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!

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.

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.

Wind scoured snow…

and a hint of sun. Perfect for a winter landscape!

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Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.

Ansel Adams

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last two weeks going through images, updating my website, and having prints made.

If you haven’t done something like that in a while it is really quite interesting.

It can go several ways I suppose. You might look back and think that it’s time to just put the camera on the shelf or start using it as a paper weight OR you might come away feeling energized. Hopefully it will be the latter!

For me it was a two-part process; deciding on prints that I really liked and then seeing how they looked in print. That did not always go in the way that I had expected. There were surprises in both directions. Some required more attention when it came to the edit while others just seemed to lose something on paper. Explore how things look printed on different paper. I tend to favor matte and for images like this one, Somerset Velvet fine art paper made it really special.

I’ve learned a lot more about handling RAW files and feel more comfortable with what needs to happen to them before they are ready to print. I pay a lot more attention to my histogram especially when it comes to shooting things like infrared. There’s no substitute for it especially when you’re out in the bright light and can’t see your screen. If you are not used to using it, bracket some shots and then compare each one to the histogram when you get home. Learn how it needs to look to make the shot that you’re envisioning.

Ultimately though it had the effect of refocusing me. I don’t feel the need to photograph everything but look for those special moments that pop up like today’s image. Moments that won’t ever look quite the same again. I was glad that I had opted to bring my camera and a lens change with me.

Snowboarding through the trees I was aware of the sun occasionally and ever so slightly breaking through the clouds; not staying for long but adding that one special element that I needed for this winter landscape shot.

The snow was windswept. It still clung to the trees from the storm the night before: the direction of the wind was evident. It was much calmer today but the occasional gust sent showers of snowflakes from these trees through the air.

Making a mental note of this spot I looped back around to the chair hoping to be able to get back before conditions changed too much. Racing down on my next run I stopped, mindful of being in a “safe” spot where I could be seen by others should they come downhill following a similar line. Sheltering my camera in my coat I dialed in the settings, removed the lens cap but kept the lens pointed down so that it didn’t get spotted with snow… and I waited.

When the next brief flash of sun came, I took my shot. I think this might become one of my twelve shots for the year and it was the icing on the cake after a good morning of riding.

How’s your crop coming for the year? Does it need watering?

Here comes the sun…

and it made for a fun day of play!

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If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.

Jay Maisel

It’s been a very overcast winter for the most part here in the Inland Northwest so when it finally cleared up, the night-time temperature dropped, scattering frost over the damp ground and trees.

I like to mix things up, change my lens, change my settings, change my position, and take full advantage of light conditions.

Having a few days of sunshine has made me want to play with lens flare and ghosting; using them intentionally to add a different element to my shots.

These effects occur when a bright light source hits the front element of  lens creating haze and artifacts due to internal reflections within the lens.

Days like this one, shooting in a very specific way, are always highly interesting to me. I learn so much about the possibilities and have a really good time just playing with my gear.

It reminds me to continue exploring each and every piece of gear in my bag and to think about how I can present something differently from the person standing next to me. Granted, different is NOT always better but these times of exploration are invaluable and often lead to something new.

This technique reminds me of spattering watercolor paint from a brush onto a painting except with a lens you have more control. Although I prefer this image in mono I left it in color because the artifacts show up more clearly.

Take advantage of each day and whatever it offers and don’t for one minute leave your camera at home because you think that there will be nothing to shoot…

An eclipse night trifecta…

or having a plan come together!

the eclipsed moon, the milky way, iridium flare 65
the eclipsed moon, the milky way, iridium flare 65

Everything that you can imagine is real.

Pablo Picasso

On this special eclipse night, the fourth eclipse in a tetra, I wanted to do something more than just photograph a large frame filling blood moon. I kept being drawn to the idea of photographing the stars AND having a full moon in the shot. It just doesn’t happen very often that you can see the full moon and not have the stars washed out by its glow. I also knew that at 8:11 there would be an iridium flare visible for a brief moment. Not a very bright one but having shot these before I hoped that it would be bright enough. Could I capture this trifecta?

A great deal of planning needed to take place. First there was scouting out a location and figuring out where each element would be at that one moment necessary to capture all three. For this I turned to a wonderful ap called Photopills. It gave me all of the tools necessary to plot the placement of the moon and the milky way in relation to the direction and elevation of the flare. Taking some test shots showed me that shooting at 11 mm on my wide angle lens should just barely squeeze these three elements into the shot. What settings I would be using needed to be decided close to the time of the shot as I really did not know how much light would be present.

The one thing that I was certain of was that I would have one shot, just one frame, to get this. The girl likes a challenge though and certainly I filled my time before and after with capturing the beauty of this extra large moon, the likes of which will not occur again until 2033, as it rose behind the mountains, already partially eclipsed.

blood moon rising
blood moon rising

It was a beautiful night, with perfect weather and even a shooting star that exploded during a test shot. How lucky can one girl be? Or is luck when opportunity and planning come together…you be the judge!

More images can be viewed in the gallery idaho after dark by clicking on this link to my website.

 

The beauty of fog…

lies in its ability to reveal just enough to let the imagination run wild!

sky crack
sky crack

A discerning eye needs only a hint, and understatement leaves the imagination free to build its own elaborations.

Russell Page

One of things that draws me to photography, especially if you shoot every day like I do, is the unexpected. I love to shoot what nature chooses to reveal and often that is only a hint of what lies beyond.

Fog for me is one of those times that should be grouped with the golden hour for its ability to transform a scene. It has such an ephemeral quality as it shifts and morphs adding its own brush strokes to a landscape. You know that if you come back again and again that it will never look the same.

 

the sky cracks open

revealing a hint of trees

bathed in swirling fog

 

Keeping an open mind when you head out to shoot will enable you to grow as a photographer. Will you seize the opportunity or will you decide that you won’t be able to see anything before you’ve even looked?