Sunday, June 22, 2014

The many faces of Alstrom Point

My trip to the Southwest last April with a group of friends had three planned destinations. The Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, Alstrom Point and the White Pocket. I have pretty much gone through the Bisti Badlands images and posted those on my website except for a few that I am still working on. The Alstrom Point images are halfway done. For the White Pocket, I have a lot of work to do. I only posted two black and whites and the real stunners are still to come. This post is mostly about the Alstrom Point images. Alstrom Point is reached after a long drive over a dirt road and some four wheeling over a little slick rock. The location is a stunner though. You look out over Lake Powell and Gunsight Butte. We spent a single night there but even then it was amazing to see the different phases the view went through. I shot many different perspectives but the classical view is still what stood out. As always, click for bigger and for prints.

First sunset

Sunsight on gunsight butte.
Nikon D600. Nikon 24-85mm at 24mm, f/16, 1/25s, ISO 100. Grad ND filter.

The moon was out most of the night and very brightly illuminated the lake and rocks. The bright "star" in the middle is the planet Mars.
Moonlight illuminates Gunsight Butte and Lake Powell
Moonlight illuminates Gunsight Butte and Lake Powell
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/2.8, 15s, ISO 1600.

The moonlight was so bright that it was easy to photograph the surroundings. I put my headlamp in my tent to obtain this:
moonlight lights the desert near Alstrom point. A headlight illuminates the inside of my tent.
moonlight lights the desert near Alstrom point.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/2.8, 15s, ISO 1600.

Close to sunrise, the milky way had come out very brightly and we had a lot of fun shooting images of it. I created two views - one vertical and one horizontal, by combining two exposures. One for the stars and one much longer for the foreground. You can already see the sunrise light starting to pour over. The bright star is the planet Venus in this case.
Milky Way and planet Venus rising over Gunsight Butte and Lake Powell as seen from Alstrom Point in the Grand Staircase, Escalante Wilderness. Vertical version.
Milky Way and planet Venus rising over Gunsight Butte and Lake Powell
Nikon D600. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/2.8, ISO 1600, Two exposures at 15s and 246s.

I also created a horizontal version:
Milky Way and planet Venus rising over Gunsight Butte and Lake Powell as seen from Alstrom Point in the Grand Staircase, Escalante Wilderness.
Milky Way and planet Venus rising over Gunsight Butte and Lake Powell horizontal.
Nikon D600. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/2.8, ISO 1600, Two exposures at 15s and 221s.

Close to sunrise, the glow started to drown out the stars but the pinks were coming out in force.

Swoop.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/11, 1/6s, ISO 100.

I also created some panoramics of which this is my favorite. It really should be seen much bigger in the link.

The grey before dawn.
stitched from 4 images from Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm at 24mm, f/11, 1/6s, ISO 100

Closer to sunrise, the glow turned red and orange:

Almost.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 20mm, f/11, 1/20s, ISO 100.

And finally the sun peeked over and gave a nice sunstar: The sun peers over gunsight butte seen from Alstrom Point.
The moment.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 19mm, f/22, 1/20s, ISO 100.

Again, enjoy these images bigger in the links behind the images.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Polar Vortex - Star Wings

When I was at the Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness this April, we decided to leave our cameras for star trail images. The location we chose was the Wings, which is an amazing formation. We set up our cameras each in our own way. I chose a horizontal composition with the pole star being pointed at by one of the Wings. My reasoning for a horizontal image was that I could also turn it into a time lapse. I shot 30 seconds exposures on the built-in interval timer in the camera. I used my Tokina 16-28 mm lens at 16 mm, f/5.6 (to get more of the wings in focus) and ISO 1600. The battery lasted for a little over three hours. We left the cameras and hiked back to the cars to have dinner and returned for the cameras. These were extremely difficult to find as in the mean time the moon had set and this place is a complete maze. Finally with some help of a GPS waypoint and the red lights on my friends' Canon cameras, we were able to retrieve them. At home the fun started. I combined all 300-some raw images in Photoshop in batches of 10 using the lighten mode. I cloned out all the jet trails, sensor hot pixels, and a few distracting meteor trails. I then took the 30-some remaining images and combined them in Photoshop, again using lighten mode, but now using progressively increasing opacity. This created the comet effect you see below.

Moonlight illuminates The Wings formation and stars form trails at Bisti badlands
Moonlight illuminates The Wings formation and stars form trails at Bisti badlands.
This image is also on Flickr, Facebook, and Google+.

I also created some time-lapse movies using the individual frames. If you click through you can get to the HD versions that use a HTML5 (i.e. tablet and phone friendly) display. You can see a in the lens reflection from the very bright moon move in the frame. This disappeared in the composite image luckily.

And this is the same thing but without the pan and zoom of the previous.

I find it amazing how many planes you can see come by. The music was "composed" by me using Garageband.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The cracked eggs

In the beginning of April I spent some time in the Bisti Badlands/De-Na-Zin Wilderness. This is an extraordinary place which one could explore for days and days. We did a sunset around the area people call "Stone Wings" and I shot a very nice star trail image there (more on that later - it takes quite a bit of explaining). The next morning, we went for sunrise to an area called the "Cracked Eggs". It is exactly as the name implies. Below is a small slideshow of images from this extraordinarily nice location. For those on iOS or Android tablets, you should be able to see the slideshow here by clicking slideshow in the link. I'll post detail on the images later.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Black and White Images from the White Sands

On the last few days of January, I drove down to the White Sands National Monument to meet up with photography buddies Dan Orcutt, Dave Peterman, Bill Wallace, Dick Negaard, and Steve Wapon. I already posted some images from this trip on Facebook, flickr, Google+ as well as on this blog, but I have not shown everything as this place is crazy and magical and there are too many keepers. So bare with me as I slowly make my way through. I shot a total of 521 raw images and undoubtedly would have shot more if my original plan to spend the night on the sand hadn't been scuttled by the schedule of the nearby missile range. They shoot actual rockets over the sand dunes and the monument is sometimes closed due to this for overnight camping. If one goes astray, you don't want to be there. Also, even if there is no missile test, it opens way too late for sunrise shooting, so you really want to camp in the back country camping for sunrise shooting. We'll do that next time. Luckily, another morning, Dave had arranged for the rangers to let us in before sunrise (which they do at a price ;-) ). However, the missile range at the last moment decided to do some tests that morning, making it impossible to get in to the main dune areas. The Monument, feeling bad about it, was nice enough to let us enter a corner of the park where missile danger was low so that we could experience the sunrise anyway. Here is an example image from that morning. More on that later I am sure.

This post will focus on the black and white images I created in this place. There are quite a few. Especially during the day (i.e. not near sunrise or sunset), there are lots of compositions that lend themselves very well to black and white. These images will be mostly in chronological order. Clicking on the image will bring them up much larger and you can get prints from the links too.

Survival
Surviving on the sand must not be an easy task
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 17mm, f/22, 1/20s, ISO100, handheld
I really liked the wispy texture in the sand here and the glow near the plant.

Ridgeline
Dune ridgeline
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/22, 1/60s, ISO100, handheld
The dunes are rife with compositions such as this. In the top left, you can see the little stick that is the subject of the next image.

Point break
defect in the sand
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28 mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/22, 1/80s, ISO100, handheld

Radiowaves
Still life on the White Sand Dunes
Nikon D600, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 at 70mm, f/8.0, 1/500s, ISO 100, handheld
I loved the juxtaposition of the shapes in the twig with the waves in the sand.

The reveal
The reveal
Nikon D600, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 at 200mm, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 100, handheld
telephoto lenses are nice to compress the perspective. Those mountains are quite far away in reality.

Lonesome
Lonesome
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/16, 1/160s, ISO 100, handheld
Life must be hard for plants on the gypsum dunes.

Ridges
Ridges
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 80mm, f/11, 1/160s, ISO 100, handheld
In the inter dune areas, one finds these intriguing ridges that look to be formed by water flow and evaporation. I've seen few pictures of this but they offer many opportunities for interesting compositions. More views of these ridges below.

How many grains?
How many grains?
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100, handheld
Classical ripple composition. I use this one as background on my twitter feed.

Turning a corner
Sand patterns and sunset glow
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/16, 1/50s, ISO 100, handheld
It is getting close to golden hour here and the sand is taking up a gorgeous iridescence. This will be especially clear if you are viewing this on a retina (HiDPI) screen. My blog is smart enough to serve you high resolution images on those.

Phoenix
White Sands January 2014
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/16, 1/60s, ISO 100, handheld
A little later some wispy clouds moved in that reminded me of a bird. This is the same ridge as the image immediately above.

Snake and Bird

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 44mm, f/16, 1/60s, ISO 100, handheld
This is the same cloud and I composed it with an interesting sand structure that looked like a snake to form a mythological image. Appropriate for the southwest I think.

Dreams of faraway shores

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100, handheld
These are the ridges one finds in the inter dune areas. They are just fascinating and give many opportunities for leading lines.

Sleeping bird

Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 at 24mm, f/22, 1/30s, ISO 100, handheld
This of course is a horizontal version of the previous image. The dune reminded me of a (cartoonish) bird.

This really was just a subsection of all the black and whites I created, but these are my favorites. I hope you enjoyed them. Also see the entire White Sands gallery at smugmug, on Facebook, on Google+, and black and whites at flickr,

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A river runs through it

Sunset at White Sands National Monument.
Not realizing that the White Sands website was incorrect on closing time, the ranger was lightly annoyed that we were too late exiting the park. It is a pity that the park closes so early. One can camp out on the sand, but the days that I was there, every morning had a missile test. which meant that one could not get camping permits. If you are going here for sunrise or sunset pictures, be aware of the restrictions.

Sunset on the White Sands
Nikon D600, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 at 70 mm, f/16, 1/5 s, ISO 100.
On smugmug. On flickr. On Facebook. On Google+.

Friday, March 21, 2014

To There and Back

Sunset graces Sierra Blanca Peak and grazes the sand dunes in White Sands NM.

To there and back
Nikon D600, Nikon 24-85 mm f/3.5-4.5 at 62mm, f/11, 1/40s, ISO 100.
On Smugmug, On flickr, on facebook, Google+.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mysterious traffic

I was just looking at my blog's stats and in the last few days people have taken an interest in my post about a sunrise at dead horse point. The amount of traffic is quite extraordinary. This is just a day:

This is the statistics on the smugmug gallery that the images are hosted from:

That's with only 1/3 of March 2 done by now, so it seems that sunday will be a 4000 image day too. Somebody big must have started linking to it as these images don't draw a lot of traffic normally. Strangely, I cannot figure out what triggered the traffic as google analytics does not show the origin of the traffic. As the graph above shows, my smugmug site (which serves up the images) shows the traffic quite well, but of course thinks it comes from my blog. These are some of my favorite images and it's nice if people enjoy them but I am still curious where the traffic came from.

Cradled
Cradled. Buy a print.
Nikon D600, Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 at 24 mm, f/16, 1/6s, ISO 100.

EDIT: 3/2/14. This is probably a consequence of referer spam. Traffic generated by bots hoping to generate links back to them. Evil spammers.