Day 348 (13 Dec 2012) Star Trails, or Lessons Learned

So the night of the 13th ended up having an amazing meteor shower!  I saw lots and lots, from really bright to dim in the two hours I was out watching.  Prior to going out I planned my shoot to a T, I thought: I found an image stacker designed to make star trails from individual images (the best way to make them w/o lots of noise or being affected as much by light pollution), had my camera settings set, used a dark sky site to find the darkest area around here, located several candidate sites, make a thermos of hot coco, dressed in LOTs of layers (it was 24F / -4C), put toe warmers in my boots, packed a sleeping bag to wrap in if needed, loaded all my camera gear (inc. the wired remote) and headed out.

First lesson learned: remember to pack my camp chair!  I wasn’t going to foul up my sleeping bag on the rocks/dirt.  Second: don’t forget to put the extra hand warmer on my lens.  I brought an extra for that reason to keep it from icing.  I forgot till too late.  Third: it appears most meteors are visible around the horizon (I didn’t catch any in an hour, yet saw dozens).  I pointed at the Gemini constellation, as thats where I read most would start from, which was almost straight up.  Also, pointing up more exposes your front lens element to space more, which will cause it to cool to colder than the air and get ice/condensation faster (leave a comment if you want the science behind this, and I’ll explain)  Fourth: a scraggly tree does not provide a good foreground subject against streaks of light.  Fifth: don’t knock over your glass-lined thermos on the rocks, because the glass inside will break 😦  Sixth, and maybe most important: DO NOT stop the camera sequence, unless you want to start completely over.  Notice the gaps in the trails?  Those each are from a 30ish second gap in shooting.  I had do delete one image because a car drove by and illuminated the tree.  Pulling out the aircraft light images make it look a lot worse due to a lot more gaps.

So, I count this expedition a success!  Yes, my image isn’t what I hoped for, but the next one will have some more knowledge to do this better 🙂  Like not setting up near a road, being more careful w/ my thermos, setting up the camera pointing in a better position and leaving it alone!

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The software I used for this is StarStax.  Click on the link to get it!

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Day 340 (5 Dec 2012) Power

On my way to class I thought I found a  great thing to shoot; I saw a large electrical substation that was lit up (for security), and the way the light fell on the shapes of the components was compelling!  I took a few minutes during class to look at it on Google Earth to see where I could park and get close to shoot.

So after class I drove the short distance, but after parking, I felt there was too much traffic and someone might think I looked suspicious shooting a large electrical distribution center at night, so I chickened out.  But across the street was a power line cut in which several different types of power lines ran.  It looked kinda neat as I was standing there in the cold wind, so I set up my tripod and made several exposures.

Between the dead weeds, mixed lighting, and busy scene, I wasn’t thrilled with the results.  I did a black & white conversion with some cropping and a little cloning, but it’s not how I pictured it in my minds eye.  The alternating light and dark sections of the wires (from the multiple passing cars) is distracting to me, and I did not do a good job in establishing a singular point of focus.  I will chalk this up as a learning experience and choose my composition better next time 🙂

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I have to admit, its a lot easier to say “I don’t like that image” about one I made than it is to actually spell out what it is exactly that I feel I didn’t do well at in creating it.  I’ve never been good at proofing my own work (writing, etc), and it’s not different in photography.  But from what I’ve read, and from my (minuscule) experience, it’s one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your photography (other than practice).  So I challenge you to on occasion look at a final image you have created and critique it; whether it’s one you love or one you are not fond of.  Figure out what it is about it that you love/hate!  It’s HARD! But worth it 🙂

UPDATE (2 min later): Right as I was about to hit “publish” for this post, I recieved an email from Flickr (where this image is hosted) stating someone had marked this one as a “favorite.”  I don’t know why; maybe they just randomly do that to drive traffic to their images or maybe they really like it?  What do you think?

Day 307 (2 Nov 2012) Norwich Waterfront

About 10 or so miles up the Thames river from Long Island Sound is a town called Norwich.  It’s not anywhere near the shoreline, yet there is a marina there.  It’s a quite place after dark, but beautiful with the colors reflecting off the water’s surface.  The are is pretty well lit so one can walk around and enjoy the area even late at night.

Tonight was a little breezy, as you can tell by the second photo.  I tried to capture the movement of the trees in the wind.  Not sure how well it shows, but I did like the clouds.  I did leave the shutter open a tad too long, as the stars were starting to trail (a 30 second exposure when it should have been 20-25 seconds).

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2012_Nov_02_Norwich Night_076

I have a question for all y’all out there, is there a better WordPress theme than the twenty twelve for a photo blog?  I prefer to link my photos from Flickr vice hosting them here, if that makes a difference.  Thanks!

Day 306 (1 Nov 2012) Sandy’s Clouds

Hey everyone!  I’ve got power back! It’s a great thing to have it, even after a short period (I got it back last night).  My part of CT had very minimal damage, unlike the shoreline and areas south, and for that I’m grateful.  I just lost power for about 48 hours, and the roof of my plastic shed blew off (I can just put it back, easy enough).  But my thoughts and prayers go out to those who are still suffering from Sandy’s wrath.  I hope none of you were in her path.

I shot tonight’s images from a small bridge on a dirt road just across the main road from my street.  I like how the moon glows behind the remnants of Sandy, and how some of the stars are starting to come out 🙂  Nothing too fancy, but I enjoy this kind of night/long exposure photography 🙂

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I did manage to shoot Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but I’m just now uploading the photos, so I’ll post those in a day or so.

Day 257 (14 Sep 2012) Disappearing Lake

Last night on my way home from Providence, RI, I took a slight detour to shoot a lake from a different perspective than I normally see and discovered this really neat dam.  As I approached the bridge, I could see a hole in the lake!  I think I’ll go back here during daylight to explore it a little better 🙂

I shot at ISO 100 last night and the issues I had the previous night shooing at ISO 200 were not present. I guess I could say that I learned that my camera does much better w/ very low ISOs on long exposures. Which is fine, I usually don’t mind waiting the extra few minutes, as I usually shoot something I enjoy looking at 🙂

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18 mm, 4 min, f/8, ISO 100 (Disappearing Lake)

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18 mm, 4 min, f/8, ISO 100 (Hole in the Lake)

Day 256 (13 Sep 2012) Night Pond

This is definitely not my best image, and I’m really reluctant to post it, but it’s one of two exposures I shot at a pond on my way home from class, and it’s the least bad of them.  I think that it was a mistake to shoot such a long exposure at ISO 200.  I was hoping to keep the exposure time down since it was late and all.  Guess I should have more patience next time 😦  Though it looks like I may have caught a meteor (center, top), unless it was a plane.

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18 mm, 5 min, f/8, ISO 200 (Night Pond)

Day 225 (12 Aug 2012) Perseid Meteor Shower

Seems I’m running a day late!  Well, I did send the last hour of yesterday with my shutter open (and the first hour of today waiting for the image), so I hope you like the result!

Since the sky was clear and the Perseid meteor shower in progress, I set up my tripod in my drive way, triggered the shutter, took a nap, and hoped for the best.  Well, actually I did spend about 10-15 min on my deck and saw two meteors.  However, in an hour, my camera only caught one (maybe North isn’t the best direction?).  My lens fogged up at some point, so you can see the it in the way the star trails change over time, but It’s still a good image.  Can you spot the one meteor streak?

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18 mm, 61 min, f/4.5, ISO 100 (Perseid Meteor Shower)

It crosses the bottom left corner 🙂

Day 182 (30 June 2012) Sparkler Fun

Tonight I was attempting to spell out my blog name with a sparkler.  Not as easy as it sounded, given my short-lived sparklers, windy location, and lighter that was almost empty!  And trying to do it all solo!

Actually, I really need to blame my poor hand writing, as I couldn’t read it when it was done.  So I tried again (several times, lol) with something simpler, in honor of this project.  This shot was inspired by the photo scavenger hunt I’m participating in, hosted by SeeingSpotsPhoto and Nick Exposed.

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18 mm, 30 sec, f/9.0, ISO 100 (365 Painted)

Day 180 (28 June 2012) Emerging Stars

Last night (and by last night I mean at 2 am today) I attempted to capture some meteors from the Bootis Meteor shower.  It’s usually not a huge show, so I set the camera on bulb, opened the shutter (after driving for 40 min to find an open area with a view to the north), took a nap, then shut the shutter, and drove home.  I awoke to this image.  No meteors, but I’ll try again during Fall’s big show 🙂

This is my submission for “emerging star”, on the SeeingSpotsPhoto and Nick Exposed photo scavenger hunt since there were so many ’emerging’ 🙂

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18 mm, 60 min, f/3.5, ISO 100, Emerging Stars

Day 148 (27 May 2012) Reflections

Tonight I continued to experiment some more with long exposure photography for the Long Exposure Photo Challenge.

For my first shot I wanted to capture the reflection of the trees and sky in the pond near my house.  I guess I shouldn’t have used ISO 400, but have used a lower IOS and longer exposure.

For my second shot I thought it might be cool to do a moon-trail.  You have heard of star trails before; this is like that, but with the moon drawing a line 🙂  It is only a 10 min exposure, so it’s not really a long line, but what do you think?  It’s not what I was expecting.  Have you done this before? How did it turn out?  Feel free to post a link to your shot and discuss the settings!

And as you can see below, there is a reason I called it experimenting! 🙂

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18 mm, 5 min, f/5.6, ISO 400 (Reflections)

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18 mm, 10 min, f/20, ISO 200 (Moon Trail)

Day 144 (23 May 2012) Randomness

The title says it all.  I just some random stuff around my home, and one while out & about.

Hope you enjoy! 🙂

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Droplet with bug on a leaf

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Hard Worker

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Soap

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New Fern

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Crescent Moon

Day 101 (10 April 2012) Drive By Sunset

Sunday evening as I was driving home, turning off the highway for the last stretch of country road, I looked up and saw some bare trees sillueted against a deep blue sky.  Something in me told me to pull over and shoot.  But I didn’t listen.  So this evening I set out to capture it.  However, halfway to that point, I looked in my review mirror and saw the orange sky and a big, knarley oak sillueted against it.  This time I did stop and spent some time shooting from different spots near where I parked.  If this looks familure, it’s because it’s the same area I shot “Life and Death” back in January.  This is a different tree, just across the road and down about 20 yards.

I’m still going to try for the other shot someday. . .

Drive By Sunset

18 mm, 2.5 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100, 18-55mm kit lens (Drive By Sunset)

Reaching for Venus

18 mm, 13 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200, 18-55mm kit lens (Reaching for Venus)

Venus

32 mm, 4 sec, f/8.0, ISO 800, 18-55mm kit lens (Venus)

Lebanon Sunset

18 mm, 6 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100, 18-55mm kit lens, cropped (Lebanon Sunset)

Day 99 (8 April 2012) Happy Easter!

Yesterday I was astonished when I realized that I had reached 100 followers!  Wow, that is so humbling and encouraging 🙂  When I started this project I was surprised that anyone would follow me (except for maybe some family and close friends).  You support and encouragement over these past 99 days has been amazing and has encouraged me to keep from missing any days, even when I just didn’t feel up to it.  This is such a great community here; I’m very glad that I’ve been able to interact with all of you in this way!  It has helped me to learn more about photography and has helped me gain confidence in this skill/art!  Thank you all so much!!

Also to day is day 99, the day before my 100th post.  I want to try and do something special for tomorrow, but an drawing a blank as what to shoot for tomorrow.  If you have any suggestions, ideas, thoughts, etc, please let me know 🙂  Also, at any time you have a suggestion for something to try, I’ll take it as a challenge and do my best, esp. if it’s something I’ve not done before.

The first shot shows the reason for this holiday; as a Christian, Easter is the celebration of the day that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after taking the penally for my sins and wrongs.  It is because of this day that I will have a place with Him in heaven.  It is the most important event in Christian history; it’s why there are Christians!  I’m not going to preach at you, here, but if you have questions or what-not, please feel free to ask!

The second shot is from my way home tonight after spending a wonderful day amongst friends; the remaining glow on the horizon looked amazing!  I’m afraid I didn’t take the time to fully devote to this shot to get it perfect; it looked better in person. But I did stop, set up the tripod, and pointed east, capturing Venus (the brightest dot).

The Empty Cross

18 mm, 1/13 sec, f/8.0, ISO 1600, 18-55mm kit lens (The Empty Cross!)

Venus

21 mm, 25 sec, f/4.5, ISO 100, 18-55mm kit lens (Venus)

Day 93 (2 April 2012) Montville Center Congregational Church

If you’ve ever visited New England, you probably noticed that the roads here are planned as carefully as spaghetti is arranged on your plate. As such, there are numerous ways to get from A to B. A couple days ago I took a new way home and discovered a lot of cool, old buildings along the way. A lot of old brick factories (from the fabric mill days) and this church. Most of the brick buildings have no trespassing signs, and not feeling up to any jail time tonight, I decided to shoot this church.

I shot this with about a 2.5 min exposure at ISO 200. This is the first long exposure I’ve intentionally shot at an ISO greater than 100. I think the noise level is hardly noticeable, so I may try some higher ISOs to reduce my exposure time on future shots.

Montville Center Congregational Church

18 MM, 147 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200, 18-55mm kit lens (Montville Center Congregational Church)

Day 79 (19 march 2012) The Distant Tribe and the Planets

Around here one of the biggest “attractions” is the Mohegan Sun casino complex.  They have all sorts of ways to donate your money to the tribe ( gambling), but also have some great restaurants and host many big concerts and shows, in addition to a WNBA team.

The hotel tower is quite striking, and stands out from the wooded landscape it sits in.  Tonight I saw it from afar, peaking over a fallow cornfield on the top of a hill.  In this photo, the red lights at the bottom/center is the hotel tower.  The two bright lights above it are Jupiter and Venus (higher/brighter one).

The Planets Align

18 mm, 30 sec, f/8.0, ISO 400, 18-55mm kit lens (The Planets Align)

Day 51 (20 Feb 2012) Night Time on the Rails

Tonight’s photo is the night version of this post.  Because it was so dark, it didn’t turn out quite as bright as I had hoped, even though I shot at ISO 200 for 10 minutes.  I’ll try this under a full, or near full, moon to see how different it might be.

A credit to the capabilities designed into our eyes is that I could clearly see the tops of the rails just from the incident light from the stars and lights across the river, but it took 10 min for my camera to pick them up!  I’m still learning the limitations of my camera, compared to my eye.  It is very evident when looking and shooting a hight contrast scene; my eyes can pick out color/detail in the shadows and bright areas simultaneously.  My camera does not have that dynamic of a range.  I may have to try HDR photography at some point to see how close I can get what I see to the screen.

The Tracks at Night

18 mm, 10 min, f/11, ISO 200, 18-55mm kit lens (The Tracks at Night)

Day 44 (13 Feb 2012) Star Light, Star Bright

I’ve shot in this field before (see post Life and Death), but I really like how this lone tree in the corn field stood out against the glow of the town just past the horizon.  The sky was clear, and the moon was not set to rise for 3 more hours, so I pulled over just before I reached home and set up my tripod and took a few shots.

I was trying to keep from having star trails, so I limited my exposure to 30 seconds, but had to boost the ISO up to 400, so I did get some noise which I tried to reduce in Lightroom.  But in this small size it doesn’t show up too much. The tree is a little out of focus, and the noise reduction didn’t help it, either. Days like this were I don’t have time to really plan out a shot result in being rushed. But I am learning something each time I analyze a photo I’m not 100% pleased with. 🙂

Tree in Corn Field

18 mm, 30 sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, Canon 18-55mm kit lens (Tree in Corn Field)

Day 40 (9 Feb 2012) Hope

No, this post has nothing to do with inspiring you to any type of hope, unfortunately.  It’s titled that way because I’m hoping that my shot came out OK.  Why would I have to hope, you ask?  Good question.  It’s because that as I’m typing this right now, my camera is still processing the 11+ minute exposure I just completed.  I hope that the composition is good.  I hope the image is in focus.  I hope that it wasn’t over or under exposed.

Why would I leave today’s photo up to hope?  Well, I had not intended it to be that way.  I had picked out a great spot to go with the current conditions (near full moon, clear sky) that was along my way home from helping a friend pick up and transport an entertainment center they just bought (I’m that guy w/ a truck you hope will help you).  I set up the tripod, leveling the head, planned out a few angles to shoot the scene, put the camera on the tripod and turned it on.  I was left very annoyed when all it did was flash the dead battery sign.  My other battery was in my other bag in my other vehicle (the one I drive almost all the time).  So, I packed up everything and came home, more than a little disappointed in myself.

Being quite tired due to the time and how late I stayed up yesterday to get yesterday’s shot, my body wasn’t enjoying the 28F air too much, so I set up the camera inside (all but focus), pointed it at something I think will be interesting, used a flashlight to set the focus, and opened the shutter.  About 11 min later I went back outside and closed it.

The camera just now finished processing, so I’m headed to Lightroom to convert it and upload.

Ok, it’s uploading.  And it’s not terrible.  My composition could have been better, but I’m not complaining too much, as I didn’t want to spend a long time lying on the ground getting it just right tonight.  Exposure is good (adjusted a little), and noise wasn’t too bad (fixed a little, too).  Color was pretty good, IMO.  I was so tired, I didn’t even consider that I would have star trails, but, I managed to catch the North Star just barely, so I think it adds to it.  But this is just me rambling at after 11 pm.  Maybe I won’t like it as much in the morning.  But it is, what it is, so please share your thoughts on how I could improve on this for next time.

Moon Lit Tree and Star Trails

18 mm,11 min 28 sec, f/11, ISO 100, Canon 18-55mm kit lens (Moon Lit Tree and Star Trails)

Day 37 (6 Feb 2012) When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth

On my way into town tonight to lead a personal finance class I teach, I passed by The Dinosaur Place and saw the first sight and thought it was fun!  It may not be a work of art or my best photo, but I had fun taking it (I’ve always loved dinosaurs!) 🙂

The second photo I took at a pond near my house; normally this time of year it’s iced so thick that people are out fishing on it; right now it just has a thin sheet of ice, not even all the way to the edges all around.  But with the full moon, I thought it was nice to look at.

T-Rex Eatign the Moon

55mm, 1/25 sec, f/5.6, ISO 3200, EF-S 18-55mm IS kit lens (T-Rex is Hungry)

Lake House on Frozen Lake

40 mm, 30 sec, f/11, ISO 1600, EF-S 18-55mm IS kit lens (Lake House on Frozen Lake)

Day 30 (30 Jan 2012) Windsor Sky

As I was leaving work this evening, an hour later than normal, I glanced up from the road and saw a beautiful sky!  I drove a little out of my way to get away from the business park and found an open field where I could pull over, set up the tripod, and capture the sky.  Then I turned around and pointed at the traffic circle (round-about, for those from other parts of the country/world).  The surrounding towns put these in, most of which don’t have any other roads off of them, to keep the semi-trucks from taking a short cut through residential areas.  I’m not sure how well they work, ’cause I’ve seen tracks go over the top of them, or cutting the corners.  Problem not solved, and everyone has to deal w/ driving around these.  Gotta love government solutions (stepping down from my soap box, now).

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18 mm, 30 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200, EF-S 18-55mm IS kit lens (Dusk in Windsor, CT)

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18 mm, 30 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100, EF-S 18-55mm IS kit lens (Windsor Sky)

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18 mm, 30 sec, f/8.0, ISO 200, EF-S 18-55mm IS kit lens (Dusk in Windsor, CT)