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Tag : night

19 Jun 2020

Milky Way fun in New Hampshire

I decided to head over to New Hampshire last night for some Milky Way photos. The state is only 15 miles from my house in Vermont and has a very different look than where I live. Finding good places to shoot the Milky Way is tough, I always want to have something interesting in the foreground and not just stars overhead. Getting away from light pollution is very hard and I use a couple of websites and apps to help but you never really know until you’re there on a moonless night. So finding a place with those two main criteria requires a lot of snooping around in daylight and then going back at night to see how it really looks. I went to one pond that I spotted an island on Google maps yesterday but there were houses along the shore and no place to park so I’ll have to go back during the day and make some friends to gain access. I went to another large pond, Goose Pond, to a spot I had scouted before. As soon as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could tell there would be a lot of light pollution to the south east, which is where the Milky Way is located. It was bright enough to light the water and some of the sky to diminish the Milky Way’s colors but the stars reflecting on the water looked cool.

Then I went over to a boat launch on Mascoma Lake, which I guessed would be bright and I was right. I street light in the parking lot lit up the moored boats which ended up looking rather good. Finally I went to a small pond I had scouted and tromped out into a wet field in the darkness. Again there was plenty of light pollution on the horizon which reflected in the pond but the area was open enough to photograph the entire Milky Way’s arch. After processing the photos today I was liking them more than when I shot them. That makes for a good night.

22 May 2020

An evening in a sculpture park

 

If I wasn’t a photographer I might be a sculptor. I wouldn’t be carving things out of rock, although that would be fun too. I met a guy in Iceland who I visit every summer who does some great stone carving but it is tough work. I’d be the kind of sculptor who makes big things out of scrap metal. I think that would be a lot of fun and pretty satisfying to see a big something come from nothing. Last night I went with some friends to a cool sculpture park, Lemon Fair, near Middlebury, VT. It is basically a big field, near nothing, with lots of sculptures like the ones I would make. And some of them are mighty big. 

When photographing other art I like to add something to the picture to make it more than just a snapshot of what is sitting there. So I went at night to capture the stars behind the art. Since I was out in a dark field, I used a flashlight to illuminate the objects. It created some fun pictures as the Milky Way rose through the sky.

Click on a photo to see a larger version, then you can scroll through them by clicking on the arrows.

19 May 2020

International Space Station meet Polaris

I love when when great planning comes together to create a good picture. I love even more when dumb planning and incredible luck combine to create a special image. I was out shooting star trails over a pond last night and lined up a cool looking shot. I planned on getting some good reflections from the trees I was lighting with my flashlight in the water. Star trails are essentially very long exposures and the stars blur due to the earth’s rotation. This photo was made in a period of 2 hours and 45 minutes, but rather than being one shot it is about 275 photos that were 30 seconds long each. They are then assembled with software to show the movement of the stars. I add some light to the trees so there is a nice foreground and I knew I’d have a pretty cool shot. As I’m sitting out in the dark the International Space Station flew over. It is always fun to see it streak past but this time it looked like it was going to be in my shot. About 90 minutes later it came by again, this time lower in the sky and not as bright. Hey, I might catch that one too, I thought. Today when I put the photo together I was thrilled to see the ISS flew right in front of Polaris, which is the star the others rotate around. Now that is cool. Plus I have the second ISS pass lower in the shot. Damn I’m good.

17 Feb 2020

Aurora in Iceland

Nature is amazing and one of the most unique sights is the Aurora Borealis – the northern lights. To see them in full fury is a thrill and we had a great display tonight in Iceland. It takes the right combination of dark skies, sun spot activity and no clouds. There is a scale of 1-9 that rates the solar activity and they predict it three weeks in advance. Last week it was showing that we would only be at a 2 all this week, so I sent a note to my Iceland workshop participants not to expect much in the way of aurora. 

Then two days ago when I checked tonight’s rating was 3, which isn’t bad. We had dinner and then went out of town to an area I know would make a good foreground. As we were driving the aurora was glowing bright on the horizon. Once we parked we were treated to an amazing show of light. We had a small mountain in front of us and the green light started on the right side. Then it started appearing on the left side of the mountain. I was doing a happy dance as the aurora danced across the sky. After a while a hook of light appeared on the right side creating a classic Icelandic aurora. We stood out in the dark for over two hours being amazed by what we saw. It finally diminished and we went back to the hotel with a special memory.

ra 

26 Jan 2020

A night in New York City

Last night was a fun workshop in New York City. All day there was heavy rain and miserable conditions. I had postponed the workshop from the week before due to snow and ice predictions and it turned out to be a wise idea. Yesterday it looked like the rain would stop around 6:00 p.m. so I decided to go ahead with the workshop. I warned everyone to be ready for rain, it is important to keep yourself as dry as your equipment. Once you get wet clothes you are cold until you change into something dry. 

I made some adjustments to our schedule so we would start with shooting indoors at Grand Central Terminal and then head right down to Brooklyn. My genius came through and it stopped raining by the time we were done at Grand Central. One of the great things about changing weather is that the light usually becomes much better and yesterday it became absolutely special. We went south of the Brooklyn Bridge to photograph old pilings in the East River with lower Manhattan in the background. It was rather blah when we first got there and then as darkness approached the clouds starting doing cool things, clear skies mixed with clouds and it looked great. Then fog rolled in, making for a different look. As we were finishing there I had my back to the city for 30 seconds and when I turned around the fog had covered all of Manhattan and you couldn’t tell the city existed. Pretty cool.

We went up the Dumbo area to photograph around the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. There was still some fog hanging around so I used part of the Manhattan Bridge to frame in a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan. The light combined with the wet ground and fog to make an eerie image. There are always lots of great photos in that area.

We finished the night at a special spot on 42nd St. in Manhattan where we photographed traffic and car lights streaking past. A beautiful way to end the day that started out dismal.

26 Oct 2019

Streaking at the Brooklyn Bridge

A fun workshop that I do with fellow professional photographer Ron Lake is a tour of New York City’s big bridges. We can’t hit them all in one day but we go to five of the most photogenic. Our first stop is usually the George Washington Bridge and the little known Little Red Lighthouse that sits underneath. I’ve written in my blog about it before but it is still fun to take people to something they didn’t know existed. We then go to one of the prettiest bridges, the Queensborough, then the industrial Williamsburg Bridge. Finally we go over to Brooklyn to shoot the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Photographing the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk as the lights of lower Manhattan start glowing is always a favorite. A helicopter zipped past tonight as I was doing a long exposure creating a streak of light and dashes from a flashing light. It is a lot of fun and the scene never gets tiring.

09 Oct 2019

Light painting a Vermont island

One of the techniques I enjoy doing with my photography is light painting. Much like it sounds, I illuminate subjects in a similar way as painting a wall. But I use a flashlight, sometimes a big one. During my Vermont Fall Foliage Workshop I like to take people to Chittenden Reservoir and light up an island that is about 250 yards from the shore. I have a big 18 million candle power flashlight that does a great job on the island. The best shots come 20-30 minutes after sunset when there is still some light and color in the sky and it is dark enough that the background is dark. We use a 30 second exposure which gives me time to light up the island. Just like painting a wall, I don’t try to cover the whole island in one splash of light, I paint across it so any one area may get only 5-8 seconds of light. When the conditions are right, it can be a fantastic photo.

29 Sep 2019

Photographing lighthouses in Maine

Maine’s coast is hard to beat for great scenery and when you toss in a bunch of lighthouses it becomes a true visual treat. I hosted a workshop this weekend that started with driving from New Jersey and picking up people along the route to Portland in my 12 passenger Sprinter van. We had people from five states including Florida for the fast three day excursion and we photographed 10 lighthouses.  The weather was ideal giving us brilliant sunrises and colorful sunsets. We went to classic locations that every photographer should see including Portland Head and Nubble and some lesser known ones. 

I rarely take groups to places I haven’t been before but I had a gap and did a ton of research to find us another place to shoot between Portland and our Saturday night location in Rockland. Squirrel Point lighthouse looked good in my research and I knew it would be a fairly long hike but as we were walking out we crossed a small bridge and I noticed the tide was coming in. I tried to see if I could find a high tide line or something to tell if the water came up to the bridge but I couldn’t see anything. Since I hadn’t read about any problems and I couldn’t see anything, we ventured on. We photographed the lighthouse for a while and some of the group was ahead of the rest and a gentleman out running told them to hurry because the rising tide would be a problem. And it was. When we got to the bridge both ends we almost a foot deep in water. Our runner friend came back and asked if there was anything he could do to help. I had some cheap plastic boot covers in the van and he was kind enough to run the 1/4 mile to get them and bring them back. Some of our people had already ventured across before I got there and either took their shoes and socks off or just went ahead and got their feet wet. 

The runner came back, seeming to enjoy running through the water and helping us. I assisted the rest of our group put on the little plastic bag/boots and they made their way dryly through the water. Disaster averted.

For me the best part of the weekend was sunset on Saturday at Marshall Point Lighthouse, which just happened to be where Forrest Gump finished his run. The evening clouds were great and as darkness set in I got out my trusty flashlight and did some light painting of the walkway and the lighthouse. We were given a great show and it was a wonderful weekend.

09 Aug 2019

Stars shining bright in Vermont

Getting out at night and seeing the stars is something that I never get tired of doing. I hosted back-to-back Night Skies Workshops in Vermont the last 10 days and it was great to be out in the dark and see the stars shining. Seeing the stars is one thing and photographing them is another. This is one of the few areas of photography where you need to have the right equipment to make good images. The stars seem bright but it takes a good camera to handle the darkness and the long exposures required. There are tricks to making the photos and then also in post processing, which is what the workshops were all about. 

For me it isn’t enough to just make photos of the stars, I want something in the foreground to add an extra element to the image. That means it will either be a silhouette or I need to light it up. I love using a technique called light painting to illuminate objects with a flashlight. I have a variety of lights I use, from very small penlights to a huge 18 million candle power monster light. I didn’t need the monster during the workshop since all the objects we lit were close enough that it would be too bright. I look forward to doing the workshops again next year.

28 Jul 2019

Fun at night in Somerville

Last night I did another version of a fun workshop, night photography. I love shooting at night, you can do it any night, it really doesn’t matter what the weather is as long as you aren’t doing astrophotography. And since New Jersey isn’t the best place to be for photographing stars I go for other things when in N.J.

I took the group to Somerville where I did some light painting and showed them the tricks of long exposures. Photographing car lights as they streak past during a long exposure is a lot of fun and crazy things happen. There are a lot of people on the street in Somerville on a Saturday night and they are a curious bunch when they see a lot of photographers lined up with tripods. It is fun telling them I’m waiting for Beyonce, which always brings on more questions. I’m not lying…

We light painted several buildings and the public fountain near the historic courthouse. Light painting is a fun technique where a flash light is used to illuminate objects. We also we went over to a dark railroad overpass and to a cemetery where I did the light painting and didn’t make any images. 

29 Jun 2019

From street art to Milky Way

This Chile adventure keeps getting better. Today we made the journey along the coast from Valparaiso to La Serena. It is more than a five hour drive on the Pan American Highway, I thought about flying but seeing the country from the ground seemed more fun. We didn’t stop a lot, I wanted to get to La Serena, get settled in and go out do some night photography.

We stopped at a little fishing village that was pretty fun. Chile is a modern country, you won’t find carts pulled by mules through dusty villages. Cell phone coverage is better than in the U.S. and although there is some poverty, Chile is one the most affluent in South America. This town had a marina and nice park along the ocean. There was a helipad with horses roaming around it. They weren’t really fenced in, they just kinda stayed along the ocean. A couple of them wandered over into some cactus and found something to eat. They were pretty good at not getting their noses pricked.

After settling into our apartment we headed out to a lighthouse I had found. It was on a beautiful beach lined with hotels and restaurants. The lighthouse is being renovated so it made for tough photography but the sunset was spectacular and there were plenty of people on the beach even though it is winter in Chile, although the temperature was in the upper 60’s.

We had dinner near the beach then went into the countryside to find a dark area to shoot the Milky Way. This area is one of the darkest places on earth but La Serena is a city of 200,000 and the area has 400,000 and getting away from the light pollution isn’t easy. I took a dirt road east of the city for about 30 minutes. I had done some research on Google maps and found an intersection with another dirt road that looked interesting. Even that far away from the city there was plenty of light on the horizon but it was dark enough. There happened to be an old stuffed chair where I pulled off the road. It was a perfect place to sit and do some stargazing but we weren’t going to touch the old thing. It did make for a great foreground under the Milky Way.

24 Mar 2019

Chasing the aurora in Vermont

There is something about the Aurora Borealis that fascinates me. The thought that light can shoot up in the air in the dark, dance across the sky and change colors is simply amazing. But I have yet to see it in full action. During my trips to Iceland I’ve been teased several times but I haven’t been there during the right conditions for a full show.

The northern lights are caused by solar flares, when there is a lot of sun spot activity the aurora goes nuts. Solar activity is cyclical, there is a 11 year cycle of high to low activity and right now we are in a prolonged trough and activity is low. There are several websites and mobile apps that can accurately predict the aurora a couple of weeks in advance. When I am in Iceland I constantly monitor the apps and see when and where I might be able to photograph the lights.

There is a scale from 1-9 that shows how active the aurora will be. It is usually at 1 or 2 and I’ve never heard of it hitting 8 or 9. Friday I got a message from friend Brian Horton that last night would be extremely active, a 6 for three hours and then falling back to 5. The bad part was the 6 rating was from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. while the sun was still shining bright. You want pure darkness to see the aurora, so that 6 rating was going to be wasted. But I had only seen a 4 before and it was amazing so I knew I had to check out this night of 5.

I had spent the week in Vermont and went back to New Jersey on Thursday for a workshop that night and a mentoring session on Friday. After thinking about it for a while I decided to make the over five hour drive back to my Vermont house and take my chances. I hoped my wife Robin, who was still in Vermont, would join me out in the dark, but she is finishing another book proposal and decided to wrap that up. 

Late yesterday I drove north almost two hours to Cabot, VT, where there is a cool old covered bridge that years ago was moved to the middle of a field high on a hill. There is nothing around it and no towns north so I knew it would be a great place to photograph the aurora. Back in Woodstock we got about five inches of snow Friday morning but Cabot got over 15 inches and it is piled high. To get out in the field near the bridge required wading through the snow, which was drifting in the blowing snow. Up on the that hill the wind gets pretty strong, it was blowing hard and the temperature was 15 degrees. 

Getting out to the bridge required plowing through thigh deep snow for about 100 yards, which wasn’t a whole lot of fun in the cold and dark. I have snowshoes but I didn’t think of taking them with me, they would have saved me a lot of effort. 

Once I got set up, the aurora was glowing on the horizon. The green light was shining pretty wide but it wasn’t flaring too high. It definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for. I had visions of the light dancing high overhead but it stayed low and wide. I took a couple of flashlights with me to illuminate the bridge so I didn’t have only a silhouette. It only takes a little light to make the bridge have some detail but it makes a big difference.

After about an hour I went back up to my truck, the moon was rising and the bright light shining off it would kill the green glow. I didn’t get what I wanted but I had fun

08 Feb 2019

A windy shot at aurora in Iceland

My annual Iceland Winter Photography Workshop starts tomorrow. I like to arrive a day early so my body can acclimate to the time change and I can get a little extra shooting in. While I’ll be in plenty of great places during the week my focus is on working with my clients rather than my own photography. I make pictures when I can but there are times when I’m helping rather than shooting.

Some of the others arrived early also and the sky was clear and the rating for the Aurora Borealis was pretty high, officially a 4 out of 9 on the scale. It rarely hits 6 on the scale and this is the first time I’ve had clear skies and a rating this high. The predication for the week shows that is the best shot we’ll have at it. 

I took folks out to the point of the peninsula where there are two lighthouses, I thought it would be good and dark there and we’d be able to see Northern Lights dancing. We got there around sunset, I was hoping for lots of color in the sky but clouds over the ocean in the west took care of that. I brought a big flashlight in hopes of illuminating one of the lighthouses. It was so windy that doing the long exposure we needed was impossible. I pulled out my anemometer and it showed a steady 25-30 mph wind with gusts over 40 mph. It is tough to stay steady in wind like that.

After it got dark the wind persisted and I knew it was too much to handle so I decided to head back towards town and see if I could find a place that would be better. As I was driving the wind didn’t let up but I pulled into a little lane that I had gone down last summer. I parked the van and the brave got out and tried to make some shots as the aurora danced in front of us. It was about as tough shooting condition as I’ve been in, the strong wind and the temperature around 25 degrees made it hard to even think, especially after an overnight flight and little sleep.

I got down low with my tripod and made a few shots. I couldn’t stay out there long, the wind was hitting me hard in the face, the wind chill factor was around 5 degrees but it felt much worse. It was so windy I couldn’t talk to any of the others and after a few minutes everyone was back in the van. 

I’m usually not disappointed with my results but I am rather bummed I didn’t get a better shot. There are several things I could have done but I wasn’t thinking clear enough to make the image I wanted. Mark it up to experience, I’ll get it the next time. After all, the workshop starts tomorrow.

18 Nov 2018

Peeking into Manhattan from a Brooklyn perspective

Last night was another fun night photography workshop in New York City. We started in the afternoon at the iconic Flatiron Building and then headed to Brooklyn for sunset. Photographers love to shoot the pilings along the Brooklyn waterfront looking over into Manhattan and for good reason. We got to Brooklyn before sunset so I took them to a cool spot in Dumbo where you can photograph the Empire State Building framed by one the Manhattan Bridge stanchions. It makes for a fun shot and everyone enjoyed making some images there even with all the people shooting selfies in the middle of the street. There was even a bridal shoot going on.

As the sun got lower we jumped into my van and made our way down to where the pilings are located. The sky was a overcast but with a combination of low and high clouds so there was a lot of definition in the layers and it really held the light from the city. It was cool to see how the clouds reflected the light and made for some great patterns. I decided to try a very wide angle shot combined with a long exposure to get some movement in the clouds. I really like the result and have the feeling this is going to be a big print for the wall and art shows.

30 Sep 2018

Exploring New York City at night

I’m not really a night owl but I had a great time last night hosting a mid town New York photography workshop at night. We started in Central Park before it got dark, which is always a great place to photograph but going alone can be a bit intimidating. This was the first of many workshops I’m planning in the city since I bought a 12-passenger van that makes it convenient for participants to get around. With the help of fellow pro photographer Ron Lake we were able to drop people off and pick them up right at the locations we wanted to shoot.

With the weather being near perfect, Central Park was full of people, which made for some great photos. We started near Bethesda Fountain and the boathouse. The pond was full of row boats, it didn’t look like too many of the people had much experience with oars but they were having fun. A little farther away from the boathouse the boat crowd thinned and I was lucky to catch a gondola floating past while I was on Bow Bridge. The buildings of the city made for a good background.

We left the park and headed for more madness: Times Square. It was packed and full of energy and so bright you don’t need a tripod at night! The lights of color are always awesome and there seemed to be a special energy going on. After getting plenty of shots we got back in the van and went to pretty much the total opposite, a quiet place I know on the East Side where we could get cool shots looking across 42nd St. and then looking east to Queens. They both made for neat shots of traffic moving and blurring with our long exposures.

The night ended in Grand Central Terminal, which is an architectural marvel but it is dark inside. In order to shoot with a tripod you need to get a special permit in advance, which I had done for the group. It is such a cool building and always makes for great photos. It was a good place to end the night.

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