This Photo #4

This Photo #4

Some years back, we suffered a computer hard disk crash.  There were some photos on it, but I did not consider them a great loss, and thought they were backed up… somewhere.  I said “some years back” meaning before I had learned about serious back up and better organization.  (Today, we use three duplicate external hard drives, with more drives for images prior to 2015.)

As time went by, I did not find that back up.  Until recently.

Since I retired as store manager, I have gradually been re-organizing my office.  And, some old CD’s have appeared.  On one of them is this photo, my first good water drop with refraction.  For me, it is important, as it marks a turning point in that part of my photography.  My first success!  Although it is not a perfect photo, I learned much about searching for the right combination of water drop, refracted flower, and light… Continue reading

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This Photo

This Photo

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Great Blue Heron Flying Across the Arkansas River, Slide file 10039, date 1989

Location:  Citadel Bluff Park, near Cecil, Arkansas

Of all the photos I have made, this one fills a special place in my memory.  The moment, the location, and the image all added up to make it one of the best photos I had made at that time…

In the 1980’s and 90’s, I often visited Citadel Bluff Park and Campground on the Arkansas River, just outside the small community of Cecil, hoping to see bald eagles – and frequently I did.  A trail led from the end of the campground, through the woods, and along the river.  However, no matter how quietly I approached, wildlife knew when I was there…

On this cool but pleasant winter morning, the Great Blue Heron flew when I got too close, sounding its blood-curdling alarm call.  A grove of cane blocked my view, but I pushed through and saw the heron flying away.  I had learned the hard way to preset the camera, but I still only had time for two photographs: the one you see here, and a second one with its wings in the downbeat.

Is it a good photo?  I like it; but, for me, there is more: the image includes the sounds of the breeze in the trees and the river lapping on the bank, the smell of the forest, and the breathtaking flight of the heron.  There’s nothing else there but the Arkansas River, with its own reflected image of the heron, and small ripples in the current…

Some tech stuff, as I remember it:  Minolta Maxxum 7000 camera, a Sigma 400mm f/5.6 lens, and Kodachrome 64 film.  (Yes, film.)  Settings were probably f/5.6, at 1/500 sec shutter speed.  I frequently set the camera ISO to 80, so as to underexpose the film and add saturation to the colors.

Oh – we have since incorporated the heron’s image into our logo:heron_logo

 

 

In closing… this is the first post in a series.  Would love to hear your thoughts about my little story, and if you have a photo that means something similar to you, we would love to hear about that, too!  🙂

 

Milky Way Photography Adventures

Milky Way Photography Adventures

Despite the fact that Arkansas’ River Valley has had a dry year, it seemed that every time I planned a star photography outing – there were clouds.

 

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On this night, the clouds parted over Shores Lake just for a few minutes, and just enough to see the Milky Way.

 

And, this trend included our Night Photography Workshop in August.  We tried 3 times, before we finally had a marvelously clear night to see and photograph the Milky Way.

 

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Same location – Shores Lake – but no significant clouds!  🙂  To add a little foreground interest, I set up my film camera to photograph the stars streaking across the sky, aka “star trails.”

 

If you live in an area with little light pollution, you may wonder what’s the big deal.  However, for those of us who live in an urban area, it is a rare treat!  Some of the photographers in our workshop had not seen the Milky Way since childhood.  Seeing it and making photographs was very exciting!

Would you like to photograph the Milky Way?  Here are 5 things I think you need:

  • A DSLR camera, because shooting in manual exposure mode and manual focus mode, and at a high ISO is necessary.  Very few compact cameras have all those functions.
  • A wide angle lens.  How wide?  My preference is a 24mm for a “full-frame” sensor, but up to a 35mm will work.  If you have an APS-C sensor, sometimes called a “crop-sensor,” 18mm to 24mm is the equivalent.  That does not mean that we cannot use even wider!  Many photographers use a 14mm, 16mm or an 18mm, and sometimes a fish-eye.
  • A Good tripod.  Shutter speeds will be measured in seconds, and no one I know can hold a camera steady for that long.  Your tripod will need to be solid, and easy to adjust in the dark.  I recommend a carbon fiber or aluminum tripod, with a ball head.
  • A remote control for firing your camera.  Pressing the shutter button will cause your camera to move, so use a remote cable or wireless remote.
  • A headlamp or flashlight with a red lens.  Without the red lens, your night vision will be compromised each time you turn on the light.

Also helpful:  an app on your phone.  “Photo Pills” and “The Photographers’ Ephemeris” will provide photographers where and when information – I like and use both.  I also like “Star Guide” which does just what it says – displays on screen where and when the stars are.

Once you have the equipment, the techniques we use are different from most other types of photography:

  • Locate an area with a probable good view of the Milky Way.  Helpful web sites:  www.cleardarksky.com, www.darksitefinder.com, and Google Maps www.google.com/maps.
  • Check the moon phases – a full moon is so bright you cannot see the Milky Way.  A crescent moon is also bright enough to interfere, although if it sets early, the light – coming from the opposite direction of the Milky Way – can be helpful by lighting up the foreground.

    moon-composite

    Nearly a full moon means no visible Milky Way.  When the moon went behind the clouds, there was still enough light to photograph Shores Lake with a 10-second exposure.

  • Camera settings:  Start at ISO 3200, a shutter speed of 15 seconds, and your aperture at its widest.  Make a test shot, check your image exposure, and adjust as necessary.  It is not uncommon to set ISO at 4000 or higher.  (Note:  to calculate the longest usable shutter speed, divide 500 by your lens focal length.  Example:  with a 24mm lens, 500 divided by 24 = 20.83, so you would keep your shutter open no longer than 20 seconds.)  A too-long shutter speed results in trailing stars, not points of light.
  • Focusing can be difficult.  We tried to use autofocus before dark, then switched to manual focus.  We also applied gaffer tape to the focus ring to avoid accidentally bumping and moving it.  If you need to focus after dark, try using “live view” and magnify the display.  (Practice this before dark!)  The good thing about digital photography, of course, is we can see what we shot, then adjust and reshoot if necessary.

The end result can be very rewarding photos.  And, watching the Milky Way – and other stars and constellations – begin to appear after the sun goes down is exciting and breathtaking!  Especially the first time…

 

Milky Way at the Fire Tower

This photo is from a shoot with just Gayle and myself, when preparing for the workshop.  Rich Mountain Fire Tower, Talimena Scenic Drive, near Arkansas’ Queen Wilhelmena State Park.  Sony A7R, 24mm lens, f/2.8-15 seconds-ISO 5000

 

The “season” is about done for this year; during the winter months, the Milky Way is not visible.  When it is most visible is late spring to late summer.  (I can hardly wait!)  The apps I referenced earlier are great for helping us plan.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions – or search the internet for more information.

Wishing you good light!

2015 Favorite Photos

2015 Favorite Photos

Selecting favorite photos from the past 12 months is a fun exercise, and also an opportunity to see where my interests have taken me.  And, sometimes a way to measure one’s growth.  Mostly, however, these are the photographs that bring a smile to my face when I remember pressing the shutter release…

So, here we go, roughly in chronological order:

Trout Lily

This is one of my favorite flowers, as it is one of the first signs of spring in Arkansas.  This one reminds me of a sea creature…Trout Lily 1767


 

Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas

After a short hike on the Devil’s Den Trail, you will find yourself at Twin Falls – unless it is the dry season.  This is the west falls, with photographer for scale…

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Wild Rose, Cherokee Prairie

Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas, continues to be one of those locations I return to regularly.  This wild rose was past its prime, but I liked the patterns, color, symmetry, and its friend.  I hope you notice the antenna that mimics the flower petal lines…

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Colorado National Monument

In June, I traveled to the Eastern Sierras of California to attend Derrick Story’s photography workshop.  (You can read about it here.)  The road trip included a one-night stop at the Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction, Colorado.  I would definitely camp there again.

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Great Basin National Park

From Colorado, my next stop was Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada, home to 13,063-foot Mount Wheeler.  This mountain stream was near my campsite…

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Yosemite National Park

From Bridgeport, CA, where Derrick’s workshop was based, I drove into Yosemite National Park via the Tioga Pass, highway 120.  Road construction stopped me from driving to the Valley; while stopped for the roadwork, I made this photo…

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Mono Lake, California

This has got to be one of the most unique places in the U.S., and I made hundreds of photos there…

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Antique Airplane Fly-In, Oologah, Oklahoma

Closer to home, some friends and I visited Will Rogers’ Birthplace Ranch for the annual Antique Airplane Fly-In.  Dozens of planes and antique autos were on display, and their landings and departures were a sight to see.  The whole day was fun!

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Autumn, Arkansas

Our “fall colors” were not the best this year, but we always try to make the best of it.  😉

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Natural Dam, Arkansas

This rock shelf creates a natural “Dam” with an 8-foot tall waterfall.  I am not the only photographer to visit, and – like many others – I have made hundreds of images over the years.  Just a few days ago, this was the scene just before sunrise on a cold, frosty morning…

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“Frost Flowers”

Although I had heard of this for many years, it was only a few days ago I made my first photos of Frost Flowers.  Sometimes called “Frost Ribbons”, apparently they happen on cold, frosty mornings, when vegetation still has moisture in its stem.  The moisture freezes, and forces its way out forming these ribbon flowers…

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Best wishes for a Great 2016:  Sweet light, peace, and joy…

Favorites for 2014

It is the end of another year!  Although it seems that I did not do as much photography as the previous year, when I reviewed our libraries, it was difficult to narrow down to a reasonable number of favorites.  But with no further to-do, here are my dozen choices for the past year, in chronological order.  Note:  click on the image if you want to view a larger version…

During the winter, it seemed we had an unusually high number of goldfinches at our backyard feeders.  They are fun to watch!  In February, while snow was falling, a number of them would pause on the same branch, and wait – impatiently – for their turn at the seeds…

Goldfinch in falling snow

Goldfinch in falling snow

1/750 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 200-500mm, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

A bit later in February, my friend Mike Leonard and I hiked down to the Glory Hole.  There was ice and snow, and frozen waterfalls all around.  I took this photo to illustrate the conditions, and the environment.

The Opening to the Glory Hole, Ozark National Forest

The Entrance to the Glory Hole, Ozark National Forest

1/15 sec. at f/22, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In April, as the redbuds and dogwoods began to bloom, and temperatures were rising, I visited the Jack Creek Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest.  As the sun rose over the ridge, light danced across the cascade.

Sunlight on Jack Creek at sunrise

Sunlight on Jack Creek at sunrise

 1/2 sec. at f/22, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Wildflowers begin to bloom in April, also; Indian Paintbrush is one of the first.  Here are two photos I made at Cherokee Prairie State Natural Area, near Charleston, Arkansas…

Paintbrush Trio Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Paintbrush Trio
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/20 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.
Paintbrush Family Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Paintbrush Family
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/60 sec, f/8, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Who has not ever blown dandelion seeds for fun?  Here are some seed pods that were caught up in a spider web.

Dandelion Seeds, caught in a spider web

Dandelion Seeds, caught in a spider web

1/45 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ball head.

One photograph I continue to try to perfect is of dew drops with a background image refracted in it.  Here is one I photographed in June, at Cherokee Prairie State Natural Area

Dew Drops reflecting Black-eyed Susans Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Dew Drops reflecting Black-eyed Susans
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/125 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Mid-year, Gayle gave me a new camera:  the Sony Alpha 7R.  A “mirrorless” camera, it carries a full-frame sensor, and has great dynamic range.  I had always wanted to photograph the Milky Way, and after researching for “dark sky” locations, I visited Lake Hinkle near Waldron, Arkansas, for my first attempt.

The Milky Way above Lake Hinkle, near Waldron, Arkansas

The Milky Way above Lake Hinkle, near Waldron, Arkansas

20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In October, we took part in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk.  It rained.  In Van Buren, the city still hosted the “Fall Festival and Craft Show, and I found this umbrella on the street.

Colorful umbrella on the street, Van Buren, Arkansas

Colorful umbrella on the street,
Van Buren, Arkansas

1/250 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8 lens handheld.

October signals the start of fall foliage, although we did not have exceptional color this year.  In Devil’s Den State Park, the canoes were ready for visitors.

Canoes at the ready,  Devil's Den State Park

Canoes at the ready,
Devil’s Den State Park

 1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In October, near Waldron, Arkansas, this spider web was sagging under the weight of the dew drops, creating a pearl necklace…

Necklace of spider-web and dew drops Near Waldron, Arkansas

Necklace of spider-web and dew drops
Near Waldron, Arkansas

1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

On Christmas morning, I visited the Fort Smith National Cemetery, at sunrise.

Fort Smith (AR) National Cemetery at sunrise Christmas Morning

Fort Smith (AR) National Cemetery at sunrise
Christmas Morning

1/3 sec at f/16, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto, tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

A look back, but now we look ahead to 2015.  As always, we hope and expect to make new photographs to enjoy.  Have a Happy New Year!

 

California Photo Festival

California Photo Festival

In October, I traveled to San Luis Obispo, California, to attend the California Photo Festival, aka “Click 4”, the fourth annual event.  The week-long event is organized by Hal and Victoria Schmitt, who own and operate Light Photographic Workshops in Los Osos, California.  There was a wide selection of subject matter in the classes, and photo shoots in vineyards, on the California beach in several locations, and on the city streets.  We took photos of horses and riders, small critters, sunsets and sunrises, birds and other animals, and portraits of various models in a multitude of locales.

Instructors included Marc Muench, Rob Sheppard, Ben Willmore, Lee Varis, and Rick Sammon, as well as a dozen more.  In addition, a number of vendors and equipment companies were on hand to show their equipment; not a huge trade show, but plenty of goodies to see and touch.  🙂

The cost for the Festival  is reasonable, given the huge amount of information presented.  Interested?  Next year’s event is scheduled, but not yet accepting registration.  Click the link above, or here, for more information.

Here are a few photos from my library.  Hope you enjoy them!

“Horses on the Beach”

The intention was to photograph members of Cal Poly Tech’s Polo Team riding their horses in the surf at Morro Bay with a marvelous sunset in the background.  The riders were there with their horses, but alas! we had no sun, just clouds, fog, and mist.  We still made photographs!  🙂

Horses on the Beach

Polo player in the surf at Morro Bay

Horses on the Beach

Polo players riding in the surf at Morro Bay

One of the Cal Poly Polo team takes a break from the action.  I really liked the reflection the wet sand gave us...

One of the Cal Poly Polo team takes a break from the action. I really liked the reflection the wet sand gave us…

“Macro Critters!”

Another photo shoot set up for us was captive small animals – lizards, chameleon, snakes, spiders and insects – in “stations” that we could move to and from, making photographs of the small animals.  Great fun, although somewhat cramped space.  I carried my tripod, but left the legs together, using it like a monopod.

The Chameleon was perhaps the most photographed

The Chameleon was perhaps the most photographed

Colorful, exotic lubber grasshopper

Colorful, exotic lubber grasshopper

Gila Monster.  I grew up hearing terrible stories about this animal...

Gila Monster. I grew up hearing terrible stories about this animal…

“The Elfin Forest”

The morning after photographing the horses on the beach, I was in a group that went out for sunrise.  Again, fog, drizzle, and clouds hid the sun.  So, we turned out attention to details.  We were in an area called the “Elfin Forest” which was populated with a dwarf oak tree, and more…

Small shrub with dried flowers and seed pods.

Small shrub with dried flowers and seed pods.

Bracken Fern closeup

Bracken Fern closeup

“Photo Walk With Rick Sammon”

Another sunset opportunity, and finally, we saw the sun.  Not to complain, but that is all there was to see – not a cloud in the sky, leaving the sun without a complement.  We walked along the street at the Morro Bay Harbor, and still made photographs.

I photographed one of the other participants, with the sun backlighting him, creating the sun-star.

I photographed one of the other participants, backlit by the sun.

Morro Bay Harbor with Morro Rock on the horizon, just after the sun has gone down.

Morro Bay Harbor with Morro Rock on the horizon, just after the sun has gone down.

Morro Bay Harbor at dusk.

Morro Bay Harbor at dusk.

There were other classes and photo shoots; these are just some of my favorite images…

The California Photo Fest makes for a good destination, and will present the participant with a lot of information.  Almost too much info!  🙂  But, if you pick and choose your classes and shoots, and don’t overdo yourself, you can learn much.

All photos were taken with the Sony Alpha 77; lenses were the Sony 16-50, Tamron 180 macro, Tamron 70-300.

Another Visit to Cherokee Prairie

Most years, the vegetation at Cherokee Prairie is pretty much dry and dead by September, as is most flora in our region.  This year, though, was different.  On September 2, Labor Day, I drove by and saw late summer flowers and grasses.  Walking through the tall grass, I found flowers, spiders, butterflies and caterpillars.  It was a great, productive, and fun-filled couple of hours that morning…

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer

Pearl_Crescent_Caterpillar

Pearl Crescent Caterpillar

In the background, you may have noticed a Purple Gerardia, aka Purple False Foxglove, (Agalinis purpurea).  There were a number of these flowers in bloom.

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove)  Agalinis purpurea

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove) Agalinis purpurea

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Equipment included the Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head