Hundreds brave cold, snow to turn out at High Falls for RIT’s 29th Big Shot photograph

Photography team captures spectacular nighttime image of natural and iconic spectacle in city

Follow Rich Kiley on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

RIT Big Shot Team

More than 600 volunteers pitched in to capture this spectacular image of High Falls in downtown Rochester, N.Y., one of the city’s natural and iconic spectacles.

Snow and cold temperatures didn’t keep hundreds of people from descending on downtown Rochester to light up High Falls Sunday night and help make Rochester Institute of Technology’s 29th Big Shot photograph a wintertime success.

More than 600 volunteers, including nearly 100 RIT students and 150 alumni provided the primary light source for the Big Shot image while RIT photographers shot an extended exposure of one of Rochester’s natural and iconic spectacles.

This year’s final image is a 30-second exposure at f22.

“The Big Shot represents one of RIT’s signature projects, and we are absolutely thrilled with the outcome of this year’s nighttime photograph of High Falls,” said RIT professor Michael Peres, who led the event with colleagues Dawn Tower DuBois, Willie Osterman, Mike Dear and Christye Sisson. For DuBois, a longtime organizer of the event, this marked her final Big Shot.

Peres noted that capturing the image culminated many months of hard work, adding, “This is a community art project and we couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors and everyone who came out tonight to brave the snow and the cold temperatures. We’ve created a once-in-a-lifetime photograph of Rochester, N.Y. What a night for RIT!”

CSX Transportation, Inc. provided two new locomotives and a string of intermodal cars that filled out the length of the bridge for the photo. The Jacksonville, Fla.-based corporation also agreed to hold all rail traffic during the picture’s capture.

“CSX shares a long and rich history with the Greater Rochester area, and we are honored to continue that legacy by supporting the 2014 Big Shot,” said Robert Rohauer, manager of community affairs and safety, CSX. “Through innovative projects like these, Rochester Institute of Technology is molding the leaders of tomorrow. CSX is proud to be part of this project and to move the things America needs every day in the safest, most efficient and environmentally friendly way possible.”

RG&E also played a key role for the event. The company’s hydroelectric operations team augmented the flow of water over the falls for the photograph and turned off all dam lights in the river. RG&E uses the water to produce hydroelectric power.

“RG&E and our parent company, Iberdrola, have long histories of supporting innovation, education and the arts in the communities where we serve,” said Mark S. Lynch, president and CEO of NYSEG and RG&E. “We’re proud to support the Rochester Institute of Technology and the 2014 Big Shot which cleverly combines all three of these elements in a unique way.”

The City of Rochester darkened the Genesee River from the falls to the Broad Street aqueduct by turning off all street and sidewalk lighting along the river. The city also turned off lights on Cataract Street and the Pont De Rennes Bridge, where most volunteers gathered during the photo. The pedestrian bridge and viewing platform spans the Genesee River a few hundred feet from the base of the falls and surrounding gorge.

“The City of Rochester is proud to partner with RIT, Nikon, Profoto, CSX Railroad, and RG&E on the 29th RIT Big Shot project," said Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren. "I’d like to thank all of the photographers who helped us capture the beauty of High Falls, an often-overlooked gem in the center of our city.”

A longtime sponsor of the event, Nikon Inc., was among the corporate supporters again this year, loaning high-end photographic equipment and making possible memento prints for all who attended.

Profoto supplied six powerful battery-operated electronic flash systems used to light the falls during the picture, and also provided a grant to pay costs associated with the city’s work to turn off lighting around the falls.

The Big Shot is often described as “painting with light” because participants are asked to “paint” or shine their light source onto a particular exterior area of a landmark while the photograph is taken. The light sources are primarily either handheld flashlights or camera flash units. Participants were tasked with continuously “painting” their assigned area of High Falls while RIT photographers—perched underneath a canopy atop the Genesee Brew House on Cataract Street—shot an extended exposure. The photo was taken shortly after 7 p.m.

Since RIT started its Big Shot project in 1987, university photographers have captured such landmarks as AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium); The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas; the U.S.S. Intrepid, New York City; and the Royal Palace, Stockholm, Sweden.

RIT’s Big Shot event began as a way to teach students about flash photography. RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences is nationally recognized for its degree programs.

To view nighttime images of all Big Shot subjects, go to