Tag Archives: night

Florida Polytechnic University IST building

Florida Polytechnic is the state’s newest public university (classes opened in August of 2014).  It’s in Lakeland along the south side of I-4 where it intersects the Florida Parkway (570).  If you’ve driven by recently, you’ve almost certainly noticed their Innovation, Science and Technology building.

East side view 2IST building at dusk, from the east side

For anyone interested in architectural photography, this place is a special treat.  It’s beautiful during the golden hours, but there are also many interesting viewpoints, perspectives, angles, and details you can find at other times of day.

Outside, 2nd floor, west sideSecond floor exterior, on the west side

After sunset, the interior and exterior lighting and colors add even more drama to the scenes.

Polytech University 1Polytech University 1 (Photo by Tom Matthews, used with permission)

The building and campus layout were designed by Dr. Santiago Calatrava Valls, A Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter.  Besides being beautiful, it’s also very innovative – there are automatic louvers on the roof that adjust to changes in sunlight.

Parking is not difficult as there are paid parking lots available near the building.  You probably won’t be allowed inside the building unless you make prior arrangements.  But for exterior shots, the campus seems very photographer friendly.  You can view their photography guidelines at this link.  If you do go, you might consider combining this photo-op with another one that’s close by – the Airstream Ranch.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Panama Canal

Our visit to the Panama Canal and passage through the Gatun Locks was the main feature of our recent cruise.   As an engineer, I’ve long been intrigued by the canal and it lived up to my expectations.  It’s amazing that something built over 100 years ago in such difficult conditions is still operating and remains an import part of global commerce.

The ship’s Captain planned well.  We arrived near the entrance just in time to view the day’s sunrise.

Panamanian SunrisePanamanian Sunrise – a pilot-boat paces us as we head toward the canal entrance

The crew opened up normally closed areas at the bow for viewing and many folks crowded there to watch the activity.

Entering the Panama CanalEntering the Panama Canal

At the evening meal the night before we arrived, Nino (the maître d’) promised us the “best seat in the house” if we came to breakfast at 7:30 that morning.  We thought we had a nice view up on the bow, but decided to follow his recommendation and go down to breakfast.  It was surprising how few people were in the dining room.  He fulfilled his promise and we sat at a table at the very stern of the ship right next to the large windows on deck 2 – and it did have the best view!!  Watching the locks filling and the canal walls go by from that vantage point was captivating.  It took longer than normal for us to finish our meal!

In the Panama Canal Gatun LocksIn the Panama Canal Gatun Locks – view from the Main dining room on deck 2

The MS Zuiderdam is 106 feet wide and the canal is only 110 feet, so there’s very little clearance.

MS Zuiderdam in the Panama Canal - showing the 2 foot clearance
View from our balcony on the 6th deck – 2 foot clearance!

The operation, control, and precision while in the canal is very skilful.  The photo above shows the 2 foot clearance between the ship and the canal.  One of the “mules”  (center left) is helping to position us and move us safely through.

Once past the locks, we anchored in Gatun Lake so people taking excursions could disembark.  Then we sailed back out through the canal and tied up for a port visit in Colon Harbor, where the excursions re-joined us that night.

Colon Harbor at nightColon Harbor at night

Colon wasn’t our favorite stop, although I was able to buy a genuine Panama Hat there.  Interesting fact:  Panama Hats are made in Ecuador!

I’ve posted a short video that we made in the canal here on YouTube.  It shows our entrance followed by a time-lapse as we descend into the Gatun Locks on our return.  Take a look if you get a chance.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Night Sky in Death Valley

I’ve been away for the last week and caught a bad cold on the trip.  I got home last night and I’m feeling better today although I  don’t have the energy for a long blog post. Sorry.

I’ll be back next week and I promise to provide more photos and info.  Here’s one image to whet your appetite.   This is a 20 second exposure at f/2.2 and ISO 1600, under the darkest skies I’ve ever seen.  The Milky Way was easily visible even though the brightest part was below the horizon.

Two galaxiesTwo galaxies – Andromeda Galaxy and part of the Milky Way, from Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Winter Park at Night

Greetings, wonderful readers!  Things are a bit busy here at the Central Florida Photo Ops HQ this weekend, so I’ll leave you with a quick post and some photos from a stroll down Park Avenue through Winter Park last Wednesday evening.

A quiet night "on the avenue"A quiet night “on the avenue”

A path into darknessA path into darkness

Blue Hour MotionBlue Hour Motion – A train passing behind one of the fountains in Winter Park, Florida

I made these a little after sunset during “blue hour” – I like the look of the light.  You can see a few other photos I’ve made in Winter Park in this album on Flickr.


Sunflower update:  The flowers are in bloom and are peaking.  If you want to see them this year, you should probably do so in the next week.  Here’s a report from Jeff Stamer’s blog on his trip out there last week.

I haven’t made it yet this year, but plan to do so next week.


Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Florida Lighthouse Photography

When I wrote this post about Waterfalls in Florida, it was somewhat tongue in cheek – since we’re not really a waterfall kind of state.  Lighthouses are a different story.

Cape St. George LighthouseCape St. George Lighthouse and clouds. Infrared, Black and White, panorama, ISO 200, 28mm eq., 1/1000 @ f/5.6.

Florida has  1350 statute miles of shoreline (PDF) bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.  Currents and shoals make navigation difficult so we have many lighthouses.   This Wikipedia page has 54 entries for Florida Lighthouses.  Some are gone or in ruins, but 32 are still in operation.

Cape St. George LighthouseCape St. George Lighthouse – rebuilt from the original bricks and plans after it collapsed in 2005. ISO 125, 33mm eq., 1/500 @f/4.0

There are many ways to photograph these interesting buildings. Straight exterior shots are one way. Look for good light or cloud formations to add interest to your photos.

Jupiter Lighthouse interiorJupiter Lighthouse interior. Hand held at ISO 800, 15mm eq. fish eye lens, 1/13 sec @ f/3.5

The interiors and especially the stairs can be good photos too. You may want to have a fish eye lens handy, since it’s usually very cramped inside.  You’ll most likely have to use a high ISO, wide aperture, and some form of built-in image stabilization, since tripods may not be allowed.

Night photos can also be very nice.  In this August 2013 post I have some details on how I made a different lighthouse night photo in St. Augustine.

Ponce Inlet light, Moon, Venus, Mars, SaturnPonce Inlet light, Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn. ISO 200, 70mm, 6 sec @ f/8.0

Many of these are open to the public and you can take a tour and climb to the top.  If you have the energy, they’re a wonderful vantage point.

View from the Jupiter LighthouseView from the Jupiter Lighthouse. ISO 200, 15 mm eq. fish eye lens, 1/2000 sec @ f/5.6

If you like to photograph lighthouses or historic buildings, our state is a great hunting ground.  This map can help you find them. Try your favorite techniques with these photogenic structures as the subject.  I like to look for appealing details, interesting viewpoints / geometry, and scenes and background that look good with my Infrared camera.

I’ve posted more Florida Lighthouse photos in this album on Flickr and a few more lighthouse photos from other places in this album.  I’m nowhere near photographing all the lighthouses in Florida, but I’m going to keep working on it and I’ll add to those albums as I go.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some lighthouse photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Sometimes, you can arrive at a “bucket list” location and it’s disappointing when it doesn’t live up to your expectations.   So let’s get that out-of-the-way now:  That won’t happen at Acadia National Park.  It’s an utterly awesome place.   If you haven’t been there yet, make sure it’s on your own bucket list.

Jordan Pond and "The Bubbles"
“The Bubbles” mountains from the southern end of Jordan Pond.  I used a polarizing filter for this and I like the way it renders the nearby rocks through the water and the trees on the left.  ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 second, at 16mm.

This place on the south shore of Jordan Pond is one of the most iconic views in the park.  I looked and was surprised there weren’t any holes worn in the rock from all the tripods over the years.  But I didn’t let the fact that everyone takes a photo here stop me – I couldn’t resist making one of my own.

I’ve wanted to go to Acadia for a long time.  My friend Kevin M. went last year and raved about it.  When Mary Kate suggested I go up with her, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

It’s a landscape photographer’s paradise.  I spent almost 6 full days there.  I met MK and her coworker Ryan on Friday evening and they left Sunday afternoon.  Fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. arrived Monday afternoon and we stayed until Thursday morning.  It’s brimming with photo ops:  rugged shorelines, sandy beaches, granite mountains, calm mirror like ponds, beautiful forests, gnarled trees, lighthouses, fishing villages, whales, birds, and more.  It felt like there were photos everywhere I looked.

Acadia is small for a national park (at least compared to some of those out west) but it still covers a very large area.  And getting from the Bass Harbor Head Light all the way to the Schoodic Peninsula can take some time, especially with traffic during the peak summer season.  This map shows where I made my photos.

Acadia National Park Photo Locations

You can see I made it to much of the park, but I missed an even larger part of it.  Not to mention that I mostly stayed close to the car.  I didn’t explore any of the hiking trails and carriage roads.  I guess I’ll have to keep it on my bucket list and go back!

I visited several places more than once and the changing light and weather made them look very different.  Bubble Pond, Schoodic Point, and Cadillac Mountain were my favorites.

Looking west from Otter Creek Drive
Looking north-west from Otter Creek Drive, with Cadillac Mountain in the distance.    A 5 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

I found the spot above just driving around, not from a guidebook.  The fog in the distance and the lily pads in the nearby pond called out for a photograph.

Schoodic Peninsula is in all the guidebooks and you must go there.  We spent hours looking for compositions hidden in the rocks, cliffs and waves.  Just make sure you’re careful.  The rocks can be slippery and unexpected waves have washed people into the water.

Schoodic Point Waves
Schoodic Point Waves.  I used a Hoya ND400 filter on this to slow my shutter speed.  Even though the sun had been up for a while, I could expose at ISO 100, f/16, 4.2 seconds, at 16mm.

Sieur de Monts is in all the guide books too and when I saw photos of the birch forests I knew I had to stop there.  Tom and I initially made a wrong turn, but finally found it.  And what a wonderful place it was – well worth the walk!

Paper Birch and sedge grass forest
Paper Birch and sedge grass forest, along Jessup’s Path.    This is a 6 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/100 sec at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

We saw wildlife too.  On Saturday morning, MK and I took the Puffin / Whale tour offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watching.  It was a bit foggy, but nice enough and the captain managed to find both Atlantic Puffins and Humpback Whales for us.  We also saw several lighthouses that we wouldn’t have spotted otherwise.  In addition to the puffins, I photographed four other new life birds:  Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots, Great Shearwaters, and Great Black-backed Gulls.  And there may have been a few others that I didn’t recognize / identify.  Back on land we saw deer a couple of times, and (heard about) a bear.  But sadly, no moose.

Two Humpback whales show their tails after surfacing.
Two Humpback whales show their tails on the way back down after surfacing.  We watched a group of three feeding together.  As the boat idled they often came close.  Researchers keep track of the  whales and ID them from the patterns on their tails and backs.  The whale on the left is “Bottleneck.” (HWC #8807) and was first sighted there in 2004. The other whale is “Vee” (HWC # 0372) and it was first sighted there in 1983 and has also been seen in Puerto Rico.
ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec, at 155mm.

After the boat tour, MK and I drove up to Prospect Harbor to visit Janet M.  She was Mary’s music teacher in Orlando and retired to Maine.  She and her husband Arnold are outstanding tour guides – they drove us around the Schoodic area and showed us many sites from a local’s perspective.  And then they shared a delightfully delicious dinner of Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese, salad, and Maine Blueberry pie for desert.  What wonderful hosts!

There’s a lot of information available about this area, so I won’t try to write an exhaustive how-to guide,  Instead, here are some of the references I used.  I bought and read these two books and I’d recommend either one (or both):

If you search the web, you’ll find a great many Acadia sites.  Here are a couple I looked at:

And you can also find out a lot on Flickr:

Finally, I’ll offer these hints that may help when you go:

  • I brought a full (and heavy) photo backpack and used a lot of the gear.  We flew into Bangor on smaller planes so be careful that your photo luggage meets the carry on restrictions.  I was very glad I had a wide-angle lens, my IR modified camera, a tripod, and polarizing and ND400 filters.  Kevin M. loaned me his 70 – 300mm lens and I used that for whales and puffins.
  • I filled up my camera memory cards for the first time in a long while.  Bring extra, or some way to back them up so you can safely erase them.
  • Atlantic Puffins are small – and far away from the boat!  There’s one tour that actually puts you on the island where they nest inside blinds close to the birds.  But I heard that the waiting list is over a year long.
  • Whales on the other hand are large and sometimes close to the boat.  You can get some good photos even with a phone.
  • Make sure you practice your photography skills before you go.  And know your equipment – no new gear right before the trip.  You want to know what to do when you get there, not figure it out in real-time.
  • Guidebooks and research are helpful, but don’t get too focused in on what others have photographed.  Photo ops are easy to find and I enjoyed trying to put my spin on some of the well-known locations.
  • It’s crowded in July and August.  Especially Bar Harbor and the main park visitor center.  But you can avoid those areas and find places / times where there’s no one else around.
  • The food (especially seafood) is wonderful – arrive hungry!
  • I’m from Florida, but the weather was hotter than I thought it would be (highs in the 80s) and the biting bugs were worse than I thought they would be.
  • The weather varied too.  There was some fog / mist and drizzle.  I was actually glad, because the coast of Maine is known for that, and it gave us some distinct looks.  Bubble Pond looked very different depending on the time of day and the wind and visibility.  But fog did spoil one sunrise (after getting up at 3:30 am!) and Tom’s offshore lighthouse tour.  So plan on some reduced visibility and stay a few days longer if you can so you can go back to some locations.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself.  Relax – don’t get overwhelmed.  Create a lot of memories, not a lot of stress.

Bar Harbor Blue
Bar Harbor Blue – The town lights at night from Cadillac Mountain.   ISO 200, f/8, 25 sec, at 120mm

 I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came home exhausted.   I took too many photos and spent too much time going through them after I got home.  But I like how they turned out – please take a look at the other ones in my Flickr album when you get a chance.

I’ll leave you with a short conversation I overheard on the top of Cadillac Mountain while Tom and I were photographing Bar Harbor after dark.

A little girl, pointing at Tom and I: “What are they doing Daddy?“.
Her father:  “Taking pictures with really big cameras.
Girl:  “Do we have one?
Dad:  “No, but Mommy wants one.
Girl:  “Why don’t they use their phones?
Dad:  no answer

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And use the biggest camera you can!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Melbourne Beach Turtle Walk

I didn’t put much effort into this photo of last Saturday’s super moon  – so the result isn’t that exciting.

Super moon over Melbourne Beach

Super moon over Melbourne Beach – The full moon and sparse clouds helped get our shutter speeds up just a little during the turtle walk.

What did excite me was what the super moon illuminated.   Kevin M. and I attended a turtle walk led by the Sea Turtle Preservation Society in Melbourne Beach, Florida – what an incredibly awesome experience!

Loggerhead sea turtles are endangered in the US and many other countries.  They seem to be making a comeback recently since “turtle excluder devices” were required on fishing nets starting in the late 1980s.  They’re found over most of the world, although the east coast of Florida is a prime nesting area.  Nesting season peaks here June and July.  Last year, Florida recorded 58,000 nests with many of them in Brevard County.

I’ve spotted sea turtles  off shore on the surface before, but until Saturday I’d never seen one on the beach.  Since they’re endangered, it’s illegal to approach or harass them in any way.  But there is a way to see them up close on shore.  The Sea Turtle Preservation Society has a Florida State permit to conduct Turtle Walks for the public several nights a week during nesting season at three different locations in South Brevard County. They give a presentation with lots of good background on sea turtles.  During the presentation, people from the organization scout the beach looking for a nesting Loggerhead. When they find one, they lead the group out to observe.

Loggerhead sea turtle laying eggs
Loggerhead sea turtle laying eggs – The guides keep everyone behind the turtle where she can’t see them and put a small red light in the nest to illuminate the eggs.

There are some rules for the walk:

  • Stay with and obey the guides.  They’ll lead you to the nest along the water line after she starts laying eggs.
  • No lights at all are allowed, including cell phones and especially flash photography.
  • No noise.
  • Everyone is kept behind the turtle out of her line of sight.
  • When she’s done, the guides will move the group to one side away from her path back to the ocean.
  • Stay off the outgoing turtle tracks.  Researchers use them the next morning to count nests.
  • If you go, check with your group for their rules.  They may be different.

This is very tough photography assignment.  In fact it’s much more of a Central Florida Nature Op than a Central Florida Photo Op.  But if you want to try to make some photos, here are some hints:

  • The group we went with says they see turtles on 90% of their walks.  I’m not sure what it’s like with other groups.  You might want to ask before you go.
  • Check with the leaders of the group you’re going with about photography.  Rules seem to vary and some groups don’t allow any photography at all.
  • Schedule your walk to take advantage of conditions.  The beach is very dark.  Hotels and homes in the area are even required to keep their lights off during nesting season.  You’ll have a bit more light if you go during a full moon and when there’s minimum cloud cover.  Also, The turtles seem to prefer coming ashore at high tide.  Our walk was just after.  We were also fortunate to have a 10 mph east wind that kept us very comfortable and insect free.  I wasn’t even sweating at the end of the walk – and this is Florida – in late June!  But if the wind is too strong, you’ll have to watch out for tripod vibrations.
  • Other than the small flashlight in the photo above, all the other photos in this post were made with just ambient light well after sunset.  You’ll need a tripod and fast lens.
  • Be careful with your tripod.  The group was pretty large the night we went and I worried about hitting or tripping someone in the dark (I didn’t).
  • Bring a fast lens.  Kevin and I both used 50mm f/1.8 lenses and shot with them wide open.  This was a pretty good focal length for the subject distances.
  • The moon was very bright – I shot at ISO 800, f/1.8 and my shutter speed varied around 1 second.  If you go at another time of the month, your shutter speeds may be even slower.
  • Your tripod will help stop camera motion, but you’ll need to time your shots to minimize turtle motion.
  • The crowd was pretty large and I had to maneuver to get a clear view with my camera.  Be courteous.
  • Make sure you can work your camera controls in the dark.  You need to know how to at least change to manual focus and adjust the ISO without a flashlight.
  • Turn off your auto focus assist light and auto photo review – no lights, remember?
  • Auto focus was very difficult.  The only time it worked at all was on the guide’s red flashlight in the nest.  The rest of the time, I used manual focus and guessed since it was so dark.  You’ll need to take your chances and hope for some sharp shots.  Since it was so dim, I found the optical view finder on my Nikon easier to use than the EVF on my Olympus.  Your mileage may vary.
  • Depth of field will be very shallow.  Try to focus on the middle distance of your subject and if possible compose with the long axis of your subject parallel to the camera.
  • Surprisingly, shadows can be an issue.  There were times when people blocked the moon and shadows on the turtle were pretty dark.  Move around to find a better point of view.

Turtle walk crowd

Turtle walk crowd

When she’s done laying her eggs, she buries them and disguises the nest.

Loggerhead sea turtle laying eggs

Loggerhead sea turtle covering nest

And then heads back out to sea.

The Epic Journey Continues

The Epic Journey Continues – Loggerhead Turtle returning to the ocean.  Photo by Kevin McKinney (used with permission).

As you can probably tell from my write-up, I really enjoyed this outing.  It was wonderful to witness a natural event that’s been on going for 165 million years.  A big shout out and thank you to Kevin’s wife Traci.  She’s the one that recommended we go on the turtle walk.  And thanks to Kevin for scheduling it on the perfect night.

If you want to know more, here’s a couple of links to recent sea turtle news:

http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20130624/NEWS01/130624007

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-loggerhead-turtles-thriving-20130623,0,6384714.story

As usual, you can see a few other photos from the trip in my set on Flickr, and in Kevin’s set.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go witness some nature, and (if you can) make some photos!

©2013, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Cincinnati Christmas

Lynn and I had a wonderful visit with our daughter Mary at her place in Cincinnati over Christmas. Once again, she was the perfect hostess and kept us busy with all sorts of activities. We spent a lot of time eating, both at restaurants (Nada, Melt, Christmas brunch at the Hilton, Tom+Chee, Papa Johns pizza, Cracker Barrel) and cooking (crab cakes, Quiche, salmon, gingerbread, etc.) and too much time shopping (antique mall, after Christmas sales, outlet mall). In between we went to the Nutcracker, bought hats at Batsakes, visited the local wine shop and gave her new Nespresso machine a real work out. It was primo family time, but I did sneak in a little photography:

Roebling Bridge and Ohio River at night from Kentucky
Roebling Bridge and Ohio River at night from Kentucky

Play time at Union Station
Play time at Union Station – Cincinnati, Ohio. I usually wait for people to clear out when I’m trying to make a photo. This time I went ahead and made it while these two girls played around the fountain. Since this is a stitched panorama, they show up multiple times, which I think adds to the image.

Cappuccino
Cappuccino: We enjoyed using Mary’s new machine and overdosed on caffeine while we were there.

What a great visit! You can see more photos from our trip to Cincinnati in this set on Flickr. You can re-read my other posts mentioning Cincinnati here and here.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

PIG Tales 1

I belong to a camera club called the Photography Interest Group (the “PIGs). Our members vary in their photographic background and experience (as well as in age, gender and cultural background, by the way).  A couple of us have used SLRs since the film days. Some of the others in our group are beginners with their first Single Lens Reflex camera. But we all love photography.

The “senior PIGs” often get questions about why we do things a certain way, or how to do a specific thing. I think it might be interesting to others if I post the questions and answers. When a junior PIG want to know, others may want to know too. So this post is the first of what may become a series. We’ll see how it goes.

Q. How do you make photos at night?

One member of our club has a trip planned to Yosemite. He (let’s call him “Donuts”) wants to do something a little different and make photos after dark. Do you need special equipment? What settings do you use? How do you focus when you can’t see anything?

Now before we get started, we’re talking about outdoor, landscape and nature photos, not your regular dinner party photos. That would be a completely different post – somewhere else.

A. Slowly and carefully

I’ll write this for people with DSLR cameras. Most of the principles will apply if you have a point and shoot, but your camera may not have the controls or flexibility you’ll need. Still, you should experiment – you may discover some good work arounds with the equipment you have.

1. Night Landscapes

Night landscapes can be different and add some interest to your portfolio.

Moon rise at sunsetMoonrise at sunset, a pasture near Orlando Wetlands Park – Base exposure: f/8, 2 seconds, ISO 200. Second exposure (for moon): f/11, 1/25 sec, ISO 200.

  • Use a tripod to steady your camera. Hand holding a camera at night just won’t work — unless you’re only trying to make sunset silhouettes.
  • Compose carefully. All the normal landscape concepts still count for night photography. Composition (e.g. the rule of thirds), and having something of interest in the foreground as well as the middle and far distance will help your photo. You might want to use a bubble level in your camera’s hot shoe so that you can make sure your shot is level.
  • Focus carefully. The light level might be too low for your camera to focus automatically. If your camera has a live view mode, it can be a great help for manual focus at night, since you can zoom in to see detail. If not, you can estimate distance and set your lens manually. If you’re using a wide-angle lens, depth of field will help you. You can also stop your lens down to give more depth of field (f/11 or f/16) and make the focus less critical. Try focusing 1/3 of the distance into the frame if the main subject is close to the camera, and 2/3 in if the main subject is far away. Again, you may want to set your camera / lens to manual focus after you get it adjusted properly.
  • You’ll need a remote release too so you can avoid shaking the camera when you press the shutter release. For many exposures, the light may call for an exposure longer than your camera’s longest shutter speed (typically 30 seconds). In this case you’ll need to put your camera in Bulb mode and use the remote release to time the exposure by hand (more on this later).
  • Exposure is tricky. Your camera’s auto exposure mode may work, but will probably make the scene too bright. You can adjust this a bit in post processing to make it look more like a night scene. You can also chimp your shots to make sure you’re in the ball park and the result is close to what you want.  If not, use your exposure compensation – usually to dial in a bit less light.
  • Here’s one trick to try for determining proper exposure for very low light situations: Set your camera’s ISO as high as it will go and make a photo. Chimp the shot to see if it’s exposed the way  you want. Then set your ISO back to its base value to get the highest quality photo and slow down the shutter speed by the same ratio as the ISO change. For example, if your exposure looks correct at f/8, 4 sec. @ ISO 3200, then it should also be correct at f/8, 64 sec @ ISO 200 (4*3200/200 = 64).
  • Many DSLRs limit the slowest shutter speed to 30 second. How do you make an exposure of 64 seconds? Use manual mode. Set your aperture, and use Bulb for the shutter speed. Hold the shutter open with your remote release and manually time the exposure.
  • Long exposure noise reduction: With any exposures over a second or two, sensor noise will probably be an issue. I use Nikon’s long exposure noise reduction in these situations. When turned on, the camera will take a second exposure with the shutter closed to measure noise and then subtract the noise out from the first exposure. Try it on your camera – it works well on mine
  • For more advanced projects, stars (and the moon) will leave trails in any exposures longer than a few seconds. One nice effect is to scout a good landscape scene to the north and make a very long exposure. The circular star trails will be centered around the north star. You can also make spectacular photos under a dark sky by placing your camera on an equatorial mount so that the camera follows the earth’s motion. I’ve seen beautiful photos of the Milky Way behind spectacular scenery made this way.

2. Shooting the moon

The moon is interesting and one of the easiest astronomical objects to photograph. But it isn’t easy. You’ll need to set up carefully, expose correctly and have your camera as still as possible. Your photographs will benefit from as much magnification as you can get.

The Earth's satelliteThe Earth’s satellite – f/11, 1/50 sec, ISO 200 (click the photo to go to Flickr, where I’ve uploaded the full res, uncropped version).

  • Use a tripod to steady your camera. Hand holding a camera to make a photo of the moon might work if you have very good image stabilization in your camera or lens. But with a high zoom ratio, hand-held photos will hardly every work out, especially when you zoom in so you can see some detail.
  • Zoom in so you can see some detail. A 300mm lens on a crop sensor camera (~450mm equivalent) should allow you to make a decent photo. Much smaller than that and you’ll need to crop the result a bit – which will lower the quality. I made the photo above with my Sigma 150-500mm zoom at 500mm (750mm equivalent) on a Nikon D90. It’s uncropped and doesn’t fill the frame, but this combination does yield some nice detail.
  • Focus carefully. You might want to set your camera / lens to manual focus after you get it adjusted properly. Don’t bump it later, and don’t forget to put it back in auto focus mode when you’re done.
  • Your camera most likely will not expose the moon correctly. With a lot of dark sky in the frame, the moon will probably come out way over exposed. For your exposure, use your camera’s spot metering function and then set your exposure compensation to about -1 EV. Chimp the result and adjust as necessary. If you don’t have a spot meter, then try using the “sunny 16” rule in manual exposure mode and adjust from there. For those of you that haven’t ever shot with slide film and a manual exposure camera, this rule of thumb says that for bright sunlight, your exposure should be f/16 at a shutter speed of 1/ISO. Since the moon is lit by the sun, this rule of thumb will get you close to a good exposure.
  • You can do even better if you have access to a telescope. It’s relatively easy to use a point and shoot camera to take a photo through the eyepiece of a telescope like I did below. If anyone is interested in this, I can provide more information.
Hand held, autoexposure, Nikon Coolpix P1 through the telescope eyepiece

I’m sure you’ll come up with more ideas as you practice this. Good luck, Donuts. And don’t forget your flashlight and bug spray.

©2010, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, and Waterton Canyon near Denver

I was lucky enough to go on a business trip to Denver last week. I stayed with my Mom and got to visit quite a bit with her and her friends. I also got to see my sister LaDonna and brother Jim and their families in Denver and my brother Rob and his family in Colorado Springs.

On the way to Rob’s, I stopped by the Garden of the Gods for a couple of hours. (Note: you can click on any of these photos for a larger version).

The Garden of the Gods park is run by the city of Colorado Springs and is about an hour south of Denver. You take I-25 south and exit right onto Garden of the Gods road. I hadn’t been there before. The rock formations are spectacular and unlike anything we see in Florida. If you go, early morning probably has the best light. I wasn’t able to arrive until around 10 am and by then the lighting was pretty harsh. I wish I had been there earlier or that there had been some nice clouds in the sky to work with, but you take what you get and I was happy to be able to see it. I did some bracketed exposures to work with in HDR and converted some photos to black and white. I like the way they turned out.

Rock climbing is allowed and I made a few photos of a couple of climbers.

While in Denver, I also took a walk through Waterton Canyon and made a few photos.


And one night, my nephew Jared and I made this panorama of the night time skyline visible from my Mom’s place.

My other photos for this post are here

©2009, Ed Rosack.  All rights reserved.