Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How to make Saturday’s Supermoon shine in your photos

Nikon D7100 • 500mm • f/5.0 • 1s • ISO 400 • 5400K • 6/13/14 09:41pm
Sun elevation: -5.1° (Blue Hour) • Moon elevation: 1.3°
Antoni Cladera has written an article (All You Need To Make This Saturday’s Supermoon Shine In Your Photos) on the PhotoPills blog to help you take advantage of this Saturday’s Supermoon event.

“This Saturday, August 29th 2015, the full moon will be at 'only' 358,981km from Earth. This gives us the opportunity to enjoy and shoot what is commonly known as a Supermoon.

"Note that in Asia and Australia the full moon is happening on Sunday, August 30th, because of the different time zone. Then, check the day of the full moon in your local time. It should be on the 29th or the 30th.

"With an angular diameter of 0.556°, the full moon will look slightly larger in our photos. Get ready to take advantage of it!

"How? Location power, inspiration, equipment and the following tips are the ingredients you need to have in the mix in order to come up with the best cocktail for the Supermoon.

"It all begins by deciding how big you want the moon in your photos. Let’s decide the focal length we are going to use.”

Antoni lays out the the following ideas and suggestions, complete with illustrated, step-by-step instructions:
  1. Focal length defines how big the moon will appear in the photo
  2. Go to a location with an interesting subject, a beautiful landscape and space to move
  3. The shooting spot determines the size of the moon relative to your subject
  4. The idea, your imagination makes the difference
  5. The plan: finding the right shooting time and the right shooting spot
  6. How to shoot the Supermoon
  7. Just do it!
Be sure to view the complete article for all the details.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Canon’s New Camera shoots at ISO 4,000,000

Canon’s $30K ME20F-SH camera has a full-frame CMOS sensor and employs the EF mount system. 
The Canon ME20F-SH. Yesterday, Canon announced a two-megapixel camera (for 1920×1080 HD video at 60p, 24p, and 30p) with an ISO equivalency of 4 million. The camera has a price tag of $30 grand, and you’ll need to wait until December to buy it. Canon claims it’ll capture accurate colors with little to no noise in low light, or down to 0.0005 lux (for reference, that’s similar to a night with partial cloud cover and no moonlight). Nighttime surveillance and security, cinematic production, reality television, and nature/wildlife documentaries are just some of the ME20F-SH's many possible usage applications.

The camera's 35mm-sized full-frame CMOS sensor has pixels which are more than 5.5 times the surface area of the pixels on the CMOS sensors featured in top-of-the-line DSLRs like the 1D X. The modular body employs the same EF mount (Cinema Lock type) as Canon's SLR cameras and Cinema EOS System-series of professional digital cameras, allowing users to make use of the Company's extensive lineup of interchangeable EF lenses.

Canon’s ME20F-SH did not suddenly come forth out of the blue. We announced it’s prototype back in 2013. Here’s a video of results from the 2013 camera and video results from the new sensor.

The big question for still photographers, is whether some of this low-light capability will filter down to Canon’s DSLR cameras. It may already have. Rumor has it that the upcoming Canon EOS 5D Mark IV may have an ISO range of 100-204800 ISO compared to the Mark III’s current range of 100-25600 ISO — a four-stop gain. Although the Nikon D4s and the Sony A7s are already touting ISOs of 409600, it will be interesting to see how low the noise/sharpness is at these ISOs when all three cameras are compared together. “NightScape” style photographers who currently use the Sony A7s tell me that they typically shoot at ISO 12800 and are not bothered by the noise. Their real joy comes from being able to do live view composition and focus (at ISO 409600) — the camera can literally see in the dark!

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.