorama images are 10 images shot left to right and stitched together. The only multiple image is the star trail photograph which was shot over an hour’s time. The light trails coming down the mountain are the tourists who left the summit as soon as the sun set. Stan began shooting as soon as the sun disappeared, the tourists left for dinner.
The National Parks Service created the Natural Sounds and Night Sky division to reduce, mitigate or prevent anthropogenic noise and excessive light in and around parks and national trails. Arches National Park became the first in the system to ban light painting, used by many photographers to light their foregrounds when photographing the night sky.
Stan does not use artificial light in his images. “To me that seems like, what’s the purpose of that, when you’re trying to photograph a natural night sky,” says Honda. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Honda’s ability to use the light from the moon to brighten his foreground subjects and capture the grandeur of the night sky at the same time is other-worldly, but then you realize just how beautiful the earth is under that light. Two of my favorites come from his residency at Yellowstone where the stars and the Milky Way nearly match the moon-lit landscape above the waterfall and the geyser sends spray to the universe.
During four nights in the crater at Haleakalā Volcano, Honda found and photographed amazing combinations of Earth and night sky. Inside the bowl of the crater is one of the quietest places on Earth and The Hawaiian ‘Ahinahina is unique to the environment atop the dormant volcano. Honda’s images with the almost metallic appearing plants against the lava flows and night sky capture a biodiversity that exists nowhere else. It could be a different planet.
From the top of Haleakalā, the setting sun and moonrise captured within the shadow of the Earth will be one of three panorama prints presented 95” wide on Fine Weave Linen, a heavy-duty canvas-type surface that is used in painting but now can be used in printing. Honda worked with Laumont Photographics in New York City to find the right surface to showcase the large files of the panoramas and bring the scale and experience of Haleakalā to the gallery walls.
Honda has found himself using his SONY system more than his Nikon system, almost totally based on weight issues. His Sigma 16mm-28mm 2.8 is so small he describes it as “science fiction.” The main thing he looks for is coma on the edge of the frames. Without getting to technical, it is aberrations in the glass that can add a tail onto the point of light that represents a star. Shooting stars is the ultimate test for all lenses.
For those lucky enough to be on hand, Honda will join HNP park ranger Theresa Fernandez in the Gallery the Sunday (Sept. 4) prior to opening for Night Sky Stories, an afternoon talk about his National Park residencies and Fernandez will share the history and Hawaiian mo‘olelo of Haleakalā National Park.
For three nights (September 8, 9, 10), Moonrise and Night Sky Photography Workshops with Stan Honda in Haleakalā National Park will be offered free to the public, limited to 15 participants (RESERVATIONS). I would love to be a part of all three.