A rare proton arc…

was what appeared in the night sky alongside the aurora borealis!

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Proton Arc, Northern Idaho, USA

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

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Proton Arc, Northern Idaho, USA
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Aurora Borealis, Northern Idaho, USA
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Proton Arc, Northern Idaho, USA

“GET IN THE JEEP” I shouted to my husband, “I need you to take me to the lake right now!”

Moments earlier…

Not being able to sleep and unable to concentrate on the book I was reading I started checking my apps to see what I might be able to see in the night sky. The moon wouldn’t be a problem and for once the skies looked like they would be clear.

There was an expectation that in a couple of days we might be seeing the northern lights so I was looking forward to that having been shut out by clouds from seeing the Eta Aquariids meteor shower. When the aurora app showed a pretty distinct area of red I jumped out of bed and ran for my camera and tripod.

I quickly dialed in some settings, plunked the tripod down on the deck and took a test shot to the north, I could see that there were light fluctuations but my eyes had not yet adapted to the dark.

Sure enough, aurora borealis, and looking strong! Turning around I looked up and saw flowing from east to west overhead the most incredible arc. I didn’t know what it was, having never seen one before, but I knew that it was one of those moments not to be wasted. I had no idea how long it would last and wanted to get into an area that was not rimmed by towering cedars and grand fir to photograph it.

I didn’t bother to change out of my pj’s but threw a hoodie on to ward off the night temperatures.

Firing off shots to document overhead and to the west I yelled at my husband to hurry, which thankfully he did, ignoring my agitation and occasional expletive.

With camera already attached to the tripod I leaped from the jeep and ran to the water’s edge to start shooting.

And then the magic began…

I wish that I’d had a recording of the animals that night. On other occasions while photographing strong aurora events I’ve noted their heightened response to these energetic events. Bullfrogs croaked in deep, vibratory tones, coyotes howled, two different species of owls hooted, and a grebe’s haunting notes echoed from across the lake.

The aurora borealis themselves were spectacular, but the arc, that was simply unforgettable. My search for confirmation of the proton arc had me reaching out in many directions (thank you Lucy, my go to person for night sky questions!)

A proton arc occurs when massive protons ejected by a solar event bombard the earth’s atmosphere…and they’re rare events.

This is exactly why I shoot every day under all conditions. There wasn’t time to mess around with settings and fiddle with focus. This was a time to hit the ground shooting, quick check of the histogram and take full advantage of an opportunity that I might never see again.

Trifecta…new moon, clear skies, proton arc.

I’m a lucky girl.

The dragonfly…

on a dew laden morning.DSC_2721-Edit-2

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.

Aristotle

A foot to the right and I might have stepped on him. I love the mornings when the landscape is covered in dew. It’s rather like looking for a needle in a haystack but I set out into the pasture to look for this shot and there he was, clinging to a blade of grass.

They are very vulnerable until their wings dry and every so often he would flutter them to shake off more dew.

It’s the tiny moments like this that I enjoy…truly something of the marvelous!

Take creative control…

and see what’s in your camera!

DSC_2468-2Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.

JunichiroTanizaki

You don’t need to travel to exotic locations or buy expensive lighting to create unique photos but you do need to learn what your camera has to offer.

When’s the last time you scrolled through the menu in your camera to see what it can do?

When’s the last time you tried some of those features?

I can’t relate to the mindset of having a camera, setting it to auto, and then taking pictures. If that’s all you’re going to do you might be better served just pulling out your phone and using that to take the picture. I recently loaded the Lightroom ap onto my ipad and when I use that to take a photo I first jump into LR and click on the camera from there. Try it, you’ll see the difference!

Phones, ipads, and tablets have come a long way in the last while and can take some very nice photos especially for sharing on social media where the file size doesn’t matter. Try to blow those up though and you will run into some issues.

A good jumping off point from auto is to start using your scene settings. Match them to the conditions that you’re shooting in and then look at the settings that the camera chose. You will soon start to see what kind of settings are required for different conditions.

From there it’s a quick leap to going fully manual and taking creative control.

A feature of many of the Nikons in the DSLR line-up is the ability to do double exposure and then if the two shots that I want can’t be coordinated at the same time…in camera image overlay.

While you can create these types of shots in photoshop I like the challenge of combining them right in the camera.

Today’s shot was an image overlay. The secret to them is to visualize your lights and darks and plan where you want them to fall. They can be a lot of fun and really change the mood of a photo. I did a head shot outside and for my second image used the rainbow reflections that showed up when the sun hit my wood stove glass door. Beautiful, soft out of focus images can also be perfect for these types of shots.

What’s in your camera? What will you try today?

 

A moment of stillness…

in a fragile world.

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A strong spirit transcends rules.

Prince

Some images just remind me of moments in time even when they have nothing to do with the events.

I’ve been thinking about Prince this week-end after his unexpected passing; another loss to the music industry in a year already racking up some big losses.

I am saddened by the loss of his artistry.

Purple rain, purple rain

On inspiration…

whose work are you inspired by?

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A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.

Richard Avedon

Why don’t you take pictures of people? 

I sometimes get criticized, and perhaps that’s too strong of a word, maybe admonished is better, for not photographing people but that just isn’t where my passion lies. I find it challenging to break through the veneers that most of us wear and lose patience with the process of trying to capture that. Put a dog in front of me though and time stands still.

I find this a little ironic considering how much I admire the work of Richard Avedon and how his minimalist style always managed to reveal so much character.

I think an important part of growing as an artist is not just learning the technical skills behind it but figuring out what really moves you. I like to look at other art forms in addition to photography and see which ones resonate with me and why.

This information can begin to affect your shooting style.

This information can be taken and developed into something of your own.

There is a distinction to be made between outright copying a style and making it your own. Derivative work, changing just one or two things like perhaps the color or a slight perspective change, does not make it your own; I think one needs to consciously go beyond that.

I tend to shoot more black and white than I do color but occasionally when I find myself drawn to color it is usually because there is something in that scene that reminds me of that wonderful painter, Wolf Kahn. I fell in love with his landscapes the moment that I saw the first one.

Alfred Stieglitz, will always be my first love. His painterly style of photography inspires me to this day.

Michael Kenna’s photography has such simplicity and clarity to it. It reminds me to pay attention to composition first and foremost.

Photography today has changed so much in that now almost everyone is walking around with a camera and we are inundated with imagery. Now more than ever I think it is important to ruthlessly edit our own work and be more conscious of how and why we are taking a photograph.

Is there someone who inspires you?  I would love to hear who that is and why…

For two friends…

who have hit a rough patch.

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Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye

Poor girl…

out shooting in the harsh sunlight.

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There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself; for what we see is what we are.

Ernst Haas

I admit to getting a bit of perverse enjoyment out of strolling along, tripod in hand, in the heat of the day with sun overhead.

I see the looks and can almost hear the thoughts…poor girl, she doesn’t know that this is the worst possible light to shoot under. Hasn’t she heard about the golden hour?

But when I start to lose that glorious low angle light of winter I switch it up and pull out the infrared; and for that the light could not be better!

Composition is very critical in these shots and that is something that I am always playing with. I use a hoya filter, not a converted camera to capture these shots so they do require some planning. Most of them are shot with exposures of around 30 seconds.

These shots capture the light that is not visible to us: it is the near infrared. I always shoot in raw, although jpeg may be a little easier to edit especially when starting out.

Focus is a bit of a challenge as it is not the same as visible light. I focus and compose without the filter and then adjust the focus after attaching the filter. Likewise white balance is tricky and I create profiles to use in Lightroom for the imported raw infrared files. These profiles create a good starting point with more room for adjustment.

Lastly there are options for creating “false color” by swapping color channels but for me more often the beauty of infrared lies in the black and white conversion.

Ultimately this is about keeping your options open and seizing each opportunity to photograph.

Develop some skills to cover all light conditions. That way when you have the time to shoot, it won’t require that you wait for the perfect light.