Heads up…

literally!

lunar eclipse
lunar eclipse and blood moon

Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another.

Plato

Last October I got up in the early hours of the morning to photograph the total lunar eclipse and this one was going to be pretty special as it would culminate in a blood moon. A lunar eclipse occurs when the full moon passes through the Earth’s dark inner shadow.

The Nikon D 7000 has an image overlay feature in it that I was anxious to utilize to capture the whole process in one RAW image. I knew that I would have to visualize where each moon was going to line up so that they could be spaced across the image. Why not just use photoshop? Simply put…I like a challenge.

The set up involved a tripod and I also like to use a remote trigger to eliminate movement. What I found was that I did have to keep repositioning and refocusing the camera as the moon was dropping fairly rapidly between each phase. I also needed to adjust exposure times for each phase as the light changed dramatically. This was the final image from my camera after combining these five separate images using image overlay. I was pretty happy with the end result and only had to tweak highlights and blacks and remove a little chromatic aberration in Lightroom.

Before sunrise on April 4th there will occur the shortest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century…it will all take place in less than five minutes. I hope that today’s post will inspire you to get out and shoot the moon. Fingers crossed for clear skies and I’ll be right there with you!

For more information on all things sky check out Earthsky.org.

 

 

 

How making mistakes…

can improve your photography.

aurora borealis North Idaho
aurora borealis   North Idaho

An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.

Edwin Land

I have had several conversations lately that made me think about learning in general. I am a hands on kind of girl. When learning something new I will dissect it into manageable pieces, spend hours researching it, but then I have to get out and put it into practice. I rarely want to be shown, but would rather have the joy of discovering it first hand.

Others might prefer to be handed the formula which they can then duplicate without the risk of failure. It has been my experience though that one of the most important parts of the learning process is that time when you go out and work towards getting the results that you’re looking for. You aren’t sure what is possible and perhaps more importantly, what is not, so you experiment. It is my belief that I have learned far more from my failures than from those times when everything went perfectly.

Take last night for example…

I have been immersing myself in night photography as it opens up a whole new range of subject matter and uses my camera in a completely different way. It’s also a quiet, peaceful time without a lot of interruptions. Being as it was new moon time, hence darker skies, I planned a couple of seriously exciting milky way shots. I crept out of the house at 2:30 AM in pursuit of my images only to discover that I had grievously underestimated the amount of light pollution at my chosen sites. Strike one…

Being wide awake I changed plans and headed back home where I knew the skies would be inky black and star filled. I began a series of long exposures programmed with the aid of my intervalometer. I got over half of the shots completed and here comes a jet, high in the night sky, flashing lights through the entire scene. Strike two…

Giving myself a quick pep talk about how much I had learned for future shoots I turned around and was struck by an odd arching cloud like vision just above the trees. Can’t be a cloud I thought, I can still see the stars in it. I cancelled out the rest of my star trail shots, turned my tripod around, flipped the Nikon to the settings that I had pre programmed for the milky way, and shot. Can’t say I have ever been more surprised by what appeared on the LCD screen; not a cloud but the aurora borealis. Apparently our eyes cannot always see the colors in the northern lights especially when the auroras are close to the horizon but our cameras can!

Home run…

 

 

I find myself wishing that…

I had paid more attention in school instead of daydreaming.

Moonrise
Moonrise

For my part I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Vincent Van Gogh

I photograph every day and I think that practice not only keeps my creativity at a good level but it creates opportunities for further exploration of things that I might not have otherwise searched out.

Unless you are a studio based photographer you have to just deal with whatever is thrown your way for light and weather and find a way to make it work. If it is harsh bright sunlight, I might decide to do a long exposure over water with a neutral density filter or I might do a little infrared. Cloudy darker days are good for double exposures. Sometimes you can keep notes and revisit sites when conditions are perfect for the type of shot that you imagine, but that’s not always possible. It’s nice to have options and know how to dial in your settings to shoot under those conditions.

I have dabbled on and off with night photography usually when the day has gotten away from me and the last vestiges of good light have faded. I am finding it to be a whole other world filled with wonderful visual opportunities dependent on moon phases, cloud cover, and light pollution. Knowing how to capture the night sky though has led me into another crash course that I am just now starting to understand. The digital cameras of today, when manually programmed, capture this quite readily and if you’re shooting RAW instead of JPEG you really have quite a bit of freedom when it comes to editing. Like anything else though the key is practice, practice, practice. There is a wealth of information online that provides more specific information on gear, settings, and editing.

I think if I had been inspired more in school I might have paid more attention to learning about math which would have come in awfully handy now! It’s never too late though and I have immersed myself in things like azimuth and elevation calculations…and there are things called intervalometers that are built into cameras or they can be attached to them so that you can capture star trails. Who knew?! There’s one in the Nikon D7000 and I will be using it more!

Today’s shot was one taken in the early morning hours, just seeing what results I could get from different settings. As the moon began to clear the trees I noticed first that aura of light appearing. This was not the shot I was going for but I did in the end like the effect that it created and using that opportunity gave me more information to file away for future shots.

Take an opportunity to shoot under conditions that are unfamiliar to you. You might just get inspired!

 

Sometimes it’s better to just get up…

and go capture a moment.

20150308-DSC_0436-2

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul-and sings the tunes without the words-and never stops at all.

Emily Dickinson

After a somewhat sleepless night following some disturbing news I decided to give up on the idea of sleep and go lose myself in some early morning photography. There are several apps available now from which you can track sunrise, sunsets, moonrise, moonsets and all manner of night sky events. From apps like Photographers Ephemeris you can pull up locations that you’ve logged and see exactly when and where these events are going to occur so that you can be in the right place for shots that you’d like to take. Slipping my iPad into my gear bag I set out for one of my favorite spots; the site of ruins from an old sawmill on the shores of a mountain lake.

It was peaceful and quite chilly but being well dressed for the weather and armed with handwarmers to thaw chilly fingers, I explored my area and tried out several compositions before settling on this one. When it is still dark out, a quick way to do that is to bump up your ISO really high and take a quick shot to see how you like it.

I love that early morning light before the sun rise but shot all the way through, finally capturing the sun as it rose directly behind one of the pillars. Even when I’m not taking pictures, I’m thinking about taking pictures and keeping track of points of interest for future shoots.

I enjoyed my first morning of Daylight Savings time, how was yours?

 

 

Defining moments…

in a photographic journey.

on frozen ground
on frozen ground

A shutter working at a speed of one-fourth to one-twenty-fifth of a second will answer all purposes. A little blur in a moving subject will often aid to giving the impression of action and motion.

Alfred Stieglitz

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a challenge of posting three images a day for five days which made me look at my body of work a little differently. I was searching for groups of images that worked well together and in the process was able to give myself a little more direction.

While choosing my first grouping of three I could clearly see influences flow through my work. Those influences were more related to various techniques and use of lenses and not necessarily subject matter. What I found were images that energetically and visually worked more naturally together.

I can distinctly remember how on frozen ground came about. I was photographing an exciting event called skijoring where skiers and snowboarders are pulled around a track and over jumps at high rates of speed by a horse and rider team. There was no shortage of people photographing this event and after choosing a location that would eliminate more of the background clutter, I began shooting.

During a break in the action I was scrolling through my images and remember being so decidedly underwhelmed by my shots that I thought would look pretty much like everybody else’s. I will admit to being more than a little envious of the fellow who had the prime position of being right in the center of the ring and thought, okay, how can I make mine different? What do I want to capture in my shot? There were several things that impressed me; speed, danger, teamwork, and the sheer beauty of a horse galloping across the snow. I love abstract, don’t want to be visually told everything, but would rather have something left to discover. That however was not coming through in my static, high shutter speed shots that froze the action so I dialed it down and began panning with my camera as each team flew by. I got the shot that I wanted and it has become a favorite of mine.

Looking back, I realized that I had become comfortable enough with my camera to start playing with it more; where the risk of walking away without the shot was a far better choice for me than settling for a shot that I didn’t love. I think up until that point my images consisted more of static moments frozen in time even though it had always been my desire to be able to instill more emotion into my imagery.

On that cold January day I didn’t freeze and was able to work through a moment and capture what I had mentally visualized.

Participating in the art challenge allowed me to group together images and make sense of what and how I like to shoot and in the process that has refocused me. Shooting from the heart adds a certain authenticity that is hard to fake. If you’re not moved by your own images how can you expect others to be?

 

For more about Alfred Stieglitz check out my post from February 8th  “If you could tag along with an iconic photographer…”

 

 

 

Step out of your comfort zone…

with your creativity and take it in a new direction!

20150220-DSC_9734-Edit

Creativity takes courage.

Henri Matisse

I like to write about creativity because I think it is something that many of us struggle with from time to time. I chose this image not because I think that it is the most amazing thing to exit my camera but because it is a starting point of another photographic exploration and it got me inspired!

After many weeks of overcast skies and foggy weather culminating in an abundance of atmospheric black and white images, this past week arrived with some clear nights. I decided to get out of my comfort zone and partake of a little night photography. My life in a very small town does not provide me with fabulously lit up city scenes with iconic landmarks glowing in the dark but I can get away easily from light pollution and do a little stargazing.

My first foray took me down to a little spring fed lake just as the sun was setting. Armed with a sturdy tripod and a torch complete with colored gel filters, I played with settings and soon was engrossed with what was showing up in the night sky. I realized that I had captured in my star shots the International Space Station in the three minutes that it was visible that night. As these kinds of things often do with me, it started me on a huge google search of what was happening on a daily basis in the night sky. That night was a complete fluke so I wondered if I could set up to capture it on another night’s orbit and right on schedule, there it was in another night’s images.

Further reading showed that there would be opportunities to catch Venus, Mars, and a little sliver of the moon close together. Since it was my birthday week-end, out I went again into the night to gaze into the heavens. After my fingers began to get numb from the cold, I packed it up and in we went into town for a quick dinner. Since I wasn’t driving I took the opportunity to continue playing with shots of car trails and such along the way.

And here’s where it starts…

I could hardly wait for dinner to be over to start fiddling with my camera and using its image overlay feature to layer a couple of shots together in the camera and create a new raw file. I know that layering can be done in Photoshop but I personally like the challenge of building a shot out in the field, planning it in my head as I look at the different possibilities available on that one night. This shot for me tells the story of this particular night in one image: laying bare the bones of an idea I can’t wait to take further and execute without the flaws.

Creativity does take courage and that can be a huge stumbling block for someone who isn’t willing to fail. Break out of the box, light up your creativity, and when it takes you in a new direction… you just might discover a whole new passion!

What kind of photographer…

are you?

the day the music died
“the day the music died”

Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.

Robert Frank

This was not what I thought I would write about this week but after photographing this, I could not get it out of my thoughts. I started thinking about why we photograph the things that we do and what does that say about us as photographers?

This was not one of those times of beautiful light. It was late afternoon and I had gone down to the lake hoping that the sun might win its battle with the heavy fog and break through with a mystical, atmospheric sunset. I made my way along the breakwater occasionally seeing dim figures come into view and hearing voices that would carry across the water. Taking a moment to stand in one place and to look all around me, my eyes were drawn to something down in the water that did not belong. It was not an easy feat scrambling down the sharp rocks in my Boggs but I had to have a closer look.

Having spent a lot of time on the water I have seen my fair share of litter and discarded items but never before a keyboard. I carefully waded out into the icy lake so that I would be able to photograph this in relation to its watery grave.

I don’t suppose that I will ever know the story behind the rather bleak demise of the keyboard but it did get me thinking about the various genres of photography and why we are drawn to the things that we are. As I sat and contemplated, the lyrics of Don Mclean’s American Pie running through my head, I realized just how much my photography has changed in the past few years. What began more as documentation that called for clarity, focus, and accuracy of the scene, had somehow began to morph into more of a visual storytelling where everything did not need to be stated.

In The Americans, published in 1959Robert Frank captured the gulf between the American dream and everyday reality, a visual story as timely today as it was then. Critics of his work described his images in less than complimentary terms using words like “meaningless blur, muddy exposures, and drunken horizons”. He deviated from accepted photographic techniques and in doing so managed to capture so much more.

In a world inundated with photography, where everyone who carries a phone has the capability of taking a photograph, how do you see yourself? What kind of photographer are you?