Friday, August 21

Let there be light...

A series of unrelated episodes has bathed my world in new light.

A couple of weeks ago, I endeavored to capture better photos of the Milky Way in the landscape and in doing so, I've been shooting the widest and brightest lens I own, a 16mm f2.8 pancake lens. This little lens mostly rides around in my camera bag "just in case". But now, I'm thinking, what a joy to use!  In nightscapes and Milky Way imagery, it allows me to start with a lower, less noisy ISO and it seems to be so much sharper than my 18mm to 55mm zoom. Plus, it's very compact and light in my hands! I want to use it all the time!

☼  ☼  ☼  ☼  

This week. I took down all the sheer curtains in my kitchen and service porch to launder. Those rooms returned to the open, airy state I remembered from my 2009 remodel! It has been a joy to sit with the windows open and a nice breeze wafting through.

Construction and new dining area 2009
When Janet asked if I was going to wash the windows. I balked but reason won out as I thought about it. Better to do the windows now without the curtains and curtain rods...  So I borrowed the vacuum and did the job right.  It took me hours but it increased the wattage of the light flow substantially!

The 2015 dining area
Ultimately, reluctant to "stop down the apertures" but more reluctant to live in a fish bowl, I hung up the curtains. Now I am extra happy I have crystal clear windows!

☼  ☼  ☼  ☼  

Coincidentally another brightening was under way in our neighborhood and it arrived at our house yesterday. The City's tree trimming crew came up Alvira from south to north "lifting" all the park way trees, trimming away low-hanging branches and artfully thinning the canopy.  All up and down the street it has brightened the aspects. The liquid amber and jacaranda trees on our east side look great.

Today, the crew reached around to Cashio and cleaned up our tall, once stately palm trees and it was quite the performance. The palms went from stately to gangling in less than 90 minutes. It's like they just got an awkward haircut and now it has to grow out.  I'm not sure I like the "do" it but it opens up the north light in my living room more than I ever expected it would.

☼  ☼  ☼  ☼  

This post would really be complete, if I could wrap up with a report of re-reading William Faulkner's Light in August, but lately I've been reading Sally Mann's Hold Still. 

She lives in a world of light all her own.  I recommend it!

Saturday, August 15

Perseid Meteor Shower - Trona Pinnacles

A few of us went to Trona Pinnacles for the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower after Allan sent a link to a PhotoPills page with details about the event. We had minimal camp equipment, plenty of water, numerous cameras (one with a new ultra-wide lens) and tripods, one smart phone, a couple of compasses, high hopes.

What a night!  I could barely close my eyes to nap.

With reasonably dark skies and the new moon rising on Thursday, at an elevation of about 1,800 to 1,900 feet, we had a great view of the broad heavens and saw lots of meteors streaking past us.
I made a lot of still images in the 13 to 20 second exposure range and caught about five meteors.  When I set up for a 12 minute star trails exposure at about 1:15am I caught one. Obviously, I was not looking in the right direction.

Allan set-up a time lapse camera and captured LOTS of meteors. His lens was open 15 of every 20 seconds. You can watch it on YouTube.  Be sure to go full screen to see all the meteors.

In the meantime, you can browse my little gallery of Trona photos. I was looking for "available" light (car headlights passing by, walkers with flashlights, the occasional flash from some distant photographer). I may not have captured meteors in pixels but I have many indelibly recorded in my brain and I had a marvelous night under the stars.

Next year, I'll be better prepared for the long meteor-catching exposure and choose my composition more carefully!  I'll also have a walking around camera and tripod to snag the opportune moment before a pinnacle.

Waiting for Perseus

Tuesday, August 11

Midnight in the Bristlecones with the CamCo

The prime target of our photo weekend:
an ancient bristlecone pine tree.
How can a photo go wrong when the subject is as grand as this ancient bristlecone pine?
Well actually, judging from my out-takes there are plenty of ways. I don't want to talk about those...

Converging on this point along the Schulman Grove Discovery Trail with nine other photographers is not the best way to shoot in such close confines as a mountain trail on a moonless night. I usually think of Camera Committee outings as scouting expeditions, but this evening, the nine photographers included creative lights like Peter V and Clive and resourceful fellows like Peter M and Jeff, so the chances were good and the results were excellent!

I hope you'll look at the additional images in my Bristlecones gallery.  I expect to return to that set in the coming weeks to add more images.

Some of the crew at work on the lights.  It's not a war scene, it just looks that way!

Saturday, July 18

A pleasant sight to behold in Death Valley National Park

What can I say?  The light was so beautiful!
I actually made several exposures hoping to capture the wafting tissue in an appealing repose. It was almost like music.

What Dolores Delivered

In July 2015, Hurricane Dolores delivered thunderstorms to Central and Southern California after beating up Baja California. A small group of photographer friends was camping under a new moon in Mahogany Flats - the "highlands" of Death Valley National Park - to capture the Milky Way, make star trails and log some time at elevation ahead of an August trip amongst the Bristlecones. On Saturday morning, we packed up camp and headed home to escape gusty winds that had buffeted us on Friday night and to avoid Dolores's impact. Of course, heading south, we were running into the storm.

Emerging from the Panamint Mountains and heading across the low point of Panamint Valley, we had some stunning clouds, so we had to stop on the lake bed to shoot. Below are three frames I shot that morning presented in different wide aspect ratio formats.

What do you think?  Is one stronger?

The files are pretty small so I like to click on any image and open the gallery. The images are still small but I can use the right and left arrows to skip from one to the other.  I'll try to mount larger files soon.

Panamint Valley Storm Clouds I 

Panamint Valley Storm Clouds II
(stitched panorama)

Panamint Valley Storm Clouds III 
(stitched panorama, cropped)

Milky Way over Death Valley National Park


While we were high above the sweltering lowlands of Death Valley, we spent our evenings at the Charcoal Kilns. The night sky was amazing and the Milky Way was prominent. I experimented with off-camera flash to light the kilns while nature lit up the sky. 

I'm still getting the hang of astrophotography or the limited variety of astrophotography that I've been practicing.  In these shots, I didn't know about adjusting the white balance to get a more appealing color balance.  My friend Allan shared a link to Mark Gee's excellent tutorial and there I found an excellent capsule summary of all you need to know to get started. 

I have a few other shots in this Death Valley Highlands Gallery.

Saturday, May 9

What Happened to April?

April? It was just here a minute ago. Now it's passed without a post. was such a good month, too. Crazy good...I miss it already.

What happened in April was a trip to Toroweap Overlook on the (remote) north rim of the Grand Canyon, a photo outing to Trona Pinnacles and my Mom's 88th Birthday.  It was a busy month because there was also a celebration of photographer Ray McSavaney at the Camera Committee, the Otis College Kite Festival with my mom and sister, the LA Regional Foodbank's 2015 Food From the Bar campaign kickoffs, theater and movies with friends and some good visiting.

This Trona Pinnacles post is a small remedy and I'll try to post about Toroweap soon.

The weather was severely windy until late on Saturday. The early arrivals on Friday all put up and took down tents (or collected blown heaps of tent material). As you might guess from looking at the shot to the right, my tent poles are now tent pretzels. Doesn't that tent looks like it's trying to escape the frame? I packed it up and slept in the back of my Forester.

Conditions improved so that by 9:00pm Saturday, campers were able to pitch a tent that stayed in place.

At the top of this post, you see a sort of panoramic triptych looking northeast to clouds gathering over the "other range of pinnacles". We camped in a protected bowl among the pinnacles of the "front range", but still a long walk to the lone toilet (see below) and the interpretive materials.

Our days were largely overcast and cool but the night sky cleared enough to give us stars and cloudy texture. It was great for those composing starscapes and spinning star trails. We had plenty of moonlight to illuminate the pinnacles.

There was a nice bonus just before sunset on Saturday. The folks who were prepared to shoot captured a lovely rainbow. This MeetUp photo album has rainbows posted by Peter and Jeff.