Archive for the ‘South Dakota’ Category

Sage Creek Wilderness – Day Three

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009
Sage Creek Wilderness - Day Three

Realizing that the light would not hit as early here as yesterday, I sleep in – 5:15 a.m.  I get up, get the gear together, then make breakfast while waiting for the sun to come up.  I look around and realize that the three groups of bison I saw yesterday have now seemed to form one large herd.  They are just on the other side of a large mound about a quarter of a mile from my location.  Although not on the way I need to go, I decide I will take a small detour to that hill and try to photograph them closer.  But, then the sun comes up and I go to work.  The formations on the far side of the wilderness area to the south are first to get the light, with my small formation to the north the last.  Again, it is a clear morning with nary a sign of clouds.

By 7:05, I have struck camp and am back on the trail, heading toward the Sage Creek Campground.  I do not detour to photograph the bison because they have moved on, and rather quickly at that.  I saw them start to move, then to pick up the pace, and it took me a while to understand why.  A couple of rather gutsy if not suicidal coyotes decided that they would try to get some action.  Or, maybe this is how young coyotes entertain themselves out in small pack Badlands.  Certainly a lot more exciting than tipping cows.  I stop a couple of times along the way to set up the tripod and photograph the Middle Fork of Sage Creek, which I will be following mostly on my way into the campground.  There is one particular bend with some rich pink and gold hues, much like the colors in the Yellow Mounds area.

Following the bearing I have chosen on my compass, and some mule deer and bison trails, I am within about two miles of the campground when a couple of unexpected things happen.  One happens as I am looking to my left at some bison with spring calves on a nearby hill.  I am making sure they are aware of me and are not interested in me, and I look back to the trail ahead of me to see two coyotes peering right at me.  They are probably about 150 feet away.  As I pull out my camera from my HoldSLR, they both take off, doing an about face and disappearing completely.  When I get to the point where they were standing, there is no sight of them.  The other thing happens about a hundred yards later when, as I am on the north side of the Middle Fork, I find what looks like the remains of an early twentieth century automobile, back when they were calling them horseless carriages.  The undercarriage looks odd, as well as the fenders.  One of the fenders has a symbol that I photograph.  But the key clue that this is something really old comes in the form of the seat for the contraption, which looks a lot like a modern bicycle seat, but solid metal.

Within a mile from the campground, I stop for a snack and to take a drink.  I notice after I have selected the spot that I am looking down on a rather large prairie dog town.  I don’t notice it at first visually – I actually thought it was probably a high volume area for bison since there was hardly any plants growing at all.  No, what clues me in is the various chattering going back and forth among the mounds.  After my snack, I pass through the town and notice that one of the prairie dogs must have picked a bad time to come out of his hole – a set of bones is scattered all around an opening.  I take some photos, and am then on my way to a small grassy hill, where I spook several groups of grouse.  Talk about a well-camouflaged bird; I could not see them at all until they flushed and headed out to the southwest.  But finally, I am on my final approach.  There is a hill I have been hiking toward for the last few miles, a hill I had decided was the last rise before the campground.  I am about to find out how accurate my navigational skills are.  I tell myself that when I get to the top of the hill, I should be able to see the campground off to the left, about a quarter of a mile away.  One of my key navigational aids I have been using is the aptly-named White Butte (funny, you cannot see the white part of it from the road, only from out in the wilderness area).

So, I get to the top of the hill and look down and to the left …. and see the campground right where it should be.  And, right in the middle of my path to the campground are two large bulls, hanging out in the open field.  Now, if I were a bison, with a thick, dark fur, I would sit under a nice juniper on a hot, sunny day.  But that’s just me.  I take a large arc around them, keeping an eye on them as one of them keeps an eye on me, then cross the creek – using the game trail that just so happens to cross in the shallow, gravel bar area.  I notice that someone is camping here, one tent, but no one is home – they must be on a day hike.  It is now 11:30, a full two and a half hours before my arranged pick up by one of the rangers.  I settle in at one of the sheltered picnic tables and give the ranger a call on the radio I have been carrying; he has actually just started his patrol and will be along shortly to pick me up.  The campers come back from their day hike, so I go over and make contact.  Having gone on a couple of backcountry ranger patrols in Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve, first as an artist-in-residence then as a volunteer, I am accustomed to making contact with visitors to learn how their trip is going.  It is a man about my age and his son (I would guess his age at around 12).  They have been there for the weekend and are staying another night.  They seem to be enjoying the quiet that this part of the park has to offer.

My ranger, Greg, arrives and I hop in to come back and download.  Along the way he tells me about a call they received from a visitor about a sick bison.  Apparently, the bison was sitting on the ground and panting, said the visitor.  The call reminded me of a chapter in the book I am reading, and how people are sometimes clueless about wildlife.  It did not occur to the visitor that 2,000-pound animals with thick dark fur need to sit down and pant to cool off.  Along the way back to my Jeep, and all the way back to my apartment, there is simply an explosion of visitors, the most I have seen at the park yet.  The summer is on its way, but unfortunately, this residency is winding down.  Well, unfortunate from the artistic standpoint.  Not unfortunate in that soon I get to be back home with my wife, Michelle, whom I have missed incredibly on this trip.

Sage Creek Wilderness – Day Two

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009
Sage Creek Wilderness - Day Two

When I arise at 5:00 a.m., the skies have cleared completely.  I hear a rather spirited exchange of howls and yips from a group of coyotes to the west.  I grab my gear and head over to a small hill I identified the previous day as a good spot to catch the morning light.  Off in the distance, I spy three bull bison (I know by later on this afternoon why they are certainly bulls) sitting on the same grass ledge I saw them yesterday.  Aside from them, there is one rather large bull about a half mile to the west.  Just before the sun actually crests where it is visible to me, I start to see the pink glow of light forming on the ridges and formations to the south of me.  I follow the light with my camera, switching back and forth between my three lenses, using filters where needed.  I notice a large ant hill on the same platform where I am shooting and include it in a photo — you just don’t see anthills like this in Alaska.  Come to think of it, you just don’t see ants that I can think of.  I am sure we have them (although I know we don’t have ticks, thank goodness).  I keep working with the light until it starts to lose its magical golden hue, then I go back to my camp and make breakfast.  By 7:50 a.m., I am back on the trail.

Fortuntately, the large bull I spotted earlier is no longer there.  I don’t have to figure out a way around him.  I find myself meandering along with a meandering landscape, shaped by drainages and a creek that changes course frequently.  Up and down, over and through, around to the left and back to the right – a familiar pattern compared to yesterday, only on a much wider scale.  Again, though, I start to find game trails so I follow them – they take me just where I want to go each time.  Eventually, I leave behind the area of grassy mesas and enter terrain much like that near the base of Sheep Mountain Table – stark, white clay, littered with rock piles and slides, washed about over the centuries by flash flooding.  Strange pedestal formations pop up here and there, providing a reminder of the strangeness of this place. 

By late morning, it is starting to get hot for me.  The sky has remained clear, and the sun is bearing down.  I don’t know what the actual temperature is, but after living in Alaska for ten years, 75 feels hot.  And that is after living in places like South Dakota, Minnesota and Guam, where it can get hot and really humid.   But the other thing that life in Alaska has brought me is an underappreciation for the intensity of sunlight.  Sure, we get lots of it in Alaska, more sunlight minutes on average than any other state, but the angle of the sun does not produce sun burns as easily as in the Lower 48.  I have already consumed 3 of my 5 quarts of water, and that is after rationing.  I know I am going to have to pump water, so I look for a pond on the map as I make my way west.  You simply cannot pump the creek water because it is essentially a form a runny mud – no filter, however good, would be able to handle it.  I find the pond I am looking for, and fortunately it is clear.  It is slightly colored from tannins, but clear nonetheless.  I pump three quarts and decide I will later boil the water I have pumped just for good measure. 

I finally get around the end of an east-west formation I have been paralleling all day and start to work my way southwesterly.  I have found the Bison interstate.  Numerous sets of trails, heavily traveled and exhibiting tracks from hundreds of animals, litter this gumbo clay area.  The surface is hard and cracking, but I frequently push down that hard surface with my feet to feel a little squishy, wet clay below.  This area would not have been passable a week ago.  By about 1:00, I have found a flat, grassy table, almost a small mesa, about thirty feet wide, sixty feet long, and about fifty feet up from the main floor.   It has expansive views to the south to the other side of the wilderness area, where large walls of formations rise up from the ground.  There is a smaller formation to the north of me that might provide some good opportunities in the morning or evening.  And immediately to my east is a series of ridges and formations that should do nicely this evening.  Even though it is early in the day, I have found a good spot and do not feel like hiking in the heat anymore.  I set camp, then take off my boots and crawl inside my tent to get out of the heat. 

Before I took my hour nap that immediately ensued, I survey the land, not seeing a single bison.  When I wake up, I get out and look around.  There are now three groups, numbering about 15-20 animals each, within three miles of me to the south.  Over the afternoon, as I sit and read looking out over the land, one of the groups makes a decision to head north, right toward me.  I suspect that, if they come all the way to my direction, they will follow some of the established trails just below me.  I set up my camera and wait, reading, looking up once in a while to monitor their progress.  As they finally get within a quarter of a mile of me, I notice why, compared to my previous encounters of no more than three bison together, these bison are traveling in such large numbers.  They are groups of cows traveling with their spring packs and keeping large numbers for protection.  Who is really going to mess with a dozen thousand-pound animals?  Eventually, though, this group catches sight of me and they opt to stay out in the main grassy areas to the south. 

One of the things I come to really love about this table I am camping in is the rocks.  There are some rather large boulders – something you really do not see much of around here – and they are covered with a variety of lichens, predominantly a vivid orange lichen.  To celebrate them and their unique addition to this place, I incorporate them in several shots, from a macro of some flowers to some larger landscape photos.  Again, though, as the evening comes to a conclusion, I play the same old song and dance with the skies.  From hot, sunny and clear earlier, it has turned into cool, windy and thick scattered clouds.  I set up a shot and wait for a patch to open in the clouds.  When it finally happens twenty minutes later, I go set up for the next shot and wait.  My glimmer of hope is the band of clear skies that sits just below the main cloud layer and just above the horizon.  When the sun finally gives way to the thickest part of the clouds, that thin band of open skies is what I wait for in the next thirty minutes.  When the moment comes, it turns out that band of open sky was just a thinner, more diffuse layer of clouds.  But, it still makes for an interesting shot, so I include it.  I retire my camera for the evening and go inside to read my book by headlamp for the next hour, then sleep.

Sage Creek Wilderness – Day One

Friday, May 1st, 2009
Sage Creek Wilderness - Day One

So I finally got around to getting out into the backcountry here.  It was my first backcountry trip in the Lower 48 in over a decade, and my first solo backpacking trip.  I put in at the backcountry check-in point for Deer Haven, just behind the picnic area on the Conata Road.  For camping gear, I had the usual – tent, Thermarest, sleeping bag, MSR whisperlite stove, MSR water filter, small cooking pans, map, compass, headlamp, a book (Peter Jenkins, “Looking for Alaska”), note book, extra change of clothes, food, and five quarts of water.  For camera gear, I took one body, a Nikon D300, three lenses – Nikon 12-24 mm, Nikon 24-85mm, and Nikon 80-200, warming polarizer, complete set of Lee graduated neutral density filters, and my Gitzo 6X carbon fiber tripod with Arca Swiss ballhead.  All in all, probably about fifty to fifty-five pounds.

I decided to go through Deer Haven on my way out to the Sage Creek Wilderness Area.  (Another good route to the Sage Creek Wilderness lies more to the southwest of Deer Haven, through the Sage Creek Pass.)  The best route is to go west along the south border of the formations near the parking lot.  Don’t bother to try exploring what may look like an opening any time before you actual have a visual on Deer Haven, there is no “Northwest Passage” through to Deer Haven, unless you want to do some technical climbing.  On the way to Deer Haven, you have to skirt a barb wire fence – twice – because this part of the park abuts private property.  In fact, the private property actually comes inside the boundaries of the park, according to the National Geographic Trails Illustrated map for the Badlands (my key navigational tool, along with a compass).

Deer Haven is essentially a ledge of grass and thick juniper, sitting well above the main floor of the Conata Basin.  So, you have to climb up a bit to get into it.  Had I not planned a three day trip through and out to the Sage Creek Campground, this would have been a great spot for an overnight stay.  There are plenty of nice, flat, grassy areas to set a tent.  There is also great opportunity for both morning and evening light photos, with some really cool landscape formations.  It’s about a two hour hike in, taking your time, so you would only need to leave late afternoon, set camp, take photos, then leave after morning light.  But the other thing about Deer Haven is that it’s a ledge – did I mention it’s a ledge – that sits about fifty feet below a narrow spine of a ridge.  It looks like a table from below, but it’s not.  But a funny thing happened on the way to over the top of Deer Haven.  From the floor below, all the way up, I navigated by looking at contour lines on a map and surveying the actual land itself for the best way up.  And each time, I found myself moving in the same path as mule deer tracks.  So, at some point, I began to follow them.  I figured that they knew the terrain better, and they knew the best way to get around.  Their trail led me to a clay scree field, where for about ten feet or so, I was on all fours working my way up.  But it worked.

Once over the top, I simply started to head generally west.  There were a lot of drainages coming down through the area, all flowing where I wanted to go, essentially forming the beginning of Sage Creek.  Again, I started to notice game trails, now a mixture of mule deer, bison and bighorn.  So, to find the best way through the drainages, I followed the trails.  Without fail, every time I needed to cross a drainage, creek or gorge, the game trail provided the easiest path through.  Where I had to cross an active stream, the game trail always led through the shallowest point of the stream, a gravel bar.  At some point, I stopped on a nice hill and sat down for lunch.  I was surrounded by numerous interesting formations, one of which looked like pyramid volcanic ash formations.  As I looked around, surveying the land, I looked up to my right and saw the Pinnacles Overlook.  For the next two hours, as I continued on, I kept catching glimpses of it as I passed through the area.  I wondered if any of the visitors looked down and saw me, brown pants with a black t-shirt and blue backpack. 

I have my first encounter, and a close one, as I am exploring and photographing what looks like a crumbling wall from an old city, but is actually something called a clastic dike (which was brought to my attention by Christopher Pellowski, a Ph.D. candidate at the School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City).    The bison stares at me, and I talk to him, letting him know that I am just passing through and wouldn’t he mind just staying there because I have nowhere to hide and cannot run faster than 30 mph.  After leaving him behind, I start to see something new — several scattered rock beds all through the area, consisting mostly of quartz and various sedimentary rocks.  I encounter another Bison as I start to get into the greener areas, closer to where I want to pitch m tent for the evening.  I was looking for a spot that would offer both good evening and good morning light to photograph.  I finally select a spot, about six miles in, right on the edge of some rock beds.  By this time, though, the sky is starting to get cloudy and the wind has picked up.  I make dinner, eager to have a hot meal and hoping that it will give the skies a chance to change.  Still cloudy, so I go inside to take some notes and wait.  Later the sky does open up, just a little right before sunset.  I work furiously, and retire to read my book.

Panoramas

Thursday, April 30th, 2009
Panoramas

One of the things I have been working on during my residency is capturing panorama images.  As much as I would love to capture panoramas with a Fuji 6×17 camera, I am not lucky enough to own one.  But, modern digital tools allow just about anyone to capture high resolution, large panoramas that could render exceptionally large prints.  So, I thought I would take a moment today to talk about creating them.

There are some basic fundamentals to follow in-camera when creating panoramic photos.  First, you need to have a sturdy tripod – this is key.  It will provide the stability you need for a clear image and increase your chances of lining up each frame correctly. 

Second, there are some certain camera settings to use.  Once you determine the exposure of the desired scene, set that exposure manually.  If you use aperture priority, it will change the exposure as you capture each frame of the panorama.  Shoot in RAW, of course, for the highest detail and data capture.  If you have a grid you can turn on inside your viewfinder, like the Nikon D300 has, then use it — it will help you to align your images as you capture each frame.  Also, use your mirror lockup and a shutter cable release to ensure best stability.  If a cable release is not available, use your camera’s timer. 

Third, choose a composition that will give bookends or an anchor to the image.  Panoramas that are merely a cross-section of a scene do not provide compelling images.  Also, as you are photographing the scene, make sure that each panel overlaps at least 50%.  There really is no rule of thumb as to how many images are required for a panoramic photo – how ever many are necessary to capture the scene you want.  When selecting a scene, make sure to be mindful of frames that overlap where movement might occur, like moving water.  Not aligning those frames correctly might cause problems during the stiching process. 

Finally, you need a software to do the hard work for you in stitching these images together.  Adobe Photoshop CS4 has a Merge function that does a suberb job in stitching together images that CS2 was not cable of doing.  But you do not need to spend the $700+ required to obtain that software if you don’t already have it.  (However, you can download for free a 30-day trial of Photoshop CS4 Extended.)  Panorama Maker 4 (or Pro) is a superb software that does just as good of a job as CS4 in stitching photos, and you can download it from ArcSoft for only $79.99.

You will not see any more posts from me until Sunday, as I am heading out to backpack in the Wilderness area of the park, starting in the Conata Basin and going through the Deer Haven area.  I may go straight through to the Sage Creek Campground or I may do a loop.  I will go where the photos take me.  When I return on Sunday evening, I will start posts to summarize each day out in the field.  I look forward to using my HoldSLR, which will make my camera both accessible during hiking and easy to carry along during the trip.

Quite the evening

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
Quite the evening

Photography is so often hit and miss, a combination of planning and luck and timing and equipment that works and … well, you get the point.  So often, previsualized images do not happen because of light or weather or who knows what else.  Once in a while though, and this is why you keep going out again and again, things happen the way you hoped and better.   But, before I tell the story of my fantastic evening on Sheep Mountain Table, let me backtrack just a little.

After a cloudy morning (and no photos), I went out in the afternoon for a hike up the Saddle Trail.  This hike is a must-do if you want to get a different perspective on the area near Cedar Pass.  Once on top, it connects with the Castle Trail.  I took that trail to the west to take a look at possible morning light photo locations.  My real objective was to find a rattlesnake I could photograph, but no joy.  But I did find what will be a spectacular first light photo subject, as well as the surrounding areas for other morning light.  To get to that point, however, the shorter route will be to park at the Fossil Trail area and take the Castle Trail east from there.

But the mostly clear and scattered cloud skies told me that I had to get out to Sheep Mountain Table for the evening.  This would be my best opportunity in who knows how long to get up there, so, after having a late lunch at the Wagon Wheel Bar in Interior, I grabbed the rest of my gear and started the roughly one-hour drive to the table via Highway 44 and the town of (Not-So) Scenic.  I wanted to get there plenty early to photograph the ground below the table because of the many strange rock formations in the area.  Once on the top of the table, I detoured on a little unmaintained road to the east, exploring the vistas there.  I eventually parked at the pullout near mile 5 on the road, the last point you can go unless you have a 4WD vehicle with high clearance.  The Oglala Sioux Tribe, which manages the South Unit of the park, does not maintain the road beyond that point – and there is, arguably, a road. 

There was a rather thick band of clouds, spreading out like smoke from a fire, adding some drama to the skies.  But the sun eventually went below it, just in time to wash the land with that warm, reddish pink light that makes the margins of the day so magical.  I captured several images just featuring the clouds and the colors that remained after sun down.  On may way back down the road off the table, I spy some odd, tall plants (I need to find out what these are) silhoutted against the fading colors of the day.  The moon peeks out from in between cloud fragments, and I flatten my Gitzo tripod as low as it will go, aiming up and using the strange plants as foreground detail.  I spend about twenty minutes here, then get back on the road, down off the table and back toward the highway.  As I am almost to pavement, my peripheral vision captures a pond reflecting the colors of dusk.  I am serenaded by hundreds of chorus frogs as I capture the scene.

Fickle and fleeting

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009
Fickle and fleeting

After perhaps an hour of sleep after another star trails attempt (out of focus this time, but I know the settings now), I arose at 5:00 a.m. to see a nice window in the clouds that had rolled in only in the hour since going to bed.  I drove up near the Old NE Road area to where I had decided I wanted to photograph first light.  Once the sun came up, I had about fifteen minutes before the sun went back behind the clouds again.  I captured some early, pre-sunrise images because I love to silhouette and also to show the dramatic change that direct light can have on a landscape.  I also like to photograph the progression of the light  once it is up, moving from a reddish pink to a strong golden color in only a matter of minutes.  There was a wonderful band of dark, textured clouds behind my subject, adding some nice drama to the scene.  Even after the sun fully went behind the clouds, those same clouds provided nice accents to the landscape that were worth capturing.  All through the shooting, I used my Lee graduated neutral density filters (GND), sometimes just with the 3-stop filter, sometimes with it and a 2-stop. 

Despite getting on scene with so little sleep, I felt rejuvinated.  Four solid days of clouds mixed with rain and snow can really sap your energy when the goal is beautiful landscape photos.  But seeing that light this morning, even for a short period of time, helped to recharge my photographic soul.  I look forward to what the evening will offer.  Now it is time to sleep.

A glimmer of hope

Monday, April 27th, 2009
A glimmer of hope

Seeing the forecast calling for three days of clouds and rain, I headed into Rapid City on Friday.  I spent a couple of days with my longtime friend, Jeff Volk, whom I have known since sixth grade.  I did some of my early exploring with Jeff, hiking around Rapid City and the hills, canvassing construction sites for fossills.  Each day was cloudy and snowy, and I knew it was a good time to get caught up with an old friend rather than waiting for the weather to improve out here. 

But, today was supposed to be the day when the weather started to break up.  While most of the day was the same flat cloudy it has been, by later in the afternoon the clouds started to develop texture.  So, I drove over to the Conata Basin area and parked in the backcountry entry point for Deer Haven.  I headed generally to the west for about a mile, then found a nice formation to climb up and set up for good evening views.  There was a small opening growing to the west, and I hoped the sun would get to shine through just before setting.  It would have made for a spectacular sunset, as the texture of the clouds would have provided a great surface for the warm, pinkish hues of a setting sun.

Unfortunately, that glimmer of hope did not rise to the level of reality.  But, I found what would be a great spot for first light.  I hope to head into the backcountry this Friday for a three-day backpack through Deer Haven and along Sage Creek.  If that pans out, then I can start my day photographing first light here before I head out. 

Power in clouds

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
Power in clouds

I love storm clouds.  We do not get thunderstorms hardly ever there, and when it rains, it is more like Seattle rain.  Flat, textureless skies that do not provide much for drama in landscape photography.  Sure, flat clouds are great for macro photographyor moving water, but awful for landscapes.  And photography aside, there is just something about a good thunderstorm, what with the smell, the sounds, the sometimes bizarre colors the sky turns; they add a quality of drama to everything.  When photographing scenics with dark, dramatic clouds, it is important to use a graduated neutral density filter, or more than one of them stacked.  While the main body of the clouds may be dark, they are still surrounded by bright sky that will either turn the landcape below them too dark or will be overexposed if you expose for the land.  A GND will correct that problem while preserving the drama of the dark clouds. 

My original plans for this evening were to drive out to Sheep Mountain Table, after yesterday’s scouting mission, to photograph at the pullout near mile 5 of the road.  When I saw the storm clouds brewing, I decided instead to stick around the North Unit of the park.  On the off chance that the clouds and storm did not provide good photo opportunities, I did not want to risk driving all the way out to Sheep Mountain Table, about an hour drive, with nothing to do.  So, I went out a little ways on the Sage Creek Road, photographing in the area between where it intersects with the main park road and the Badlands Wilderness Overlook.   There are several fantastic vistas all through that section of the road.  I think it is probably one of the most stunning areas along the road system in the park. 

On my way further into the park along the main road, I stopped in the Conata Basin area, before the Conata Road.  The mounds were spectacularly colored, and there was a fairly dramatic cloud hanging over the landscape.  Lightning was flickering here and there, so I adjusted my settings to give me close to 30 second exposures.  I still don’t have my Lightning Trigger yet – though it may have come in the mail today – so this is my best chance for capturing the lightning.  On my first exposure, I captured a nice double blast of lightning.  A few exposures later, I captured one dancing across the sky.  The other ten exposures yielded nothing and found their way into the trash bin.  The joy of digital photography. 

As I neared the bottom of Cedar Pass, I stopped near the Frog Pond to photograph some silhouetted formations.  There have been a couple of dramatic flashes of lightning, so I am hoping I will get lucky.  I come away with no lightning, but still keep one of the exposures because of the deep blues and texture in the sky.  Tomorrow morning, I will see if the sky can yield more drama or at least some color through breaks in the clouds. 

Nighttime time lapse

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Most photographers are loathe to share their failures with the world.  Rather, they post their best work on their web site or blog, leading to the belief that they always are successful.  As the Artist-in-Residence, I wanted to explore new techniques and share my creative process through this blog.  Today, I am sharing (another) not so successful effort.  It’s that darn night sky.  First, it was my less-than-successful star trails effort.  Now, it is my first time lapse featuring the night sky.  The objective was, through time lapse, to show the Earth’s rotation through the movement of the stars at night.

As I was not going to have a lot of sunlight during this exposure, I just used the Powerbase battery as my power source.  I set my camera to 400 ISO, aperture priority at -0.3 compensation, and f/4.0.  I was not sure if the aperture priority would adequately expose the night sky, but thought I would try.  That turned out to be not a good idea.  The starry night was severely underexposed.  Even adjusting all of the nighttime shots in Lightroom by increasing the exposure four stops was not enough to overcome.  Next time, I will set the ISO higher and use a manual exposure setting for the night sky to make it show more clearly.

The other problem I ran into was the plastic bag I used to protect my camera in the event it rained in the evening.  At some point in time, it became loose and started flopping about, forcing me to delete many images from the series at around the time of sunrise.  Where is a good roll of duct tape when you need it?  Again, lessons learned.

As dark as it is, you can still see the stars rotating and some aircraft moving through the sky.  You will need to maximize the slide show to see everything.  The pixelation is the result of a smaller format jpeg needed to create a smaller slide show that can be uploaded to the web.  Enjoy!

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Big scenic morning

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
Big scenic morning

I have not tried any big, sweeping scenic photos for the morning in a while, so that was my goal for this morning.  I went to the White River Overlook and waited for the first touches of light to caress the landscape.  I wasn’t sure it would be a good first light spot, but there is only one way to find out.  Turns out it is not.  Most of the formations that receive that first, pinkish light were way off in the distance.  By the time the light reached formations closer to me, the light had turned to a nice gold but had lost that early pink.  Still, it provided some nice shots and I moved on down the road to see what else the morning provided.  I stopped a few other places before turning around to collect my time lapse camera I had set up overnight.  Later this morning, I will go to the Interior School to give a presentation to the 6-8 Grade class.