Steel Wool Spinning Under the Stars Insert steel wool into a metal wisk attached to a short length of light metal chain, light the steel wool on fire and spin it around, and this is what you get! Be careful: anything within 50 or 60 feet may catch on fire! This was done on the clay surface of a dry lake bed, where nothing could catch on fire.
While On My Way to Sunset Sometimes in landscape photography you're almost to your intended destination when you realize that the sunset may be better where you already are. In this case I was headed to Mono Lake when I saw great clouds over the entire basin as I approached. Knowing that the light of the setting sun would catch the Western (right) edge of the clouds but might not get much further, I decided to hang back on a ridge overlooking the basin and catch as much as I could in an ultra-wide lens. You can see the result.
If the color looks a little unreal to you here, then the image is a success... it looked completely unreal in person as well!
Best Northern Hemisphere Milky Way Viewing in 2013: Next 2 Weeks Since our solar system is way out in a spiral arm of the Milky Way, the brightest part from our vantage point is towards the more dense galactic center. Due to the tilt of the earth's axis as we rotate around the sun, not only is the sun higher in the sky in the Summer for Northern Hemisphere viewers, but also our view towards this much brighter portion of the Milky Way gets much better in the weeks before and after the June 21 Summer solstice.
In the Spring it can take the galactic center of the Milky Way a little time to rise above the horizon so you may not see it until early morning, but the rise time gets earlier every month. Sunset varies with your position on the earth, but in general by July it's coming up by the time stars are visible in the sky after sunset. (Of course if you're near or above the Arctic Circle, you don't have night this time of year, so your'e out of luck.)
The brightness of the moon interferes with visibility of the Milky Way, so the best viewing is within a few days before or after the new moon, when the moon is not visible or a slim crescent, and it appears close to the sun in our sky so it is not visible in the night sky.
The new moon this July will be July 8, so the best Milky Way viewing dates in 2013 (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere south of the Arctic Circle) arguably would be July 4 - 12. In the July 6-9 time frame the moon won't be in the night sky at all. When it's visible at all, it'll only be visible as a slim crescent during twilight hours.
Meteor Reflection! When I was catching star trails around Polaris, the North Star, and playing with their reflections during the Orionid meteor shower last weekend, I also caught a meteor and its reflection. This was taken at an ultra-wide 14mm focal length, and the reflection is at best about 1/8th as bright as the direct view of the meteor, so that's one very long, bright meteor to show up!
Look for the Geminid Meteor Shower Dec 13 & 14 One of the most active meteor showers of the year, the Geminid meteor shower has a broad peak, so you can catch the peak action in the early morning hours of December 13 and 14, and the nights on either side of those dates may have a decent quantity of meteors as well. I'm going to catch it from the warmest, driest, darkest, clearest place I can find: Death Valley!
Golden Hour During the Storm Here's another shot from last night. The clouds were forming just a few miles west, so as the sun set, it shot golden light under and through the clouds for a few minutes.
Sunset Moon Rise at Mono Lake Last Night Here's the result of my quick trip to Mono Lake last night. When I arrived there were 4-5 carloads of photographers capturing the sunset, but none of them were there for the moon rise. Having planned the shto in advance using +The Photographer's Ephemeris (TPE), I told them to stick around for another 10 minutes.
I captured about 400 images, enough for about 13 seconds of time-lapse video. I'll get that conversion started while I go check out this morning's sunrise.
As I mentioned last night, here's my blog post on planning to shoot sunset moon rise events using TPE:
Sierra Nevada Fall Colors Fall colors arrive in California's Sierra Nevada at different times at different elevations. The timing also varies from year to year with weather. Conditions even vary from valley to valley given local microclimates and the passage of smaller storms. But over the course of chasing Fall colors here for weeks each year across many years, you can get a good feel for which distributed areas tend to turn color at the same time, and you can follow the progression of color from day to day and week to week and remain productive, with more time shooting and less time driving.
This was taken during a workshop in 2010. I'll offer two workshops this year; September 29/30 and October 13/14. I'll announce more details as soon as the permit approval comes through from the Inyo National Forest.
Another Image Rescued by Lightroom 4 Here's another image from early 2011 which never quite grabbed me until I went back to the folder yesterday and applied some quick Lightroom 4 settings to it.
I can't wait to bring more folders into Lightroom 4, but it's bogging down pretty badly on my new Windows laptop running Windows 8. I may have to downgrade to Windows 7 or build a desktop with far more than the current 8GB RAM (unfortunately the laptop came maxed out in RAM and can't expand).
Edits: For something interesting, take a look at this time-lapse video capturing about an hour of the exact same sunset event from a different angle: https://vimeo.com/18626912 and stop it right when it first reaches 17 seconds. There are actually 30 photos used to make every second of video so you'll probably stop on a different one, but I think I happened to find the same moment and splash... blue sky, orange sun and sunlight, blue sky light illuminating waves and white foam in the shade. What I find really interesting is that like in the image above, the splash has a mixture of direct faint orange light from the last bit of the sun, and the blue light from the sky, and the result is a more pink-magenta shade of orange.
This is a fairly unique case where nearly all of the sun's evolving influence is shooting through the narrow cave. A previous splash I caught just two photos earlier is much more orange. It's amazing how lighting from all different directions can affect parts of an image, and for how short I time some of these effects can be!
Joshua Tree National Park, California I'm working through photos I need for my guidebook to California landscape photography locations, so I'm looking at some of my photos from past trips. This morning I'm enjoying some photos form Joshua Tree National Park, so I've added over 40 photos to my Joshua Tree album here on G+. Enjoy!
Great Photography Weather in Yosemite Last Weekend It's hard to have a bad day for photography in Yosemite National Park, but some days are better than others. Saturday featured broken clouds to decorate the sky and reflections, as in this image of El Capitan reflecting in the Merced River.
My next workshop in Yosemite will be April 24 - 27 to catch Spring wildflowers, waterfalls at peak Spring flow, moonbows (lunar rainbows) and more. Contact me for details.
Leaf Trails in Yosemite at Night I've captured long exposures of leaves floating down streams in the past, but the concept of combining them with star trails only occurred to me this Fall. When I arrived in Yosemite last week to find clear, starry skies, I had a lot of fun capturing leaves drifting down the Merced River. Conditions couldn't have been more perfect. There was wind upon arrival to knock the leaves out of the trees, but then it calmed down for nice sky reflections as I shot.
I'll be leading a workshop to pursue these types of shots in Yosemite in 2013... contact me for details!
Twilight at Mono Lake No matter how many times I visit Mono Lake, I never get tired of it, because the conditions are always changing. Last Saturday we saw clouds forming on the Web cam, so we made the quick trip down to the lake. When we arrived, we enjoyed spectacular clouds, columns of rain, a double rainbow, occasional thunder and lightning on the horizon, and subtle shading of sunset and blue hour color. You can be sure I'll be back many times as I run up and down the Eastern Sierra chasing Fall colors over the next 6 weeks!
Winter in the Eastern Sierra The first 8 photos are new to the album, and those new ones were taken during past 24 hours. We've gotten a lot of snow in 3 waves of storms over the past 3 days, but we had enough of a break this morning to let some nice sunrise light through.
What an amazing response to this album... thanks so much everyone!
Moon in Penumbral Lunar Eclipse Rising Over Mono Lake The full moon rises at sunset during the lunar eclipse Friday evening. In a penumbral lunar eclipse the moon hasn't slipped entirely into the earth's shadow. If you were standing on the moon there'd still be a bit of the sun showing. So we don't see the complete shadow of the earth eclipsing the sun's light in this photo, but in this late stage of the eclipse, the sun's light shining on the moon was dimmed as the moon was rising.
This is an image from a time-lapse sequence I shot. It is a single exposure, not a composite. Minor adjustments were made in Adobe Lightroom (white balance, contrast, level the horizon). No Photoshop was used.
Lake Tahoe Sunset near Sand Harbor State Park< Nevada Last night I tried a photo cropped to a 1:2 shape to see how it would work, this one is 1:3: 300 pixels by 900 pixels. Let's see how it looks with the #NewLook G+ layout...
Light Painting in Death Valley National Park I've added a few photos to the album from the workshop I led in Death Valley National Park in mid-March. One of the techniques I demonstrated was spinning a light around on a string, and using red on the reflective surface of the slat flats at blue hour created various shades of red, blue and purple where the colors mixed. I'll be announcing another Death Valley workshop in December over on my blog in the next few days: www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com/blog
Night Rainbows in the Mist, Lower Yosemite Fall A double lunar rainbow, or "moonbow", appears in the mist of Lower Yosemite Fall during the G+ Yosemite Photowalk on the night of Sunday, May 6.
+Lori Hibbett and I had over 65 photographers RSVP to receive the suggested four day itinerary earlier this month, and we ran into other folks from G+ once we arrived as well. We planned our schedule around full moon rise and set times and the moonbows appearing in Lower and Upper Yosemite Fall. It was exhausting shooting well in to the night each night, but as always, it was loads of fun meeting and shooting with other photographers on Google+! The first 4 photos in this album are from the photowalk (as well as 50+ of the later photos), the rest are mostly from my other visits to the park in the past year or so, images which were handy since I joined Google+.
Tufa Rock Formations, High and Dry The calcium carbonate (limestone) "tufa" rock formations at Mono Lake form underwater, when calcium-rich springs meet the alkaline water of the lake. The PH of the lake is 10, roughly the same as household glass cleaner, and it has a slippery, soapy feel to it. There's even a soapy foam which forms from wave action on the lake on windy days.
Diversion of the streams flowing into the lake to send water to Los Angeles have lowered the lake level over 40 feet, and doubled the salinity level to as high as 99 grams per liter, three times the salinity of the ocean. If you walk out into the lake you are very bouyant, and your feet come off the bottom before your shoulders get wet.
The lake was described as "lifeless, treeless, hideous desert... the loneliest place on earth" by writer Mark Twain, but the prolific alkali flies living in its water and along its shores support up to 2 million migrating or nesting birds. Up to 90 percent of California's seagull population nests here.
The increased salinity however may have contributed to increasing "meromixis" at the lake, a condition in which saltier and more dense water fails to mix with the water closer to the surface, and becomes "anoxic" (oxygen poor). This greatly affects the lake's ecology.
Another large lake in the Eastern Sierra, Owens Lake, had already been drained dry through water diversions to Los Angeles, but when dropping water levels at Mono Lake threatened to turn Paoha Island into a peninsula and decimate the nesting California Gull population through predation by coyotes, the +Mono Lake Committee was formed and the issue went to court. Eventually a victory was won, reducing diversions and setting a target lake level at an elevation of 6392 feet, 10 feet above the 1998 level. Some progress was made, but the last two dry Winters have caused the lake to drop back a couple of feet. The current lake level is 6382.1 feet, so this provides a temporary opportunity for photographers to catch the tufa formations standing tall out of the water, hopefully as high and dry as we'll see them before they slip back into 10 more feet of water.
Pancake Cloud Here's another shot of the huge "Sierra Wave" lenticular clouds forming over Topaz Lake on the California / Nevada border a couple of nights ago. The peaks on the horizon, the Three Sisters, mark the California/Nevada border. The North Sister on the left is in Nevada, the South Sister on the right is in California, and the Middle Sister straddles the two states, with its peak lying just into California.
Fortunately I put two cameras out to shoot time-lapse sequences, because for at least part of the time with one of them I forgot to switch the lens into manual focus. That's really ironic, since for landscape I most often use a wide lens and use manual focus to control depth of field, but because I was using f/8 at a long focal length, I wanted the camera to focus more accurately than my eyes could. So I got both cameras set up and shooting, and went back inside. When I went back out to check the cameras, it had gotten dark enough that one of them was hunting for focus, and missing shots in the sequence as a result. That's what I get I suppose, for departing from my normal workflow, for complicating the setup with two cameras at once..
There's No Place Like Home This is one of the earlier images I posted on G+, a Winter sunrise reflection at Topaz Lake on the California/Nevada border. Shooting into the sun like this can involve a greater range of light than a digital sensor can handle, so I used Photomatix HDR software to recover lost detail in the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights. I've been using Photomatix HDR software for 7 years or so now, and it got a bad reputation earl on for being strange results which were relatively difficult to control.
A lot of the challenges with HDR have been resolved by two big changes: 1. In the past you picked an HDR processing method, then waited a while to see how it turned out. Recent versions of the software show you 32 different methods so you can select the one which best suits your goals instead of picking one blind. 2. The latest versions have interfaces to Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, so you can pre-process an image first (adjust white balance and reduce noise for example), then select and move the desired exposures into Photmatix, then after you process the image, a TIFF file is brought back into your editing program such as Lightroom for more fine tuning. You have far more control over your results with this sort of workflow, adding a little pre and post processing in a competent image editing program.
I don't take the extra time and effort to use HDR software on a high percentage of my shots, but many of our most dramatic photographic opportunities come with extreme lighting situations like this, and if I can produce better results even 5 to 10% of the time, and in exactly the most challenging and stunning lighting conditions, the $99 or so it takes to deliver hundreds more images to my portfolio is well worth the price.
One of the amazing things about HDRsoft, the company which produces Photomatix, is that they've upgraded me across all new versions for all these years, so it has cost me only about $15/year. They updated their licensing a few years back and I thought my free upgrades were done when my original license code would no longer work, but I contacted HDRsoft and they said "no problem" and issued me a new license key. Now that's customer service!
These days people sometimes ask me, "Is that HDR?" The latest HDR processing and the Lightroom - Photomatix - Lightroom workflow has gotten good enough that I often can't tell unless I go look at the file name. For me, that's a measure of my success. Photos have a subject, some reason the photo was taken, and if the processing gets in the way and distracts my viewers, they're off on a tangent and I've failed to communicate what it was which caused me to capture that subject in the first place. The story of that subject becomes a murder mystery instead... who killed sunrise? While there's no one "right" approach to how to process images, even Ansel Adams often re-worked a particular image over the years, at least with the latest HDR tools integrated with powerful editing programs, you'll have the control to influence the result, instead of having the tool impose a distracting stamp of process-driven sameness on the outcome.
Which Sites Protect Your Photos Best? Why You Should Care As you create and upload images to the Internet, your camera, your editing software, your tagging of information as you upload can all be associated with your photo and help people find you as the rightful owner if someone steals your image. Unfortunately, some sites strip off the critical information which identifies the photo as yours.
Once your image then becomes separated from you, it may get classified as an "orphan work". The UK has passed a law which protects companies using these "orphaned works", so your photos may start appearing in many unapproved and even offensive commercial uses.
People have proposed that preserving rights information is the key to avoiding having your work "orphaned" (taken from you and used without your knowledge or permission), but that argument is weak at best. The information associated with your photo is obviously easy to remove. If your photo primarily appears somewhere like Facebook which is not indexed by Google Image Search, the thief of your photo will say that they performed a diligent search and claim protection under that UK law. The new law shifts protection from the creator of the image to the unauthorized user. Even if you were inclined to pursue a court case in the UK over the incident, your compensation will be limited to someone's definition of what the "market value" was, not the amount you would have required up front before the image was used.
Hopefully the UK law will get overturned, not copied in other countries. In the meantime, here's an excellent article on ways to maximize the information associate with your photos, provided that the site you upload to doesn't simply strip that information off:
Fortunately the IPTC Photo Metadata Working Group tested how Social Media and photo sharing sites manage metadata embedded into images which are uploaded to their sites, so you can consider where your risk is the greatest. These are the results as of March 2013: http://www.embeddedmetadata.org/social-media-test-results.php
The short story: at the time of that test, +Google+ was among the best sites preserving the data associated with your photos, Facebook and Flickr were among the worst.
So how did Saturday's moon rise at Mono Lake turn out? You tell me! It was fun hanging out with +Amy Heiden+Tran Mai and +Lori Hibbett in the Mono Basin for the day. There was fog on the lake all the way through 3 pm, but fortunately it cleared just in time for the moon rise. When we arrived at the Old Marina site +Blair Pountney joined us. He had seen my notes on the coming moon rise last week and drove up from Bishop. Then we ran into +Travis Theune and +Schmoo Theune of Smugmug, so we had a fun little group of photographers gathered, from various parts of the state!
I created a time-lapse video from this moon rise, but I had problems with a light tripod in the intermittent gusty wind which developed, so the result is pretty funny... I'll post it later so you can have a few laughs. After the moon rise, Amy, Tran, Lori and I went on to shoot into the night by the light of the full moon, so check their streams in the coming days for night snowy landscape shots.
June Lake Loop Fall Reflection The aspen trees should be really colorful here by now if the storms this week haven't blown the leaves off of the trees. I hope to stop by here later today on my way to Yosemite Valley, since Tioga Pass has re-opened.
Fall 2011 (Mostly Eastern Sierra, California) I had a few question about my Mono Lake sunset photo a few posts back. Here's the album of photos I shot back then, in Fall 2011. This first photo is a sunset reflecting in a pool of water. It was like a Crayola box full of blues, pinks purples and oranges had exploded. Photos 2, 3, and 4 are different compositions and images from that same sunset at Mono Lake I posted earlier.
I was asked on one of the colorful Mono Lake sunset shots whether I had adjusted the saturation. I double checked, and all of the settings which would directly affect color were set to zero, except of course white balance. It was simply one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever experienced. I wrote a blog post recently which touches upon the myths of "perfect exposure" and accurate color in photography: http://activesole.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-time-for-digital-cameras-to-depart.html
Most of the other photos in this album were also shot in the Eastern Sierra region within a couple hours drive of my house (with the exception of a trip I took to San Francisco to catch the full moon set). I shoot a lot of new work, so ones of these I've posted before would have been mainly back over 18 months ago when Google+ was still in beta, so most of my current contacts haven't seen them. Enjoy!
Revisiting Work with a New Perspective; Finding Balance in Post-processing In the field when I revisit sites I've been to before I'll sometimes see something new about the scene, perhaps different weather or a different season which I'd like to have in my portfolio. Often, however, I find myself dismissing a site I've been to before... been there, done that... no need to fill up disk drives with redundant, near-duplicates of previous captures.
Lately though I've been re-capturing some shots I took only 3-4 years ago. My latest camera, the Canon 5D Mark III, has more than double the resolution of the Canon 40D I was shooting with in 2008, it has more dynamic range, and less noise, particularly in underexposed areas. It's true that buying a newer or more expensive camera won't improve your attention to the most important aspects of photography such as composition and exposure, but there are some potential benefits to being able to shoot in lower light, capture a greater range of light with more subtle color transitions, and being able to print in larger sizes.
The other problem with my 2008 images was the processing approach I embraced back then. HDR was becoming a popular fad, and it could produce catchy images which could get attention with other photographers and some image buyers. There was a major downside though, one described well in Tom Till's recent article "Digital Pitfalls: A Cautionary Tale" in Outdoor Photographer Magazine: "My conclusion, a few months later, is that I had wandered down a dangerous path. My innocent desires to imitate the colors of Velvia, to make a lifeless RAW file more interesting and to fix contrast problems with HDR were clearly failures, and I began to look at what I had done in a new light. As I viewed some images, I often said to myself, "What was I thinking?" I began to compare myself to an addict who had become enthralled with digital color and couldn't be satisfied until I had sometimes grossly overdone things. Just realizing this and seeing the beautiful subtle colors I had buried was enough to help me come to terms with my problem. "
I could really identify with that when I read it in 2012. I had already come to the same conclusion about my own work. Too often I was revisiting old work I had produced using HDR techniques and concluded "What was I thinking?" Of course the next logical question is, "And why didn't I notice this before?" Tom's article offered one possible explanation: "A friend of mine mentioned a syndrome familiar to painters where, after years of looking at colors, an artist can become desensitized to them." Musicians can lose their hearing from being exposed to loud noise, can our ability to assess the state of our photography become affected by overexposure to exaggerated color?
Fortunately there was a path out of my madness. Photoshop seemed like a similar trap, designed to help graphic artists manipulate and combine color images. The newer Adobe Lightroom software however was designed from the ground up to efficiently process photographs, with more of a focus on fine tuning adjustments than heavy-handed manipulations.
None of this is to say that there's anything inherently wrong with HDR, I explained why I used it in 2008 in a blog post in early 2009: Color Accuracy vs. Art in Photo Post-processing, the Case for HDR http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.com/blog/2009/01/20/why-would-anyone-use-hdr-its-unreal/ Then I upgraded to a better camera and more powerful post-processing software. I do still use HDR some small percentage of the time, and I've gone out of my way to explain why there are some valid uses for it in other articles on my blog. I simply pay attention to not letting it become an addiction to flashy results. It can be a useful tool, but I don't want HDR to dominate my approach, affect my judgement, or limit my audience.
So back to the original topic of revisiting places, when I do return to places now, it's with a camera with greater dynamic range and a more successful workflow, with less of a need to use extreme post-processing to produce useful results.
Golden Gate Bridge at Sunrise I had a request yesterday for a print of an image from this sunset by the Golden Gate Bridge, so I uploaded this shot to my SmugMug gallery as well to provide a couple of options to select from: http://jeffsullivan.smugmug.com/Landscapes/San-Francisco-Bay-Area/3792961_m27SrJ The other one is a little soft in places because it was shot at 50mm, which offered less depth of field. This one was shot at 24mm so it's sharp all over. I could have gone for a smaller aperture, but that light was changing quickly and that would've resulted in exposures so long that I'd have fewer compositions (as well as more noise).
Milky Way over Hoover House at Bodie We're having great Summer monsoon weather with thunder storms in the afternoons, and that can be great for sunsets, but that's making it challenging to capture the Milky Way at night. This was taken just as the clouds were breaking up over the "ghost town" of Bodie last Saturday night.
Images from Sequoia National Park "You cannot learn the message that these trees have for you in merely passing by. A day in their presence passes quickly, and with each moment you will be better able to appreciate their singular beauty and the miracle of their existence. To be in harmony with them, cast aside your worldly cares. In our battle for wealth we are prone to forget the real things of life, the things that cannot play us false." - Herbert Earl Wilson, "The lore and the lure of the Yosemite" (1925)
I post-processed these in a trial copy of +Nik Software plug-ins for +Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. I used the Color Efex Pro 4 to further adjust a few images I had already take a pass at in Lightroom. So far it seems that the images can exhibit a little more color without taking on an over-saturated look. Some of the filters like Polarization can adjust complex areas of the photos much like dodging and burning in a darkroom, without a lot of tedious selection and masking work in Photoshop. So far, so good. I hope that I can find more time to play with this module and the others before my trial runs out in a couple of weeks!
Cloudy Evening on the La Jolla Coast I enjoyed meeting other photographers in the San Diego area last Monday. The weather was cloudy, perfect for long exposures as the trace of sunset light on the horizon gave way to blue hour.
I've been pretty sick for the last 9 days. At first I thought it was a simple case of food poisoning which would resolve itself within a day or two. Whatever it is, I keep thinking I'm over it, then it comes back. I'm sick of being sick!
Bodie Night Photography Workshops for 2013 I've fine-tuned my workshop schedule to offer six sessions at the "ghost town" of Bodie State Historic Park this year, 5 at night and one for interior access: August 9 - Friday before Friends of Bodie Day special event August 24 - Eastern Sierra weekend workshop Oct 12 night + Oct 13 dawn/interior - Back-to-back Bodie!
The Bodie night access we are given starts when the park closes to the public at 6 pm, and goes until 1 am, so we get a full range of daylight, sunset, blue hour, twilight light as well as night. In addition, I tend to schedule the workshops for nights when the moon will rise or set during our session, so we can capture both the moon-lit town and dark, starry sky and Milky Way shots.
Eta Aquarid Meteor, Milky Way and Reflection A few days ago I suggested that you could go out in the early morning hours, look east, and look for meteors from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. All week we've had storms here, so I wasn't able to look for it myself. Yesterday morning, I finally had my chance. I did capture many meteors, but mainly as the apparent source, or radiant point, of the meteor shower rose above the horizon starting around 2:40 am.
Then reviewing my shots I saw this one earlier, around 12:23 am. Was it an Eta Aquarid? Meteors could come shooting up over the horizon a couple of hours before the radiant point in the constellation Aquarius rose, but I think that was going to occur more centered in this picture. So the trail of an Eta Aquarid meteor should be pointing down and to the left, towards a point below the center, almost 90 degrees from this one's path. So although this one appears to the observing camera to be roughly in the sky where many of the meteors did show up 2 to 3 hours later, it doesn't appear to be from the Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Random meteors happen.
Well, Eta Aquarid meteor or not, this meteor's timing was great, streaking through the Milky Way while the lake was calm enough to provide an only slightly blurry reflection of it. It's interesting to notice that the star reflections blur towards the camera as slight waves come towards shore in this long exposure, but the path of the meteor is more erratic because it doesn't stay still as waves make the reflecting surface also move. Too often you'll see a photo with a perfect mirror reflection of the stars. Can an entire lake be a perfectly flat mirror for the 30 seconds typically required to capture a star shot like this? A small puddle perhaps, and a reflection in a lake looks mirror smooth for a short sunset exposure, but over the course of a long exposure, lake surfaces move. I haven't seen a real lake provide a Photoshop-like mirror surface for a long dark sky exposure, but I hope I live long enough to see that night.
Spring in Yosemite National Park Spring is one of my favorite seasons in Yosemite: redbud and dogwood trees blooming, the waterfalls roaring at maximum flow, rainbows and "moonbows" (night rainbows) forming in their mist, and the Spring ponds of snowmelt doubling the views of it all.
Unfortunately with the Sierra Nevada having received one of the worst snowpacks on record, and having observed a general lack of Spring pools with relatively weak waterfall flows showing up on Web cams, this may be one of the weakest Springs in Yosemite for photography as well. I've been watching the weather and snowpack measurement news for the past 6 weeks:
http://www.water.ca.gov/news/newsreleases/2013/032713snowsurvey.pdf March 26, 2013 - Season’s Fourth Snow Survey Scheduled for Thursday DWR currently estimates that it will be able to deliver 35 percent of the slightly more than 4 million acre-feet of water requested by the 29 public agencies that distribute State Water Project water to more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.
This all comes with the territory to some degree with landscape photography, but I did decide not to open registration for the Spring Yosemite workshop I had planned. I have high standards for my own photography, and I'm not going to compromise on those standards simply to run a trip. I had kept my lodging reservations hoping that we might still get a "March miracle" storm or two to improve conditions, but even the new storm system coming through in the next few days will be relatively weak (I'll be freeing up a room in Yosemite Valley in late April if anyone wants it).
Given the reports coming out of the Antelope State Poppy Reserve as well (sixty poppies on the entire reserve, and drying up), I decided not to open registration for a Spring wildflower workshop either.
We'll still have some excellent, less water-dependent opportunities in the Summer, Fall and Winter though, so I'll be looking forward to those!
Malibu Sunset Captured during the Malibu photowalks +Lori Hibbett and I organized last month. I shot in Aperture Priority mode at f/16 for depth of field with a 16mm lens. I was losing light so I left the aperture shut and I also kept the ISO sensitivity low to get a long exposure. The range of light in the scene was extreme, so I used a 3 stop Cokin #121 graduated neutral density filter to better even out the exposure between the sky and the reflected light in the foreground surf. I ended up with a 13 second shot at f/16, ISO 100. I bracketed exposure due to the extreme range of light, in case I might need to use a brighter exposure to reduce shadow noise, or use a darker exposure to eliminate blown highlights. Multiple exposures also enable me to consider multi-shot techniques like HDR.
There still was too much dynamic range in the scene to have the single exposure look natural straight out of the camera. I brightened the shadows and darkened the highlights in Lightroom, but that made it look flat and too low in contrast. Often you can restore a natural look at that point by adding contrast or adjusting the tone curve, but I couldn't find the right balance of adjustments in Lightroom, so my intention was to simply set it aside until I could try HDR in Photomatix, other other multi-shot methods of recovering a usable result.
Since I hadn't been able to adjust the colors close to what I remembered, I fired up the brief Nik Software trial I had downloaded before the trip, and I used the Lightroom plug-in to Color Efex Pro 2 and was able to produce a better result. I generally prefer to use a single exposure when I can, so the image is done for now.
Our trip was to gather site information for the guide book I'm working on, a few new sites and revisiting past ones where I had missed access trails or other details on prior visits. I thought that I had uploaded this during the trip, but I ended up getting pretty sick for the rest of the trip, so I was in a bit of a daze. I thought I just had food poisoning from sushi after this photowalk, so I kept thinking I was getting better, but it'd come back the next day. After a few days like that it was clear that I must have picked up a flu, probably while out shopping for supplies for the trip.
Bodie Night Photgraphy in Motion I decided to put a few images from this star trails shot at Bodie into an album to see if Auto Awesome would animate them. It did! It doesn't know whether the stars or the ground are moving though, so it decided to move them both a little bit. Technically it's more accurate to show the earth moving because it is the rotation of the earth which makes the stars seem to move, although we don't think of it that way from our point of reference.
The PayPal registration/payment buttons don't work within my blog posts and separate pages though, so you have to access them via the buttons on the front page of the blog, www.JeffSullivanPhotography.com/blog.
Storm Cloud Reflection at Valley View Clouds reflect in the Merced River at Yosemite's Valley on Wednesday afternoon. I surveyed the area affected by the Rim Fire in the park, then headed up to Olmstead Point to catch sunset. On the way over Tioga Pass temperatures dropped into the high 20s and it started snowing on and off.
Photo of the Week - Yosemite Conservancy Thanks to the Yosemite Conservancy for awarding this their Photo of the Week!
They select a photo from their Flickr group each week and (per the terms of the group) post it to their Facebook page. With the Google+ community growing every week, hopefully they'll join us here with a page on G+ as well soon! #yosemite#hdr#nationalpark
Milky Way over Bodie Firehouse This is from our night photography workshop last Friday at Bodie State Historic Park. The next one is coming up Saturday, June 29. The moon won't rise until after midnight, so the Milky Way should be stunning for most of the time we'll be there!
Storms Building in the Eastern Sierra Taken at Mono Lake in April 2009 while scouting conditions for an upcoming workshop. The main exposure was 1/6 second at f/22, ISO 400, 24mm), but I combined darker and lighter exposures in Photomatix to highlight the texture in the clouds.
The skies are looking great for storm chasing in the Eastern Sierra tonight, so I'm heading out!
The Unknown Dunes of California Most California residents have no idea that they have 700 foot tall dunes available to them in the state. Even when you're standing there looking at them, it's really hard to get a sense of scale an realize just how massive they are, until a person walks up on them or a vehicle gets between you and the dunes.
The Eureka Sand Dunes are in Death Valley National Park, but I don't recommend driving to them from the center of the park. I spoke to a ranger who was patrolling the road up from the Scotty's Castle area, and he had seen 5 flat tires on the road that day. I've received three flat tires on that road, including two at once. I warned some friends about that last month, and they drove it anyway... and got two flat tires. It's better to approach form the town of Big Pine. Obviously, bring plenty of food and water in case your vehicle doesn't survive the minimum 20 miles of gravel road required to reach the site!
Snow Plant "Sarcodes is a monotypic genus of a single springtime flowering plant in the heath family containing the single species Sarcodes sanguinea, commonly called the snow plant or snow flower. It is a parasitic plant that derives sustenance and nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi that attach to roots of trees. It is unable to photosynthesize nutrients.Ectomycorrhizal (EM) symbioses involve a mutualism between a plant root and a fungus; the plant provides fixed carbon to the fungus and in return, the fungus provides mineral nutrients, water and protection from pathogens to the plant. The snow plant takes advantage of this mutualism by tapping into the network and stealing sugars from the photosynthetic partner by way of the fungus." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcodes
Jupiter, Mercury and Venus to form triangle tonight! Apparently the equilateral triangle they'll form tonight is the closest together they'll be until 2021. They'll only be 2 degrees apart, and best viewed around 9 pm tonight on the Western horizon (near where the sun went down), about 45 minutes after sunset (now on the U.S. East Coast). They'll remain close together for a few more evenings. This photo is from twilight last night, around 9 pm, as they set behind the Sierra Nevada (a horizon about 2.7 degrees high from this viewing position at Mono Lake).
+Lori Hibbett and I are several days into a 10 day, 1000 mile lap of the Sierra Nevada. It rained last night, and we woke up to 33 degree temperature at 6400 feet. When we caught a view of the Sierra Nevada, it looks like the snow level is about 8000 feet. We're currently passing between Sequoia National monument and Sequoia National Park, and the dogwood trees are just starting to turn color.
I'll try to touch base from time to time over the next few days, but spare time and Internet service are both rare commodities as we work through our long list of locations to visit! #sunrise#Moon#astronomy
Lenticular Cloud at Sunset Last Night Even when I'm not out actively pursuing photographs, sometimes they arrive at my doorstep anyway.
Lenticular clouds are so common in the Eastern Sierra they ore often referred to locally as "Sierra Wave Clouds." Air flows over the Sierra Nevada, dips into the steep 4000 to 10,000 foot drop off here on the back side, then takes a bounce back up, and water vapor condenses as the air rises and cools at the top of that downstream wave. It's like the wave which can form on the downstream side of a rock submerged in a river.
Foggy Evening in the Laguna Mountains I tend to think of fog as a sign of stillness, of calm. With no sun you have no warm air rising, so no wind rushing to fill that space. This wasn't that fog.
On this evening we had driven from the Pacific Ocean up into the clouds, close to 6000 feet. You know when you look up at mountain ridges and the clouds are spilling over the side? The air is colder than what's in the valley below, so the cloud is sending dense tentacles of mist at you, reaching out? If you get into that cloud the air movement has created a lot of wind, and the mist varies in density, sending shadowy figures racing in front of you. Items in the landscape appear, then disappear, as if their presence had been a mirage all along. It's particularly tempting for photographers. You're lured ahead, and out of your car, but your intended subject fades away in front of your eyes, and then it's just you and the mist, and the wind, the cold, biting wind.
Laguna Mountain Recreation Area, Cleveland National Forest, California.
Arch With Wet Feet Here's another shot from the Malibu photowalk Thursday night. I think we're about 700 miles into the trip so far after 3 days. There's not much time to process photos, but we're documenting lots of sites to try on return trips.
Comet PANSTARRS from Death Valley National Park This was the best view of Comet PANSTARRS I was able to get last week. We've had hazy skies since then, but I was able to capture it again last night. I'm working on those images now.
Cotton Candy Sunset over 1937 Chevrolet at Bodie Every night this week we have scattered thunder storms in the forecast here in the Eastern Sierra. Fortunately the storms are often breaking up enough by sunset to let a lot of sunset color through, first yellow golden hour light, then oranges, then as blue hour light takes over, shades of magenta, pink and purple emerge. For Saturday night's workshop we in time to enjoy the entire range of color progression from golden hour through sunset and blue hour. The clouds were a little slow in clearing up, but they did make way for star shots, including compositions featuring the Milky Way, before the moon started approaching on the eastern horizon.
Fallen Giant The Milky Way rises behind a fallen bristlecone pine tree. I love night photography...
"You may be a little cold some nights, on the mountain tops above the timber-line, but you will see the stars, and by and by you can sleep enough in your town bed, or at least in your grave." -John Muir
I illumined the tree briefly with a flashlight during a 30 second exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 6400.
Perseid Meteor Shower: Two More Nights! Here's one of the Perseid meteors I caught last night. You still have time to catch the action this year. The meteor shower has two more nights to increase in intensity, then it will taper off dramatically on the nights after that.
The exposure was 30 seconds at f/2.8, ISO 6400 on a Canon 5D Mark III. To capture meteors I simply shoot another 30 second shot every 1 second.
Last Light on Half Dome Physics was never one of my favorite classes as I took nearly two years of it in college, but I was fortunate upon graduating to get a job at the world's leading color printer manufacturer, where I was able to apply what I learned about the properties of light. One of the interesting things about light and human color perception is that light which we perceive as having different colors can blend together to form other colors. Blending primary colors red, green and blue results in colorless white light. This property of light being "additive" and creating new colors has practical applications in landscape photography.
When you see an orange object, what color is it? You perceive that the object is orange, but orange is actually the wavelength of the light reflected, so in a sense the object itself is every color but orange, orange is the light it doesn't absorb, the color of the light it rejects and sends towards us. As a photographer that colored light reflected off of objects is what you're trying to capture.
There are times when scattered light in the sky contributes a lot of the light on the landscape, and reflections off of the objects you're viewing and off of dust particles in the air change the color of what you're trying to take a picture of. The scattered light is changing the color of the objects in your scene, applying what you'll perceive as a color-reducing or color-muddying influence. Fortunately reflected light is polarized, so you can use a polarizing filter to reduce the effect scattered light has on the scene, and reduce the interference it has with the colors in your shot. Some people think of polarizing filters as "enhancing" a shot, when actually it's arguably more accurate to think of them as unmasking and enabling you to more accurately record the light and colors which already exist in the scene.
This ability of polarizing filters to help us better see a scene's color and reduced scattered and reflected light is why I recommend considering them as one of my top tips for landscape photography:
Polarizing filters get somewhat of a bad reputation for working inconsistently across a wide section of blue sky, but there are a few simple characteristics you can understand about them and improve your success rate with them. First of all, in the sky light is polarized most at angles perpendicular to the direction sunlight is coming from . So if the sun is setting due west, the light being reflected in the sky is most polarized due north and due south. Second, a wide angle lens covers a wide range of compass directions, so the polarization will be uneven across the sky it covers. Once you understand these simple characteristics, you can watch for the negative effects in wide shots and remove the polarizing filter when it's creating undesirable effects, but still take advantage of polarizing filters when your focal length is longer (as in this image captured at 144mm) or when the light in a wider shot isn't displaying an objectionable range of uneven polarization, such as when you're shooting closer to directly towards or away from the sun and there's less strong and a lower range of polarization across the scene.
This image was taken during one of my recent landscape photography workshops in Yosemite National Park. I recommend that photographers bring polarizing filters for their lenses, and it often surprises me how many have such a strong negative bias against polarizers that they either refuse to bring one on the trip at all, or they have them along but leave them in their camera bag back in the car when they set out to capture sunset shots. If I have a compatible filter size I'll loan them one of mine, and they can see the difference for themselves. That's one of the values of a photography workshop. If you have an experienced and knowledgeable instructor, they can help you anticipate and uncover opportunities which you may overlook in your current shooting practices. It's not that their approach is any "better" simply that if the really have been exploring a range of techniques full time for years, they can help you evaluate new approaches and consider them when you approach given shooting situations, perhaps saving you the years it might take to go through a similar process of discovery and learning.
Anyone can take a few good pictures and offer a landscape photography workshop. Not everyone has truly spent enough time in the field, and explored and mastered a wide range of situations and techniques, to have a lot to teach you.
Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS L Series lens at 155mm focal length Marumi Super Cicrcular PLD filter Sirui T-2205X tripod Manfrotto 494RC2 ball head
Horses Under Storm at Sunset I was driving in New Mexico in occasional light rain, disappointed that it would be sunset soon but there appeared to be nothing particularly interesting to photograph. Heading for a landmark on the map, I saw this cloud to the south and I navigated to place it where the sun would be behind it when (if) it hit that opening on the horizon. I was a couple of hundred yards back and to the right of this position when I saw the horses. I ran here and fired off a couple of shots through a barbed wire fence before they rapidly moved off to the left and the moment was gone.
New Photo Page Design at 500px New Features: - Focus View feature for photos, enables full-screen view with simple shortcut ‘H’ and maximizes photo browsing experience. - Shortcuts are located below each photo in Focus View. Click on a photo or press ‘H’ for Focus View. Press ‘M’ to maximize the photo, ‘L’ to like, and ‘F’ for favorite. - Arrow keys let you go back and forth between photos to mirror the ease of 500px iPad App experience on your computer screen. - Larger photos on Popular, Editor’s Choice, Upcoming and Fresh feeds and on your profile. - Photos expand in size for superior viewing on larger monitors. Optimized viewing for panoramic photos, they look better than ever before. - Photographer information, easy sharing and like & favorite buttons are featured in the new header. - Comments are located below the photo as well as a visual list of the people who’ve favorited or liked the photo. - Want to know who was the last person to V&F your photo? Just look to the bottom right, and easily expand to see a full list.
Aspen Grove in the Mono Basin It seemed like Fall colors season came early and went really fast this year. There are still areas of nice color, especially under 7000 feet, and pockets above, but above 7000 many areas peaked over the past couple of weekends.
Milky Way in California's Eastern Sierra in August In the Northern Hemisphere the bright, complex center of our Milky Way Galaxy is visible above the horizon if you can find an area with dark skies (little light pollution from cities). This was taken in early August, when the Milky Way is visible to the southwest. To an observer as the night goes by the Milky Way moves right and tilts up on the left side, and at 10:45 pm it had a tilt perfect for vertical compositions.
High Sierra Season July is a great time to explore California's Sierra Nevada. Trails and passes are clearing of snow, but the peaks still hold a few decorative patches of white to catch the morning and evening alpenglow.
These photos are from July 2010, a fairly normal year for snowpack, so the snow levels are greater than you'd encounter in a light year like this one (2012).
Four Planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter... and Earth at the bottom! Captured tonight, shortly after sunset. I caught them closest together on May 26, when I caught them in a time-lapse video, hosted on +YouTube: http://youtu.be/p2NibPZtsQs The video is best switched to 1080p resolution and viewed full screen. Shot at nearly 400mm focal length, in the video you can actually see that the planets are round, and not points of light, like the stars appear to be.
The planets are now moving apart, but it happens slowly, so you should be able to see them in a line like this in the coming evenings, about 45 to 60 minutes after sunset.
Malibu Beach Sunset Last Thursday Had a great time shooting with San Diego area G+ photographers in La Jolla last night! Thanks +Sairam Sundaresan for showing me a spot this morning as well.
This photo is from the Malibu photowalk a few nights ago. I have a lot of dust on my sensor, perhaps pollen from changing lenses at the Carlsbad Flower Fields yesterday, so the shots form last night will have to wait until I have more time to edit.
I post-processed this in Nik Software Color Efex Pro 2. I think my two week trial period expired last night. : (
Mirror Image In addition to Fall colors on the trees, cooler temperatures result in less wind, enabling great reflection shots, especially early in the morning. This was taken last weekend in the Eastern Sierra region of California.
Perseid Meteor and Star Trails from Friday Night The evening thunderstorms departed and headed out into Nevada, leaving the skies relatively clear for moon rise shortly after midnight. You can see a few lightning flashes off in the distance behind the tree, and the moon rising behind the clouds. The bright streak by the moon is a planet, I didn't check which one. Given its recent transit of the sun, Venus might be a reasonable guess.
It was really dark when I started this star trails shot, so I lit the tree with a flashlight to bring out some of the details.
My Internet's mostly down this week so I tried to post this through the mobile G+ app, but I couldn't seem to share from my photos albums, and I couldn't get to my photo albums from the "write a new post" feature. Is that functionality present somewhere, or am limited to posting only mobile phone photos (and not initiating posts on much higher quality album photos) from my phone?
Mono Lake Sunset Moon Rise This is a re-edit of a Winter moon rise I captured at Mono Lake in 2009. Both the original edit and the new one are HDRs produced in Photomatix but the new one I also post-processed in +Adobe Photoshop Lightroom before and after the HDR to make the result a little more realistic. You can get a version of Photomatix with an interface to export highlighted files directly to Photomatix in TIFF format, then re-import the result when you're done, so the process is much more efficient as well.
The earlier result processed in Photomatix only ended up too saturated. The sunset and moon were both bright and colorful as experienced onsite, and with my updated software and workflow, I'm able to produce a result much more true to the event.
This year you can join me on landscape photography workshops for any of the first three weekends in October, or in Yosemite for Fall colors in November: http://www.MyPhotoGuides.com
Summer Milky Way and Reflection For those of us in the Northern Hemipshere the bright, complex center of our Milky Way Galaxy rises highest in the night sky in the weeks close to the Summer solstice on June 22. Here's a shot from early July, captures high in the Ansel Adams Wilderness at an elevation of 10,000 feet.
The image was captured in July 2010 on a Canon 5D Mark II, on a moonless night. Here's a blog post on the process:
Rediscovering the California Coast I'm going through old trip folders and selecting images for my upcoming guide book to California landscape photography locations in the southern half of the state. Here's another one I liked as I looked at photos from one of my trips to the Big Sur coast.
Sunset storm over Wellington, Nevada Here's another image from sunset a couple of nights ago.
The camera is facing east, opposite the setting sun. The sunset orange to blue color transition is called the "Belt of Venus". As the sun sets in the west, the edge caused by the shadow of the earth rises in the east, with the warm light of sun on one side, and the shadow lit only by local scattered blue sky light. That orange or pink over blue coloration is pretty common and consistent here, so perhaps it's more visible with the transition projecting onto our dusty air (especially down at Mono Lake where there tends to be a high concentration of ultra-fine dust).
Venus is one of the first things you can see as twilight comes. It's also a planet that you see towards the sun, so if Venus is in the sky at all as twilight progresses, it's always towards the opposite horizon from this event named after it.
Moonrise Over the Inyo Mountains The Inyo Mountains rise over the Southern end of the Owens Valley between Big Pine and Lone Pine. There aren't many roads leading into the area, but you can catch the moon rising over them at sunset a day or two before the full moon. I wrote a blog post back in 2006 on anticipating shots like this one: Plan Ahead for Great Full Moon Rise and Set Shots! http://activesole.blogspot.com/2006/11/plan-ahead-for-great-full-moon-rise-and.html
Trying to decide whether to go here next week... It's snowing now at this site at 9000 feet elevation, with the snow level down at 3700 feet. Then again, the temperature down in the Valley could get to 92, so maybe the dirt road to this site may be passable by then!
The Joys of Full Frame This was captured back in 2010 on a 3 week lap of Utah and Arizona. I checked the other day and the four year old Canon 5D Mark II I captured this with now has nearly 340,000 cycles on the shutter! It's still going strong after more than 4 years. Single exposure of 3.2 seconds at f/11, ISO 200.
Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower Tonight The Eta Aquarids are a light shower, producing about 10 meteors per hour at their peak, so a camera covering a portion of the sky may be lucky to catch one or two per hour. The shower's peak will be tonight May 06 01h15m GMT/Universal Time, (Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 6:15:00 PM PDT here in the U.S.).
Here in California the radiant point for this shower rises around 2:40 am, to the east, in the constellation Aquarius. The crescent moon will follow and wash out the sky a bit at 4 am, the sky starts lightening with astronomical twilight at 4:12 am, then sunrise comes 5:53 am.
With only an hour and change of dark sky viewing after the radiant point rises, I probably won't go out of my way to pursue this one.
This photo is from the Perseid meteor shower in 2009. I created a time-lapse video from my Perseid shots that year: http://youtu.be/vroLnrBhbmk
Light Painting in Badwater Basin Green orbs and red salt flats in blue hour light in the Badwater Basin, taken during our workshop last week. This is a combination of four images, each a 30 second long exposure.
We'll be back for another workshop in December. Every time the light painting gets a little more elaborate... I already have some ideas regarding things I want to try next time!
I'm running a test to see how this photo does on Flickr, G+, Facebook, 500px, Twitter, SmugMug and Panoramio. I'll post the results on my blog.
Milky Way over Granite Boulders As I've been mentioning for a few weeks, this is a great time of year to pursue Milky Way photos. Here's one I captured earlier this week.
You can join me on one of my workshops to practice night photography in a particularly interesting and appropriate location, or you can simply read the technique tips on my blog and go out and try it for yourself:
Mono Lake Sunrise I was shooting a time-lapse video on this morning when the card filled (I had forgotten to format it). I changed the card but that created a small glitch in the timelapse.
Then the battery died! I changed that. To get the battery out I also had to take my Canon off of the tripod head using a Manfrotto quick release plate. It doesn't necessarily snap exactly back into place, so you also typically get a sudden jump in some direction of a few pixels.
Both happened during the peak sunrise color, so I couldn't simply make a video from before or after the glitch, I had the best light interrupted twice!
I did keep shooting though, so I have lots of still pictures from the morning, and this is how we learn. I'm a lot less likely to make those same mistakes now when I shoot.
Vanishing Point Sun rays, also known as crepuscular rays, usually appear to converge on their source, the sun. But sometimes they appear to come from, and converge on, a point on the opposite horizon. Known as anticrepuscular rays, their appearance of coming from some distant point on or just over the horizon is very convincing. Yet it's an illusion. They're actually nearly parallel beams of light.
So why do they appear to converge towards a point in the distance? It's all a matter of perspective. Railroad tracks appear to converge towards a vanishing point in the distance, and painters use this concept, having parallel things converge towards a distant point to create realistic scenes. So in this photo the light rays do connect with the hills, since they're lit by the sun, but the light is not radiating out from them, as it appears. The hills are simply so far enough away that the more or less parallel beams of light have that illusion of convergence.
Yosemite Moon Rise Between Half Dome and El Capitan From Sunday evening. There are a couple of climbers on El Capitan which you'll be able to see better when I complete the time-lapse video, and you can see them move.
Can't Wait to Get Outside! I get to go outside and play! Well, not really, I'll be working on a few new places for my guide book, but since it involves landscape photography it's fun, so it's as close to playing as I get while I crank this project out. I recently finished a pass at the Ratings table, a cool feature at the end of all the guide books published by +Laurent Martres, where you can net it out and see which are the most scenic places, whether or not they're really conducive to photography, and how the road or trail access ranks, each on a scale of zero to five. It helps visitors new to a region or expanding their location knowledge prioritize their time. It also helps save gas: we scouted as much as possible to reduce your need to, and to help you be efficient and arrive everywhere just in time, at an optimal season and time of day.
This shot is from one of my research trips in May, 2011. I'd tell you where it is, but I'll get the book out to you faster if I just put it in the manuscript and get this project done! It's in the Eastern Sierra, a couple of hours down the road from here.
Want to sleep better and be healthier? Go camping! "According to researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, a week in the bush can help reset your internal clock..."
"After exposure to natural light, melatonin levels began to move to 'daylight time' about 50 minutes before waking.
Wright says this means in the modern world our biological night extends past our wake time and explains why many of us are so sleepy in the morning.
He believes the changes in the internal clock are directly linked to exposure to sunlight: during their normal life the study participants were exposed to four times less sunlight than while camping.
'By increasing our exposure to sunlight and reducing our exposure to electrical lighting at night, we can turn our internal clock and sleep times back, and likely make it easier to awaken and be alert in the morning,' he says.
Previous research has highlighted the importance of good sleep with late bed times linked to unwanted waking, obesity and even cardiac problems and increased cancer risk."
Wild Iris Season in the Eastern Sierra This is the time of year when the wild iris are blooming in the Eastern Sierra. They'll be doing great down near Bishop through the end of the month, and the bloom will move up in elevation until it reaches the Bridgeport area at 7000 feet in early to mid June.
Breaking Storm Dawn on the La Jolla Coast The morning after the La Jolla photowalk April 15 I met +Sairam Sundaresan at this beach for sunrise. The light storm clouds from the night before were breaking up nicely in the sky, while decent-sized waves washed over the rocks and reefs along the shore.
Sunset Rain Clouds Over Mono Lake I do a lot of planning for many of my images, studying maps and moon rise times and angles, and anything else I can think of to maximize the opportunities I'll have for interesting compositions.
In the case of this shot, I looked at the Mono Lake web cam and saw the clouds, arrived at this spot an hour later, took a few pictures, and went home.
The color onsite was just like this when I shot it... the blue in particular down by the lake seemed surreal! I was temped to simply stop and watch it, but nah, when I capture it in camera, I can enjoy the moment a lot longer!
Twilight on The California Coast Walton Lighthouse near Santa Cruz harbor at twilight on Thanksgiving Day. There was a chance that the tail from Comet ISON might swing around and jut into the twilight/evening sky. With the comet getting at least partially disintegrated that didn't happen, but the sunset was nice.
Photo: Nov 28 Canon 70D, Canon 70 - 300mm f/4 - 5.6 IS lens handheld
Sunrise Clouds over Tufa at Mono Lake We've been getting some clouds building in the afternoon in recent days at Topaz Lake and Mono Lake, but they often break up just before sunset. We had three good crashes of thunder overhead last night around 7 pm, but even that large thunder cloud dispersed before it could put on a good show of color or lightning. Fortunately some clouds and storms do occur at just the right time for photographers, and it's only a matter of time before we get the next one.
Planets Jupiter, Venus and Mercury on Sunday, May 26 The planets Jupiter, Venus and Mercury were in conjunction Sunday night May 26, the closest they'll appear until 2021. Here's one of the images I captured before they set.
These planets are close together in the evening sky this week, so every night I've been trying to capture them together on the horizon in the twilight hours before they set. The first night the clouds were too thick. The second night I was shooting sunset in high winds at Mono Lake with the Sierra Nevada as a high western horizon, so I caught a few pictures of the planets, but they set too quickly to capture a time-lapse video. The third night was just right. It was relatively clear to the west, I was in a high shooting position with an apparent horizon lower than my position (less than 0 degrees elevation), and fortunately that was Sunday May 16, the night when the planets were closest together, forming a tight triangle.
There was still wind to deal with, so I changed position a few times to minimize it. I could only use one camera because I had loaned my daughter one of my tripod head quick release plates the day before, and it was still on her camera back home. There wasn't a lot of light and I was shooting with a 2X teleconverter on my 70-200mm lens at close to 310mm, so my aperture was limited to f/8, forcing me to bump up the ISO to minimize shutter speed in that wind. (The best I could do was 1/4 second shutter speed, which is why minimizing wind turned out to be critical.) Fortunately I worked out all the trade-offs in time to capture about four hundred frames, enough to create a time-lapse video.
Inside a Wild West "Ghost Town" I just uploaded a series of photos from out Bodie Sunrise and Interiors workshop October 7 to a new album. Unfortunately I can't re-order the album and choose the photos I'd like Google+ to show first, so here's one of the photos, and you can visit the album to see the rest.
Tse' bighanilini - the place where water runs through rocks The sun's light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow, but a clear sky scatters blue light, making it appear blue. That blue light can also be reflected back out of lakes, making them often appear blue as well. At sunset the blue light becomes even more scattered, enabling red, orange and yellow to dominate the light reaching our eyes.
The human perceptual system handles the changing light conditions by trying to assign the brightest light to white, coloring our perception of everything else around us. Further complicating the situation, we have only limited capacity to notice and remember color. What color is snow? Everyone knows that it's white. Yet if you look at it on a clear day and pay close attention, it's often a blue-white. When you notice that the light in the shadows on snow are very blue, it becomes apparent that you can see something like snow your whole life but never fully notice or comprehend its color. We're just not tuned to notice it. It gets even worse when you try to remember color. If you didn't notice it, you can't remember it. But even when you're trying your hardest to remember, some tests have estimated that while we can discriminate between millions of shades of color, when it comes to recalling those we actually have the ability to discriminate about 17 colors accurately from memory. Yet we know we can see rich colors, so in a stunning lack of awareness of our limitations, most people believe that they can remember a wide range of colors too.
In landscape photography we encounter interesting situations, like that example of shadows on snow, when the blue light of the sky lights things differently. Whether we notice or remember it or not. Fortunately a digital camera is not biased like our perception and forgetful like our memory. Digital cameras are designed to measure the colors of incoming light and to approximate our "white balance" distortions of color so the photo will look something like what we might perceive onsite, but the process has its limits, and will not consistently produce natural-looking results in difficult lighting situations. And even if it did, what we perceive is not what's there.
So photographers have to choose between the straight output of a device that doesn't see or perceive in any way like our visual system, their severely limited but overly confident memory of the colors which were present, creating an artistic interpretation of the moment, or some combination of the three.
Deep in a red rock slot canyon like this, the light bouncing off the walls quickly takes on orange to red tones, but light coming directly down from the sky is blue, which can mix with reflected red-orange light to create shades of purple. Fortunately a digital camera typically records the full range of colors, whether or not we saw (perceived) or noticed the colors at the time, and whether or not we remember them now. So the camera gives us the ability to explore what was actually there, free from the limitations of our perception or recall.