Last night the sunset put on quite a show. I was lucky enough to be on Bogus Basin road, and captured the following:
Oh, and a little timelapse:
Last night the sunset put on quite a show. I was lucky enough to be on Bogus Basin road, and captured the following:
Oh, and a little timelapse:
This past weekend I had the opportunity to hike with my scout troop to an amazing place: Shirts Lake. Located to the southwest of Cascade in southwest Idaho, this is a fantastic location to get away for an overnight camp.
Well, it’s fantastic if you are in pretty good shape. If, on the other hand, you weigh too much and are allergic to exercise, this is a daunting hike. From where we parked (just past the radio tower substation on the saddle to the northeast of the lake) it was about a 1.9 mile hike. Getting to the lake was nearly all downhill, much of which is pretty steep. We arrived at dusk, and wound up doing most of the hike in the dark.
Risky night hiking aside, getting there is worth whatever it takes. Here are some of my favorite pictures from this trip:
Shortly after we arrived at the campsite, I set up my camera to capture a timelapse of the milky way. Each frame is a 13 second exposure, and I shot a total of 300 frames. I’m still learning the best settings to use for shooting astrophotography, and the viewing was not ideal that night. The moon rose about halfway through this video, and you’ll see a very strong effect as the sky gets lighter. I also wound up with too much noise in the final video, as I had the ISO turned up too high. At any rate, as you can see I captured both shooting stars and planes flying overhead. Next time I’ll move farther from our campsite to avoid so much flashlight / firelight in the trees, and hope for better viewing conditions so I can adjust the camera to reduce the noise.
Ever since getting serious about my interest in photography a few years ago, there have been a few shots I’ve wanted to try to capture. Here is one of them:
Have you ever wanted to know how you can take a picture like this? In this article I’ll explain how I captured this image, giving you the recipe so you can try for yourself.
If you live in an area that is densely populated, there will be a ton of “light pollution” that fills your night sky. This is light that is always on at night – street lights, car lights, back porch lights from people’s homes, etc. All this light reflects off the earth and up into the atmosphere, where it lights up the dust and other particles that are in the air. In order to remove this light pollution, you have to get to a location away from any cities, towns, villages, etc. In short, get yourself out into the middle of nowhere. For the above shot, I was at a really secluded campsite in southern Idaho, in the USA. Also, pay attention to the moon. It is a giant floodlight that fills the atmosphere with light reflected from the sun. This light can be so bright that when full, the moon provides enough light for most humans to easily see well enough in the dark that they don’t need an artificial light such as a flashlight or a lantern. Light pollution from the moon can ruin shots like this. It’s best to try for shots like this when the moon is just a sliver or smaller, and even better when the moon is not visible in the sky at all.
One of the most difficult things to get right when doing shots like this is the focus. With very little ambient light, your camera’s auto focus feature simply will not work. There are a few things you can try to do to get the auto focus to work (shine a very powerful flashlight on a distant tree or building, or use a laser pointer in the same way, etc) but I’ve never had good luck with these techniques. Instead, use a lens that has a focus indicator window on it so you can see about where the focus has been set, and switch into manual focus. Adjust it to be focused to infinity, and take a test shot. If it seems a little soft, manually adjust the focus a tiny bit at a time one direction or the other, and take another test shot. If this is worse than the first shot, then move it back the other direction. If it is better, keep going until it gets worse, then go back just a bit. This is a crude technique, but has produced the best results for me.
I’d love to hear about your attempts to follow this recipe, and can’t wait to see your results!
Today after work Erica (10) asked me if I’d like to see how she paints a chicken. For whatever reason, this struck me as an excellent opportunity to dust off the old camera and throw together a time-lapse.
Here’s the setup: Kitchen table, tripod, Canon 60D, 24-105L (later swapped out for a Sigma 15-30), using MagicLantern’s built-in intervalometer.
I set up the camera, and told her to go.
Here’s a shot of her mid-painting:
And here’s the finished time-lapse. Enjoy!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to join the boy scouts on a campout. We camped near the trail head of the Weiser River Trail near New Meadows, and while they rode their bikes down the trail to Council (about 24 miles or so) I headed up to Lost Valley Reservoir for some early morning landscape photography. Having never been up to this reservoir before, I didn’t have a specific plan…just hoped for the best. I arrived at the reservoir around 7:30, just as the sun was coming up over the trees. I drove around the east side of the reservoir, stopping whenever I saw a great shot. There were some adventures nearly getting stuck in the mud, but the Sequoia did a great job keeping my feet dry. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the morning:
This year’s daddy daughter campout was a great success! We had more people than ever join us this year, and there was blood, sweat, and tears. Oh, and snacks. And campfire stories, hiking, swimming, and great memories made.
Did I mention the snacks?
We camped up in Garden Valley at the Hot Springs campground in the Boise National Forest. This campground gets its name from the natural hot springs that flow out of the side of the mountain just across the road from the campground. Situated right on the south fork of the Payette river, the setting and scenery are outstanding.
On the way home we stopped several times to enjoy the scenery, and watch the rafters on the river try to deal with some rapids. Now the girls are begging to go rafting. 😉
Here are a few shots of the highlights:
Thanks again to everyone who came – we’re already looking forward to next year!
Sometimes I come across an idea so brilliant I wonder: “Why didn’t I think of that?” The idea I’m talking about here is called the Maven Adapter, which connects a camera to the end of an extension pole (like the ones used for paint rollers or window cleaners). This is incredibly useful because it allows you to get your camera into all kinds of new perspectives: way up high, out the window of a moving car, extended out over the surface of some water, etc. The coolest part is that Michael designed this in 3D himself and printed it on his own 3D printer. Awesome!
I received mine last week, and took it over to the park to do some shooting tonight. The sun was setting quickly, and I wanted to get some shots with my camera hovering just over the surface of the water in an attempt to get the reflection of the sunset in the water. The shore of this particular pond is somewhat steep, and in the past when I’ve tried for this kind of shot I’ve not only nearly fallen in, but not been thrilled with the results. I just could not get the camera down low enough to the water.
But this evening was a different story. I slapped a ball head onto my Maven Adapter, then attached that to the end of my painter’s extension pole. Being careful to wrap my camera strap around the pole multiple times (just in case) I then extended the pole out over the water and started shooting.
Here’s my favorite shot from the evening:
In order to get this shot, I had to adjust the camera on my ball head to hang down below the pole at the right angle, so that I could stand or kneel on shore and extend the pole down and out over the water and still have the camera be level.
If you are interested in picking up one of these adapters, (and I highly recommend it) they are available right now.
I also recently used my Maven Adapter to shoot the artwork for the cover of Missing Lily, a new novel by Annette K. Larsen. Check out her work if you love clean romance!
On the way back from a visit to UT this weekend, we stopped at Malad Gorge State Park in Idaho. This is one of the 5 units of the Thousand Springs State Park system, and is AMAZING. For starters, the gorge is literally right under the freeway, and they have a footbridge that spans the entire gorge about 100′ to the west and down about 40′ from the freeway. From the road, you can’t see the footbridge at all, and you also can’t see the amazing set of rapids that run right under your car. As far as beautiful natural things to see, this is one of the most accessible I’ve ever enjoyed. Just hop off the freeway a few hundred yards south of the gorge, and follow the signs. You can drive right up to the edge and try not to get vertigo as you look down.
Here are a few shots from our trip:
This past weekend was our annual Father’s and Son’s campout. On the way out-of-town we got stuck when they closed highway 21 due to a wildfire.
Rather than waiting the 3 hours the state patrol said the road would be closed, we found another way to get over the mountains and re-join highway 21 close to the campsite. Here’s a map of the route we wound up taking:
This route follows the Shaw Mountain Pass out of Boise, and is not a great road. 4 wheel drive really is recommended, but we forged ahead in the Jetta. The ascent to point B was relatively mild, but the descent from B is VERY steep and the road there is quite bad, nearly washed out in places. Still, we happily bounced down the mountain, seeing it as an adventure more than anything. Isaac did a great job not panicking and making the best of the situation. As we wound down out of the canyon and neared highway 21, we drove past Robie Creek, which is a beautiful park and inlet to the reservoir. More on that in a bit.
We arrived before too late, cooked a quick dinner enjoyed ourselves immensely. After dark, I broke out the camera and tried my hand at some astrophotography:
The next morning we hung around and goofed off at the campground after breakfast for a while. Isaac achieved new levels of filth, which made him very happy:
On the way back home, we stopped by Robie Creek, and grabbed a few shots. Simply stunning scenery. In fact, Isaac (8), upon walking out to the end of the small boat launch they had turned to me and said “Dad, this is really beautiful”. He’s right. Simply gorgeous:
In all, it was a great camping trip with my boy and lots of friends. I’m really excited to take my girls up to Hot Springs campground in Garden Valley in a few weeks, where hopefully the scenery is just as beautiful, and the dirt is just as plentiful.
Water is fascinating. Especially when photographed. At high speed.
I’ve always wanted to create some shots of water droplets as they hit the surface of a pool of water. I’ve seen many similar shots over the years, and wondered how it was done. A water drop hitting the surface, creating a splash, and dissipating into the larger body of water happens so quickly, it is very difficult to even see it with the naked eye, let alone timing your finger on the shutter of your camera to catch the action just right. Factoring in the need to have things focused just right, getting the timing of your flash dead on, and making the water contort into just the right shape to be interesting, and you may think this is nearly impossible. Those photographers who have managed to capture something like this must be magicians.
No, they’re not. It’s actually not as hard as it might seem. In fact, all the images you see in this blog post were captured in my kitchen using little more than my Canon 60D with 24-105L lens, a 430EX flash, a tripod, some cheap remote triggers, and stuff I found around the kitchen. Here’s a picture of the setup during my shoot:
Yes, my wife gave me funny looks while setting up, but the results speak for themselves. Here’s what’s going on: I’ve got a broom suspended between the backs of 2 chairs from the dinner table. Taped to the broomstick is a plastic ziplock bag full of water. This bag has a hole poked in it with a push-pin to supply a steady and predictable drip of water. Directly below the bag is a tray full of water. This happens to be a painter’s tray you use when rolling walls with paint, but a cake pan, large pot, or really anything that will hold water and provide a relatively large surface to shoot against will work well. Behind the pan of water is a piece of paper that I printed some stripes on to provide some interesting shapes on the water. Pointed at this paper is my 430EX flash, with a remote trigger attached. That’s really all there is to it for the setup: Something to hold the water, something to provide the drips, a flash, a simple backdrop, and your camera.
I started with a shutter speed of 1/250, as that is the fastest the remote trigger would sync with the flash. Here is one of my first shots:
I really loved the shape the water took just after a drop hit it in this shot, but I did not love a few other things: I can see the paint stains in the paint pan through the dark parts of the image, and I can still detect a tiny bit of motion blur. I decided to swap out the paint tray with a stone cookie sheet that seemed to have a more even surface. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the water created fantastic beading patterns on this pan as it dripped. I shot several more frames with this setup, only changing the paper that my flash fired into (thus changing the perceived color of the surface of the water):
I really wanted to see if I could eliminate all motion blur completely, but knew that would require a much faster shutter speed. So I ditched the remote-controlled flash setup, and just attached my flash directly to the camera. Then I manually set the flash to be zoomed as narrow as it would go, and aimed it to shoot over where the water would drop, and into the backdrop I still had set up. Then I set my camera to high-speed sync with my flash, cranked the shutter speed up to 1/6400 and was very happy with the results:
Here’s a gallery of all the shots from this shoot. Enjoy!