Friday, June 19, 2015

'Beauty of Night Sky' category winners from the 2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest

"The Enchanted Forest" by Lyubov Tribonova - The first winner in Beauty of Night Sky category,
the 2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest (click image to read more information).
Earlier this week (2015 June 16), The winners of the 6th International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance were announced. Organized by international program, The World at Night contest is a collaboration with outreach and education group of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and Global Astronomy Month, the Astronomers Without Borders annual world-wide program in April. The contest was founded by TWAN and Dark Skies Awareness project in 2008 as a regional program. It was expanded to a global program in 2009 during the International Year of Astronomy, and it is growing each year. According to the contest criteria the submitted images are taken during 2014-2015 and are all created in the “TWAN style”—showing both the Earth and the sky—by combining elements of the night sky set in the backdrop of the Earth horizon, often with a notable scenery or landmark. Known as nightscape imaging (or landscape astrophotography) this is similar to general night photography but with a special attention to the sky, astronomical perspectives, and celestial phenomena. The contest focus on preserving night sky as part of our natural heritage is to support global efforts in controlling light pollution (see the International Dark Sky Association). More complete information (including winners in all the categories) can be found on this page:

Please note that I've only shown here the five winners from the 'Beauty of Night Sky' category. Be sure to visit this page to see the winners and mentions in all categories, and view the contest video.

"Moonlit Darklings" by Brad Goldpaint - The second winner in Beauty of Night Sky category,
the 2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest (click image to read more information).
"A Raising of the Hackles" by Ben Coffman - The third winner in Beauty of Night Sky category,
the 2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest (click image to read more information).
"The Dome" by Sigurdur William Brynjarsson - The fourth winner in Beauty of Night Sky category,
the 2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest (click image to read more information).
"Stroll in the Star Rover" by Caren Zhao - The fifth winner in Beauty of Night Sky category,
the 2015 International Earth & Sky Photo Contest (click image to read more information).

               Royce's 2015 NightScape Workshop Schedule

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Arches and Canyonlands by Greg Ness

Delicate Arch with a 1:00 AM view of the Milky Way. Light painting from the bottom of the bowl ~ © Greg Ness
Arches and Canyonlands through the eyes of Greg Ness. In April, I conducted a NightScape workshop in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Greg was one of nine photographers who attended this event. He’s also an alumni of a previous workshop to the Alabama Hills.

Skyline Arch lit from the front and behind gives the appearance of a large crocodile ~ © Greg Ness
An inside view of Double Arch with the Milky Way behind it ~ © Greg Ness
Uniquely different: These two parks are right next to each other and they offer differently opportunities for starry night photography, not to mention some great sunrise and sunset views. Although Arches has some of the most iconic red rock features in the world, its popularity can also bring crowded conditions and a bit of light pollution (up to a Bortle 3) in some areas of the park. In contrast, Canyonlands is more remote, less crowded (except for the famous Mesa Arch), and offers much darker skies.

Wide vistas in and around Canyonlands also offer some great opportunities for daytime photography. Note: because this is a starry night photography workshop, we sleep in the middle of the day (in air conditioned comfort), but we do make time for sunrises and sunsets!

Canyonlands from the "Island in the Sky" area offers incredibly dark skies and wide vistas ~ © Greg Ness
Craig & Wendy silhouetted at a Grand View Point (Canyonlands) sunrise ~ © Greg Ness
Early morning light at nearby Dead Horse Point State Park ~ © Greg Ness
Milky Way over the popular Mesa Arch in Canyonland ~ © Greg Ness
Our next Arches / Canyonlands NightScape Workshop is August 10-14. There are currently three (3) spots available. There are also two (2) spots left in our Grand Tetons Workshop July 19-23.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Using Focusing Flashlights for Night Photography

Man (Phill Monson) searching under a starry night sky for the historic Chimney Rock in the remote Grand
Staircase-Escalante National Monument. One, 13-second exposure (f/2.0 • ISO 6400) while holding a Duracell
Durabeam Ultra 1000 Lumens flashlight steady above the rock (beam focused to narrowest point). The
foreground in front of Phill was illuminated with his headlamp. Chimney Rock was lighted from the left
using a stationary F&V Z96 LED Light Panel placed about 250 feet to the left of the Rock. © Royce Bair
Focusing LED Flashlights can add a dramatic touch to your NightScape photography. Because their light can be focused to a very narrow beam, their high intensity light reflects off of the moisture and dust in the air, producing a near laser or light saber effect.

Typically, LED lights are very blue in their color (many are close to 8000K to 10000K), so I usually use filters to warm them up; however, in this case, I prefer the cooler look.

Focusing methods: Most focusing flashlights move the bulb up and down through the center of the reflector to achieve their focusing effect (this is how the Maglite focuses). This usually produces dark, uneven light “rings”. The best flashlights use optics or lenses to do their focusing. The “flood” or wide beam is very even (smooth, with no hot spots or dark rings) and the “spot” is very narrow and far-reaching.

Expensive but high in quality: In my opinion the LED Lenser company has always been one of the best producer of quality LED focusing flashlights (the USA distributorship is now based in Portland, Oregon). Their construction and reliability is topnotch. About two years ago, I discovered another Portland company, Coast, that produces similar quality flashlights, with focusing optics, but often at one-third to one-fourth the price of LED Lenser.
Coast HP17 
I especially like my Coast HP17 ($68 - $110) with 970 lumens output and a beam distance reach of 479 meters (1,571 ft.). Uses 3 "D" batteries (included). Product video. Warning: older stocks of this product on the Internet produce only 615 lumens instead of 970 lumens. The new 970 lumens version is available at Lights and Knives.

LED Lenser M17R
The HP17 is comparable to another favorite: the LED Lenser M17R ($300 - $400) touting 850 lumens output and a beam distance reach of 450 meters (1,476 feet). The advantage of the M17R is that it is rechargeable, compared to the 3 D-batteries used in the Coast HP17 (which some may consider an advantage over priority rechargeable systems because you are free to use either long-term storage alkalines or generic NiMH rechargeables). Product videoAvailable at B&H for $300.

Coast HP314
One of these days I may get the Coast HP314 ($202 - $350) with 1,132 lumens output and a beam distance reach of 683 meters (2240 feet). LED Lensers has flashlights in the 1500 to 3000 lumens category, but I believe this flashlight has the best lumen output in a long distance focusing system. Uses 4 "D" batteries (included). Product video. Available on Amazon for $202.

Great Beam Distance on a budget: The Duracell Durabeam Ultra 1000 Lumens flashlight ($20 - $35), that I used in the top photo, produces an amazing 1000 lumens and a beam distance reach of 380 meters (1,247 feet). This Durabeam flashlight uses an optical beam focusing system similar to the Coast and LED Lenser flashlights. I bought my Durabeam at Costco about eight months ago for $20, but Duracell no longer produces this amazing flashlight for their Durabeam line. Even so, you can still find some stocks on Amazon and eBay. Product video. Uses 4 "C" batteries (included). June 15, 2015 update: Selected Costco stores are now carrying this flashlight again for under $20.

Duracell Durabeam Ultra 1000 Lumens
Beam Distance in meters
Lumens vs. Beam Distance: Most flashlight purchasers only look at the lumen output when considering a flashlight. Beam Distance is a better measurement of how far a flashlight can throw light. An FL 1 Standard Beam Distance rating will tell you how far the light will shine before the brightness diminishes to the equivalent of the light from a full moon. Full moon illumination is considered adequate for safe and careful travel outdoors, and it is also about 135 times brighter than starlight, so the beam should stand out in your NightScape style photos!

               Royce's 2015 NightScape Workshop Schedule

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Opal Skies over Iceland by Jurgen Lobert

Opal Skies - Aurora borealis over Iceland, mid-March. One of about 400 frames in a time lapse
© Jürgen M. Lobert ~ Nikon D750 • 15mm Sigma Fisheye • f/2.8 • 8 sec • ISO 3200
Jürgen Lobert's passion for night photography began when he took a course at NESOP, taught by Lance Keimig. "[I] always had an interest in low light photography, but never knew how to do it. This course kicked it all lose and got me to invest heavily in photography as my now major hobby," says Jürgen.

Satisfaction and challenges: Jürgen finds profound peace in roaming the nights, and capturing the serenity of strange places. He is also drawn to its challenges. "[Night photography is] unorthodox, hauntingly beautiful, different and not mainstream," says Lobert.

His biggest challenge is time. "I have a daytime job and career, which prevents me from spending as much time as I'd like to spend, particularly travel."

Lighthouse Emissions - Aurora borealis over Iceland, mid-March. Distant lighthouse appears to emit the
aurora colors ~ © Jürgen M. Lobert • Nikon D4 • Nikkor 14-24mm @ 14mm • f/2.8 • 15 sec • ISO 800
Equipment, tools and software: Lobert's most valuable photography equipment for doing his night photography are his Nikon D4 (its illuminated buttons are perhaps his most favorite feature —no flashlights needed). Favorite lenses are his Nikkor 14-24mm and 24-70mm. He uses a Dincum lens shade for urban work. Apps include Sundroid, Tide Prediction and Stellarium.

Jürgen's most-bang-for-the-buck tools: a velcro strip to prevent your intervalometer from dangling, and a reflective strip on the tripod to find it in pitch black darkness. (He once searched for his tripod for half an hour in Death Valley's "Racetrack" area!)

3D Explosion - Aurora borealis over Iceland, mid-March. Clouds in the foreground, aurora in the middle
and stars in the background give this image a very three-dimensional feeling ~ © Jürgen M. Lobert
Nikon D4 • Nikkor 14-24mm @ 14mm • f/4.0 • 6 sec • ISO 2200
Jürgen Lobert, Ph.D. is primarily a scientist who spent 30 years in atmospheric chemistry to hunt down global warming and ozone depleting gases and solve problems in the manufacturing of semiconductors. To balance that nerdy side, he started fine art photography to capture places and moments in time, in unique ways. Jürgen specializes in night and daytime long exposure photography, light painting and astro-landscapes. He lives west of Boston and is an executive member of the Boston Camera Club, and the founder and organizer of the Greater Boston Night Photographers Meetup group. He has organized about 100 photo excursions and he is a lecturer, instructor and judge for regional camera clubs.

Although Jürgen is not making his living from photography, he considers himself a professional photographer, as every aspect of his photography is highly professional: equipment, approach, his teaching, lecturing and competition judging. More of Jürgen photography can be found on his website.

               Royce's 2015 NightScape Workshop Schedule

Monday, May 4, 2015

Special Pricing on Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 until Midnight!

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 for Mac and Windows - Download or DVD version
Special pricing (only $44.95) Expires Tonight at 11:59pm -  While supplies last!
Special Pricing on Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 until 11:59 P.M. Tonight (May 4, 2015): Only $44.95! SAVE $55 (regular price $99.95). Mac or Window — Download version or DVD version.

I've seen discounts before as low as $79 or even $69, but never this low.  Although, I prefer to use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 is still an amazing program, and at this price, it's a steal! This special offer is coming through B&H Photo Video.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 13 for Mac and Windows is a versatile and intuitive editing and organizing program for managing a complete digital imaging workflow. Beginning with a wide range of photo editing and enhancement capabilities, Elements 13 presents a breadth of tools for automatically optimizing the look and feel of select images and retouching unwanted aspects of individual photographs. Features to help accomplish this include Effects Variations, Crop Suggestions, Guided Edits for black and white photos, and Photomerge Compose.

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!

               Royce's 2015 NightScape Workshop Schedule

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.

               Royce's 2015 NightScape Workshop Schedule