The community event requires hundreds of volunteers, with flashlights and camera flash units, to join "lighting teams" to partake in the night time photo-making process.
How it all began
It all started in 1986, when RIT faculty member Michael Peres, a co-organizer of Big Shot, approached colleague Bill DuBois with an idea.
“He came in to my office and said, ‘What’s a unique way we could teach flash’?” DuBois recalled.
The idea for Big Shot was born.
It was inspired by projects done in the early 1950s and ‘60s by the Sylvania Corp. (now Osram Sylvania), which lit an entire neighborhood development with flashbulbs and invited the public to come out with cameras.
Looking back on projects throughout the years, Bill DuBois says a clear favorite emerges for him. “It was definitely the one we did in the Mt. Hope Cemetery,” he said. “There are no lights in a cemetery, so while we were shooting an area of darkness, we had to position the lighting team and hundreds of people all over the hillsides. Its problem-solving on the fly, and that’s what really got me involved in this every year.”
Dawn Tower DuBois, also a lead organizer since 1987, said she couldn’t name just one favorite.
“It always seems like the one we’re doing at the time is our favorite,” she said. “The last one at Strong was one of my favorites, and I think from an architectural standpoint, the National American Indian museum in Washington, D.C. was probably my all-time favorite because the architecture is so spectacular.”
RIT’s William Osterman has become involved as a coordinator the past couple of years and says his favorite Big Shot was in Croatia. “I was there for a term with a class and did lots of prep work,” Osterman recalled. “The language added to the complications, but once people understood what we wanted to do and why wanted to do it, it was quite easy!”
“Each project has special moments,” Peres said. “The Liberty Pole and the Mt. Hope Cemetery, getting permission from the King of Sweden ... Each project has its own challenges and opportunities.”
Photographing a historic Rochester landmark in grand and unique fashion is the goal of this year’s RIT “Big Shot” project, its 27th annual. Photographers and “light painters” alike will head to Seabreeze amusement park May 3.
The community event requires hundreds of volunteers to partake in the night time photo-making process. Volunteers use only flashlights and camera flash units to light up the subject.
RIT photographers take long exposures while volunteers from the community “paint” the subject with light. Osterman says he even thinks the project “builds community spirit.”
Experts refer to the Big Shot process as painting with light.
Page 2 of 2 - “This year we are going to stage a huge production because of the venue, and we’re always thrilled to have the greater Rochester community involved,” said RIT faculty member Michael Peres, who co-organizes the event.
Bill DuBois estimates that it has taken about 90 to 100 hours of individual prep time to get ready for this year’s event, which he says will be a bit more complex than usual.
“Seabreeze has presented some unique challenges because of its size and complexity,” DuBois said. “The shot is tricky, but the landscape creates a very unique opportunity for lighting.”
At the event, Peres coordinates the attendees or what he calls the “lighting teams.”
The final shot
All of the Seabreeze mainstays, from the Jack Rabbit to the Screamin’ Eagle and the Log Flume, will be part of this year’s Big Shot.
“I think it’s going to be a blast,” DuBois said. “It’s totally different from any Big Shot we’ve done before.”
Peres adds, “We’re really excited to be able to photograph part of Rochester’s rich history.”
Seabreeze owners and staff are equally excited.
The park plans to display the final shot in its carousel museum.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing,” said John Norris, the park’s vice president. “We’re very honored to have been chosen.”