Friday, April 17, 2015

Registration Opens for May 24 Bodie Night or Interior Workshops

Light painting in Bodie with partial monlight
Our first of five special access workshops in Bodie State Historic Park in 2015 is coming up in only 5 weeks!

We open registration for our Bodie workshops bundled with both night photography instruction and morning interior access first, since we'd hate to turn away anyone who want wants both simply because one or the other filled up.  Not everyone wants both however, so as space permits we sometimes are able to offer separate registration for the morning or evening session separately.

So if you'd like interior or night access to Bodie at a lower cost than both together, you can join us on May 24 as follows:

     May 24 interior access (approximately 5:30 am - noon) $245:

     May 24 night photography workshop only (approximately 6 pm - 1 am) $325:

For more details on the workshops, including frequently asked questions on our workshops, visit this page on my Web site:

     Bodie Night Photography Workshops 

Wheaton & Hollis Hotel  in the Moonlight
Wheaton & Hollis Hotel
On May 24 the moon will set around 1 am as we're leaving the park, and it will be roughly a "first quarter" moon, 50% full.  This will be good for capturing the town well lit at night, bur it's not so bright that we can't add light of our own as well.  In addition to the lights I've been using for years, I recently bought a ProtoMachines LED2 for its range of colors as well as its fine control over intensity.  I've already taken it out for a week in March, and I'll be out practicing with it more in April and May as well.  For more examples of what Bodie is like with moonlight, here's an album on Flickr showing some past visits:

     Bodie Under Moonlight

Inside the Lottie Johl House
For interior access we enter as many buildings as we have time for.  On our last workshop in 2014, the ten photographers with us worked fast and entered 14 buildings!  I've found over the past few years that a tripod can be handy for the darkest rooms where I might want to use long exposures and/or exposure bracketing, but I like the fine composition control of shooting with the camera in hand.  To further extend the handheld concept, I can hold my iPhone in places and ways that would not be practical with a heavy DSLR, so some of my favorite shots now come from those low or creative angles.  You can see 100+ examples of Bodie interiors in an album here:

     Bodie Interiors

Sunset in Bodie during a night photography workshop
Of course golden hour, sunrises and sunsets are not to be missed, so a general album of roughly 300 photos from the park is worth browsing as well:

     Bodie State Historic Park

It's difficult to say whether we'll be able to open up separate registration for other nights or interior sessions in 2015, it all depends upon how registration goes as the dates approach.  But I can say that May 24 is the only moonlit night we'll be in Bodie this year.  Most of the other night we have booked are on moonlit nights, so we can make the most of the Milky Way.

One tradeoff between the moonless and moonlit nights is that star trail shots may arguably be better with some moonlight, so the sky isn't completely filled with the vortex of stars.

Now in our fourth season, we're averaging 5 night workshops and 3 interior access workshops per year in Bodie. We've experienced multiple workshops in every month from May through October, with the moon in various phases and compass directions.  We'll help you make the most out of your time in Bodie!

If you're interested in both the night and interior workshops together on May 24 with a small price break, or one of our other dates in 2015, visit our main Bodie Photography Workshops page for information and to register.

Colorful Light Painting in the Wheaton & Hollis Hotel

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

First Results With a ProtoMachines LED2 Light

Exploring a small slot canyon on a moonlit night
Last month I bought a high end ProtoMachines LED2 light to use for light painting.  It has presets for tungsten and daylight white balance, so I decided to test its ability to light objects at night with cool, warm and neutral light settings.  I also wanted to get a feel for what intensities worked best.  The LED2 can be used in a brightness range of 9 stops of light.  Each stop represents a 2X intensity change, so its brightest setting should be 512X brighter than its dimmest one.

Illuminated landscape under moonlight
One night offered partial moon illumination of roughly 50%, not terribly different from the conditions we'll be shooting under in our upcoming night photography and light painting workshop in the ghost town of Bodie on May 24.  I illuminated the landscape from about 100 feet away from two positions 50 feet to the right and left of the camera, with the light on intensity levels 4 and 5 (on the scale of 9).  I had checked the daylight and tungsten settings and used RGB values between them to have the light be fairly neutral.  I also used the light to explore a short passage between eroded clay walls (image at top), with the light set to its daylight preset for a warmer effect.

Milky Way Over Badwater Salt Flats
Badwater Salt Flats, Death Valley
I also went out on moonless nights, illuminating the foreground using a neutral white color close to what I expected to be using as a white balance for the rest of the photo.  For the Badwater salt flats I illuminated the foreground from roughly 20 feet to each side.  Due to the darkness of the sky, the sensitivity of my camera settings, and the proximity of the foreground to both the camera and the light, I used intensity levels between 1 and 2.

A point source of light can be though of as sending light in all directions in a sphere.  As you get further away from the source, the sphere is much larger, so the light spreads out over a larger area and gets less bright.  If you consider the geometry and math, you get the Inverse Square Law: the light intensity on the object illuminated is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

Photographers use the Inverse Square Law when they cut illumination intensity in half by increasing the distance of the light source by 1.4X (the square root of 2).  Similarly you can double the light intensity by reducing the distance to 0.7X.  The ProtoMachines light makes adjustment even easier by adjusting light intensity in stops of light, increments of 2X, so if you want the light twice as bright, you just add 1.0 to the brightness setting. 

Glowing Kilns at Night
Charcoal kilns at night
While shooting these charcoal kilns I used intensities in the 3 to 4 range, but at that higher intensity I only flashed each kiln for a second or two.  I kept the light on the far side of my body so it wouldn't shop up in the image, and I kept walking so I wouldn't show up in silhouette.  For some reason the light takes on a slight pinkish hue here.  I must have messed up when setting the color.  Since I was shooting dozens of shots in a row, I couldn't review the shot while executing the shot, but I can adjust the white balance in Adobe Lightroom after the fact.

A lot of the early adopters of this type of light use it in more of a "crazy colors" mode, painting objects in a variety of shades.  For this foreground texture I decided to use additive light blending, where you add two colors to make a third.  I used blue and red to see if they'd blend to make purple where they overlap. I tried to send the red light in from the left side, and the blue light up the eroded depression from the right side.  For simplicity I shot the red and blue in separate 30-second exposures, and blended the two images in the free StarStaX app.

Light Blending on the Playa
Light Blending on The Racetrack playa in Death Valley National Park
I was able on this trip to use the light on various subjects, in variety of different modes, on subjects near and far, under various types of skies and lighting conditions. I can't wait get back out and use it some more, to practice for our first Bodie night photography workshop of the season coming up on the night of May 24.

To see other lights I've tried and carry, read my prior post:
Gearing up for 2015 With a ProtoMachines LED2 Light

Friday, March 13, 2015

Gearing up for 2015 With a ProtoMachines LED2 Light

Light painting night photography under moonlight in Bodie
One of the primary things to manage during night photography are your light sources. You may have light pollution from near or far incandescent light, additional light from the moon, a strobe (flash), and handheld lights such as a colored LED, flashlight or headlamp. Illumination from various types of lights ranges from "cool" (blue in tone) to "warm" (yellow). Fortunately you have a lot of flexibility to adjust the warmth or coolness of the lighted area in post-processing software such as Lightroom. On the other hand, it's good to do as much in-camera as possible, so if you can tune your light to have the desired effect while you shoot, that can save time on the post-processing side.

The result of a quest for warm, cool and colored lights
I've posted on the variety of lights I've bought, used and carry, but at some point carrying so much gear gets to be a bit of a burden, especially when moving around cluttered scenes on dark nights.  Even trying to keep costs low, over time I've ended up spending a fair amount just to have a selection of different light temperatures and intensities.  And the selection is one of compromises, incandescent lights being seen by the camera sensor as being very warm and yellow, while most simple LED lights are seen as very cool and blue.

"Old school" light painting in Bodie, with incandescent lights
After having customers show up at my Bodie night photography workshops last year with ProtoMachines LED1 and LED2 lights last year, I just picked up an LED2, which should dramatically reduce the volume and weight of the light painting gear I carry, give me a wider range of options, and reduce the number of batteries I need to keep charged.  I can pre-program warm and cool settings for a range of white balance settings, or various RGB values for creative color work.  The intensity can be adjusted in a range of up to 9 stops, so the brightest setting should be 2 to the ninth power brighter than the dimmest one, a range of 512x.

It's going to be nice to have a light with adjustable color and intensity, all in one small package.  It'll be fun to see what works best for lighting up foreground subjects under full moon, no moon, and mixed lighting scenarios!

ProtoMachines LED2 light for night photography

Applause for the Appulse: Moon, Mars and Venus

Venus, Mars and the moon setting over Mt. Whitney
I thought that I was having a good day to catch some nice photos of the crescent moon by Mars and Venus last month, setting behind Mount Whitney.

Then I put a sequence of photos together in a time-lapse video, and the event came to life!

I posted a link to my Twitter account @JeffSullPhoto, and +Philip Plait embedded the copy of my video on Vimeo in a post on his +Bad Astronomy blog on +Slate:
"Venus, Mars, and the Moon Go to Sleep".
He tweeted a link:
Then the +California Academy of Sciences tweeted a link as well:
It's cool to have astronomers and scientists recognize and share my astrophotography!  Check out Phil's blog post if you have the time.  He always adds some nice scientific context.  A "conjunction" is actually called an "appluse".

Monday, January 26, 2015

Massive Asteroid BL86 Approaches Earth

Mountain-sized asteroid BL86 came hurtling towards its near-miss with earth today, and I caught it on my camera as it approached late Sunday night. Here's the time-lapse video, both an edge to edge 16:9 crop at 200mm, then a second copy cropped to 1080p. Look in the center as it moves from lower right center to upper left center:

 Both clips in the video were assembled from 119 separate images of the sky, taken with a full frame DSLR and 70-200 mm lens, on a star-tracking mount. Here's a composite image assembled from the first 60 photos.

If you missed the asteroid Sunday and Monday, +NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a chart to help you find it in the sky into the night of Tuesday, January 27 in the U.S., Wednesday January 28 GMT:

Although the asteroid is bright enough to see with binoculars, it probably won't do you much good to try to find it that way. The asteroid moves so slowly, it's very difficult to tell from the smaller stars in the background.  In the time-lapse video you see it move because several minutes of time are shown in each second of video.

Since it's easier to see the asteroid that way, I just pointed my camera where the asteroid should be, and I set an external timer to have it capture photos for a couple of hours. I used a star-tracking mount so the area of sky it was in wouldn't move away form where the camera was pointing.

 For the video, you can adjust the playback on YouTube from its standard low resolution playback to as high as 1080p HD.

 I also have a copy down-converted to 720p HD on Vimeo if that works better for your Internet connection:

Asteroid BL86 Approaches Earth from Jeff Sullivan on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Four Nights With Comet Lovejoy

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy on the evening of Monday, January 19, 2015.
Last night I enjoyed the best viewing conditions for capturing Comet Lovejoy so far.  Seen under the dark skies of California's Eastern Sierra region and with no moon in the sky, even its long tail showed up well.  Knowing where to look (near Pleiades) I was able to just see it with my eyes, and find it with a 70-200 mm lens.  Using a Canon 70D DLSR, its "crop sensor" gave me the equivalent of 320 mm focal length.  I even added a 2X teleconverter to bring the effective focal length to a massive 640 mm!

I used an external interval timer to capture one-minute exposures until the camera's battery power ran out nearly 2.5 hours later.  I had the camera placed on an inexpensive star-tracking mount to follow the comet as the earth rotated.  I converted the resulting 147 exposures to video, and with 640 mm zoom, over the course of 2 hours you can see the comet move against the starry background!

Here are the time-lapse video results of several nights shooting, at effective focal lengths of 28 mm, 35 mm, 320 mm and 640 mm.  The video is best viewed full screen, switched to HD 1080p quality:

I hope that I get more clear nights this month to shoot the comet, as it gradually moves away from the earth and the sun on its big lap of our solar system.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Photograph Comet Lovejoy in January

Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy on January 6, 2015.
Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy passes closest to earth tonight, offering our brightest viewing of it for several thousand more years.  It will brighten as it continues to approach the sun, but appear to fade in brightness as it recedes from earth, and as those two trends work against each other we'll have continued good viewing conditions for the next couple of weeks. 

The recent full moon challenged viewing, but tonight, January 7, in the Northern Hemisphere the moon rises about 3 hours after sunset.  Once the sky is fully dark (approximately 6:30 pm in mid northern latitudes), you'll have roughly an hour of dark sky viewing before the approaching moon brightens your sky.  Tomorrow, January 8, your dark sky window extends roughly 6:30 - 8:30.

You don't need fancy equipment to see this comet.  It's bright enough to see with binoculars, or in test exposures taken with a 24mm or 50mm lens or to find in a 70-200 mm zoom at the widest 70 mm focal length.  For the next few nights Comet Lovejoy will be to the right of the constellation Orion.  +Universe Today provides a handy finder chart in their article "Finding Lovejoy: How to Follow the Path of Comet 2014 Q2 Through January".

I captured the test image above with the nearly-full moon in the sky, using a Canon 70D DSLR and EF 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 lens on a star-tracking mount.  If you don't have a star tracking mount, no problem, just use your widest lens (I'd use an EF 16-35 mm f/2.8 lens wide open at f/2.8 and at it's widest focal length of 16mm).  Crank up the ISO and take a number of long test exposures to determine which combination of ISO and exposure time work well on your camera.

If the skies remain clear I should be able to capture even better images during moonless hours in the coming nights.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Vote for Bodie SHP in Via Magazine

California's Bodie State Historic Park at night

+AAA's Via Magazine is running a Wonders of the West sweepstakes.  They ask you a few short questions, then ask for your nomination for the best sight in the West.  What could epitomize the West better than a real Wild West ghost town?  All respondants are entered to win $1500 for a trip, plus $400 credit at Hertz for your rental car.

If you have a moment, go to their poll at, click on your votes for their 3-4 standard multiple choice questions, then write in Bodie as a Wonder of the West!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Geminid Meteor Shower 2014 in HD

Time-lapse video footage from the Geminid meteor shower on the nights of December 13 and 14, 2014. Shot at Topaz Lake in the Eastern Sierra region, on the California-Nevada border.

Here's a description of the Geminid meteor shower from NASA:

"Geminids are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. Basically it is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini. When the Geminids first appeared in the early 19th century, shortly before the U.S. Civil War, the shower was weak and attracted little attention. There was no hint that it would ever become a major display."

Composite photos showing multiple 2014 Geminid meteors
I'll be teaching photographers how to capture meteor showers in a photography workshop during the Geminid meteor shower in Death Valley in December 2015:

#Geminids #meteorshower #science #breakingnews #astronomy +Death Valley Workshops 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Leonid Meteor Shower: Timelapse HD Video

You should see two big ones top center, then a lot of little ones down near the horizon after that.

Assembled from 224 30 second photos taken last night from 1-3am in the Eastern Sierra, California, during the Leonid meteor shower in 2009.

All I can say now in 2014 is wow, my technique has progressed a lot since 2009!

Catch the Leonid Meteor Shower Nov 17/18!

The Leonid Meteor Shower, one of the best meteor showers of the year, is happening this week, peaking around November 17/18. The meteors appear to originate from the constellation Leo.  The radiant point that the meteors seem to originate from rises slightly north of due east shortly after after 11 pm.

Long, earth-grazing meteors could be visible coming out of the eastern horizon before the radiant point rises. You can download an app such as StarWalk to a smartphone or tablet to make identification of the constellation and radiant point easy. As night progresses the portion of the earth that you're standing on rotates around to the forward path of the planet hurtling through space, where it collides with more space debris.  The path of the earth is due east at midnight, so the sky and atmosphere above you acts like a big scoop collecting meteors and creating long fireball trails.  The eastern half of your sky can collide with slightly more debris at that point, and more and more of the sky above you is directly facing the direction the earth is travelling as dawn approaches.  That's why early morning hours are often advised for meteor shower watching.

For 2014 however the moon will rise around 3 am at mid northern latitudes, so the best viewing will be roughly midnight to 2:30 am. Adjust your shooting direction to accommodate the east to west movement of Leo as it seems to circle the North Star and rises towards nearly overhead and slightly northeast as dawn approaches.

Check the weather forecast and moon rise times in your area to fine tune your viewing experience. To find a prime viewing spot, travel east away from cities to put the light pollution at your back. Good luck!

Keep your Wordpress Content Fresh With Your Social Media Content

Social media is where a lot of the "action" is these days... new content and interaction (reshares, views, comments, likes, favorites). But posts on social media don't necessarily get seen, in part because your subscribers may not be watching at that moment, and because sites like Facebook and Google+ now filter content by what they predict people want to see, so many or most of your subscribers may never be presented with your content that they subscribed to see.  Social media posts can have a short half-life, getting buried quickly behind other content, so interaction falls off quickly.

Blogs offer a more rich publishing platform and people subscribe to see their content.  Many sponsors are accustomed to rating online influence by monthly traffic to a blog. So while some people have found success becoming "Internet famous" and are sponsored simply to post on social media, other corporate sponsors haven't broadened their criteria beyond more lasting content delivery platforms like +WordPress and +Blogger.

One of the ways they evaluate your content is using +Google Analytics to measure monthly visits to your blog.  So even if you've been  somewhat successful marketing though content, engagement and building a following on social media, you may find that the sponsors you'd like to connect with are using other metrics to evaluate potential marketing partners.

Posting to blogs adds yet another location to post to, and it is a good idea to have unique content there utilizing the added features such as the ability to include multiple images. But all of your work on social media doesn't have to go go waste.  To some degree your audience varies from site to site on social media, and who is online looking at your posts varies, so allowing your social media posts to aggregate to a blog can give your friends and followers a single place to see your recent content.  If you do a good job curating the site and attracting people to come back over time, your potential sponsor will like it as well.

I had a nice experience with the Google+ to Wordpress plugin for Wordpress this morning.  The founder of photo sharing site +500px+Evgeny Tchebotarev, tweeted to his 5000+ followers one of my Wordpress blog posts created from a Google+ post:
I experience decent results on Google+ when sharing individual photos, but for some reason the filtering algorithms on Google+ seem to demote my album shares somewhat, more heavily restrict shares of other posts, and severely restrict shares  of external links.  Worst of all, much of the interaction I see is from users far from my target customer base, so Google's current heavy and skewed filtering algorithm renders G+ practically worthless in my experience.  But I have a lot of confidence in Google to eventually correct course and get on a productive path.  So although my initial 4-5 posts per day for its first year dropped to 1 per day for the next year and again to more sporadic contributions this year as the site fails to deliver broad engagement, when it eventually does, I want to be there.  I've set up Google+ pages to use when they become fully functional, such as when they can connect with and follow (circle) more than a few users per day before maxing out some limit.

In the meantime, any work you invest to maintain a placeholder stake in G+, or to make posts such as URL shares which are likely to be barely distributed on G+, doesn't have to go to waste, since those posts can have a second life on your blog.

It's no small benefit that those blog posts aren't restricted by any severe filtering to hide them from your followers, as they might have been on the original social media site.  One good tweet of your blog post, and it may have more potential viewers than the original post had on the social media site.  And your social media sites may supply that traffic.  Even if there are few eyeballs on your G+ posts or they're not views from your target customers or subscribed (circling) G+ users, there's no reason why you can link to the resulting blog post and drive traffic there from Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

If you'd like to consider having your social media posts mirrored to a Wordpress blog, take a look at the Google+ to Wordpress plugin:  You'll also see the Twitter version there, Social Media 2 WordPress for Twitter.
Your G+ posts can appear on your blog
To see how they look on a blog, check out mine at  I just switched on the Twitter plugin, so I may have some fine tuning to do in the plugin settings before it works exactly the way I want it to, but you can get the gist of what it does.  Thanks to the developer +Daniel Treadwell.  He provides a free version of each plugin which imports the last 10 G+ posts, with comments, or the Twitter version with interaction as well, so you can try each of them out.  To make use of Wordpress plugins you'll need to have a "self-hosted" copy of Wordpress on your own Web site.  Other than the learning curve involved in setting that up, searching for the name of the plugins through your Wordpress installation, and installing and using them, is pretty straightforward.

Perhaps +Google will consider reporting our G+ activity in +Google Analytics so sponsors can see and recognize that as part of the value we offer.  But the filtering of the distribution of your G+ posts may still impede their visibility on G+, so having them available on an external blog enables you to make full use of the content, while you have full tracking and credit for how many people view it (at least directly on the blog).  It's surprising that Google didn't offer similar G+ to +Blogger post migration ages ago (and it's surprising that the existing Blogger to G+ posting capability suffers the same heavy filtering and reduced views that any other external link seems to experience).  Google Analytics could offer the unique strategic advantage of reporting of the combined views of the same post on G+ and Blogger, but a great baby step in the right direction would be any reporting of G+ posts at all.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Image buyers are using 500px Prime

I put about 50 photos into the +500px Prime licensing service when it was released a few months ago, and I didn't give it a second thought. I went back and checked yesterday, and I had $354 in royalties waiting for me. The average $7 per image won't buy me a new camera, but I did order a new tripod, and it will be arriving early next week.

 If I had uploaded a couple of high quality photos per day, the few hundred dollars might have been a few thousand. If you're a photographer on 500px who has put photos into Prime, I'll put the link to your 500px store in the description for this photo on 500px.

Here's the same photo on G+, in case that helps Blogger provide a thumbnail image when this blog post gets posted on G+...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CBS Features Bodie and America's Ghost Towns

America's Best Unrestored Ghost Town, Bodie
CBS aired an excellent segment on America's ghost towns last Sunday, including Bodie, California. Here's the segment featuring Bodie from their Sunday morning show:

The haunting remnants of America's ghost towns

Living not far from the park, I have the privilege of leading many dozens of photographers through Bodie each year, for special night access and to photograph building interiors.  Here are photos from our photo workshops, and visits to our favorite local ghost town:

Star trails and the Iridium 11 communications satellite are seen over the Bodie Church
Sunset in Bodie

Moon rise and moon beams over Bodie Bluff

A dusting of snow on Bodie in the spring

Inside the Boone General Store

The Miner's Union Hall in pre-dawn light

Milky Way rising over the Standard Mill

Bodie's 1937 Chevy coupe at dusk

Highlighting Bodie's landmarks under the Milky Way

The peaceful twilight hours in Bodie

Roulette wheel in the Sam Leon Bar

Evening golden hour in Bodie as the last warm rays of the sun touch the town
You can see over 200 of my photos of Bodie in an album on +Flickr :

We've raised roughly $25,000 for building stabilization in Bodie through our photo workshops there.  When we have dates for our interior access and night photography workshops in Bodie for 2015, we'll publish them on my Web site:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Orionid Meteor Shower Under the Darkest Skies in America

Orionid Meteor Shower 2014
The annual Orionid meteor shower is created when Earth passes through trails of comet debris left in space long ago by Halley's Comet as it orbits around the sun. The "shooting stars" develop when bits typically no larger than a pea, and mostly the size of a grain or sand, vaporize in Earth's upper atmosphere.  This is a composite shot of the best meteors I caught during the Orionid meteor shower last week.

Want to see the stars somewhere really dark?    I shot the peak night of the Orionid meteor shower in the high, dry, optimal dark sky viewing conditions of Central Nevada, under some of the darkest skies in the world in the Tonopah Star Trails area:

Every once in a while, the Internet likes something I post on +Twitter.  Here's my post of this photo there:
I'm working on my time-lapse video from last week's meteor shower as well.

Here's a time-lapse video from chasing the Orionid meteor shower in 2012:

Thanks to Liz Horton and +ABC11-WTVD in Raleigh for using my Orionid Meteor shower time-lapse video from 2012 to inform viewers about the Orionid meteor shower!  Here's ABC11's report informing viewers of the upcoming shower:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How to Photograph Comet Siding Spring by Mars, October 18-19

Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy and a Geminid Meteor, December 2013
Comet Siding Spring will pass Mars tomorrow, Sunday October 19, 2014.  The Orionid meteor shower is also underway, so you might get lucky and catch a meteor as well, like I did with this Geminid meteor I caught with Comet C/2013 R1 Lovejoy last December.

I see that my exposure was 8 seconds at ISO 5000 on a 50mm lens. It was an f/1.4 lens, so I was able to shoot at f/1.6. No star tracking mount was needed for up to a 10 second exposure with that lens.  With that long of an exposure, shouldn't the stars appear to be moving across the sky?  Using the "500 Rule", as long as the focal length times the exposure in seconds doesn't exceed 500, you should be fine.  So 50 x 8 = 400, and you get no visible star movement.

If you try a 400 mm lens however your maximum exposure goes to 1.25 seconds, so you'd need a star tracking mount.  Most people don't have star tracking mounts, so a good compromise might be an 85 mm lens offering f/1.8 or wider, keep the exposure around 5-6 seconds or less, and boost the ISO a bit is necessary.  The comet is approaching Mars now, so try it tonight, Saturday, for practice.

Seen from mid northern latitudes this weekend, Mars will be visible to the southwest from the end of evening twilight until it sets around 9/9:30 pm or so.  Good luck!

I performed lens tests with Comet C/2-013 R1 Lovejoy in 2013. I've put together a time-lapse video today to show you how they did. I've uploaded the video to YouTube here:

+NASA Goddard has produced a cool visualization showing how Comet Siding Spring will pass Mars, in this video:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Colors Report for Eastern Sierra Mono County October 16, 2014

Eastern Sierra fall colors, Mono County October 8, 2014
The latest reports are saying that many locations survived this week's wind storms better expected, and although there are many many bare trees at higher elevations, there are also colorful ones and others which still have green and will continue to change over the next 1-2 weeks. So it looks like we'll have prime conditions in Mono County this week, as good as it's going to get.

Here in Antelope Valley at 5000 feet elevation in the northern end of Mono County, the cottonwood trees are just starting to turn, so the Walker/Coleville/Topaz area could be nice for those in 1-3 weeks.   and I hope to get out to check current conditions further south in the county later today or tomorrow, and hopefully meet up with some of the folks we've met through photography in recent years.

These images of colorful aspen trees were taken in Mono County last week October 9, before the winds.

More fall colors photos from the Eastern Sierra:


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

500px Wants Your Feedback

How has the site 500px been for you lately?
Do you like their new Groups functionality?

They want your feedback, follow the link in their tweet to the questionnaire:
See you there!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Eastern Sierra Fall Colors Report September 2014

Fall colors near Bishop, CA Saturday, September 20, 2014
Fall colors are getting underway in the Eastern Sierra.  These are some of the better locations I found last weekend down in the Bishop area.  The aspen were still mainly green, especially nearly all of the larger trees off of steep hillsides, but for the next two weekends conditions should continue to spread the color to more trees at a wider diversity of elevations.

I say "should' because at this point in the transition to color, the big variable becomes wind.  If a storm blows through, the turned leaves can blow down.  Similarly, extreme cold can make the leaves go directly to brown.  So if you can only get up there on weekends, consider the next two for the Bishop area (especially Bishop Creek and Rock Creek), but do check the weather forecast and factor that in if you can only pick one.

The examples on this page were all taken Saturday, September 20.
Eastern Sierra Fall Colors 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

California Landscape Photography Guide Book

Draft cover for my upcoming guide book to Southern California landscape photography
This is the draft cover for my upcoming guide book to landscape photography from Yosemite to San Diego.I started this journey in September 2006, putting whatever belongings I could fit in my SUV and dropping them off at a storage locker, before going on the road with a copy of "Photographing Southwest, Volume 1 - A guide to the natural landmarks of Southern Utah" by +Laurent Martres.  I went on the road full time as my divorce started. Landscape photography, and that book, got me through a lot of rough times in the next few years. In a sense you could say that they saved my life. Imagine my surprise when I started a Mono Lake and Yosemite regional guide, contacted Laurent since he didn't have a California book, and by coincidence he was just about to hire someone to write a book to cover those locations through San Diego!

I spent the next few years living out of the back of my car, returning to spend weeks with my kids, and to bring them out to explore America's incredible landscapes with me.  On one hand it killed me to be separated from them sometimes for weeks at at time, but on the other hand it was crystal clear that the days with them were precious, so I went out of my way to dedicate those days to them, and engage them in the exploration of places of unique geology and geography and almost overwhelming beauty.  I'm very fortunate that they seem to have developed some of the same curiosity and thirst for exploration and adventure that I enjoy.

All my life I've been drawn to nature and landscapes, growing up exploring the woods, ponds, mountains and coast of New England.  Our family hiked the peaks of Colorado and the boardwalks around Yellowstone's geyser basins curing our move to California, where the grand scale of the High Sierra, Mojave Desert and Pacific Ocean begged for attention.  In a sense my explorations over the years leading up to this project mirrored that legacy, as I shared with my children many of the same discoveries that my parents had led me to.  Custody days for me aren't a burden, they're a priceless privilege.  Gaining perspective on what's important in life is something that can never come too soon.  

I could travel the world in search of soaring mountains, searing deserts with massive sand dunes, wave-pounded seashores or forests with astonishingly massive trees, but that's all within a day's drive.  You can search the world or Oz to fill some perceived need, but for anyone lucky enough to have both family and Southern California nearby, there's truly no place like home.