under the dark sky: a q&a with jack fusco
On some level (whether we choose to admit it or not), we are all fascinated by the mystery and wonder of the night sky. Jack Fusco is no different, seeking out the darkest spots on the planet in an effort to view the very best of the night sky. We sat down to hear his stories and to learn a little bit more. Here is what we found out.
Q: How did you first get introduced to photography?
Growing up I played guitar in a bunch of different bands with my friends. About 10 or so years ago, I was asked to fill in for a band that was heading to Europe for a month. I said, yes! I quit my job and bought my first camera to document the tour. I didn’t really use the camera that much or know how to use it while I toured, but that was the start. I ended up joining that band for three years and after I stopped was when photography really kind of filled the creative void in my life that I used to get from playing music.
Q: You are known for your spectacular night/stargazing shots. What drew you to night photography?
I kind of unknowingly fell into night photography. As I was learning when and what to shoot, I ended up taking some photos toward the end of blue hour. If you’re not familiar with the term blue hour, it’s basically a window of time before sunrise or after sunset where it’s not totally dark and not totally light. I realized one of my photos had a few stars showing up and that was it. From there on, I was staying out later and later and trying to figure out how to take photos of the stars. I was hooked. I think there’s something pretty incredible about being under a truly dark sky. You can look up and just get lost looking at what seems like an endless amount of stars. It’s a pretty amazing feeling. I love being able to capture something that people can relate to that feeling in even a small way.
Q: What is the hardest/craziest thing you’ve done to get the perfect shot?
This is a tough one. There’s a timelapse sequence I shot when the temperatures hit -37 before factoring in any windchill. Ignoring the cold, I was in a rush to get set up because the aurora was lighting up the sky green. I ended up ripping my gloves off so I could get things set up fast enough to capture everything instead of fumbling around with large gloves. The type of pain you feel from that type of cold on your bare hands is pretty awful, and I certainly don’t recommend doing the same. In the end, my hands were okay and I got the shot. So, that might be the craziest.
One of the hardest shots might’ve been from along the Malibu coastline. There was a sea cave that I wanted to shoot with the Milky Way lined up through the opening. I needed the weather, the Moonphase, the tide, and the position of the Milky Way to all align. As much as I planned or tried to, I returned 5 or 6 times over the course of almost 2 years trying to get the shot I wanted. Multiple trips of driving a couple hours both ways to have it not work out. It can be really difficult sometimes to drag yourself back out when it hasn’t worked the last few times.
When everything finally lined up, all of the elements I planned for were also joined by bioluminescence lighting the water up blue directly under the Milky Way. That’s something I couldn’t possibly have planned for and was kind of a bucket list moment for me. It made every frustrated second of those previous trips not working all worth it.
Q: You’ve been a lot of places to capture the night sky. Where has been your favorite place to travel to and why?
My favorite place has been Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada. Jasper is the second largest dark sky preserve in the world which, in short, means there’s very little light pollution and they take active measures to make sure it stays that way. Every October, they have a Dark Sky Festival that I’ve attended for the past 6 years. In addition to being an incredibly beautiful area, the people in Jasper and the people that attend the festival really won me over. It’s such a welcoming event and seeing everyone excited about being under some of the darkest skies is really special.
Q: You have to hike/trek to get to some of these places, carrying heavy gear, no less. How do you stay in shape?
The projects that I end up traveling for can quite often be exhausting. You’re awake during the day so you can scout locations you’ll be visiting after it gets dark and then you’re awake all night shooting those locations. My last project in Yellowknife, Canada ended with a run of being awake for around 40 straight hours by the time I made it home. So, it’s safe to say that staying in shape is pretty important. While I do head to the gym, it’s admittedly not on a strict schedule. I really love being outdoors and when I’m not traveling, I’m lucky enough to live near some beautiful locations to be outside and stay active. If I’m not able to be outdoors as much then my time at the gym might increase or vice versa.
Q: Sergio Ramos or Isco?
Oh man, this is a tough one. I love Isco, but I might have to go with Ramos. He’s the current captain, this is his 14th season with the team and he’s scored over 50 goals, as a defender, with so many of those coming in the last few minutes to win a match. As a Madridista, it’s hard not to love him or the rest of the current squad.
Q: Do you have a current favorite photographer that you admire?
I have a lot of photographers that I love following, but I don’t think I have a single favorite. Babak Tafreshi, Yuri Beletsky, Erin Babnik, Rogelio Barnal Andreo, Jeff Bartlett, Andrew Studer...those are just a few of my favorites, but it’s really quite a long list.
Q: Any advice for budding photographers, especially those interested in night photography?
I think for any photographer, it’s important to value the things you’re taking photos of more than the possible attention the photo might receive. As we venture or bring attention to these beautiful places, a bit of responsibility is on us to help protect them. I think when you personally care about and connect with what you're photographing it will come through in the images you create.
Q: Favorite article of Rhone clothing?
This seems like it should be a really straightforward question, but it’s not. At this point, I feel like I’ve really put the different pieces of Rhone clothing I have through some pretty varied conditions. I’ve had the Reign short sleeve shirt on while in the desert with temps over 100 degrees, the Street Joggers while out in Banff with temps a little above freezing, and the Sequoia Air while it was around 15 degrees below freezing. So, my answer is, “it depends.” Rhone has become a favorite for when I’m traveling and being active just as much as when I need to grab a cup of coffee and get ready for a long edit session. That said, I really do love the Street Joggers.
To see more of Jack's work, follow him on Instagram: @jackfusco