Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Faking the Moonrise

This moonrise over Kailua Beach, Oahu, Hawaii is actually a sunrise: f/8, 1/400 sec., ISO 100 ~ © Royce Bair MMXI
When to fake a moonrise: It's very important that all my starry night landscape photography ("NightScapes") be as close to my camera raw originals as possible. Other than an increase in sky contrast, I resist heavy Photoshop manipulation. Editorial photography requires a high standard of ethics. Commercial and advertising photography is another matter. Here one is trying only to be illustrative and create an image that sells a product.

Moonrise over Kailua Beach was created purely to be a top stock photo seller, and I have succeeded so well, that it has also become one of the Internet's most often ripped-off images (that can happen, when an image goes viral).

How the illusion was created: To create the above image was ridiculously easy. I started out with a pretty sunrise. That camera raw image was opened within the Adobe Raw Converter (ARC), which is available for Photoshop, Elements, and built into Lightroom (refer to page 115 in my new eBook).

The un-cropped camera raw file opened in the Adobe Raw Converter (ARC)
The next step was to slide the color Temperature to the left —all the way to 2000º Kelvin. Some images may look better at around 2500º, and may need some Tint adjustment as well.

Sliding the color Temperature to the far left (i.e. 2000º) will suddenly give your sunrise a cool "night" look.
Once the image meets your overall tastes for a "night" image, open the image and continue to make adjustments in Photoshop, Lightroom or Elements. That's it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dallas Texas NightScape Presentation April 14th

Stars over Hole in the Wall Arch. This is an obscure arch within the Courthouse Towers section of Arches National Park
that is no longer marked on any park maps. The wall is part of a huge, but very thin sandstone fin that makes this
feature very intriguing to me. I had planned this shot for over 20 years. The ‘hole’ is about 30 feet (9 m.) in
diameter, and is lit by an omnidirectional LED lantern with an orange gel, hidden inside the hole. The
main light (a diffused, 2-million candlepower quartz halogen spotlight) is being operated by my
son Chris, about 800 ft. (244 m.) from the left (more info available in my new eBook).
Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24mm f/1.4L II USM lens, 15 seconds, f/2.0, ISO 4000.
Dallas Professional Photographers of America (DPPA) presentation: I hope you'll join me in Dallas for a two hour presentation on April 14, 2015 about how to photograph Milky Way NightScapes. More information can be found on this Dallas PPA website. Dallas is one of my 13-city stops on my eBook "signing" tour.

Monday, March 9, 2015

NightScape Podcast with Royce Bair and Ron Henry

BlackRapid founder, Ron Henry, interviews NightScape photographer, Royce Bair
Podcast interview: Last month, while I was in Seattle, I had the opportunity to meet with BlackRapid founder, Ron Henry, and discuss my passion for NightScape photography. Ron does podcasts on a regular basis, and is a terrific interviewer. The way he guides this 39-minute podcast discussion will provide you with some great insights about how to do your own starry night landscape photography. (Note: if you are unable get the podcast to work for you, use this MP3 link.)

F.Y.I.: BlackRapid makes some of the best camera accessories on the planet. They are especially known for their unique camera straps.

13-City Tour: This interview is just one of several media opportunities I've enjoyed on my 13-city ebook "signing" tour, during the past three months. It's been fun sharing my love for NightScape photography with enthusiastic camera clubs around the United States. At the moment, I only have free tour seminars left to do in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles (Torrance), San Francisco (Palo Alto and Sunnyvale), Dallas, and Boston.

TV interviews: There were several television interviews during this tour and in the works, but my favorite so far was in Jacksonville, Florida last month on WJXX's First Coast Living.

A video frame capture from my First Coast Living interview (WJXX - Jacksonville, FL)
Video frame capture from my New Day Northwest interview (KING5 - Seattle, WA)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

'Capturing the Night' by Greg Gibbs

"Beam Me Up" is a single 30-second exposure "selfie", using a low power head torch on a string to
spin around the photographer.  Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs
Greg Gibbs describes himself as an Australian based hobbyist photographer, who has a passion for capturing the beauty of the night sky.

"I'm not sure I have a particular style of night photography that is easily definable," says Greg. "If I do [have a style], it is constantly changing, depending on the mood I am in, or what I want to achieve in a particular image."

"The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy" is a 16 image panorama (25-second exposures). The road sign is only a
couple minutes drive from where Greg used to live. The sign was lit during one of his exposures with the light
from his mobile phone screen.  Canon 5D Mark II, 20mm lens, f/2.8, ISO 6400 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Early History: Ever since Greg witnessed Halley's Comet at the age of seven he has had a background interest in astronomy.  Growing up, he enjoyed seeing things like lunar eclipses, meteor showers, and other bright comets.  But, it wasn't until he purchased his first DSLR camera in 2010 that he discovered a passion for photographing the night sky.

"I was playing around with the camera one night and I thought to myself, 'what would happen if I just went outside and held the shutter button down for a long time?  Could I capture a couple of stars on camera?'  The resulting image whilst completely out of focus and riddled with noise, blew my mind so much that I started devouring as much information about astrophotography as I could, and I have been hooked ever since," says Gibbs.

"For The Past, Present and Future Explorers" is a 9-image panorama of 30-second exposures. South is at the top of
frame, the middle of the image is directly overhead and the bottom of the image is North.  (It was while Greg was
processing these images that he heard of the passing of Neil Armstrong so the title for this came from thinking
about all his achievements.) Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm lens, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs
Keeping it simple: Although Greg enjoys experimenting with telescope based astrophotography, his real passion is doing what started it all —using nothing more than a camera and normal tripod to capture the beauty of the night sky that surrounds us all.

I certainly like to keep things as simple and real as possible.  With the exception of things like panoramas and star trails, I really like the challenge of capturing as many of my images in a single exposure where ever I can.  Out of necessity, I might occasionally exposure blend or focus stack, but that is about as far as I go.

"Field Of Dreams" is a 6-image panorama of 10-second exposures.  A diffusion filter was used in front of the lens
at the time of shooting to highlight the brighter stars.  "A lot of people think this is a daytime shot of the crop and
windmill, blended with a star shot, but this was taken at about 1:00 AM and a 70% illuminated Moon is lighting
up the foreground," says Greg.  Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm lens, f/3.5, ISO 1600 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Equipment and software: Gibb's most valuable equipment is actually his astrophotography telescope equipment and he doesn't even want to think about how much that has cost him!  For most fixed tripod night sky-scapes, he feels wide angles lenses with fast aperture lenses are very important.  His favorite pieces of equipment are are also his two main lenses — the Samyang (which also goes by the brands of Rokinon, Pro Optic, and Bower) 14mm f/2.8 and 24mm f/1.4.  Coupled to his two cameras (Canon 6D and 5D MkII) they are hard to beat for image quality.

"I must be getting close to the only person in the world who has not yet got a smart phone, so I am still firmly computer based at this stage," quips Greg.  "I use Google Maps, Stellarium, and The Photographers Ephemeris extensively for location scouting and image planning.  I have a whole host of weather prediction sites that I use to check conditions; and being just a little bit obsessed with chasing Aurora Australis from mainland Australia, I always keep an eye on a number of aurora forecast websites."

"Midnight Rainbow" is a 9-image panorama of 30-second exposures.
Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Challenges: Greg feels lucky to live in Australia where really dark skies are readily found, but this often involves long drives, and fuel is not cheap.  Coupled with the fact that he has a regular day job on top of this hobby —having enough spare time to actually travel and photograph locations at night is one of his biggest challenges.

Another challenge he has is finding good locations.  Greg prides himself on trying to find the best composition, but some locations just don't work with night sky images.  "I have found myself doing a lot more time lapse imaging lately, with the view to releasing something, hopefully, early this year; and that has been a really challenging project, with steep learning curves.  I take my hat off to the people doing night sky time lapses full time," reports Gibbs.

"Lookout" is an 8-image panorama of 30-second exposures, taken at Mt. Buffalo National Park.  Greg feels this
is the most amazing night he has yet to spend under the stars. "I had caught a few faint displays on camera before
but this was the first time I had ever seen the southern lights or Aurora Australis dancing in the sky with my own
eyes.  This panorama was originally only intended as a behind the scenes look for the multitude of other images
I took on the night, hence why you can see another camera in the hut and my car in the carpark, but when I
stitched the images together I fell in love with the result and it went on to win the David Malin Award
(Australia's largest astrophotography competition) in 2013 for best wide field image."
Canon 5D Mark II, 14mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200 ~ © Greg Gibbs (click to enlarge)
Satisfaction: "It means the world to me that so many people seem to like what I do, says Greg.  "If through my images I can inspire just one person to look up with a greater appreciation of the night sky, then I would be completely satisfied.  I'm certainly not in it for fame or fortune, and any money I do make from my hobby goes straight back into doing it.  As a hobbyist, I am only out to please myself when it comes to photography.  I am only out taking images at all hours of the night, because I love taking images at all hours of the night."

Greg hopes that through his hobby of photographing the night sky he can inspire others to get away from artificial lights and just look up at the night sky. Halley’s Comet will return to our skies in 2061. If you're in Australia that year, keep an eye out for an 82 year old man standing next to a camera on a tripod with a huge smile on his face!

Greg Gibbs is a 35 year old resident of southern New South Wales, Australia.  He's a horticulturalist by day and hobbyist landscape astrophotographer by night.  More of Greg's photography can be found on his website, his Facebook page, Google+, or on 500px.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Milky Way NightScapes eBook

The Milky Way over Lower Yellowstone Falls is the cover on Royce Bair's new "Milky Way NightScapes" eBook.
My new ebook, "Milky Way NightScapes" is now available: PDF format (53MB), 140 pages, over 33,000 words of text, with over 490 illustrative images. $19.99 USD. Please scroll to the bottom of this post to place your order.

Because my NightScapes have been widely published for three decades, many have copied my style. Although I'm not the first person to have ever used that label to describe my style of night photography, I was one of the first to use it extensively for starry night skies, with a landscape feature that has been enhanced by extra starlight, moonlight, or artificial light. Unlike other ebooks on night photography, Milky Way NightScapes concentrates almost exclusively on photographing starry night skies as points of light. There is only one page on star trails, and no instruction on how to photograph the moon, meteor showers, or other night sky features. This is book is very narrow-minded, and I think many will appreciate that.

The book is divided into four chapters: 1. Planning and Scouting, 2. Shooting NightScapes, 3. Lighting the Foreground (using starlight, moonlight, and artificial light), and 4. Post Processing. Here are some sample pages (Copyright Royce Bair 2015, All Rights Reserved):

What others are saying: "This is the only book you'll ever need for nightscapes. It is easy to read, easy to use and written by the world's foremost authority on night photography. The recipe on page 50 of how to set up the shot with clear step by step instructions is alone worth the price. Highly recommended for everyone who ever thought of doing this type of photography." — Jeff Clow

"Very helpful! I attended a weekend workshop last winter on night photography and I wish I had your ebook prior to that. I have some other books on the topic, and I find yours to be the most complete and best presentation of information on the topic. Your ebook has also filled in some gaps and is quite helpful with processing the raw files I have." — Donnie Fulks

"The book is well written, chock full of information and an inspiration for all of us doing “nightscape” photography.  Thank you for sharing your years of knowledge and experience."  — Bill Zombeck

Kindle warning: "Your original PDF is too large for folks to upload to their Kindle or Kindle app on iPad (my preferred method for reading ebooks).  The file size limit is 50 meg [the Milky Way NightScapes PDF is 53MB].  I was able to compress it a bit using Acrobat so I'm fine, but not everyone has access to Acrobat. It's a great read so far and your images are breathtakingly beautiful!" — J. Scott Crist

"This book is terrific. Royce, you've taken all the work out of pre-planning. I highly recommend this book it to anyone with only the slightest interest in night sky photography. I've purchased a few ebooks on photography, and this one is by far and away the most informative and best value. The layout is absolutely gorgeous. I appreciated all the information on lenses, and I’m so happy to have all the knowledge in one place." — Barbara am Ende

ORDER HERE: To place your order for my new ebook, click the ADD TO CART button below. You will be asked to pay $19.99 for each ebook (a 53MB PDF download). Payment is via PayPal. After payment you'll be allowed to download the PDF file to your computer. You'll also receive a email with the same download link, giving you five chances to download the file. Your license allows you to make one backup copy, and to make one printed copy of this copyrighted ebook. Do not share the PDF with others who have not purchased a license. Please email me if you have any questions or concerns.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Urban Nightscapes by Sergio Garcia Rill

What if one could see the Milky Way behind a big city skyline? What if the lights of the city didn’t interfere with the view of the starry night sky? That was the thought astro-landscape photographer Sergio Garcia Rill had when he decided to create his latest time lapse video, “Urban Nightscapes Texas.”

Sergio had been shooting astro-nightscapes for a few years, and because of light pollution he had to travel hours from the city to be able to see and photograph the night sky. “But I wanted to make a combination of what it might be to see the night sky from within the city and my Urban Nightscapes series was born,” Rill wrote in his blog.

Sergio makes it clear, the images and video he’s produced are mockup views. “The stars in the video have been added through digital manipulation and the sky doesn’t look that way inside the city due to the light pollution.” I did my best effort to try to simulate the sky as it would have looked without light pollution…I’m aware that these kind of shots are (at least at the moment) impossible to do in camera.”

Rill admits that the process was not simple or quick, but at the moment he feels that going into the technical details on how he did it will only change the focus from the actual video to the process of achieving the video. He does reveal that he used Nikon D600 and D750 cameras for both the foregrounds and backgrounds, and various lenses including, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 35mm f/1.8, Bower 14mm f/2.8 and Bower 24mm f/1.4. Sergio used Lightroom, Photoshop and LRTimeLapse for doing his processing.

Challenges: “Although the biggest challenge was the processing of the images, finding the right locations that could represent each city and a good angle for aligning the night sky was the second most challenging and time consuming task,” reports Sergio. The images for the city foregrounds were taken around Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio Texas. The skies were taken at various locations in the United States (but mostly Texas).

Satisfaction: “I guess the most satisfaction I get is when I get asked what camera I used, or where did I go to shoot —because people believe there might be a place where the sky looks like this inside the city or that I have a special camera that would allow me to take these shots. While I'm not trying to fool anyone (and I do try to clarify that in the video description), those questions make me realize I made a good job and the resulting video looks ‘real’.”

Sergio Garcia Rill currently lives in Houston, Texas. Sergio is planning on doing a series of videos like this for other mayor cities, based on his availability to travel to new cities. Currently, his sights are set on his hometown of Mexico City.  More of Sergio's photography can be seen at  his website.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Best Online or Cloud Backup Service

Why I think Backblaze is the best cloud backup solution for digital photography files: Because photographers are often producing hundreds of large image files every week, they need an online backup service that provides them with inexpensive, unlimited backup storage. Most competing cloud services claim they provide “unlimited” backup, but this isn’t always true. Compare Backblaze with the competition. (My thanks to Ron Larsen for tell me about Backblaze while at our March 2014 Monument Valley workshop.)

Drobo 4-bay array
Your 1st line of protection: In my opinion, it’s a good idea to have your own inhouse data backup system. I have a 500GB flash drive in my Macbook Pro. Since it has no moving parts, it’s extremely fast, but it fills up quickly. I only keep my software applications and my most current files on this drive. All my image files are archived on my external, Drobo 4-bay storage array. The Drobo technology is very reliable. It is my first line of data protection. Although I’ve had many hard drives fail, I’ve never lost any data on the Drobo since I purchased it six years ago. Drobo has several disc array size solutions, starting at about $340 (hard drives not included).

ioSafe Solo G3
Fire & waterproof
Your 2nd line of protection should be a backup that is off-premise. This is to protect your digital data against physical file damage (such as fire and water) and theft (of your computer or external hard drive). Cloud storage is a perfect offline solution. Yes, you can backup to another external hard drive, and rotate these to an offsite location, but it is inconvenient, and not routinely executed by those that try it. Until recently, my second line of data protection has been my ioSafe Solo G3 (which is almost full). Using the ioSafe is similar to an offsite solution because it is fireproof and waterproof; and you can anchor (bolt it) to your desk, so it’s less apt to “walk” away. The 2TB ioSafe Solo G3 is about $350, and 3TB ioSafe Solo G3 is only about $30 more.

Inevitable Digital Data Loss: There are really only two kinds of computer users: those that have lost their data, and those that are going to lose their data! It’s amazing that with virtually 100% of the world’s photos and movies now digital, fewer than 10% of people are backing up their computers; and eventually all of these digital items will vaporize. The median hard drive life is about six years (one-half are expected to die during this period). Data can be sometimes be recovered from a failed drive, but recovery can cost as much as $3,000. Systematic backups are a much better solution.

Recovering Cloud Data from many online backup services can be a long process, if you lose a hard drive. Downloading several hundred gigabytes (or several terabytes) of data can take several days or even weeks. Luckily, Backblaze has faster recovery solutions that other services don’t offer:
  • Web Browser — For free. You select the files/folders you want to restore using your web browser to download the files. This is good for small amounts of data, typically 1GB or less as the web browser itself is prone to timeouts and errors.
  • Backblaze Downloader — For free. You select the files/folders you want to restore using your web browser and then download and use the Backblaze Downloader to stream and checkpoint the data download. This is similar to apps like iTunes and Netflix in how data is downloaded. Be aware that larger amounts of data will consume lots of network bandwidth and will take time.
  • USB Flash Drive — For $99, you select up to 110 GB of files/folders you want to restore and get your files on 128 GB USB flash drive. Backblaze will send it to you next day express (within the US) so you get your data fast and you get to keep the drive.
  • USB External Hard Drive — For $189, you select up to 3,500,000 MB of files/folders you want to restore and get your files on an external USB hard drive large enough to hold your data, up to a 4 TB drive. Once prepared, Backblaze will send it to you next day express, and you get to keep the drive. There’s no extra charge for the next day shipping and if next day shipping is not available, Backblaze will use the fastest means available to them via FedEx. NOTE: If you have more data than that, you will need to order additional USB Hard Drive restores. Each drive you order is $189. If you have multiple computers that you need to restore from, you will need to order one drive for each separate restore.

How Backblaze works: I’ve used Carbonite for several years, but I find Backblaze to be uniquely better is these ways:
  • Truly unlimited cloud backup - unlimited data, unlimited file size, unlimited file types, unlimited number of external drives, and unlimited bandwidth — all for $5 per month.
  • Backs up all your data. Unlike other services, there is no need to pick folders and files. Backblaze is the only cloud backup solution that backs up all your photos, movies, music and documents automatically.
  • Your Data is Safe. All your files are encrypted before being transmitted. You can use a personal encryption key for additional security.  Backblaze’s native code does not use Java (Java is responsible for 91% of security attacks).
  • Fast and seamless backups. Backblaze works in the background, and typically uses less than 1% of your computer’s processing power.
  • Inexpensive. Only $5 a month, or $50 a year.
  • 15-day free trial - without having to give out your credit card information!
Inside Backblaze's data center and their custom built data storage "pods"
Geeky stuff: If you like understanding how things work, you'll enjoy reading how the employees at Backblaze designed their own data storage ''pods'' — with a complete list of parts, just in case you'd like to build your own 135-TB storage pod for a mere $7,384! That was actually pod version 2.0, and three years ago. They are now putting pod version 4.0 (each holds 180-TB) into their data center which is now storing 100 petabytes of customer data — that's 100,000 terabytes, or 1/4th as much data as Facebook stores today for its 1+ billion users.

This year, Backblaze beat out Facebook as one of the fastest growing technology companies.
Fast Growth. Although it took Backblaze 2.5 years to get from 0 to 10 petabytes, it only took the past 3.5 years to get from 10 petabytes to 100 petabytes. From 2009 through 2013 they've grown revenue 917%. That was good enough for 128th place in the 2014 Deloitte Technology Fast 500™ in the United States — just beating out Facebook in the 129th spot.

Employee Perks. Backblaze is one of a very few companies that offers unlimited vacation time for their employees. At Backblaze, all of their employees know what they need to do. They prioritize their work, keep others informed of what’s going on and get their jobs done. When they need to take a morning off to run an errand or pick up a sick child at school or just to sleep in, they do it. There’s no need to negotiate with a boss as to whether you were on vacation, taking comp time or sick time or whatever.

As an employer, Backblaze does not have to keep track of vacation time or sick time. Their sick policy is simple, if you’re sick, stay home. They do not have to keep track of things such as “Billy taking 2.75 hours of sick time on Thursday.” Nor do they have to worry about how many hours of vacation "Zach" has accrued.

To date, no one has abused Backblaze’s vacation policy or lack of one. If anything, they have had to occasionally remind people to take a few days off. Employees watch out for each other since they are all dependent on each other for Backblaze to succeed. Besides, they all want to work with well-rested, happy people, not grumps who haven’t taken a day off in years.