Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lonely Planet Names the Eastern Sierra a Top 10 U.S. Destination for 2013

Three - Dawn Alpenglow Over Mt. Dana from Navy Beach

The secret is out!  Lonely Planet named my home, the Eastern Sierra region, as one of their top 10 U.S. travel destinations for 2013:

"This year, hop past Yosemite – just beyond lies the secret California dream: the Eastern Sierra, the overlooked flank of the Sierra Nevada range, with other-worldly natural attractions and surprises (Basque culture?), not to mention far fewer visitors."

Among other sights, they recommend visiting Mono Lake, the ghost town of Bodie State Historic Park, and Devil's Postpile National Monument.  Of course we're arranging special privileges like night access to Bodie, and many other local secrets we can show you... once I have permit confirmations from the 6-7 state and federal agencies I work with for authorization to run photo workshops around here.

You can read the full Lonely Planet article here:

Top 10 US travel destinations for 2013

Lori Hibbett and I are working on a schedule for 5 different flavors of Eastern Sierra workshops, two for the High Sierra, 2 for Death Valley, and several for Yosemite National Park.  Contact me for further details.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Guide Books to California and World Landscape Photography

"Photographing California - Vol. 1: North - A Guide to the Natural Landmarks of the Golden State" by Gary Crabbe is now available! I'm currently completing Vol. 2: South. Gary's new book is the latest book in the popular "Photographing the Southwest" series by Laurent Martres. Laurent is our publisher for these new volumes. Just released last month was "Photographing the World: A Guide to Photographing 201 of the Most Beautiful Places on Earth" by Tom Till. You can get free shipping from Amazon by ordering both books via the links in the column to the right.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday Deals for Photographers

Black Friday Sale - Adobe Lightroom 4 - $79.99 (regularly $149.99, 46% off)
This is what I use for 99% of my image editing, even for pre and post-editing star trails and HDR images.  I had been using the beta version of this software and found that my results were turning out better than they had in Lightroom 3, so I upgraded to version 4 in early August.

Black Friday Deal on Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 & Premiere Elements 11 Bundle - $69.95 (regularly $149.99, 53% off)
I recently bought the previous version 10 to get Premiere Elements to edit my time-lapse videos and set them to music.  I mainly use Adobe Lightroom for image editing, but it was nice to get Adobe Photoshop Elements in the bundle for occasional use of layers.

Other products:

Shop Amazon - Black Friday Deals Week

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How to Set Up a Photography Web Site and WordPress Photo Blog

There are many free photography sites on the Internet you can participate on to interact with other photographers.  Perhaps you'd like to start a blog, where you can consolidate your images and stories in one place.  It's pretty easy to determine that WordPress is the standard for most blogs these days, and there are even free third party applications you can add to use your existing content on those popular photography sites.  You can set up a blog on for free, but when you try that, you quickly find out that they don't allow the installation of those useful third party tools you've read about.

Perhaps you'd also like to create a more comprehensive Web site as a place you can design and control to represent yourself.  But many Web site hosting companies impose storage limits and bandwidth limits.  Will they shut you down and demand more money if you upload too many photos, or your Web site is actually successful and starts to develop visitor traffic?

You can have both: a hosted WordPress blog and your own Web site with custom domain name.  You certainly don't need to buy two domain names and pay to host them separately.  But even if you already bought a hosted site to install a WordPress blog to, you probably installed it in the default way, which could make building a Web site around it unnecessarily awkward.  After trying then buying my own custom domain name and installing WordPress, moving my Blogger blog over and setting up Google+ post to make blog posts over on my WordPress blog, I looked into adding a Web site as well.  At that point I finally figured out how I should have done it the first time, and I deleted and re-installed WordPress.

If you're considering what to to regarding a blog and/or Web site, over on they recommend three hosting companies.  The least expensive one, Bluehost, has a sale underway at $4.95/mo. for hosting unlimited domains, content and bandwidth.  Read some reviews of their service, use this link to check them out:
Disclosure: if you sign up through that link, I'll get a small "affiliate" credit (I have to buy gas and lenses somehow, the rocks and trees don't pay me).  I can do you a big favor in return, and save you the days I spent doing it all wrong, re-doing it, then re-doing it again.  Send me a message to let me know you signed up through my link, and I'll tell you what I learned about installing WordPress... the third time I installed it after trying and rejecting both the free version and a default hosted installation.  I can refer to you many useful add-on applications for photographers, which can help you move content over from Blogger, Google+, and so on.

I'm currently going through the toy box of third party tools, testing them and researching ways to integrate my content from SmugMug and other sites.  Stay tuned, I hope to have something worth showing soon, after Thanksgiving week if not sooner.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Will Video Watchers Really "Tip" To Avoid Ads on Vimeo?

Let's find out.  I turned on the new "Tip Jar" feature for this video on Vimeo:

What do you think, will people reward decent content not marred by ads, or is everything on the internet assumed to be free?

New Business Card for Night Workshops at Bodie

I should have my 2013 dates shortly.  I can't wait to go back!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Perseid Meteor Shower Time-Lapse / While The Sun Was Sleeping, Life Audience

For the Perseid meteor shower this year I shot mostly short star trails sequences, which make short time-lapse movies, so I added footage I hadn't yet shown from 2010 and 2011 and set it all to the amazing "While The Sun Was Sleeping" by Life Audience.

If I remember correctly, the first 8 clips are form the meteor shower, then I added various clips to fill out the time of the song.  I may have shown some of the clips before, but setting them to music is new for me.  I'm working on several more concepts and songs; I'm sure they'll get better and better as I develop experience on the post-production side.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Moon Rise Over Half Dome in Yosemite

Moon Rise over Hall Dome, Yosemite National Park

I've been pursuing moon rises behind Half Dome for many years. The weather doesn't always cooperate, but I've caught it from several different vantage points now, and I have a few more angles to catch it from on return trips.

This time there had been a couple of light snowfalls already in the Fall, so there was a nice dusting of snow and the beginnings of ice on the lakes as I crossed Tioga Pass.  Here's Ellery Lake with Ice and patches of open water.

The light wasn't great as I passed tuolumne Meadows, but upon reaching Tenaya Lake, I found a mirror surface reflecting trees on the far side.  You could get great pictures if you moved away from the families throwing rocks into the lake, and timed your shots to avoid the worst of the ripples they created.

Next I pulled into the Olmstead Point parking lot.  I was shocked at the quantity of people crowding the area so late in October.  I didn't stop.

Then I checked a few stands of dogwood trees tucked into groves of redwood trees, and found the dogwoods brightly colored and beautifully back-lit.

Proceeding for a lap around Yosemite Valley, Upper Yosemite Fall was completely dry, missing even the modest wetness you'll often see on the rock.  Most of the deciduous trees seemed a couple of weeks behind schedule turning color, like the aspen had been in the Eastern Sierra this season.  The oaks were lightening somewhat, but not far enough along to warrant a stop by Cook's Meadow.  I did spot some trees nicely back-lit against Cathedral Rock, so I pulled over.

A large van full of photo workshop customers passed by; I figured I'd catch up with them in a few minutes, either in the turnout opposite Bridalveil Fall at Valley View, or a short while later catching the moon rise. 

Unfortunately in this dry year even spring-fed Bridalveil Fall is nearly non-existent, breaking up into a thin mist partway to the ground.  Noticing the angle of the sun, I stopped to see whether there was enough water in Bridalveil to create a rainbow in its mist.  Sure enough, the rainbow was there, and the low water of the Merced River made a perfect reflecting pool to offer creative compositions including colorful Fall foliage.  Odd that the photo workshop passed it up (perhaps they caught it the day before).

By then it was time to go set up for moon rise.  Curiously, the photography workshop was still nowhere to be found.  Had they really left the park only minutes before one of the events of the year in Yosemite? 

Last year the only other person who had anticipated the moon rise in the position I had chosen was a guy from Seattle shooting on film.  Of course once the moon rose, two or three dozen people joined us!  This year, from another location, I first met someone from Cincinnati.  As it turned out, someone had gotten the word out online, so roughly 2 dozen people more people eventually showed up (and there were apparently a few more at the vantage point I had used the prior year).  

A started one camera at 105mm focal length to capture a time-lapse video of the entire moon rise, and I used a second camera to capture the initial emergence at 400mm then the rest of the event at 200mm.  It'll take me a while to get each sequence processed, but so far it's looking good!  There are even a couple of climbers you can see move slightly in the video, on El Capitan directly opposite the moon in this image.  

I've been pretty busy this year wrapping up my guide book to California landscape photography, but I'll offer Yosemite landscape photography workshops as time permits:

Update August 20, 2014: Thanks to the +Royal Observatory Greenwich  for including my image in their video about the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2104 competition! 

I'm always honored to have my work recognized by the Royal Observatory in London, home of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and the Prime Meridian... the place that every longitude, every GPS coordinate on the planet, is defined relative to!
  See and share the video on YouTube.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Orionid Meteor Shower 2012 Time-lapse Video - Music by Life Audience

My timelapse video including footage from the 2012 Orionid meteor shower is up on YouTube, enjoy!  I included some weather footage as a lead-in to help fill out the length of the song used, then the night photography starts a little after the 2 minute mark:

Here's how you can shoot your own time-lapse video of the orionid meteor shower:
Create a Timelapse Video of a Meteor Shower

Orionid meteor shower October 20 - 21, 2012
I've been out chasing every major meteor shower since 2009, and many minor ones, whenever the viewing conditions are favorable.  Some of my more successful night of shooting have been published as time-lapse videos:

If you like the soundtrack, check out the rest of the album by Life Audience over on iTunes:
I love it, and no, they didn't pay me to say that!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

New Astrophotography Time-lapse Demo Reel

Considering watching or photographing the Orionid Meteor Shower this weekend?  Here's my latest footage of the Perseid, Geminid, Zeta Perseid and Arietid meteor showers to get you in the mood.

I was recently contacted by Kerstin Inga of Life Audience about the possibility of setting some of their music to some of my time-lapse footage.  I've accumulated a quantity of video over the past 4 years, and their song "While You Were Sleeping" from their *Wave and Particles* album seemed perfect for some of my astrophotography clips.  If you like the track, check out other songs from this album on iTunes:

If you like night photography, my 2013 workshop schedule will be announced here on my blog soon.

This is the culmination of hundreds of hours and many long night of effort from everyone involved.  YouTube likes and shares are greatly appreciated by the artists.  Thank you very much! 

Note: To best see the meteors, watch this video on YouTube, first selecting a quality of 720P HD and then making it go full screen:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Bodie Night Photography Workshop: September 22 Results

There were dramatic storm clouds building in the afternoon as we scouted the town for interesting night shots.  By the time we assembled at the front gate to start our session, there were columns of rain falling all around the town from the larger, darker masses of clouds.  Lightning flashed behind us, to the south, followed shortly by the loud crash and rumble of thunder.  The lightning was close... After all this planning, would be get rained out, or would we be forced to take shelter from the bolts or lightning?  A lightning strike can exceed 100 million volts and 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit... if these dry, old wooden structures are still standing, the town must have a good network of lightning rods to direct the energy into the ground.

As we assembled our gear, we made adjustments to what we'd wear and carry to account for the possibility of rain.  Sure enough just as we started walking into the town the rain started coming down.  It was only 45 minutes before sunset, so the light was fantastic, illuminating portions of the town in warm light, and creating rainbows to the northeast.  

The rain continued intermittently until sunset, then stopped as the twilight "blue hour" started.  The clouds started breaking, revealing the moon, which had already risen that afternoon.  The clouds were backlit by the moon during blue hour, providing a subtle and diffuse light on the landscape beneath the dramatic clouds.

The clouds dissipated very quickly as twilight gave way to night, so we shed our damp rain gear and bundled up for night.  I changed out of some wet clothes only to drop a gallon of water while refilling my water bottle, only to launch 1/4 of that gallon all over myself and my camera as I caught it on the way to the ground.  I was clearly destined to go back out and shoot wet!

A few photographers started interval timers on extra cameras at the Bodie Methodist Church to shoot star trails and timelapse sequences, then we headed up to the Standard Mill for some shots up there.  The moon was now clear of clouds and illuminating the landscape nicely.  On the way back down to town, many workshop participants stopped with my co-instructor and Nikon expert Lori Hibbett at the Bodie Schoolhouse to practice shooting star trails.  I took the rest one building down to the Wheaton & Hollis Hotel to light up the inside from a side window.

Once people had the hang of star trails, many dispersed around town to find their own subjects.  I met some people over at the old 1937 Chevy for some light painting more star trails. It was definitely handy that Lori and I could be two places at once, so we never experienced that nightmare workshop scenario where 8-10 people try to crowd around one subject (or simply lining up and ignoring the importance of having something interesting in the foreground of your composition)!  

The seven hours we have in the park after it closes goes by incredibly fast, so it's good that we've been visiting the park for years and many shot concepts worked out well ahead of time.  We've shot multiple night sessions in Bodie now under full moon, partial moon and no moon conditions, so we have the night considerations pretty well down as well.  A couple of "classic" night views are developing, but we have enough new night shot concepts in mind to keep both of us busy testing them for many more workshops. I hope that you may have the opportunity to join us sometime.

P.S. - As I write this, two slots for our upcoming workshop this Saturday October 6 have unexpectedly opened up.  I've restored the PayPal registration button in the right margin here on this blog at  Hope you can join us!  Read down a few posts on this blog to see images from our June 2 night session at Bodie.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fall Colors Progress in the Mono Basin Area

Using digital photos I've taken in the Sierra Nevada over the past 8 years, I'm working on a project to examine how Fall colors progress in various sub-regions of the Eastern Sierra. The area centered in this album is centered around the Mono Basin

I'm collecting in an album images taken during the Fall in that general area, from Mammoth Lakes through Bridgeport. This is a work in progress; I'll gradually add photos from other years/dates, but follow this link to see what I have so far:

I've include other photos from the area in October because photography in this area is never just about one thing, even during Fall color season!

So far it looks like the images are mainly centered around the October 6-22 period.  

For the latest conditions in 2012, here are some links to Fall colors reports:

Mono Lake Committee Fall Colors Report

Parcher's Resort Fall Colors Report

California Fall Color

So far it looks like June Lake hasn't really started turning much yet, so we may need until that Oct 13-21 timeframe before this area gets really good.  Bear in mine that storms can wreak havoc on the leaves, so it's better to be a little early than too late!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Night Workshops at Bodie State Historic Park

Whether your interest is moonlit portraits of the old buildings, light painting, star trails, Milky Way images or night timelapse photography, we can cover a lot in the space of a few hours!

We will meet in Bridgeport for an early dinner (no host) before we head out to Bodie. Dinner will be around 4:00 pm Saturday to allow us time to meet, eat and drive to the ghost town.  We will be greeted at the gate by our guides for the evening.  After a brief introduction from the Bodie Foundation, we will start our evening of photography from about 6:30 p.m. on, with a departure time of 1:00 a.m..

These are the last night workshops we'll schedule for 2012, and registration will be accepted on a first come, first-served basis.  Credit cards can be used to register through the PayPal links in the right column, or if you'd prefer to mail a check, contact me.

September 22nd  
Workshop Fee:    SOLD OUT!

October 6th
Workshop Fee:   SOLD OUT!

Although our planned night photography workshops for Bodie this year are full, if you have a group of several people eager to go, contact me and perhaps we can schedule a new date.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Did You Catch the Perseid Meteor Shower Last Weekend?

I assembled this timelapse footage form the 2009 event and posted it on YouTube, with links from Facebook and Google+, so people could plan to go catch it.  I was shocked to see 9 or 10 days later that it had over 85,000 views!

Later this year I'll be leading a workshop to help people capture an even better event, the Geminid meteor shower, from Death Valley National Park.  Now you can produce results of astronomical proportions!  We'll try to follow a mix of day and night shooting, visiting some of the unique locations I've found while writing a guide book to landscape photography locations in Southern California.  I'm also working on securing a space for classroom sessions, so we can include critical post-processing training.  As always, contact me for further details!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Prime Conditions for the Lyrid Meteor Shower This Weekend!

The new moon on Saturday will provide prime dark sky viewing conditions for the Lyrid Meteor Shower this weekend. That's good, since the Lyrid Meteor Shower tends to produce up to 20 meteors per hour, the best meteor shower of Spring, but not quite up to the activity levels of other showers from late Summer through the rest of the year. Don't be surprised though if activity levels are higher, flurries of activity as high as 90 per hour have been recorded.

As with all meteor showers, the recommended viewing hours are midnight through twilight, since your position on the earth will rotate over to the side of the earth leading through space, which intersects more more of the specks of dust and ice which produce the meteors. The radiant, or point in the sky which the meteors appear to come from, rises in the Northeast in the evening for people in the Northern hemisphere, so depending upon your position on the earth it may be more or less overhead and slightly north of you at midnight (a program like StarWalk running on a smartphone or tablet can show you the radiant point).

Find a place with dark skies, bundle up in a chair so you can lie back and see the sky, and check it out!

The photo above is a Lyrid meteor captured next to the Milky Way over the Bonneville Salt Flats near Salt Lake City, Utah.  For advice on how to capture still images like this at night, use the search box above to find my post on how to capture Milky Way images, and I wrote one on creating night timelapse videos as well.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

West Coast: Step Out and See the Moon Rise Next to Mars

A few days ago I provided a blog post with key astronomical events for the month. The rising of a "full mars", directly at opposition from the sun and fully lit as viewed form the earth, occurred over the weekend. Tonight however you get a double treat: The nearly-full moon will rise just in time to be in the sky for sunset, and as the sky darkens you'll see the still-bright Mars very close to it.

Here on the West Coast I'm looking at a 5:40 moon set vs. the sun setting at 5:56, so the moon will have some time to clear the horizon before the sunset color gets most intense. Keep shooting though, since Mars will become more noticeable as the sky darkens further. The StarWalk app shows Mars just to the left and above the moon.

Good luck, and happy shooting!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Astronomical Events Coming in March 2012

To get the best possible results with my astrophotography, I try to plan ahead to shoot as many astronomical events as I can. Here are some of the opportunities you'll have in the next month:

March 3/4: Mars at Opposition.  Mars will be as close as it gets to the earth, and will rise in the evening as the sun sets.
March 5: Mercury may be visible shortly after the sun sets through March 12, but on March 5 it reaches it maximum distance from the sun.
March 7: The nearly-full moon will rise just before sunset. Mars will rise right behind the moon in the evening sky.
March 8: Full moon.
March 9: The nearly-full moon will set just after sunrise.
March 10 - 20: Venus and Jupiter Conjunction
March 12: Arguably the best day of the Venus - Jupiter conjunction, as Jupiter will be just above Venus.
March 21: Thin crescent moon rises shortly before sunrise.
March 22: New Moon. March 21-24 will be good nights for star trail photography!
March 24: Thin crescent moon sets shortly before sunset.
March 24-25: Conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon.

I'll be out shooting with 25-30 of my photographer friends in Anza Borrego State Park and Death Valley National Park in the March 2-10 timeframe, and soon I'll be announcing photowalks for April, May and June.  The best place to catch my announcements will be on Google+:

Friday, February 03, 2012

Shoot Wildflowers in the California Desert?

Anza Borrego State Park, California
How would you like to join me for a photowalk in March... capturing images of wildflowers, narrow, winding slot canyons, eroded badlands, cracked earth on a dry lakebed, a palm oasis or two, and more? We'll practice landscape photography, macro photography, and night photography including star trails and light painting.

No commitment necessary yet, I'm just checking for interest so I can get a sense of group size to finalize logistics. I'd propose starting in Anza Borrego for a weekend, and you can see 64 sample photos in the album above. The trip can also be easily extended to the Salton Sea area if some participants want a more comprehensive expedition. If there's sufficient interest, I'll announce more details in the next few working days.