Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Milky Way movie

The other night I was out with the new wide lens to shoot stars. Wow! There are some learnings out of it, but that's the whole point. The individual shots are nice, but what's cool is assembling them into a movie.

Just sitting and looking at the sky one doesn't see the motion. There are a few streaks, but mostly they are too quick to focus on. When you look at individual photos, you might see a streak, or you might not. Put them into a movie, however, and you see all sorts of things you didn't notice before. Our eyes are good at spotting motion.

Best experience is to watch it on Youtube, but not full screen.

As a bonus, here's a single frame from the movie. Or rather, one of the photos used to make the movie. Look for the parallel streak, that's why I edited this image in the first place.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Night fun

A couple of the fun shots from Wednesday night. This first shot was my first reflection of the night, more playing with settings and figuring out where to put the camera in relation to the puddle, than trying to get a good shot. Who'd have thought a bike rack could be so interesting?

That darn half press of the shutter button! Half press lets you see where the focus is going, and I can see the lines that tell me of the camera is level. Slightly more than a half press and the shutter fires. The sensor is looking at the world for 20 seconds, so I figured I'd do something interesting with it.

In other news the swim today was awesome, fastest 500 m in a very long time! 8:45. Then other stuff in a cold pool. I think there's a swim meet Sunday, and they like to make the pool cold so the kids will shiver. In compensation, the hot tub was really hot. The hottest it's ever been. So hot the kids were complaining about it, and zooming back and forth between it and the cold tub. Sounds like a good way to give yourself pneumonia.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Three very different night shots, new lens revisited

I've only been out doing night photography a few times, and each time I wonder why I don't do more of it. Yes, it's a bit more work all round. In the daylight there's so much light there's lots of room for getting away with a mistake on settings. Not so much at night. Plus it's usually colder, meaning your camera battery will die sooner, and you have to be smart enough to dress for it. You have to keep your personal security in mind which usually means going out with someone else. Sometimes it's hard to head out of the house after a long day.

But the rewards!

At night, light is your bitch, as some photographers say. You put your camera on a tripod or other stable surface, and you can let the sensor look at the scene for many seconds, gathering light in a way our eyes can't. Changing the ISO, exposure speed, and aperture all dramatically change how the photograph will look, which might be good or bad.

You can combine images with different settings, if you do everything right. Consider a scene like the first photo below. There's some really bright elements, like the building and bridge lights, and some really dark elements like the night sky. Looking at it with our eyes we only see the very brightest stars, if any at all. So we can take a photo with mid range settings, one that looks dark because it's only capturing a bit of the light to get all the detail in the brightest elements, and one that looks bright because the darker elements are properly exposed. Then we (and when I say we, I mean Lightroom) mix them together and you get this. Stars and light trails over downtown. Plus the smoothed out river for reflections. If you do it right, reflections don't make photo twice as good, they make it ten times as good!

Here's a bit of a different view. You could never do this shot in the daytime. First, you'd get trampled by all the pedestrians. Second, it's so bright the reflections wouldn't show up in the puddle. Reflections are awesome.

You get choices. In the original of this, the Tower is off to the left, along with the reflection. Because of where it is in the lens, it looks distorted, and distracted from the serenity of this image, so I chopped it out. (Yes, I know, there are Tower fans calling me a heretic just now. You shoot what you want to shoot, and I'll shoot what I want to shoot.)

Three of us were crouched around the puddle. This is one of the times the articulating screen on the camera is awesome. As a side note, one of the people brought some bottled water and we created the puddle. There are some cautionary tales about puddles you might find downtown.

A night sky selfie. One of the reasons I bought this lens is to shoot the night sky when we visit New Zealand. I might not ever see the Southern Hemisphere skies again, and I want some nice photos. I was out last night doing some experimenting. This is a still shot, one that I'll probably assemble into a short movie. Lots of airplanes going across the lower part of the image, which is pretty cool. You can see one bottom right, and there's another if you look carefully. And me of course. Since the camera gets set up and clicks away all by itself, that leaves the human to wander around doing other things. Like enjoy the view. I was hoping the light from my phone would light me up a bit more. Oh well. It's all a learning experience.

Technical stuff here, most of you can stop reading.
*ISO 1250, f1.8, 20 second exposure. Next time try 15 second exposure and ISO 1600.
*There is a bit of coma in the corners, not sure how much is star trail from exposure time. But you have to look hard for it. I'm not choked in the slightest about it.
*Consider the foreground a little more carefully. In this case the horizon was slightly slanted and I had to fix it for this shot.
*The tree and a bit of the ground is lit up by light from the car running. It doesn't ruin the shot, but something to keep in mind.
*This was shot near the Maclean Creek campground in K country, and there is still lots of light pollution in the sky. The shot above is looking south and slightly west. I don't know what that bit of light on the horizon just above my head is; there are no towns in that direction for a really long way. Maybe there is a work camp or a gas plant putting out lots of light. Even looking straight west there was still lots of light in the sky, though the Milky Way shows up nicely.
*It would be really cool to get stars reflected in water.
*Bring a book to read. Maybe a thermos of mint tea or something. Or as Neil suggests, get Yahtzee on the phone.
*I am THRILLED with this lens!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

LRT by night

Last night, before the trial star shot experiment, I was downtown with a bunch of photo buddies. We we're led by the intrepid but famous Neil Zeller. We started at Eau Claire, walked to the Peace Bridge, then to the LRT line, then the Telus Sky corner, and a scenic route back to Eau Claire, taking many photos along the way.

There's a couple I'm really, really pleased with, with one firmly in the running for Image of the Month, and some fun ones. Stay tuned.

The LRT at night is not something I've been on much. I worked at one place where the owner wouldn't let female employees take the train home after 6pm. They could expense a taxi. The nearest LRT station was the infamous crackmac corner (since demolished and good riddance), so it was understandable. One evening me and a coworker were leaving a work party about 7, and took the train. We figured together shouldn't be a problem. Even with me sitting right there, chatting with her, she was hit on several times from downtown to Fish Creek station.

Still, it can make for nice photos. These are the best of the bunch, though it's a pity there were no reflections safely available. The first is dressed up a little in Photomatix, and the second more natural.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The lens goes astro, sort of

I was out on a photo workshop with the famous Neil Zeller tonight. After that I went west on 22X to try the Sigma lens shooting stars. The problem was a nearly empty gas tank, so I didn't go as far as I wanted. It's always the little things. But for a hasty shot not far enough from the light pollution, I'm pretty pleased. You'll almost certainly have to embiggen it and look at it on a desktop or laptop. Stay tuned for the other photos from the night shoot. One might be image of the month.

Here's a slightly different version of the same photo, showing the semi-magical powers (in my semi-ept) hands. You'll need to embiggen it to see the stars. Cleaning out the haze, also cleaned out some of the Milky Way.

And yet a different edit.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The last nice November sunset

Lately the clouds have been promising for sunrise and sunset. The two are happening closer and closer to each other. However, like rain clouds in Saskatchewan, there is much promise and not so much delivery.

This was at the end of November, and it still isn't as nice as what my eyes saw. There was some faint feathering in the transition from bright orange to the darker clouds that don't appear in the photo as well as I'd like.

This is one of the first photos I took with the new wide lens.

It makes the house look like it goes on forever, which I assure you is not the case. None the less, I managed to get the horizontal lines mostly horizontal, and the vertical lines mostly vertical. There are a couple of exceptions, and it's not the fault of the lens. It comes from opening and closing one particular pair of drawers many times a day, every day, for more than a decade.

The drawers have slipped a little in the middle, and it was my thing today to adjust them. It turns out to be one of those things that ought to be simple, but as with many IKEA things, what should be simple isn't necessarily so.

There are several screws to be adjusted, but then the drawer didn't slide properly on the rails. There was lots of fussing about with it. The end result is that I'm still not convinced the drawer is mounted on the rails exactly right, but it appears to be lined up better, and opens and closes properly. At least there was no swearing involved, and even though Curtis was 'helping', no cats were harmed. Any of my readers an expert on AKURUM drawer adjustments? There's a bottle of wine in it for you, plus coffee if it's that time of day.

Today was a cold morning spent waiting for a promising sunrise, with several photos taken, and none edited. Sunset looked promising, with clouds coming in and the sun just so. Not. I was hoping to get the first star shots with the new lens tonight, but just about sunset it clouded over. That's the way it goes sometimes.

I've got a meeting to go to tonight, and I'll look after that. Maybe the clouds will have blown over and it's clear. One never knows.

Monday, December 3, 2018


For whatever reason I like taking photos of the various memorial benches placed in parks. Often they have a scenic view. The trick is to get the bench and the view together and looking nice. Let's just say I've had mixed results so far.

Here's two with the new wide lens from Fish Creek. The first one is beside bridge 2.

This one is near a bridge that washed away in the 2005 flood, I think. Yes, that's one night of light snow.

I'm really liking how putting a bench in front of the landscape works with the new lens. I'm thinking I'm going to have to revisit every bench I've taken a photo of.

I was out a little earlier this evening playing with the lens handheld. It doesn't quite see in the dark, but it's pretty close! These are shot well after sunset at the far south west end of Woodlands, on the path going down into Fish Creek. There is no direct lighting, the ISO is only 1600, and the shutter was fairly slow. No special tricks in Lightroom to play with the image. Still figuring out composition.

Some other posts you might enjoy.

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