Friday, November 2, 2012

Jack Fusco: Finding Darkness in New Jersey

"Night Watch" ~ Cape May, NJ ~ © Jack Fusco
Living in New Jersey is definitely the biggest challenge for starry night photographer, Jack Fusco. New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the U.S. so escaping light pollution isn’t an easy task and often feels quite impossible! Because areas near the ocean have the least light pollution, much of Jack's work takes on a bit of a nautical feel.

"When I started photography, I was very big into seascapes and have finally found myself back at the ocean, but more recently under the stars, instead of waiting for the sun to rise. 
After I took my first set of star trails I was immediately hooked on night photography. It was a lot of experimentation at first, but each night was more exciting than the night before. I found myself out shooting any time the skies were clear driving around trying to find new places to shoot or visiting places that I had shot before, but only during the day. Before I knew it I was driving further, sleeping less, and drinking much more coffee!" says Jack.

"Live Endlessly" ~ Strathmere, NJ ~ © Jack Fusco
This photo near Strathmere, NJ is a typical example of his frustrations and his ecstasy. After a few weeks of bad weather or just bad timing, clear skies were finally in the forecast. Fusco excitedly headed out to a spot he had been waiting to shoot only to notice a haze settling in. Jack decided that it had been too long since he was able to last shoot, so he was going to carry on towards his destination. "I stayed positive and continued on hoping it would clear up by the time I got there, but didn’t have such luck," laments Jack. Still determined to shoot, he decided to explore some areas other areas in Strathmere. He continued to found himself staring at nothing but hazy skies, but looking out east over the ocean he saw a sky full of stars. He was able to set up just in time to catch the Milky Way rising over the ocean and spent the next few hours relaxing out on the sand!

"Finding Sirius" ~ Ocean City, NJ ~ © Jack Fusco
After three hours of shooting star trails Jack decided to take a few extra minutes before making the drive back home, and ended up taking this shot. Aside from being one of his favorite shots, it serves as a reminder to him to keep looking beyond what his plans. It reminds him to not just plan his shots, but keep an open mind and always remember to have fun while he's shooting.

"Star Shepherd" ~ Acadia National Park, Maine ~ © Jack Fusco
Fasco sometimes travels to neighboring states for his star photography. The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is at the top of his list when he visits Acadia National Park, Maine — a 12 hour drive from his home in Toms River, NJ. He stayed out until around 3:00 am to take this panoramic, before starting the long drive home.

"Sea Isle Stars" ~ taken w/ his new D800E
Equipment and tools: Jack just recently made the big switch from Canon to Nikon. He's very excited about his new setup for shooting the stars which consists of a Nikon D800E and a Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8. Unfortunately, the weather conditions haven’t allowed him much time to really get out and push his new gear, but so far he couldn’t be happier with the results he's been able to get.

His most valuable tools have been web sites like ClearDarkSky, (light pollution maps and clear sky charts) and apps like Star Walk (astronomy guide). A lot of pre-planning goes in to his shots and both tools are integral parts of his process. Jack first uses the ClearDarkSky site to find new locations and monitor the conditions in those areas. After he as picked out a location, he then then uses Star Walk to figure out exactly when he needs to be there for what he planned on shooting. Editor's Note: Dark Sky Finder is another tool that can be used to find the darkest skies in your area.

What Drives Jack's Night Work?  "I find photographing the night sky to be rewarding on many levels. After driving for hours to get as far from light pollution as possible, there’s a huge rush of excitement when you first get out under the stars. It’s like an entirely different sky that you’re looking up at compared to what I see when I step out of my house. After running around and getting all set up to shoot, you then get to relax and take in all of the beauty of a star filled sky.

"I often have people make comments about how I must have a great deal of patience to sit out there while taking stars trails, but it really couldn’t be further from that. I find the time spent out there to be like an escape from the rest of the world. Once the shot is all finished and ready to be posted online, seeing positive or excited reactions to it is certainly a great feeling... Hearing that someone wants to go explore and get a good view of the night sky after seeing my work is a really amazing thing to hear. [It] is probably one of the best compliments I can receive."

More of Jack Fusco's work can be found on his website and his Facebook page.

Editor's Note: The day I interviewed Jack (via the Internet), Hurricane Sandy was about to make landfall. Fusco's home town of Toms River, is only about a mile inland from one of the hardest hit areas of New Jersey: Seaside Heights and Seaside Park! As I finish writing this, I can't help wonder how many residents wouldn't mind having more connected power and light pollution at this moment (See satellite view of Hurricane Sandy's mid-Atlantic blackout)! I still have not been able to make contact with Jack, but he did manage somehow to post this message on his Facebook page: "We were very fortunate and made it through the storm okay. We're still without power, but certainly lucky to have what we do. There was an incredible amount of loss that is still difficult to fully comprehend. My thoughts are with all of those that have and that still are going through this tragedy." I ditto Jack's concerns, and hope many will join me in making a contribution to a relief charity of their choice.


  1. Beautiful images. I am blessed to live in an area where we have little light pollution and our community is huge on protecting this area. These images have inspired me to venture outside more often at night.

  2. Great Photo Shoot... Are you profesional photograph? two thumbs..

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