“Big Shot” Shines on High Falls

Published Feb. 5, 2014

RIT’s Big Shot is coming home to Rochester.

Organizers of RIT’s 29th Big Shot are making final arrangements for taking a nighttime photo of High Falls at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9.

For the first time since a shot of the Liberty Pole in December 2000, Big Shot will be a winter picture. Organizers say they look forward to capturing a frosty scene of Rochester’s natural icon, one of three waterfalls on the Genesee River that flow through the city. The spectacular nighttime photo will be shot less than a year after the project captured Cowboys Stadium in Texas in 2013.

“The winter time appealed to all three of us for this shot. We’re hoping for plenty of snow and ice,” says organizer Professor Michael Peres, referring to fellow team members Dawn Tower DuBois and Willie Osterman.

The Big Shot relies on the participation of hundreds of volunteers to provide the primary light source for the image while RIT photographers shoot an extended exposure. It’s a signature event for RIT and is led by the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences, which is nationally recognized for its degree programs.

The Big Shot is often described as “painting with light” because volunteers are asked to “paint” or shine their light source onto a particular area of the landmark while the photograph is taken. The light sources are either handheld flashlights or camera flash units.

Organizers said they will need hundreds of volunteers dressed in dark clothes to come to participate at High Falls Sunday, joining RIT students, faculty, staff and alumni as the photo is taken around 7 p.m., regardless of weather conditions. Volunteers are asked to arrive by 6:45 p.m. and will be positioned on the Pont De Rennes Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that spans the Genesee River a few hundred feet from the base of the falls. There will be free parking in the High Falls parking garage, 240 Street St., located right next to WXXI. The High Falls Visitor Center will be open for access to public restrooms.

“Like all of the Big Shots over the years, we couldn’t do this without the help from the community,” Peres said. “This year we are particularly fortunate to have great partners in the City of Rochester, CSX Transportation, Nikon, and Profoto.  The response has been wonderful.”

In the past several weeks, CSX Transportation, Inc. agreed to provide two new locomotives and a string of intermodal cars to fill out the length of the bridge and staged for the event. The train will be positioned for the Big Shot during the daylight hours.

The High Falls area was the site of much of Rochester’s early industrial development, when industry was powered by falling water. Browns Race diverts water from above the falls and was used to feed various flour mills and industries. Today the water is used to produce hydroelectric power. The falls may be viewed from the Pont De Rennes Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that spans the Genesee River a few hundred feet from the base of the falls.

Since RIT started its Big Shot project in 1987, the event has hopscotched to several national landmarks and twice crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Through their viewfinders, Big Shot photographers have captured such landmarks as The Alamo in San Antonio, Texas; the U.S.S. Intrepid in New York City; Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, Croatia; the Royal Palace in Stockholm, Sweden; and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

To view the nighttime images of all Big Shot subjects, go to www.rit.edu/bigshot. To watch a 2013 video from Big Shot No. 28, held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZll-Eq13B0