Like palm trees and sunshine, the bright lights of movie and television sets are an eternal part of Los Angeles’ landscape.
In his series Ext. Night, Gregg Segal captures the eerie, magical effect those lights have on the city.
He got the idea 10 years ago while driving home to Altadena one night. Passing by Hollenbeck Park, he decided to stop and photograph the trees, illuminated in the glow of a shoot. He spent two hours making pictures, transfixed by the scene.
“I knew then it was a rare opportunity and I didn’t want to pass it up,” he says. “I’d done other shoots at night with film productions, but the light that night was something special. That juxtaposition of night and brightness struck me.”
Three years ago, Segal passed a movie shoot in his neighborhood and was inspired to spend more time documenting the surreal phenomenon.
Over the next few years, he often spent his nights hanging around shoots throughout LA, looking for scenes that conveyed a sense of otherworldliness and wonder.
Sometimes, he’d learn about upcoming shoots from Film LA, an organization that manages permits for film, television and commercial productions.
But the permits didn’t specify whether the shoots were indoors or outdoors, and he’d often arrive at a location only to find out there was nothing to photograph. He had the most success simply driving around, following the lights.
Given that he was making long exposure images, Segal used a tripod, which meant that he often attracted the suspicion of those working on set. Understandably, they thought he was a paparazzo.
One night, he was outside a shoot for Mad Men, when he was confronted by crew members.
“In such a celebrity-driven culture, you’re immediately suspected of trying to photograph Jon Hamm,” he said. “I told them, ‘I’m not here for Jon Hamm. I’m here for the lights.’”