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Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Photography by Robert A. Kato –

Mare Island was my first foray into night photography, a self imposed challenge to find light in darkness. I would typically visit Mare on full moon and or two days on either side of full, waxing or waning. Mare’s nocturnal appeal had more to do with what I couldn’t see than what I could. Frequent visits to the abandoned shipyard during the day left very little to the imagination. The night was a complete theatrical experience for me. Each structure, location had it’s own story to tell and they invited me to participate in this imagined dialogue embraced by night.

The great reflector in the night sky was my main fill light, often supplemented by various ambient sources, mercury vapor, halogen and/or tungsten. The light in it’s many color manifestations gave the imagery an otherworldly quality, often making aesthetic color interpretations extremely frustrating in post production.

All images were captured with a dslr, using the camera’s base iso. This would result in exposure times that ran anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes. The longer exposures reminded me of an experience from my photographic past. One evening it came to me, the waiting for the image to appear on the camera’s LCD screen was analogous to the rocking of the print in the developer tray. —Robert A. Kato


  1. Eleonora says:

    This body is work is amazingly beautiful. The haunting quality of these images makes Mare Island look like a completely different place.
    Simply stunning!

  2. This is a body of photographic work that must be placed in the category of high art. We are witnessing the history of Mare Island in the most exemplary visual expression.

  3. cori lowe says:

    Kato created another world with these photographs. Stunning!

  4. Larry Stueck says:

    It is not only Kato’s ability to see light that is barely visible if visible at all, but how the light forms his compositions to create an entirely new world. The Mare Island portfolio is simply magical, extraordinarily unique and masterfully creative.

  5. What is absent in each photo adds to its eerie present moment. They glow…

  6. Tony Williams says:

    Exquisite experience! Having worked at Mare Island many, many years ago one can only be in awe of Robert’s vision and his execution of that “seeing”.

  7. Wow. What gorgeous work. Makes me feel like I’m underwater or walking in a dreamscape.

  8. Charlene Matthews says:

    Very beautiful. Thanks!

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