Monthly Archives: February 2017

Valley of the Toadstools.

 

Valley of the Toadstools.

Take nighttime Milky Way photos just like this in my March Kansas Workshop. See the end of the description for more details.

The Ah-shi-sle-pah wilderness study area is remarkable but dizzyingly hard to find. There are so many odd and weird formations. Toadstools by the score, petrified wood, fossils and in general a highly unusual geography that is very, very weird (so obviously I have to like it).

I had shot the nearby De-Na-Zin Wilderness before, and this is very much its little brother. The formations here are smaller and less dramatic but equally weird.

It turned out to be a beautiful night, a bit of a breeze but for May very pleasant. A coyote seemed my only companion of the night and even he stayed at a fair distance from the cameras. The only visible to the naked eye lights were from a couple of nearby oil wells. Fortunately, they were mostly behind me. May at 1 AM tends to be frigid in the desert but the temperature this night was only in the 50’s and a coat was enough to keep warm while clambering about.

There is no entrance or markings to find the study area. My GPS on my phone had listed the study area, but without finding an entrance, I had circled it probably 20 times. I felt the need to listen to Billy Prestons “Will it go Round in Circles” as the sun dipped lower and lower in the sky. Literally, with a flashlight, I saw a small sign with a BLM logo and took a chance. I arrived just as the sun was in its last throes and got a very quick look at the layout. I got out with a large flashlight and scouted around for some interesting spots.

As luck would have it, I was very close to a field of toadstools. I decided to take one image from up on top and then descend into the toadstools for some more close up shots (see later this week for one of those.) In all, I ended up with 4 shots from here that are otherworldly. If you can’t see the field of toadstools let me know and I’ll post a blowup of the main area. Also, you can see to the far right the modded camera recording the sky with an 85mm Zeiss lens.

Click below to see more about the rare chance to learn to do this yourself.

http://www.davelaneastrophotography.com/dave-lane-astrophotography-workshop-near-kansas-city-march-23-26-2017/

Specs: Canon 6Ds 63 images f1.8 ISO 8000

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Chattering.

 

Chattering. Learn to take images just like this one at my March 23 Workshop near Kansas City.

In May 2016 I found almost the entire west covered with clouds. I had been at the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area in New Mexico taking images the night before and discovered that this area looked to be clear while the entire area west of this would be covered. Here is the TLDR version. It’s cold at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in May. I mean freezing your butt off cold.

I arrived early enough to scout around for a while, but the breeze and the 21-degree weather made my eyes water virtually instantly. I drove to a camping spot for Jimmy and waited for nightfall, and a good while beyond, till the Milky Way came up. Awakening after a bit of writing I headed out to the first shooting location. It had seemed cold as I started to get the gear out. I checked Jimmy’s dash, and the temperature read 7. Plus a 15-20 mph wind. I set up two cameras, one with a Zeiss Otus 85mm Lens to capture the sky and my non-modded 6D to capture the ground.

Even with an undershirt, shirt, sweatshirt, winter coat, gloves and hat I was cold. The deck where I set up was sparkly and icy in the dancing headlamp light. By the time I got both panos started my ears were already numb and red, my teeth were chattering. Five minutes went by, then ten, I considered hopping to keep warm, but I knew it would shake the cameras. I finally slowly walked to the parking lot and then ran at top speed for what seemed like a long way but was probably 10 car lengths 🙂

It was enough to warm me up for the next 10 minutes while the cameras finished. I ended up with 45 images of the sky and 18 of the ground making this the largest panorama I’ve produced so far.

I hope you enjoy it. I was happy I never saw another human being out at 1 AM. I gave up after the one shot and retreated to sleep and some warmth after driving 500 miles to take one picture.

Check the link below for details on how to take images just like this. Get way ahead of other photographers really fast!

http://wp.me/P60YkZ-8O

Tech 63 images at f1.8 ISO 8000

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The Man in The Moon?

 

The Man in The Moon?

Learn to take pictures JUST like this at my Kansas workshop check the end of this description for more details!
The Devil’s Garden. Not far from the town of Escalante Utah lies Devil’s Garden. It’s a really cool place with a very baby arch as well (an image to do later). The whole area is covered with what are known as hoodoo’s or as they are sometimes called: Fairy Chimneys. That seems like a perfect description in a place called the Devil’s Garden, but I digress.

The night began very clear and sweltering, probably in the 105-degree range and it made exploring the area to find shots for later that evening an exercise in hydration. I wandered around for a couple miles in a generally circular pattern. I was looking for the small arch that was located here. It is called Metate Arch. Now metate is a stone for grinding corn or seeds and looking at it, you could understand that quickly.

I spent an hour or more trying to find the arch and ultimately gave up. But along the way, I stumbled into this neat rock formation. I immediately saw a man in the moon. I’m sure if you look you will see him slumbering away. So I aligned where the core of the Milky Way would be later and then set up a small rock pile or cairn to mark where to place the camera in the dark.

I wandered about never finding the arch. Later in the parking lot, I met a couple that had taken a picture and gave me a better idea where to look, and it still took 30-40 minutes despite being only 300 yards away.

Satisfied with 4-5 spots for shooting I settled into Jimmy for a bit of a snooze before nightfall. When I awoke, there were 3-4 people with a campfire, drinking and making a fair amount of noise. I asked them if they were going to camp all night but found there lived nearby and were there for a bit to party. I set up a time-lapse camera with a bit of apprehension and headed out to gather images. Arriving at this scene first I found the Milky Way was not yet high enough for the framing I had planned so went on to another shot and returned an hour or so later.

Do you know how to tell how long you need to wait to get an area of the sky to where you want? I do.

So I gathered the image last June, and they sat on my hard drive till a couple days ago when I looked at the sky pictures and went “Oh my!”

So here you go, tons of airglow shooting around the image and what looks to be Aurora to the North (left side of screen)

Check the link below for details on how to take images just like this. Get way ahead of the curve really fast!

http://wp.me/P60YkZ-8O

Tech: Canon 6D, 50mm f1.6, ISO8000, 42 images stitched on the edges.

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Milky Way from Ancient Places.

 

Milky Way from Ancient Times. The bristlecone pines in the Bristlecone Pine Forest are some of the oldest living things on earth. In a non-colony lifeform, this is about as old as it gets. But that length of time is a speck compared to the Milky Way and the universe. These bristlecone pine trees reach their branches up to the true masters of time. The Milky Way and beyond, the true masters of deep space and time.

This night was a wild night, lightning, Mammatus clouds, weird cloud formations and then finally the sky cleared a bit late in the evening. I had been writing in the back of Jimmy, working on an article at 12,000 feet, laying in the back with the hatch up. The pine scent had been strong as the storm blew through, lightning lighting the dusk, wind gusting, rain coming in sheets with pea sized hail. It made for a very creative mood, and the writing went well. I wrote till just after sundown and the lightning and rain finally abated.

I got out and went to my marked locations and gathered the foregrounds for the scenes and waited for the skies to clear. At last, they did, and I was able to grab them, then more the next night when the grove was invaded by other astronuts with what appeared to be searchlights light painting the entirety of the grove. It’s a sad thing. We astronuts of the world curse the encroachment of light pollution and then proceed to light areas making other people have to suffer through the process. Please people, wear a headlamp with a low brightness and a red shield. I this night wore a brighter one and may have interfered with a time lapse by a master timelapse artist. For that I am sorry.

Read more about the area:

The trees of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains an hour’s drive to the east of Bishop are the oldest recorded living thing on earth. A millennium older than the Giant Sequoia trees in the nearby Sierra, many are well over 2,000 years old and the “Methuselah” tree in Schulman Grove is dated at more than 4,773 years old. These trees were young and growing at the time stone axes were being used in Europe, the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) was being built, and cuneiform clay tablets were being used in northern Syria. Bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva & aristata) grow in the White Mountains at elevations 9,000 to over 11,000 feet. The oldest trees grow on outcrops of dolomite, an alkaline calcareous, low nutrient soil. Only on the alkaline dolomite will you find pure, relatively dense stands of Bristlecone pine.

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Have an hour and a Dave Lane Astrophotography focus filter?

 

Have an hour and a Dave Lane Astrophotography focus filter? Well then here is what you could get with that time. A very friendly, virtually full version of the Orion Constellation.

Actually, my first choice for a name was Have a filter and a smile. Yes, Barnard’s Loop in Orion very much looks like a smile and a pleasant reminder of the holidays. So enjoy an Orion Smile and a Happy Holiday wish from yours truly!

As an interesting side note, this is a little over an hour of exposures (2 minutes each) of 3 hours of imaging time. After the first 60 minutes, the frost from the 20-degree weather overtook the lens, and it frosted over despite having 4 hand warmers attached to the lens. Turns out the hand warmer idea is not only wasteful but also not very practical. I have since wired and made my own ultralight lens warmer for just such circumstances. Should last 4-6 hours and have replaceable batteries if the exposures continue past that time.

So enjoy my friends, have a filter and a smile! While you are doing so see the tight focus you get with the new Focus Filter I will be selling shortly.

Happy Holidays!!

Tech: Canon 6D, ISO 1600, 85mm F2.0

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Down in the Valley.

 

Down in the Valley, Valley so lowwwwww. Actually, this image should be titled PAIN!!! Uggh this one was really, really tough. I’ve shot from a lot of canyon tops and through arches but never from the bottom of a deep canyon. This is Zion National Park, and before you (middle right) lies the White Throne one of the features at the park.

It’s really hard to describe how insanely hard this image was to put together. It was so stinking dark down there it was crazy and the images, yikes! On a hot 90 degree evening, amping the camera to its limits, the noise was intense and the images way darker than I am accustomed to. It took weeks to make this look presentable. I have 4-5 more from that night that may never see the light of day. I fear my psyche may be shattered for good on this type of shot.

The night was quite pleasant, a scant bit of a breeze blew along the course of the small river. Bugs, which aren’t common in Utah, flitted about my face as I watched the camera progress. Mostly, however, it was intensely quiet, with just the occasional gurgle of the stream breaking the silence. It was so dark at the bottom of the canyon that it appeared the stars in the sky overhead were cut out and pasted against a sheet of black velvet. It not for the dim light of the camera LED I don’t think I would have been able to see my hand in front of my face.

So I had never tried taking images at the bottom of a deep canyon before, and I think I may never again, as my ADD for making an image look presentable may well have met its match. I hope you enjoy the effort don’t look too closely, I feel it is still 3 million edits away from meeting my usual standards.

Tech: Canon 6D, 10000 ISO, 55mm f1.4, 42 images and MAJOR pain!

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Smoke on the Canyon.

 

Smoke on the Canyon. I was going to go with Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple reference for those over 40), but honestly, there isn’t any in the picture. In fact, the hazy bits on the stars are from a distinct lack of water in the entire West last June. Fires were raging in multiple locations throughout Utah, Arizona, and even places like Califonia and Oregon. A thin haze hung over the entire area of Canyonlands National Park.

You can see the stars are slightly fuzzy and there are a few clouds, mostly by the Milky Way core that were drifting to the right. Earlier it had been a bit cloudy. The oddest part of the evening (which I was alone at last) was the smell. You could almost taste it in the air, a scent of fall leaves burning but yet quite faint.

The White Rim road lies below this perch, and you can make it out quite well in the image. It looks almost gentle and well maintained from this height. Driving it will tell you an entirely different story, however.

The solitude was visceral. Waiting here for the first shot of the night it had been mesmerizing as the sun set. Clouds were flitting about with fantastic colors. The almost ethereal look of the bluish haze played tricks on the mind as the light receded.

A shot like this is tough even in broad daylight. I love canyons I do, but they are so hard to process. At night standing on the edge of a drop of hundreds of feet it just seems so surreal. Like there is nothing there at all, just inky blackness. As if some earth-bound black hole had opened in the space before you. Thoughts flit through your mind; “I could just jump there is nothing there!”

If you have never done it, I can not recommend standing on the edge of a massive cliff highly enough. Especially at night, alone without anyone for miles.

Technical: Canon 6D 55mm f1.6 ISO 8000

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Oh, what a night.

White Pocket, AZ. Oh, what a night. In June of this year, I wandered off to White Pocket. It was a wonderous evening, moderate temperatures in the 80’s that night, a very slight breeze blowing in from the east and not a soul in sight. That’s right. I had White Pocket completely to myself. It’s so rare anymore to find White Pocket empty as I have arrived before to crowds of people.

This night it was just White Pocket and me. The day had been warm, and I laid back on the stone ground as the cameras whirled and clicked. Both hands behind my neck I looked up to take in an utterly fabulous sky. A few very light clouds drifted across the sky to the east. Perhaps it would be best to call them tiny wisps. A coyote occasionally called in the distance, but the silence was profound and heightened my senses further.

It was, in my opinion, the greatest night of 100s of nights filming the Milky Way. I can’t convey in mere words the sense of exhilaration that washed over me. Seeing this image in the camera and having set it up in my mind earlier made it hard to sleep as I wandered back to the car, this being the last image of a fantastic night.

This result is my 2nd attempt at processing this image. I had tried in a 2×1 format (long panorama) earlier and abandoned the effort after 20+ hours. The ground had looked better, but the sky looked stretched and odd. I have been very careful putting this one together because to me it’s my ultimate image of the beauty of White Pocket. It’s now one of my favorites. I hope it will be one of yours.

Specs 48 images (ground shot extra wide to take it all in), Canon 6D, Zeis 55mm f1.6, ISO 8000. Milky Way shifted left for better framing.

Please enjoy, comments as always are welcome.

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Inspiration.

 

nspiration. In June of this year, I wandered over to Bryce Canyon on a clear night. I typically avoid Bryce like the plague as it has long been overrun by noobs of the highest order. Those unaccustomed to sharing the night with those of us that prefer it to be dark.

Trained to use light in the most indiscriminate way. Without asking or even being aware that many of us are gathered here exactly because it is dark. I initially stopped by Sunrise Point to see if by some miracle, it being a Tuesday, there was less than a throng there. No such luck. So I began to check other locations and stumbled across Inspiration Point which only had 4-5 cars parked there. OK 5-6 other people could be workable where 30-40 was not. So I climbed out of Jimmy to go and see the situation. I found one gal by herself struggling with woefully inadequate equipment and a pair of other shooters with a pair of high-intensity LED floodlights shining down on the hoodoos below.

I asked them how long they would be shooting for and they glanced at each other then stared back silently at me. So I asked what they were shooting, timelapse, panorama or what? They said a panorama, to which I asked how many panels and they said four. So I thought ok I’ll give them some time and went to check on the struggling photographer. She was using a camera and lens not suitable for the task at hand. I asked if she had a blank memory card and she said she did.

I went back to Jimmy and got my backpack and a tripod. I headed back up and stopped at the young lady trying to get a photo for her friend’s wedding. I pulled out my backup 6D and a 24mm lens and told her to give me the memory card, inserted it and put the rig on her tripod. She was stunned at the result and hurried tried taking many more images.

Meanwhile about 45 minutes had passed and I walked up to check on the four image panorama to see when it would be done. They said about another hour. I might mention at this point I had been here earlier and had marked a spot very near where they were for my panorama. Not feeling particularly charitable after hearing their reply, I made several comments that could have been interpreted in a way that may or may not have implied I had previously thrown people with flashlights off of cliffs.

So after a couple of minutes of awkward silence, they took their lights and moved to a new location out of my line of sight. It would have been easier just to turn off their lights but apparently they had no desire to do so.

Finally, after nearly two hours of waiting, I was set up. While this had been going on I could see in the distance the spectacle at Sunset Point. Flashlights with incredible intensities were panning the hoodoos and lighting them as bright as daylight out to 1/2 mile away. Flashlights and cars were lighting up the point so brightly I am sure the International Space Station saw it. How utterly sad was that?

I completed the shot then tried another location before giving up for the night. Tuesday had not been the savior I had hoped for.

Also notice the glow of the town of Torrey dead ahead.

Specs: Canon 6D, 42 images 55mm f1.6 ISO 6400.

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The Dusty Scorpion. Messier 78

 

The Dusty Scorpion. This is actually Messier object #78 or for shorthand M78. But in this orientation, it looks to be a Scorpion in my mind. This object is in a straight line from the Orion Nebula to the Horsehead Nebula to M78. It’s in the constellation Orion as you would expect and the red on the right edge is part of Barnard’s Loop which circles half of the constellation.

Here’s a little lesson on the Messier objects for those that haven’t heard the story. Charles Messier put together a list of objects that were not comets but bright in the sky. It was actually a list of stuff not interesting to him. In the oddest of odd twists, his list is all anyone remembers him for, not his comet observations. All 110 objects are named for him with the title Messier X or the abbreviation of MX.

At the Delisle Observatory, Messier became interested in studying comets, looking for Halley’s comet that was theorized to return in 1757. However, some flaws in the calculations of Delisle led him to be the second man to spot it. While he was searching, Messier happened upon other already discovered comets. It turns out that one of these was not a comet at all but a nebula. This nebula came to be one of the most widely known, the Crab Nebula, and to Messier, it became M1, the first entry in his catalog.

Messier became obsessed and driven to find new comets. A new discovery was refused to be published by Delisle, but that only pushed Messier to search more fervently, and finally Delisle gave in to his employee and began to support his observations.
In the 1760s Messier cataloged his second nebula, M2, although it had been previously discovered some time before. After turning his attention to the solar system, he did finally find two new comets: Comet 1763 Messier and Comet 1764 Messier.

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