Category Archives: Night Photography

“Half The Park Is After Dark”

A starry sky and mirror-smooth Reflection Lake in Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
A busy night at the Sunrise Area of Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)
Comet NEOWISE over Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)
Taking the road to the stars in Big Bend National Park (Texas)
A starry sky over the Watchman and Virgin River, Zion National Park (Utah)

“Half the Park is After Dark,” as the saying goes. This week is International Dark Skies Week, so here are a few images of some dark skies over Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, and Big Bend national parks. To read more about this week, click on any of the images above.

I don’t do much night photography, but that’s mainly because it’s hard for me to stay up past my bedtime. I’m not a “night owl” and never was. I’m an “early bird” and have no problem getting up at 3 a.m. to get to a spot for sunrise shots. I really do need to get more night shots of the parks I visit, and I’ll try to make that a mission. Another part of the problem, besides light pollution and staying up late, is that clear skies and moonless nights are the best circumstances in which to view and photograph the stars and Milky Way. Sometimes, I remember to time my trips during the week of a new moon, but oftentimes, I simply forget.

Night shots are a good way to work on your photography skills. To get a decent star image, though, you need to set your camera to Manual (not Auto or Program), put it on a tripod, increase the ISO to greater than 640, and experiment with different slow shutter speeds, anywhere from 10 seconds to greater. It’s also helpful to use a corded or wireless remote shutter release, or utilize the 2-second timer on your camera. That reduces blur from camera shake when your finder touches the shutter button.

It takes a little expertise with the editing software to really bring out that Milky Way and landscape. Some photographers blend anywhere from two to more images to get enough light on the landscape while keeping the dark sky dark. If they are honest, they will say what they did. But most photographers keep quiet. That’s why you will be amazed at seeing something like the night sky over the Watchman and Virgin River at Zion Park, where the landscape is beautifully lit. when in reality – as you can see from the image above, captured around 2 a.m. on a cold, clear February night – it is a a bit darker. Nonetheless, it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the shot.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under Big Bend National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, National Parks, Night Photography, Photography, Zion National Park

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!

Happy New Year London 2-15-2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY
(yes, one day early – at least it’s not one day late as is my usual timing)

As I look back on 2016, I see a mix of good and bad, as is usual over the course of a year. The good stuff had to do with travel and photography and getting closer to what is left of my family. The bad stuff – well, let’s just say 2016 was marginally better than 2015, which was a horrible year.

Sooooo, I’m truly hoping that 2017 makes up for all the bad stuff. And I also hope the New Year 2017 is a start of many good things for all of you out there.

Now, for this photo: I had the great good fortune to stay in London over Christmas and New Year. It was my last hurrah to close out that horrible 2015 year I mentioned earlier. I deliberately chose that time of year to fly to London because I wanted to especially see the fireworks over the London Eye.

I remember joining the hordes to wait about 45 minutes for the security lines to open up so we could go find a spot around 7pm (nothing ever opens up exactly on time, you know). I went through 3 checkpoints before squeezing into a spot along the Thames in front of the Royal Horseguards Hotel and across from that great wheel on which one can get an amazing view of the surrounding land. It was a good thing I didn’t have to go to the toilet because we all stood there, cheek-by-jowl, for about 5 hours, waiting for the countdown to begin. I got acquainted with the family from the Midlands and the young lady from Dubai standing behind me who was there for some sort of news service.

It was worth the wait. The 10-minute display of fireworks was amazing and I alternated between having the camera up to my eye and then putting it down so I could just enjoy the fireworks without looking through a lens. It was such a neat feeling to realize I was actually standing there, in London, watching the New Years fireworks from a prime spot, surrounded by people from all over the world.

Again, Happy New Year! I hope everybody’s 2017 adventures far surpass those embarked upon in 2016.

 

 

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Filed under 1DX, Canon, Events, holiday, London, New Year, Night Photography, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography

Happy New Year, London – It’s 2016!

Happy New Year From London

My last post described my New Year’s Eve experience in London.  This post shows you the results.  The fireworks display lasted around 11 minutes. I used my Canon 1DX and 16-35mm f/4L IS lens, set the ISO to 5000, shutter to 1/50 of a second, aperture was f/4 and I just left it at that for these photos.  I had to use some noiseware (Imagenomic) reduction software during the editing phase.

Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year Longon 2-15-2016Happy New Year UK 2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016Happy New Year London 2016Happy New Year London 2016Happy New Year London 2016Happy New Year London 2-15-2016

Some of these images bring to mind an abstract painting.  All of these images bring to mind an incredible event.

 

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Filed under 1DX, Canon, Canon Lens, holiday, London, New Year, Night Photography, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, Vacation

Countdown to 2016

Countdown

I can’t remember if I mentioned this in a previous post or not (without going back and re-reading my posts), but the main reason I took a December vacation to London was because I saw a photo, earlier in the year, of the 2015 fireworks over the London Eye. I was so taken with that image that, as a photographer, I knew I had to be right there for the 2016 fireworks.

In case you aren’t aware, they now ticket this event (£10), and if you don’t have a ticket to present at the event, you don’t get in.  After I’d purchased and received my ticket to the Embankment (blue) section, it turns out the hotel at which I stayed bestowed to its guests wrist bands to the same section, lol.  I definitely was assured entrance to the event.

I spent about 45 minutes waiting my turn to go through security at the first checkpoint, and then went through a couple more checkpoints before being lucky enough to squeeze in between a Chinese tourist on one side and a family from the Midlands on the other.  I then waited 4 hrs 15 minutes in that same spot (no, I never once felt like I had to pee, thank goodness).  I could feel the press of the crowd behind me.  I had a nice visit (should I say “chat” instead?) with the young lady behind me and the father of the family beside me.

Color On The ThamesColor On The Thames

During the long, chilly wait, a kaleidoscope of colors kept splashing against the London Eye and the buildings beside that iconic landmark.

A Line Of Lit Smartphones

At one point, to keep the crowd from getting too restless (remember, it was a 4-hour wait), the speaker challenged us all to turn on our smartphones and show the bright screen to the sky and the BBC helicopter.  To the right of the London Eye in the image above is a line of bright smartphones all along Westminster Bridge.

And then, the countdown …

OneHappy New Year London 2016Happy New Year London 2016

The show was INCREDIBLE!  And I was right there in front, taking it all in.  I can’t describe what a cool feeling that was – all I can say is that every time I stare into space and think about the fireworks, my smile gets wider and wider.  When I do this at work, people wonder what the hell is going on with me (grin).

Oh, and that white semi-circle you see in the mid-left portion of the photos:  that’s the waning gibbous moon.

Happy New Year London 2016

I’d capture a series of photos with my Canon 1DX and 16-35mm f/4L IS lens, then take the camera away and drink the experience in with my eyes, then take some more photos.  I did this for the next 10-11 minutes as the fireworks and music and cheers and ooohs and ahhs carried on around me.  At one point, I remember looking down at the young son of the family next to me standing a little bit in front of me, who in turned looked up at me to see me with wide eyes and a silly grin on my face as I watched this spectacular pyrotechnic display.

These photos are just the start.  I captured a gazillion different fireworks images that I’ll publish in the next blog post (ok, maybe not all gazillion of them, but a few).

Happy New Year, London and Everybody!

 

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Filed under 1DX, Canon, holiday, London, New Year, Night Photography, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography

Tour Eiffel: Variations On A Theme

Becky In Paris

For almost 20 years, I’ve wanted to go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower.  Nothing else – all I wanted to do was just see in person that iconic landmark.  While staying in London, I knew I would be so close to Paris that I might as well just book a seat on the Eurostar and hop over to France for a couple of days.  Below are variations on a theme, from sunrise to sunset over the course of 2 days (actually, just a day-and-a-half, not counting the travel time from London to Paris).

Sunrise In ParisSunrise At The TrocaderoEnjoying The View At The TrocaderoTour EiffelMorning Light On The Eiffel TowerThe Crowd Under The TowerThe Eiffel Tower And The Trocadero BeyondThat Which Makes The Eiffel TowerThe UnderbellyA Morning Walk Along The SeineTour Eiffel At DuskTour Eiffel At NightEiffel Tower Theme 3Eiffel Tower Theme 2Eiffel Tower Theme 1Sparkling Tour EiffelSparkly Tour EiffelEiffel Tower Theme 4Night View From My Paris RoomBecky And The Eiffel Tower At Night

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Filed under Night Photography, Paris, Photography, Travel

Starry Skies Over Big Bend National Park, Texas

Los Portales Morning

Los Portales Morning, Gage Hotel, Marathon Texas

My first vacation of the year was the last week of  April 2014.  I drove 13 hours from my home in southeast Texas all the way over to southwest Texas to Big Bend National Park…in one day.  I wasn’t able to get a room in the Chisos Mountains Lodge for Saturday the 26th, so I instead stayed in the beautiful Gage Hotel in Marathon, about 60-some miles north of the park.

One of the main reasons I timed my trip for late April was because of the new moon.  When I visited Big Bend back in December 2013, there was a gibbous moon, the light of which blocked out the wonderful stars and purple-white line of the Milky Way.  For this trip, though, the stars out-performed themselves.

Casa Grande Morning

Starry skies over Casa Grande

Chihuahuan Desert Starry Sky

Stars and the Milky Way over the Chihuahuan Desert

Starry Morning on Basin Road

Stars and the Milky Way along Basin Road, toward the Chisos Mountains

I used three different cameras for these shots:  my Canon 5D Mk III, Canon 1DX, and a rented Nikon D800.  For the Canons, I used two lenses:  24-70 and 16-35; for the Nikon I used a rented 24-70.  The ISO was 3200, f-stop was 3.2 and I varied the shutter speed between 20-30 seconds.  I had to use manual focus because of the lack of light for autofocus.  The images were all taken between 2-3AM.

The park’s most recent newsletter talks a lot about the starry skies in Big Bend, as well as the problem with light pollution elsewhere (which is why parks like Big Bend are so important).  Many nocturnal creatures guide their lives by the stars and even by the straight line of the Milky Way, believe it or not.

If you ever have a chance to visit this amazing, out-of-the-way park, try to go during a new moon so you, too, can see the starry expanse of the night sky.

Los Portales Morning2

The Milky Way over the Los Portales rooms of the Gage Hotel, Marathon, TX

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Filed under Big Bend, National Parks, Night Photography, Photography

Photography In The National Parks: Big Bend in December

Sunset Over The Chisos Mountains

The National Parks Traveler just published a little “Exploring The Parks” article I wrote about my recent mid-December road trip to Big Bend National Park, Texas.  If you are interested in checking it out, just click on the photo above.

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Filed under Big Bend, National Parks, Night Photography, Photography, Texas, Travel, Travel and Photography, Vacation

Christmas Tree in the Window

Christmas Tree In The Window

To stave off the post-Thanksgiving-tryptophan sleepies, I decided to clean my living room window so that my lovely little Christmas tree would show up better from the outside.  Naturally, I had to take tripod and camera out after dark to capture images of this one little tree glowing brightly in the night.  Apparently, I am either the only person with a tree in the entire apartment complex, or I am the only person who likes showing off their tree through the window.

Beckys Christmas Tree

This photo was taken shortly after sundown.  I deliberately set the f-stop to 22 so the lights would create little starbursts.  The ISO was 500, I used my 24-70mm lens with the focal length set to 24mm, and the shutter was open for 30 seconds.

Christmas Tree In The Window

I switched from to my 16-35mm lens because I wanted a much wider-angle view of the complex and my tree.  The only issue was the fact that the oak tree branches in the yard drooped quite a bit.  The ever-so-slight breeze took those drooping branches and blurred them during the 30-second shot.  The ISO was 250.  I had to use noise-reduction with this image (yes, you can sometimes get grainy low-light photos even when using a low ISO) and I ultimately cropped out as much of the offending blurred branches as I could, giving this image a sort of pseudo-pano look.

O Christmas Tree

Lots of frames in this image above:  the front lights on the brick columns, the frame created by the apartment complex architecture, and the frame created by the oak tree limbs.

Magic Tree

The Magic Tree.   Easy to do if you ever decide to experiment yourself.  Just put your camera and zoom lens on a tripod, set the camera for however many seconds you wish, then play around with zooming the lens in and out to get some funky effects while the shutter is open.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Holidays, low light photography, Night Photography, Photography, starbursts

An HDR Perspective of the Mt. Desert, Maine, Starscape

This morning, laying aside all of the other things I should have been doing, I perused  the news feed on my Facebook photography page and noticed an image posted by another photographer of a night shot processed using HDR techniques.

Hmm, I thought to myself, this might be an interesting test of my own star shots I captured while in Maine this past October (2013).

Normally, an HDR image is composed of 3 or more bracketed images (with different exposure settings).  Now, while I did get multiple images of the same comps using different settings, I chose instead to simply create two duplicate images in Photoshop of the original processed image,  change the exposures in those duplicates by +2 and –2, then process all three images together using Photomatix.

Below are the results.  I’ve posted both the HDR-processed images as well as the original processed image, and you can see whether or not there is any difference.

A Sea Of Stars

A Sea of Stars – Original

A Sea Of Stars-HDR

A Sea of Stars – HDR

Pointing The Way To The Milky Way

Pointing the Way to the Milky Way – Original

Pointing The Way To The Milky Way

Pointing the Way to the Milky Way – HDR

The Road To The Night Sky

The Road to the Stars – Original

The Road To The Night Sky

The Road to the Stars – HDR

Headlight Star Shot

Headlight Star Shot – Original

Headlight Star Shot

Headlight Star Shot – HDR

After processing the images through Photomatix, I went back and added some curves adjustments as well as contrast, brightness, and exposure adjustments.  While I think the HDR technique added some light/shadow nuances to the images, I am not  certain I couldn’t  have pulled similar results from just regular processing.

I am still on the fence regarding HDR in general, but I do believe the images above were improved using this technique.

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Filed under Equipment, HDR, Maine, Night Photography, Photography, Star Photography, Travel

Star Light, Star Bright on Mt. Desert Island, Maine

Pointing The Way To The Milky Way

During my first night sleeping in my Bass Harbor rental cottage, I awoke at about 2AM and looked up through the skylight windows above the bed.  I was not wearing my glasses and could see these bright little blobs against the black background of the night.  After clearing my vision with the application of glasses, I saw those “blobs” were brilliant twinkling stars.

I had never seen the stars so bright – definitely not in my part of southeast Texas.

So I made a note to set the alarm clock for 1AM each morning.  If I woke up and saw the stars through the skylight windows, then I would dress, grab camera and gear and drive over to the seawall (about 2 or 3 miles away) to set up tripod and work on my night photography.

The Road To The Night Sky

The road to the stars.  Looking back from whence I came.  I was pointing the camera toward the seawall side of the road.

A Sea Of Stars

A sea of stars.  That bright red light is a blinking buoy.

Early Morning Stars

Early morning stars.  The first night I took photos, they turned out horribly because I didn’t have the manual focus set correctly (and you need to focus manually).  So the one image with the Northern Lights in it failed to turn out.  On this night, I managed much better, but I think that yellow glow in the distance may be from one of the little towns and not the Northern Lights.  I think I missed my chance at that for the remainder of the week.

Next time…….

And for those of you interested in knowing how I achieved these photos:

  • I switched from auto focus to Manual Focus and made sure the focus was set to infinity – well, on my Canon lenses, that means I needed to set the focus line on the lens to a teeny bit before infinity.  When I rotated the focus ring allll the way over to (and beyond) infinity, the photo was horribly blurred, which is why I messed up the one shot I took with the Northern Lights in it (sigh).
  • I played around with ISO settings, which ranged anywhere from 3000 to 6400
  • I also played around with the shutter speed setting, which ranged from between 20 seconds to 30 seconds
  • The f-stop, I played around with too and it ranged from 2.8 to 3.2

And of course, this was all on a tripod.

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Filed under Maine, Night Photography, Photography, Star Photography, Travel