Night shining…

clouds.

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Oh, the summer night, Has a smile of light, And she sits on a sapphire throne.

Bryan Procter

After days of temperatures into the 90’s the evenings after darkness falls are far more inviting to be out in and with meteor showers taking place, Delta Aquarids now and the Perseids on the horizon, the night sky is something to be watched!

On this night I was thrilled to capture noctilucent clouds, polar mesospheric clouds. These elusive clouds form very high up, only a few kilometers below the coldest part of the atmosphere.

These are seasonal clouds, visible only during a few weeks in summer, and never visible during the day. You must also be between 50 degrees and 65 degrees north or south of the equator to have a chance of spotting them.

These were lit by the sun about an hour after it had set and their shining, shimmery look was unmistakable even to this amateur cloudwatcher.

As addictive as aurora hunting and meteor shower watching, I find myself checking for them every night.

And now I must nap…

 

Light…

and weather.
DSC_6191-3Nature is so powerful, so strong. Capturing its essence is not easy – your work becomes a dance with light and the weather. It takes you to a place within yourself.

Annie Leibovitz

The Cloud Appreciation Society believes that clouds are nature’s poetry and I would have to agree. I’ve embarked on a self guided study of them and the more I watch them the more disappointed I am to wake up to a “blue sky” day!

This day was filled with endless drama: rain, hail, wind, and the very occasional pop of light when the sun broke through.

If I hadn’t been sitting in my Jeep with the window rolled down and settings dialed in, I would have missed it. I’d been hoping for some lightning but that brief moment of sun worked to add the perfect highlight to my gray study of the lake.

Two things that were invaluable for my shooting set-up that I always have in my Jeep…a trash bag and a beanbag. The trash bag becomes a poor man’s raincoat for my camera and lens and the bean bag gets draped on my window ledge to hold my camera steady. Not always easy during stormy conditions.

Have a great week and remember: having your head in the clouds is a good thing!

Social media platforms…

how much do you really “like” them?

DSC_5660Whether via social media or in person, building your relationships is a long-term process, and the ultimate goal is to strengthen your network one person at a time.

Raymond Arroyo

A conversation that took place the other night got me thinking about engagement and the rather overwhelming choices of platforms on which we could spend our time.

Their value certainly can’t be dismissed as we try to build our own brand as artists but for me it comes down to balance.

I’ll be the first to admit that marketing is not and never has been my strong point. I admire those who have the skill and determination to amass thousands and millions of “followers” generating “likes” at anything that gets posted, be it of quality or mediocrity.

The reality for me and I suspect for many of my followers is a daily struggle of managing time. Without detailing the obvious time commitments of family and relationships, many others spring to mind.

As a photographer I need to be photographing and sunset doesn’t put an end to that for me as I am passionate about long exposure night shots. There is the inevitable shot selection and editing. From there I update my website at least on a weekly basis: adding, subtracting, and tightening. A year and a half ago I started this blog and I post once a week. Fortunately words come easily to me and I love the opportunity to share inspiration and encouragement. Worrying about hitting the peak time for posting to the widest audience possible in order to garner those “likes” is just not something that I can devote time to. I’m happy to just keep my commitment of a weekly post.

My images have a physical presence in town with matted and framed, only matted, and greeting cards that needs to be kept fresh and replenished. I owe that to the business that has the faith in me to carry my work. I make a special effort to attend any openings where the opportunity to engage in face to face conversations about my work could occur. If you want to feel a real sense of connection , a feeling that your work is meaningful, take time to connect face to face with the people who buy your work.

My FB page is more to maintain the connection to family, friends, and groups of interest that I don’t have time to spend with because of all of the above. Instagram, Twitter,  Periscope…hats off if you can keep it all going, I cannot.

I’m grateful to have had some of my images shared by hundreds and liked by thousands but that’s not an everyday experience and when it does happen it feels like a hint of validation especially when it occurs amongst my peers.

Does this make my work any less valuable when this doesn’t happen? No, I don’t believe so and neither should you if you don’t garner the likes and shares that you think that you should. I follow some incredibly brilliant photographers whose “likes” on posted images do not come anywhere close to being a barometer of the quality of their work. Studies on hitting the “like” button indicate a variety of reasons that people do so and many of those reasons are not based on the quality of the post.

I’m grateful for the “likes” from my wordpress followers. I’m grateful for the “likes” from my FB friends. I truly value the comments that are made because I realize how inundated people are by social media and when someone takes that extra moment to share a thought…believe me it is valued.

Remember that word association game where someone gives you a word and you say the first thing that springs to mind?

I’d love to play it now.

Artist.

Rollercoaster.

All lives matter…

especially the ones who put their lives on the line for ours.

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“I sometimes wish that people would put a little more emphasis upon the observance of the law than they do upon its enforcement”

Calvin Coolidge

I am saddened by the events of this past week.

I hope that this image conveys my gratitude for the service of the five fallen police officers and others who serve world wide.

A thin blue line separates us all…

I can see your halo…

but did you know it could look different to the person standing beside me?

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Forests, lakes, and rivers, clouds and winds, stars and flowers, stupendous glaciers and crystal snowflakes – every form of animate or inanimate existence, leaves its impress upon the soul of man.

Orison Swett Marden

For me it’s not just about the image. The journey does not end with the click of the shutter.

I am always on the look out for the unusual. The shots that are transient and fleeting. While out kayaking I had expectations that my shots would be water based as we skimmed along the creek accompanied by eagles and osprey soaring overhead.

They were likely the reason that I glanced up at that moment and saw the formation of this 22 degree halo around the sun. Some of the clouds were similar to the ones that created last week’s image of the iridescent clouds.

I resisted the urge to dash home and research exactly what atmospheric conditions needed to align to result in this halo formation.

I learned that the circular halo is formed by not precisely aligned but by poorly aligned hexagonal crystals. Ironic how something poorly aligned could create something so precise. The halo appears darker in the inside because the smaller angles of the crystals don’t refract the light. The angle that it is viewed from can make it appear differently to each person and just like a snowflake each one is unique. The 22 degree halo is one of the more common halos.

A couple of notes…

The images that I share are shot in raw format with my Nikons. This image was taken with a point and shoot that I borrowed from my mother as the lens that I had on my camera could capture sections of the halo in greater detail but not the entire halo. While in a kayak I often limit my gear. All images are edited in Lightroom including this one but I always stay true to the image. If the image should be a double exposure or image overlay from my camera I will so state.

Be very careful not to look directly at the sun and especially not through the lens of a camera and don’t forget to look up!

Searching for inspiration…

might be as easy as looking back..

DSC_4957-2Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you’re ever at a loss for inspiration or direction I recommend spending some time thinking back on early childhood memories.

When I was very young I had one of those charts put out by The National Weather Service showing examples of different types of clouds. I find it as fascinating today as I did back then and over the past few years I have been slowly making my own cloud chart.

I woke up on this morning to a sky filled with what we grew up calling a mackerel sky. It was always an indication that the weather was about to change.

With these clouds came the chance that I might get one of the shots that I have been looking for…iridescent clouds. Conditions have to be just right for these to form; tiny ice crystals or water droplets causing light to be diffracted high up in these cirrocumulus clouds.

These were especially colorful as they moved in waves across the sky close to the sun’s edges and I remembered to take time not only to photograph them but simply lay back and enjoy them as they blew by.

Check! Next up on my list…mammatus.

The velvet cloak…

of darkness.

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Painting is a blind man’s profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

Pablo Picasso

I can’t believe that there was a time when I was petrified of the dark. Like anything though you can always find ways to work your way through those fears.

I do get some pitying looks sometimes as I show up after the sun has sunk below the horizon and I begin to set up my tripod. Oh, you should have seen it 10 minutes ago! You missed it…

For me though the timing is perfect. I can still see enough of the landscape to decide on my composition and settle in to wait for that black canvas to reveal itself.

This is the time for rock steady tripods and long exposures that can gather the light. In a way it is more like shooting film. It’s more contemplative and I walk away with only a handful of shots due to the set up times and length of exposures.

On this night I had the pleasure of some company, a neighbor who shares in the joy and wonderment of looking at the night sky. I like those nights because it does free me from being as vigilant as I am when out shooting by myself.

One does have to be cautious when out at night and keep a close watch on their immediate surroundings. I always make sure to take frequent breaks to look around and listen for predators…four-legged and two! Close at hand I carry multiple flashlights, cell phone, and bear spray.

I like to light paint into these scenes using a torch with colored filters. Pablo Picasso painted with light in 1949 using a small electric light.

I waited for Mars to move into my shot on the left and gently painted the reeds with light. It’s an interesting feeling. Much more like you are actually directing the shot rather than simply documenting it.

Combine that with the sounds of nature and it becomes pure magic…So what I once feared has become one of my favorite times.

Step out of your comfort zone and you just might discover a new passion.