Sky on fire

The northern lights are shifted very south right now due to a large solar storm that is impinging on our upper atmosphere.  Nothing like the view from Alaska or north Canada, but still a great occasion to see a rare event.  Here’s the best single image I got.

That’s not too bad for being thousands of miles from the North Pole.

Did you see the lights?

Take your time, the picture isn’t going anywhere

Just finished a year of big change, the disruptive kind that builds up stress regardless of how mellow you may consider yourself.  This year has brought a new job, the new house buying experience, old house selling routine, temporary living at a hotel and the not-so-much-fun-anymore packing, transporting and unpacking of all our worldly possessions.  Now that we’ve just about gotten settled in our new home, it’s time for some celebration and relaxation.  What better place to return to for this than Monterey, CA.

The central coast around Christmas is a pretty laid-back place.  The sun goes down around 5pm, the stores close around 6pm and the sidewalks roll up right after that.  A few restaurants stay open here and there but commerce stops to the point you just have to slow down and take it easy.

And for a photographer that means getting out and trying some new techniques.

I really like the long exposure images of water, where the details merge into a milky flow around whatever object is visible.  The important aspect for this type image, though, is moving water.  Oh, and a little light.  Set up your composition and then make really long exposures (up to a minute or more) and let the moving water turn into a constant blur.  Fortunate for me, there was a full moon and clear skies over the Monterey peninsula while we were there.  And a Pacific storm pushing 6-8 foot swells against the rocks off Asilomar beach.

Just perfect.

ISO 100, 73mm, 60 sec., f/6.3

ISO 100, 73mm, 60 sec., f/6.3

ISO 200, 35mm, 60 sec., f/6.3

ISO 200, 19mm, 60 sec., f/5

ISO 200, 29mm, 30 sec., f/5.6

At first I was worried about getting the focus right.  Even with manual focus you have to have light to see the subject!  Fortunately I carry a really bright LED flashlight in my camera bag so I as able to illuminate the rocks enough to get them focused via Live View.  Then I realized for this type of image perfectly sharp focusing really isn’t critical so I just cranked the focus ring over to infinity and left it there.

That flashlight came in handy when I decided to try my hand at light painting breakers offshore to bring out the foam brightness.  Any boater crazy enough to be out those nights probably thought there was some wacko beachcomber wandering around checking out the tidal pools.

Some B&W conversion in NIK Silver Efex Pro and I’m done.  Standing in the moonlight listening to waves crash on the shore waiting for your shutter to close is a great way to relax!

Snow, fog, streetlights – see the night anew

More opportunities to let the camera show me a new perspective on the world, simply by giving it time to collect enough light that I will never see with my eyes.

ISO 100, 17mm, 8 sec., f/6.3

ISO 100, 17mm, 8 sec., f/6.3

ISO 100, 17mm, 4 sec., f/6.3

ISO 100, 17mm, 4 sec., f/6.3

ISO 100, 23mm, 25 sec., f/6.3

ISO 100, 23mm, 25 sec., f/6.3

And all the while, the moon was shining…

“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,…”

The Night Before Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore

If you’ve never ventured out onto the snow during a full moon you really can’t understand the magical scene as described in this classic poem.  Although mid-day may be an exaggeration as far as illumination is concerned, there is a lot of light bouncing around on such a night.  Here are a couple of examples I made this week when the clouds went away around midnight.

ISO 100, 30mm, 30 sec., f/4.5

ISO 100, 30mm, 30 sec., f/4.5

ISO 100, 35mm, 20 sec., f/5.6

ISO 100, 35mm, 20 sec., f/5.6

The full moon is directly overhead so there are no shadows, which can make an eerie scene.  It’s an effect thought to be the basis for the legend that vampires don’t cast shadows.  I haven’t performed much processing on these images; I think they can be made more dramatic with a little work to enhance the brightness of the snow and darken the sky.

It’s a bit of a challenge to make these.  The temperature was about 10F with no wind but glove are still required.  Makes handling all the buttons and dials on a digital camera a challenge.  And that low temperature just sucks the life out of batteries.  By the time I got the first image composed, focused, exposed properly and set the timer, the battery went dead in the middle of the exposure.  You end up switching batteries from camera to inside your jacket and back after only a couple of shots.

Looks to be cloudy here for the next few nights so these are probably my only good moon shots for now.  Great way to experience the deep quiet of a winter night on the Plains.