While most of Summit County sleeps, Daniel McVey is outside, pointing his camera up at the night sky. The results are vast images of starry fields and constellations, with familiar Summit landmarks in the foreground.
Throughout the month of March, McVey’s photography will be on display at the Breckenridge Theatre Gallery, in the lobby of the Backstage Theatre. The space features a different local artist monthly, with an opening reception night. Artwork is viewable during box office and theater hours.
McVey’s work was featured at the Backstage Theatre Gallery last year, as well. The nightscapes on display this month are new photos that have not yet been displayed in Breckenridge. They feature the Milky Way, the moon and various constellations as seen around Summit County, such as over Lake Dillon or behind the Tenmile Range.
McVey grew up on the East Coast, near Philadelphia, and relocated to Summit County about 12 years ago.
“When I was a kid, they would talk about (how) there are so many stars in the sky, you can’t even count them,” he said. Living so close to a big city, he didn’t experience the sky’s full starry potential until he came out West.
“When I first moved to Colorado, I bought a little aim-and-shoot camera, not even as good as an iPhone camera today,” he said. Exploring the outdoors in Summit County inspired him to become more serious about his photography hobby.
“Being out in the mountains at night, the glow of the mountains at night — I just wanted to capture those things,” he said.
Of all the heavenly bodies that come across his lens, his favorite is one that others might not expect.
“My favorite thing to photograph is actually Venus, which surprises people, and what draws me to it is it’s so bright, but not overpowering,” he said. “The moon, it’s extremely bright. … Venus is a little more subtle. It’s kind of like a morning star. People are drawn to it.”
McVey’s work is on display at a number of galleries, including the Denver Photo Art Gallery in Denver and the Colorado Mountain Art Gallery in Georgetown. He is also a member of the Evergreen Art Society.
The night sky is only part of McVey’s Breckenridge gallery show. He is also unveiling his Gore Range Monochrome series — his first presentation of non-night sky subjects.
“It’s really dramatic photos of the Gore Range with interesting light. I guess ‘drama’ is really the key word for them,” McVey said. “It’s all situations where the weather just broke, or it’s morning and you’re getting this really interesting light.”
McVey chose to present his subjects of light and drama in monochrome rather than full color and in subtle cream tones instead of more traditional sepia.
“It’s a modern take on a classic look,” he said, adding that the photos were a nod to masters such as Ansel Adams, who photographed stark black-and-white landscapes. McVey’s photos mostly range in size from 32-by-48 inches to 16-by-20, but his panoramic shot of Venus above the Tenmile Range in Frisco is 4 feet wide.
Getting the shot
In order to capture these unique images, McVey adheres to an unusual photography schedule, which is built around his full-time job and personal life.
“When I do go out, I’m usually going out around dusk. I like to shoot through the blue hour,” he said.
Each night is different, depending on the time and season, as the stars rotate above and the landscape changes below.
“It’s just nice to be out there, especially for the night photography. It’s so quiet,” he said.
Although he doesn’t photograph wildlife, McVey’s quiet nights out have led to many run-ins.
“I’ve seen a mountain lion, have had a moose run out in front of me. I’ve had a moose sneak up on me, I’ve had a herd of elk casually walk past me. I’ve been swooped at by an owl, that was kind of interesting, and I’ve had a fox walk up to me like it was my pet dog, I couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t even scare it away.”
Opportunity for artists
The Breckenridge Theatre Gallery has been featuring local artists for several years, everything from paintings and photographs to three-dimensional artwork such as jewelry, ceramics and sculptures.
“The focus is really to give local artists an opportunity to have a space where they can exhibit a body of work,” said Jenn Cram, manager of the Breckenridge Arts District.
Not only is the space provided, but the opening-night reception gives the artists a chance to discuss their work, as well.
“(The gallery) gives the artist the opportunity of having the experience of hanging the show, having an artist reception, talking about their work during the reception — so it’s great exposure and experience for them as far as showing in a gallery,” Cram said.
Every January, the gallery issues a “call to artists” to schedule showings for that year, one artist per month. Although that deadline has passed, Cram said that there are still a few openings, and that any interested artists should contact her directly at (970) 547-3116 to obtain an application.
“When I was a kid, they would talk about (how) there are so many stars in the sky, you can’t even count them.”