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