Squaw Butte Sunset

I was watching a concert pianist on YouTube this morning and she said we could watch her practice all day long. She practices for 10 hours each day! I guess that is what it takes to become an expert at something. That really struck me hard because sometimes I think I can just pull out the camera and make an awesome shot, but that is rarely the case. It takes loads of time and practice to hone any craft or skill, not just the desire. It was with that same attitude that I got this nice Squaw Butte Sunset last night.

All day long I research and learn new techniques for improving my skills, if I’m not actually shooting. But what good is research if you never actually do anything with it? So I set out to go and find something to shoot, even if I didn’t have a solid plan. It’s a good thing I was committed before I left because as it turns out my initial target was no good. Then I remembered Squaw Butte and how nice it is up there. I wanted to get the sun while it was still up, but I was just about 5 minutes too late. As I was driving up the mountain I was watching the sun creep higher and higher, while growing softer and more faint. When I finally arrived at my destination, all was lost. Ok, not really. I just had to modify my plan and hang about for 2 hours while it got dark. I decided I could at least shoot some stars. In the mean time, there was plenty of sunset watching (and a little shooting) to do.

Plans had to change again as the clear sky turned to partly cloudy, which is no good for shooting stars. It’s funny too because the initial reason I went out was because the sky had nice clouds, but by the time I got to my location they were all gone.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy looking at the Squaw Butte Sunset as much as I enjoyed being there. It was a cold fall treat, and I might just go do it again someday soon.

Squaw Butte Sunset


Concrete Moon

Yesterday I went into town to do a little architecture shooting. I did a few things and came away with a shot or two that I like, but nothing stellar. However, on my way out of the city the moon was setting in this gorgeous soft hued sky and I was dying to find a place to shoot it. Being in the residential part of the city there really wasn’t anything striking to shoot with this fantastic sky. As I was just on the outskirts of town I decided that it would be best if I just hurried along up into the mountains and grabbed a landscape from there, though I didn’t have a clue where that would be. Suddenly I came upon this giant concrete plant and I instantly knew that this was the shot for me. I had to double back a take a couple mile circuit to return to where I saw the scene, but I was able to get there in time. The biggest challenge of capturing this scene was that I had to shoot across a very busy highway, so timing was difficult. I was shooting with HDR as my end goal using 3 exposures. This meant that I had to time each shot precisely so that no cars were passing in front of me. Add to that the extended wait time between shots for long exposure noise reduction and I had quite a task to accomplish. But, I did finally manage to get it done. And here is the end result of shooting a concrete moon.

concrete moon

Senj Lightning

These images were captured quite unexpectedly and came in the middle of two unlikely and unexpected weather events that just happened to slam into each other: a lightning storm and a thing called the “Bura” (more on that later).

While visiting with some friends in the city of Senj, Croatia we went up into the mountains for a breathtaking look down on the Adriatic Sea. While we were up there, our friend kept watching the weather and encouraging us to make our way back to the cars and go down the mountain. I was pretty much ignoring him because it was just one of those misty, foggy, mushy types of clouds that were very slowly creeping their way toward us. When we finally did wrap up our little hike and head down the mountain all still seemed just fine. Castle in Senj, CroatiaWe got back to the town of Senj and they were showing me a castle when all of a sudden, like a fan was switched on, wind just started hammering us.  Bura. The car (Prius) was being rocked back and forth like a toy. Well, silly me wanted to get out to take pictures of the castle. Smart Jonny had Irma (driving) point the car into the wind so that it wouldn’t rip the door off. Well, good thing he did. After the car was positioned I made my move. Or, tried to. I pushed and strained with all of my might, arms and legs at the end of their power, but I couldn’t get the door open enough against the wind to get out. Even if I had managed to make a gap wide enough, I would not have been able to push with arms and legs and also magically get out at the same time.

I did manage to get a picture, though it isn’t very striking. Cancel the castle and head home.

When we arrived at the house, the wind had lessened to a manageable intensity to at least get out of the car, but at the same time unexpected event number two was knocking at the door.

For those not familiar with the geography of where I am describing, it is sunny and semi-arid. There isn’t much greenery around at all and it is VERY rocky. Everything is stone, though that doesn’t have much impact on the weather. It just doesn’t rain much along the eastern side of the Adriatic during the summer. First the wind surprised us, and then the rain. And they didn’t come from the same directions.  Quite a fancy trick.

When the rain began it was beautiful to see the sun glowing through the storm and the rain falling into the white capped vivid blue sea. A rare treat for this American boy! Then the lightning started with a BOOM to alert us. Jonny decided to get out his camera and tripod to do a little lightning shooting. Their home is up on the hillside facing the sea with the city and harbor below and to the left. He already has an AMAZING image of fireworks at the harbor and lightning striking the lighthouse. Too bad he isn’t interested in showing it to the world or I would link to it. Back to the story.

Jonny is all set up and, knowing I am a photographer, is trying to get me to take out my gear and shoot. I had no tripod. Problem. I have no intervalometer. Another problem. I have no experience shooting lightning. Further problem, but with a solution. My gracious host not only encouraged me to try it but taught me how. I did experience a lot of non-ideal challenges while shooting. I had to set my camera on the (covered) balcony railing since I had no tripod, in the rain. I had to manually trigger each 10 sec exposure. The worst issue, as you’ll see in the images below, is that because of the lack of tripod, I had to set up where there was a giant power pole right in the middle of my frame. UGH! Even more frustrating was that the lightning shots I did get were always directly behind the pole. I was hoping to avoid that by shooting with a wide lens. And since my camera was in the rain I was also getting water spots on the lens. Out of a couple hundred exposures I got a few shots with fire in the sky, and I present my favorite to you below. Please note that there are two versions of the same image. One before correction and one after.

Enjoy the lightning!

Orange Moon

As I was groggily stumbling my way to the bathroom to kitchen to get a drink of water I took a peek out the window as I always do. I love looking outside. What I saw amazed me, to say the least. At first I thought it was blood red, which would have been even more interesting if you are into Bible prophecy, but it wasn’t. It was a vivid Orange Moon glowing eerily back at me.

It was a bit strange, yes. But it was even more strange to try and photograph. I’m curious to know why I was having such a hard time getting a good shot of this. Part of me wants to believe it was due to smoke passing between my lens and the moon, refracting the light and ‘moving’ the moon around during my long exposures. Another part of me thinks it was user error of some kind. Though I did have a solid tripod set up, using a cable release, had the mirror locked up, using image stabilization, auto and manual focus and I got lots and lots of images the looked like my tripod was sinking or I had camera shake. I even tried multiple different ISO’s and shutter speeds all with the same result.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I didn’t do ANY post processing of any kind whatsoever. All I did was to crop. So this truly was an orange moon!

Whatever the case, I was able to get a couple of shots that were mostly sharp, so here is one for you to enjoy. Now if only I had a longer lens to get really close to see that awesome orange moon.

Super Moon !

I went out to shoot the super moon in May 2012. I decided my best vantage point would be the top of a mountain pass between Horseshoe Bend and Eagle, Idaho. I got there exactly at the time the moon was to rise. I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. Forty-five minutes passed and still no moon. I decided the mountains around were much too high and headed for home since the ‘magic’ hour had passed. At the last second I decided to drive up a dirt road at the top of the pass. After driving only 1/4 of a mile there it was, the super moon. And it was very super. I was stunned by the size and clarity of the moon and spent 20 minutes or more making different exposures in the freezing temperatures. It’s still cold at 4, 400 ft elevation.

The first shot of the dark sky was just to capture the moon. The second image is my attempt at incorporating the landscape. The third is a strange one because it makes the moon look like the sun and the sky and landscape day like, though the light is soft rather than sharp edged. Part of the reason is simply that it was a very long exposure, but another could be that the moon is so close. Either way, I like how it is a bit of a trick. The sun had been down for about one hour when I made these images. The fourth image shows the same scene as the third only I put an exposure in for the sky that was correct for the moon. It’s a really weird look and I don’t think I much care for it, but I thought you might like to have a look at it since I had taken the time to make it.

Moon Cradle

The moon seems to have really grabbed my attention lately. Maybe it is because I’m stuck down here in the valley, and that is all I see from home. Whatever the case, I like to look at it. Hope you enjoy it, too. Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

McCall, Idaho Winter Sunset

One weekend in February I had the pleasure of going to camp. The first evening the sky was just so calm and serene, and the evening star shone so bright. The sunset was soft and shallow. This really allowed the entire scene to speak out, rather than the sky stealing the show.

Often a photographer will choose to capture a scene in several different ways, but only show the one he feels is best. I decided I would most enjoy showing you all three versions of how I saw this particular scene. My favorite is the one with the posts in the foreground. Which one is your favorite?

Please let me know what you think in the comments boxes below.