Night Photography All Year long!

I know so many people who put their cameras away around the end of September when the Milky Way Core dips back below the horizon. Around mid Feb to early March they bring them back out again when the Milky Way core rises up over the horizon in the early hours of the morning right before sunrise. This year on Feb 2nd the core was up and able to be photographed only a few min before the light of dawn came and washed all the stars away.. Was I out there to see and photograph it, yes. For me, personally, it’s very exciting to see that Milky Way core for the first time in a new year. It signals 8 months of great shooting ahead. Do I put my camera away in September when the core dips below the horizon? No! I photograph the night sky all year-long. I love the night sky. Often the cold, Winter nights are some of the clearest and darkest. Here in Colorado where we have very dry air it makes visibility that much better.

I have put together a series of images that span all of 2018 of the night sky. I do night photography all year-long and while this blog post wont include a shot I just recently took, you will see it next year when I do my review of 2019. It was a shot I had wanted for a long time and I was finally able to make happen.

Let’s take a look at some night images in order month by month. I will include the times taken and the dates so you can note the changes you see in the sky as we progress through the year.

January

Orion Over Loveland Pass
Orion Over Loveland Ski Area – Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm @24mm, F/4, 1600 ISO, 10 seconds

Orion over Loveland Ski area in Colorado. Orion is a winter constellation and one of the most easily recognizable in the southern sky. Light fall off from cars and the resort area helped to light up the side of the mountain.  January 14, 2018. 7:45pm

February

11mile
11 Mile – Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art, ISO 6400, F/2, 13 seconds

Eleven Mile Reservoir is becoming a more popular spot for night photographers. It offers nice dark skies for how close it is to Colorado Springs and it also has a very flat horizon. This means that because there are not mountains or tall trees in the way, it’s easy to see the Milky Way Core very early when it rises in February.  The Milky Way is very low on the horizon and makes it very easy to do panoramas between Feb and June. Feb 16th, 2018. 5:51am

March

Smokey Valley Milky Way
Smokey Valley Milky Way – Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 3200, F/2.2, 15 seconds

Late Feb and March are my favorite times to do panoramas of the Milky Way while the galactic core is rising up in the south. This image was shot in Kansas just before sunrise and covers a full 180 degrees from North to South looking due East. March 16th, 2018. 5:52am

Big Dipper over Abandoned House
Big Dipper over Abandoned Home – Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 6400, F/2.5, 10 seconds

The Big Dipper is a constellation we can photograph all year-long here in the Northern Hemisphere. I liked how it was looking over this old, abandoned home in Kansas. I used a Sigma 20mm to try to frame the house and Big Dipper as a tight crop when I probably would have been better off using the Sigma 14mm 1.8 and given myself a little more breathing room up top.  March 17th 2018. 4:31am

April

Delicate Skies Over Moab
Delicate Skies Over Moab – Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art, ISO 5000, F/2.2, 20 seconds

By April we now have quite a bit of time to photograph the Milky Way Core before sunrise. 2-3 hours at least which makes it nice so that you don’t feel rushed. In Feb we have just a few minutes which can make it frustrating if anything goes wrong. April is the beginning of warmer weather for most of us and makes for some enjoyable nights under the skies compared to the sub freezing temps of Jan and Feb. We use Low Level Lighting to illuminate the arch during our Night Photography Workshops April 18th, 2018. 3:15am

Rocky Mountain Sky Candy
Rocky Mountain Sky Candy – Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 6400, F/2.2, 20 seconds

Rocky Mountain National Park is a photographer’s dream. There is so much to shoot both day and night. Critical timing, moon phases and weather all play a factor in getting a shot like this. If you want to photograph the Milky Way over Longs Peak as seen here, planning is key.  After watching the weather, checking the moon phases and my own personal schedule I knew I had one night to shoot this. I called a couple of friends and they were in. We began our hike at midnight to arrive at this viewpoint in time to get set up and do some test shots before the Milky Way was in position. It was cold out, but still a fun night I will remember for the rest of my life. April 22nd, 2018. 3:35am

May

Dark Horse Over Windows with labels
Nikon D810, Sigma 50mm 1.4, ISO 10,000, F/2, 10 seconds
Milky Way Ride1
Nikon D810, Sky – Sigma 50mm 1.4, Foreground 11 min Sigma 20mm 1.4, F/2.5, ISO 64

One of the things we like to do during our workshops is to give a tour of the night sky. Mike uses his laser pointer to point out all the celestial objects in the sky. Here I have labeled a lot of them. It’s interesting to me that the Lagoon Nebula is 600 trillion miles across. Let that sink in for a while! We here on Earth are a very rare moment in time. The fact that humans even exist is a miracle in and of itself. It’s also amazing that we can capture such beauty of the sky with our tiny little cameras and sensors or film. Enjoy the moment cause as they say, “we’re here for a good time, not a long time”  May 14th, 2018. 12:42am

Dead Horse Dreams
Dead Horse Dreams – Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 6400, F/2, 25 seconds

From Dead Horse Point State Park in Moab, Utah we were able to see, from the right side of the Milky Way, Antares, Jupiter and Spica.  May 19th, 2018. 3:28am

June

Mesas Comp
Foreground – Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 64, F/13, 1/100th second – Sky – Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 8000, F/2.5, 10 seconds

Wanting to see a bit more of the lower portion of the Milky Way, I decided to drive from Denver down to New Mexico for a night. My efforts paid off with beautiful clear skies with warm weather. Photographing the Milky Way in the summer is a treat because it’s shorts and tee-shirt weather most all night long. The issue with the warmer weather is that your sensor will heat up faster and produce more noise. Winter is actually better for night photography because the cooler temps keep the sensor cooler and produce less noise. When I arrived at this old church (still in use 2 times a year) I knew I wanted the best image possible. I used PhotoPills to map exactly where the Milky Way was going to come up. I then positioned my camera and shot for the church during sunset at ISO 64.  I then waited until 11pm when the Milky Way was in position and shot 21 back to back shots at ISO 8000 of the sky so I could stack them for noise reduction and blend them with the low ISO church image.  June 4th, 2018. 11:10pm

Old Timer
Old Timer – Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 6400, F/2.5, 10 seconds

Another trip to Kansas to shoot the Milky Way with my friend Jim and his daughter Annie. Jim knew this where this old combine was just sitting in a field. He obtained permission from the property owner so that we could have an evening to shoot he Milky Way. I actually didn’t mind the clouds on both ends of the Milky Way. June 15th, 2018. 11:15pm

July

Crater Lake Twisty Tree
Crater Lake Twisty Tree – Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 6400, F/2.2, 15 seconds

During a 6 week road trip through the Northwest my travels took me to Crater Lake National Park. Actually it was all part of the plan. I wasn’t sure what day I would get here so I really lucked out on this part. The faint clouds you see here on the horizon are actually front of the smoke from the California and southern Oregon wildfires that were burning.  I only shot 1 night at Crater lake and I am thankful that was all I planned. The next few days you couldn’t even see the lake for all the smoke in the sky. I managed to keep at least 1 day ahead of the smoke during my travels in the Northwest. July 19th, 2018. 2:26am

Pacific Nights
Pacific Nights – Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 6400, F/2.2, 13 seconds

One of those rare summer nights when you’re sitting on the couch at 5pm watching the weather and the weatherman tells you to expect clear skies along the coast all night long. Needless to say I wasn’t on the couch for much longer.. I looked outside and sure enough it was crystal clear (normally the marine layer comes in and clouds everything over). I grabbed my gear and made a plan. There were 3 spots I wanted to shoot this night.. Cannon Beach, Happy Camp and Pacific City. Pacific City would be the last stop of the night and I knew I would just meet up with my dad for coffee after this location. I shot the other 2 locations with some clouds and as I got further south the clouds were totally gone. I arrived here about 3am and was totally blown away with how clear it was. I took several shots of slightly different compositions and ended up liking this one the best. Some of them had reflections in the wet sand of the stars. I must have been here for 3 hours just watching and the Milky Way leaned into Haystack Rock and faded away as the daylight came. July 11th, 2018. 5:16am

August

Mountianous Majesty
Purple Mountain Majesty – Mountain – Nikon D810, Sigma 24mm 1.4, ISO 64, F/2.5, 30 min – Sky – Nikon D810, Sigma 50mm 1.4, F/2, ISO 8000, 6 seconds x 20 images.

Finishing up our road trip with an amazing shoot with another friend, Jann, up at Mount Rainier. We had planned this shot several months in advance and being on the very end of our trip I was tired. This was my only chance in August to shoot. I had to make it count. As always I arrived early, scouted, found a good spot and patiently waited. We shot birds, flowers and the mountain before the sun went down. Knowing I had to make this the best it could be I shot a 30 min exposure for the mountain just as it got dark. This allowed me to get the best possible quality. I then waited for the Milky way to get into position and shot 20 images back to back for noise reduction. August 7th, 2018 12:15am

September

Untitled1
Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 6400, F/2.2, 15 seconds. 

September takes us to the beginning of when we start to see Andromeda high in the night sky. It’s also the time when photographing the North end of the Milky Way is much better. Here I am standing in front of Double Arch in Arches National Park while the Milky Way leans over the arch. In this image is Cygnus the Swan, Denab, Andromeda and Cassiopeia as well as the Elephant trunk nebula. By stacking the images of the sky for noise reduction I was able to bring out some of the pink nebula colors that are natural but not seen with the naked eye. You wont see me in many pictures. I am standing here using my Nitecore MH 25 Night Blade light to illuminate the arch. September 12th, 2018. 3:52am

October

Darren at Twin Lakes in the Moonlight
Twin Lakes in the Moonlight – Nikon D810, Sigma 24mm 1.4, ISO 1600, F/2.8, 15 seconds

Sometimes I go out, just to go out and shoot. I’d rather spend my nights under the stars than in a bar. I knew the moon would be coming up and that it would be almost full but that didn’t stop me. I got into night photography by photographing at night when the moon was full. I was amazed at how bright the images were and that they looked like daylight. For those who are just starting out with night photography I highly recommend doing a few shoots at night with a full moon to help get comfortable with not only setting up your camera but also getting the correct exposure. Here you can just barely see the faint stars of the Milky Way over the top of the Mountains. I am standing out in the field again with my Nitecore light on its lowest setting (didn’t do me any good this time) my mistake. I loved the calm pond water which made for a gorgeous reflection. October 19th, 2018. 9:01pm

November

November Lights
November Lights –  Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8, F/2.2, ISO 6400, 25 seconds

While the Milky Way is visible all year-long, this is probably the section that is most left out or forgotten altogether. This is looking East right after sunset in early November. It has Taurus, Starfish cluster, Perseus, Polaris, Double Cluster and Denab. One thing I love about Balanced Rock in Arches National Park is that it offers 360 degree views all year long.  November 1, 2018. 9:09pm

December

Horse Rides
Horse Rides – Nikon D850, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 6400, F/2.5, 5 seconds

Here in Colorado the winter temps get pretty cold in December. That wont stop me from getting out and grabbing a few shots on a clear night. Especially when there is a comet in the sky. That was the case this night when Comet 46p was to make a great appearance. We arrived at this location first before moving into position for the comet which would appear a few hours later. Looking to the west here, Vega steals the spotlight with its bright blue color directly over the old stagecoach. We used Low Level Lighting (think about what your cell phone puts off from its screen) to light the side of the building and a Nitecore LA30 light for the inside of the porch. I really like this location because of the way the Milky Way leans over the mountain and the old building. December 7th, 2018, 6:51pm

Comet 46P over Stagecoach
Comet 46p – Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm for the building, Sigma 85mm for the comet

It was sure exciting to see Comet 46p on my last night shoot of 2018 but I have to admit I would have really loved to see a big tail on this one! I guess there isn’t anything I could do about that.  We used some Low Level Lighting and small tea lights to light the outside and inside of this old building. I used a Sigma 14mm for the foreground and the Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens for the comet and stars. I blended the 2 together just to make the comet a bit bigger than it would have been with the 14mm. I am now looking forward to more night sky events in 2019. December 7th, 2018. 9:29pm

 

Shooting the night sky all year is sure fun and could be seen as a project for some of you to help you get out and shoot more if you need the motivation. While many of you also live in cities or light polluted areas there are often places only a couple of hours away that will give you good viewing of the sky. I like to use Dark Site Finder to help me figure out where I can go and get the best viewing of the night sky. I also like using apps like PhotoPills during the day to plan my shoots at night.

Shooting in the winter months can be challenging for sure. If you are going after the Milky Way core then you are either getting up really early or staying up all night long and that can sure wear a person down after a few days.. Here in Colorado the weather has been super cold at night which can make it hard to be away from your car for an extended period of time. I recommend lots of warm clothes, especially for your hands and feet. Over the last several weeks I have been out shooting and never had less than 5 layers on my top, and 3 layers on my legs. When your fingers get so cold that you can’t press the shutter button on your camera, you know it’s time to get warmed up. It sure is fun though when you get home and see the images you captured.

Be sure to check out Sigma Lenses for all your photography needs

I recommend Nitecore Lights for all your illumination needs.

All prints are available for purchase either directly from me or via my website Darren White Photography

As always, thanks for taking the time to read the blog and I hope you will leave me a message or questions if you have them. I will reply to all comments I get.

 

So Far in 2019…………

I know we are only into the new year by just over a month but I thought it would be fun to share some of my work so far this year. I have been trying to make the most of my free time by getting out and shooting. As a full-time photographer it can be pretty easy to just sit in the house and edit and catch up on social media. While those are parts of the process, the process I really enjoy is being outside and capturing the images. I wont share all my new images, just the parts that will put it all together.

In early January I hosted my annual “Oregon Coast Winter Workshop” in Yachats, Oregon. Our group all had Oceanfront rooms at the amazing Overleaf Lodge and Spa

We were truly blessed with good weather. The few days before the workshop was rainy and right after the workshop the rain came back. We just happened to time it so that the 4 days during the workshop were in between storms.  Needless to say this made the workshop students happy as well as myself. My friend, Chuck Rasco of Chuck Rasco Photography always comes along on these trips with me. After the workshop was over we spent the next 5 days on the southern Oregon Coast between Bandon and Brookings. We had a good and bad weather in both places. Having lived in Oregon most my life, I felt right at home walking along the beaches in the rain. We did some crazy hikes too.

Scale
Seal Rock Sunset, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105

On Saturday night of the workshop I took the group down to the Seal Rock area near Newport, Oregon. Once we parked the cars I could see the clouds in the sky and I had a feeling that the sunset was going to be epic.  I decided to grab just my camera and one lens, my workhorse, Sigma 24-105mm Art to use for some snapshots while helping the students. Right on cue, the sky just began to explode with color. Everyone was going crazy trying to find the best comps. Moving around and making sure they were not in each other’s way, the group really worked well together. Gary Kochel planned a big northwest trip around the workshop and I think it’s easy to say that he was extremely impressed with Oregon. Here is Gary getting an epic shot from his own vantage point.

Moving down the coast after the workshop, we headed directly to Brookings and had plans to stay in Bandon on the way back up. My friend Chuck and his wife Cathy had never really explored the Samuel Boardman State Park area of Oregon. I felt as a good host, I should show them around properly. That means with a few steep hikes that lead to incredible views.

Natural Bridges
Natural Bridges, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105

The first hike was at Natural Bridges. It’s a pretty common spot for good reason, the views are amazing. Not everyone can get down to see the views from here just because it’s pretty steep. This view isn’t too bad to get to but once you go further, down to the red arrow, it gets much steeper. So steep that there is a 50ft section where you need to repel down the hill with a rope…Once we were set up at the red arrow the views were just as good.

Pacific Views
Pacific Views, Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

It was right here when I realized that Chuck wasn’t too keen on heights. The Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art makes this little path look wider than it actually is. Chuck was standing almost right next to me on my right and my left tripod leg is actually off the path, down a little ways being held up by a rock. The top of the arch that we are on is maybe 4ft across. That doesn’t leave much room for error when packing up your gear and turning around to head back up the trail.

Cliffside Views
Cliffside Views, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105, Haida 10 stop ND Filter

It’s fun to shoot the same scene with various lenses. You simply get different results. This was shot from the same place, tripod in the same spot, as the last image but with a Sigma 24-105mm Art at 52mm for 67 seconds with a Haida 10 stop ND Filter

Sunset Storm at Face Rock
Sunset Storm at Face Rock, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105 Art

After powering though a few days of pouring rain in Brookings and filling up on the best breakfasts ever (we ate here 3 days in a row) Mattie’s Pancake House we made our way up the coast to Bandon. Bandon is not an open book by any means. I have been visiting Bandon now for over 10 years, maybe longer and the weather is always interesting. After getting checked into our hotel and picking up some provisions for the evening the rain started. It was windy, blowing sideways and I was thinking that our chance for a sunset was out the window…literally. As it got closer to sunset the rain let up, the sky started to break up with a few holes in the clouds. We made our way across the street to the beach in amazement that our timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The wind was still kicking pretty good so I decided to put the tripod away and shoot handheld with the Sigma 24-105. The OS on this lens is incredible. We were down on the beach for about 2 hours until sunset was finally over. There were no chance of shooting stars that night so we called it a night and began walking back to our hotel… I kid you not, just as we got back to the hotel it started pouring again.

Super Blood Wolf Moon
Super Blood Wolf Moon, Nikon D850, Sigma 20mm 1.4 & Sigma 85mm 1.4

Months ago, I planned a shoot with a friend who was interested in shooting the Blood, Super Wolf Moon on the night of the 20th of January. We used PhotoPills to plan the shoot and know where exactly the moon was going to be at what time when it was eclipsed.  Since I was just getting home from 10 days in Oregon, I didn’t want to travel too far from home. South Valley Park is right behind my house and because we are looking away from Denver the sky is a little darker.  Using these rocks as a foreground subject, we set up, shot the foreground and then waited for the moon to turn red. Because it’s impossible to capture the moon and the foreground all in one shot with the proper exposure, I used 2 shots for this image. The Moon is in the exact location it was when I shot the foreground. I used the Sigma 20mm for the foreground and the 85mm for the moon. A quick blend in Photoshop to bring the two together was all it took to create this image as I saw it with my own eyes.

Since being home from Oregon, I have been jumping all over Colorado searching for fun and interesting photos. If you have been following me for any amount of time, you will know that I am really intrigued by the smaller towns on the Eastern Plains of the state. On a trip out near Matheson, Colorado with my friend, Tony Lazzari we found this beautiful old seed mill.

Manaville Seed
Manaville Seed, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

The light was just coming up over the horizon hitting the metal siding. There were just enough clouds in the sky to make good use of my Haida 10 stop ND Filter and create this really long exposure of 2 minutes. I was able to get the camera low enough so that I was looking up, by doing this I was able to include much more of the sky.

Schoolhouse Spins
Schoolhouse Spins, Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

This old one room schoolhouse sits out in the middle of nowhere. In fact I have only seen a couple pictures of it online. It’s 150 miles from my house. While Bob Coorsen and I were setting up, a truck pulled up and asked where we were from. We told him and then he proceeded to tell us how his grandfather and father both attended school here back in the day. I have searched high and low and I can’t find any information on this school. The mad did say that a few years back he was going to buy it and put a new roof on it but something fell through and he never was able to make the purchase. The school is maybe 15 ft wide by 40 ft long. It’s really small. I used a Nitecore LA30 to illuminate the inside of the school. The image is a blend of 2 shots. keeping the camera in the exact same position I did one long exposure for the star trails and then a short exposure for the points of light stars. I simply used a blending mode in Photoshop and changed the opacity to blend the long exposure with the short exposure so that you can see both in the sky. I masked out the foreground so that only the long exposure for the school shows. This allows me to keep image quality at it’s best.

Train Station Tuesday
Train Station Tuesdays, Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

I don’t venture down into the city too often. After some good snow and a warming up it’s easy to find puddles to shoot unique perspectives. It has been a while since I visited Union Station and I remember that the concrete wasn’t level. This means that pools of water form. With no wind it makes it easy to get some fun shots. Here I had the camera sitting on the ground behind held up by my L-Bracket. Using a Sigma 14mm lens really let me get quite a bit in the shot even though I was so close. The lens is really only an inch or 2 off the ground from the water.

Morning Mass in the fog
Morning Mass in the fog, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

Weather, in my opinion, is the most important factor in photography. It can be a make it or break it kind of thing. It can also give you images you never imagined you would get. Thus being the case here. My plan was to shoot this old church (1913) with the Milky Way rising up in front of it. The way it faces, I would need to shoot it from the backside. I arrived here early afternoon, met with the guy who owns the farm next to it. He was leaving for the day and I told him I would probably be out there shooting all night and that if he saw some lights, not to be alarmed, it would just be me. About 10pm I started shooting. I was doing star trails, shooting Orion, the Big dipper and getting pretty excited for the Milky Way that was going to be coming up around 5am. At 2am I hopped back in my Jeep to warm up and grab a quick nap. When I woke up at 4am I could not see any stars….I was puzzled..I turned my lights on and it was solid fog. I thought to myself, “well, hopefully it will go away in time”.  That was not the case. The fog began to freeze on everything (hoar frost). I soon realized that not only was I not going to shoot the Milky Way, I also wasn’t going to get a sunrise. About 6am it was light enough to get back out and shoot what I could. I actually really enjoyed the fog and the beautiful atmosphere it created. Living in Oregon I saw fog all the time. Since moving to Colorado almost 6 years ago, I rarely see it here…

Corn Stalk Tree Fog Color
Foggy Tree, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

I could have shot scenes like this all day long. If you follow me on either Facebook or Instagram you can see more of these foggy moody images in the near future. They are a nice change of pace from my normal stuff. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed shooting them.

Iced
Iced, Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm Art

Last but not least…Boulder Canyon Falls recently opened back up to the public after being closed off. I am not sure what the reason was or for how long it was closed. I do know that in the 6 years I have lived in Colorado, I had not been to it. Odd because it’s only 31 miles from my house. Tony Lazzari and I decided to go check it out…The falls were half-frozen when we were there and I was able to find some intimate scenes like this that showed both the flowing water and the frozen water. Because the falls are in a canyon, the sun rarely hits on them directly this time of year. Getting a good exposure was very easy due to the flat lighting. The mist from the falls had frozen on the ground but being the cautious person I am, I decided to not get too close and chance falling in. I used my Sigma 24-105mm Art lens at 95mm to get closer to the falls and compose the shot. A shutter speed of only 1/4 second shows both movement and detail in the water while keeping the ice razor-sharp.

This brings all of you up to date on what’s been going on over the last 45 days… I am really trying to get out more, shoot more and just enjoy nature in all aspects that I can. Tonight a friend and I are headed out to find clear dark skies and possibly old abandoned buildings to shoot the stars over.  Give me a follow on social media, leave a comment about this blog as I would love to  hear from you.

What’s next?  I don’t have any set plans for the rest of this month. I’ll just keep and eye out on the weather and go where it takes me. Next month I will be spending 2 nights/3 days at the Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. I am very excited about this and thankful for the opportunity to see the night sky from a different vantage point. I am getting ideas on how and what I want to shoot while I am there and if the weather is good then I will be sharing those images with you as well as doing a separate blog post.

Send me blog post ideas if you have something specific you’d like to hear my thoughts on or a photographic process you’d like to see.

In April we will start our Night Photography Workshops for the 2019 season. We’d love to have you join us. This year we are adding Yellowstone to our list of events and we only have 1 spot left on that workshop.

What images are people buying??

This is a topic that comes up a lot in my circle of photographer friends who sell their work. We often discuss our latest sales, how we got the sales and our frustration with how social media has changed over the years in restricting our reach to our fans and followers. That’s the biggest reason I am writing this as a blog post and not just a post on social media.

I have been selling my work now for over 25 years. I have heard so many reasons why people buy prints/images and in those 25 years it always comes back to the same general reason, connecting with the image. On one level or another, people are more likely to buy images they can connect with. I would like to say that this sounds silly but the fact is, if you look around your home at the art you have hanging, chances are you connect with the art. Maybe you have been there, maybe it’s your own work.  I remember years ago I had a customer call me out of the blue asking to buy one of my Mount Hood images as a large print, she was from Minnesota and I asked her, “what made you decided to purchase that image?” and she said, “when I was in college I lived in Oregon and was on the Ski Patrol team on Mount Hood.”  It was that moment when I realized all the years before and now looking back, all the years after, people tend to buy images they connect with.

Of course, that’s not always the case. I would say it’s easily the case 98% of the time. There are some collectors out there who appreciate beautiful images just for the sake of having a nice statement piece in their home or office.  So without going on and on about this, let’s get to the images.  Below you will see the last 10 images that were purchased from me via my website. This does not include the images purchased via social media channels where I am actually putting the images in front of people. These are the images that people were actively searching for based on their own personal tastes.  Descriptions will be below each image.

Downtown Telluride
Nikon D810, ISO 64, Sigma 24-105 Art at 68mm, F/7.1, 1/500th sec

Downtown Telluride 

While on vacation with my family and doing some work for Madeline Resorts a few years ago, we decided to walk around downtown Telluride. We visited some coffee shops and an amazing bakery with warm fresh doughnuts. As we were walking back to the car I asked the family to stand on the corner and I would take their picture with this gorgeous view in the background. After taking their picture I stepped out into the street a little further and snapped this photograph. This image sat on my hard drive for a couple of years until one day I got a call from a guy asking about images of Telluride. He was building a vacation home and wanted some images of the local scenery.  I went back into my archives to pull this one up and make it ready for print. Once I uploaded it to my website, the first sale from this image came almost instantaneously. I was shocked because I hadn’t even sent the guy the link.  This image has sold 2 times in the last week and many more times before that. Had it not been for the guy calling me asking about Telluride, I don’t think I would have ever put this on my website.

Mayflower Milkyway
Foreground – Nikon D810, ISO 100, F/8, 1/50th sec, Sigma 24-105 Art at 32mm – Sky – 3200 ISO, F/2.8, 20 seconds

Mayflower Milky Way

Near Leadville, Colorado, Mayflower Gulch is a popular hiking spot in the summer and just as popular in the winter for snowshoeing. This image was made in the summer after my first winter hike. I was really impressed with this area and knew I wanted to come back for another, but not my last, visit.  Having been here at night on my first trip and knowing the direction of the Milky Way from this vantage point helped me create this image that is of a real scene. I used a sunrise image for the foreground and then blended in the Milky Way into its actual position to create this final image. This is the first cabin you come to once you are out of the trees. The area opens up into this gorgeous valley below these peaks. The mountain you see here is Fletcher Mountain.

Sunrise over Nubble Light
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105 Art at 24mm, ISO 100, F/7.1, 30 seconds

Sunrise over Nubble Light

Located in York, ME, this popular location provides a beautiful view of the Nubble lighthouse out on its own island. During my trip to Maine in November 2015 I drove all along the coast up to Lubec which borders Canada. I truly enjoyed my time seeing the eastern coastline and all the lighthouses. The Nubble Lighthouse you see here was where I saw most people spend the most time. People were sitting on the rocks enjoying food and drinks while they also enjoyed the views. It was easy to see that this was a place people connected with. Being from the Oregon Coast, I love to watch the waves come in and out as they hit up against the rocks. I tried to shoot the night sky here but there were too many clouds so I just decided to wait till sunrise. My patience and lack of sleep paid off big time with this image.  As soon as I shot this image I knew it would be one for my website. I used a longer exposure to smooth out the water. Had the water been calm I would have used a shorter shutter speed to get the reflection of the sky in the water.

Multnomah Morning
Canon 5DMK2, ISO 800, F/8, 0.8 seconds, 17-40mm at 24mm

Multnomah Morning

By far, Oregon’s most popular waterfall. Multnomah Falls attracts over 2 million visitors a year from all over the planet. It’s a stunning place to visit no matter how many times you have been.  When I lived in Washington it was exactly a 43 minute drive in the morning without traffic. Often times I would get up early, drive there and wait in the parking lot till either I saw the first bit of light or the first person. I would then grab my gear and walk up to the falls. People often ask me how I get the images without the people on the bridge and the answer is simple, I’m the first one there. Being the first one there will give you a better chance at a great shot than being the last one there. With as popular as this place is, it’s no wonder that this image has been a good seller for me over the years. It’s a place so many people have been, but not many have been there without other people.

Denver Sunrise Pre Thanksgiving
Nikon D810, ISO 64, F/6.3, 30 seconds, Sigma 24-105 at 95mm

Denver Skyline Sunrise

Iconic view of the sunrise from Diamond Hill in Denver. This was Thanksgiving morning 2015. The photo is made up of several vertical images stitched together in Photoshop to create a very large panorama. The golden light of the city and the sunlit clouds behind the city have helped to make this a fairly popular image. Like most skyline images, this one does well with buyers from the Denver area or those who are from Colorado. It’s a very large image that can be printed over 9ft long if needed. This makes it great for offices with large conference rooms.

Saint Malo Nights
Canon 5DMK2, ISO 1600, F/2.2, 30 Seconds, 50mm

St. Malo Nights

Saint Malo or Chapel on the Rock is located about 20 miles south of Estes Park, Colorado, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Pope John Paul II visited in 1993. The Chapel was built-in the 1930s. I don’t know who the buyers were for this image but I would love to talk to them and hear why they purchased a nice 40″ wide metal print. My guess would be they have visited Estes Park or they have a connection to the Denver Archdiocese.

tree-fire
Canon 5DMK2, ISO 200, F/13, 1.3 seconds, 17-40mm at 17mm, Circ Pol filter

Tree Fire

Easily my most popular image, the famous maple tree in the Portland Japanese gardens, that I shot many years ago. Before I ever had a website this image was extremely popular with my followers on social media. I arrived early one morning in the pouring rain and there were 2 other people in front of me to shoot. They were both shooting while it was raining but just as they finished the rain let up and I was able to get a few shots without any water on my lens. This little tree is roughly only 6ft tall and ideally to get a shot similar to this you need to have your camera pointing in an upward direction. In the larger sized prints you can actually see the water drops still on some of the leaves.

2012-sedona
Canon 5DMK2, ISO 50, F/10, 1 second, 17-40mm at 17mm

Classic Sedona

Sedona, Arizona is well-known for its gorgeous red rocks. This is Red Rocks Crossing, a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. Having not been here before, I decided to arrive early for sunset. Upon arrival I found about 100 people lounging creek side, playing in the water and I knew I was going to have to get creative with my edits to remove the people from the images. About 30min before the sunset all the people left. It was like magic. I looked around to find I was the only one there. I had the whole place to myself. I took advantage of the solitude and was able to work some nice compositions with the flow of the water. This image came to be after I had a customer ask if I had any monochrome images from Sedona, otherwise this would have only been in color.

The Rising
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105 Art at 68mm, ISO 64, F/13, 1/250th second

The Rising

Early morning at Chatfield Lake State Park in Colorado. Outside temp was -9. What you can’t see in this image is the small pond of water just below the tree. The fog was lifting off the water as the sun came up. I tried to get down low enough for a reflection but that totally changed the position of the sun and fog. If I wanted the sun and rays to be shooting out from the tree I had to shoot from right here.

Oregon Coastal Mist
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm at 48mm, ISO 64, F/13, 1/15th second

Oregon Coast Mist

One of the beautiful overlooks from the north Oregon Coast. I loved the fog as the sunlight was hitting it. You can find this vantage point near the Octopus Tree on the opposite side the Cape Meares Lighthouse. I love being here both early in the morning and late afternoon. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has been to the Oregon coast has or will fall in love with it.  It’s a soul cleansing experience no matter what the weather is doing.  I grew up 8 miles from this spot and I have seen the best and worst weather. No matter the weather I always enjoy my time near the Ocean.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I know I don’t post often but I will continue to post when I have things I feel are worth reading. If you wish to purchase any of these or other images just simply click the titles to be directed to my website.

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Often times as photographers we are our own worst critics. Of the hundreds of photographers I have talked to, it’s extremely rare that the images that are purchased from them are their favorite images. As photographers we simply see things differently, we know the amount of work that goes into making and image. I always love to see what others want to hang in their home and offices around the world and I thought these last 10 images that sold was a pretty good mix.

Please take a moment and subscribe to my blog so you are sure not to miss my top 10 of 2018 coming at the end of the month.

I wish you all an amazing holiday season!

 

Compositing for Print Quality

We live in a world that is fast moving in both our daily lives and advances in photographic techniques. When I first started night photography I had 2 choices.

  • Shoot slow film and end up with star trails with no grain
  • Shoot fast film and get points of light stars with lots of grain

Now, with digital cameras, we can shoot both on one media card. Digital cameras have come a long way in recent years and you can get great night images in a single shot compared to even 5-7 yrs ago. Even with advances in camera sensors and processing, a single image still will produce noise which shows up when you try to print.

We have come up with some great ways to reduce noise in single images as well as using multiple images in a stacking process, but neither of these techniques yield the results that compositing can achieve.  I am not talking about creating fake scenes or fantasy worlds. I am, for now, simply talking about lining up a great scene using one of the many apps out there like TPE, Stellarium, or PhotoPills to create real images of real scenes that you can see with your own eyes…

Why do this?  Why go to all the trouble of planning, shooting, processing and compositing?  It takes time. I don’t want to sit on a computer all day. I wanna go shoot. So why do this….. The answer is simple… Print Quality is amazing, the light is better and the wow factor will blow your friends mind…  In all honesty, we all love when people ohh and ahh over our images…but for me, the real answer is the print quality. Being able to produce a great night image of the Milky Way in one my favorite places and print it up to 60″ wide or tall with hardly any visible noise is amazing!  Below I will show you the differences and the final results of single images, stacked images and a composite image.

Let’s begin. When I arrived in Badlands National Park I began using my apps to help line up great compositions where the Milky Way would be over some of the rock formations.  This is the Cedar Pass area. This image shows you exactly how the Milky Way looked just after the moon went down and the skies got dark. This is a SINGLE exposure of the night sky.

Single Resize

Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4 F2.0, 20 seconds at 3200 ISO

The image below is a 100% crop from the image above. No editing. You can see that this is showing some noise..Not too bad but enough I wouldn’t want to print over 18″ long

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This next image shows you the same image using 9 images to stack for noise reduction. I would show you the full image as well but because these are sized down images for the blog it wouldn’t really do any good.. So these 100% crops should tell you what you need to know. Now you can see the noise is reduced. When using image sequences to reduce noise an easy to factor in how much it will affect the image is by using square roots.. For example if you use 9 images you will get a factor of 3x noise reduction. If you use 16 images you will get a factor of 4x noise reduction. You don’t have to use exact numbers but I find it easier to figure the final outcome… If you are shooting at 3200 ISO and use 9 images for a NR factor of 3 you are now essentially creating an image with the noise of 800 ISO. If you were to use 16 images you would then be creating an image with the noise of a 400 ISO single image.. There are some limits but these are great factors to work with and the reduction in noise is quite nice. This kind of quality would allow me to print up to 30″ wide or tall with little noise.

100cropstack

 

I want the BEST print quality possible…I don’t want to see noise in my night images… I want highly detailed, fantastic light, true color (yes the stars have their own colors) big printable images and this is where compositing comes in.

You arrive at your location, you line up your shot, check your tripod legs (I used to have a faulty one that would collapse on its own free will during my long exposures) and wait till that foreground light is just right. Yes, I am talking about shooting your foreground image at sunrise or sunset for the best possible light, lowest ISO for the absolute best print quality.  Now, depending on how long after you shoot does the Milky Way rise you can either leave your camera set up in the exact same spot..or, as I would do, pack it up, take a nap, then set it up once the Milky Way rises into the correct position.

Once the Milky Way is up you will now want to shoot a sequence of images, I like 16 images, 20 seconds, back to back. I just set my camera to continuous mode, press the shutter release and lock it.. I don’t use a timer or mirror lock up because I want the time between each image to be as short as possible. This helps the stacking software align the stars more precisely.  Let’s take a closer look at what just 9 images does when stacking for noise reduction in the night sky.  On the left you see a cleaner image while on the right you see a pretty noisy image. The image on the left is made of 9 separate images.  If you look right in the middle you can see the difference the most

_DSC3829 copy

So now we have our beautiful foreground that was shot at ISO 64 and our stacked sky image that was shot at 3200 ISO with a noise level of ISO800 and now it’s time to make the magic happen. What I do is select the sky in the foreground image and delete it. I then bring my stacked sky into my foreground image and place it exactly where it should be. Remember, we are creating really scenes…not something that people will search their entire lives for a never find. Once I have my stacked sky in my foreground image I then edit them separately using layers and layer masks to make sure they work well together. This is a very important part of combining 2 images into 1.  I have seen so many images where people simply remove a sky and replace it but they don’t do anything with the foreground and it just looks like they pasted one on the other..I take much more pride in my work and make sure that it looks like one seamless image. Let’s take a look at what our starting point is for each of our images. The image on the left is the stacked image for the sky and the image on the left is the foreground image I will use… Now you will see the position of the Milky Way…

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Once again thank you PhotoPills for the amazing software and letting us be able to line up our perfect shots..  After combining the 2 images, doing basic edits on both layers to seamlessly blend them together I ended up with what I like to call my Pre Edit.  I have cropped, adjusted color, contrast and added a little depth to the image. While this may look drastic to some, it’s really very minor in terms of post processing abilities.

Pre Edit

Pre Edit 100 crop1

I then take my image into Nik Software Color Efex Pro for final adjustments using

  • Warmth/Brilliance
  • Classic Soft Focus
  • Lighten/darken center
  • Contrast Only

Once these adjustments are made I go back into Photoshop to create my master file, web file and print file. Before we take a look at the final image lets take a look at all 3 steps again side by side.

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Again we are doing all this work for the ultimate print quality. Printing big is something I take to heart and I want to make sure that you, as a client or customer, get the best quality possible. and Now let’s take a look at the final image. This is an image I would be happy to print without any hesitation whatsoever. It’s a real scene, anyone can see it on the right day of the year, you can get your own shot of this by only walking 10 feet from your car..I am not sending you on a wild goose chase.. One of the reasons I do photography is to inspire others to get outside and see the beautiful world we live in.

Final Resize

If you really take pride in your work, take the time to make sure your images are the best they can be. Cameras are only so good and while they produce amazing daytime images they can be lacking for nighttime images. We (most night photographers) make use of the software that is out there that allows us to go above and beyond the limitations of our cameras.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have or photography items you would like to discuss. I am attaching a contact form below.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, you can find out more about my work and our night photography workshops when you visit

 

 

Shooting With Film Again

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1991 – High School

Good times for sure. Lots of friends, no internet so we had to talk to each other to communicate. My sophomore year I joined the yearbook and newspaper teams as a photographer. I spent a good portion of my days in the darkroom filling orders for the copy teams, developing film and making prints. I loved it. I got to work on my own or with 1 other person and didn’t have anyone telling me what to do.. As I look back on it now, I really consider it my first job. I was in charge of the darkroom by my senior year.  I made sure things ran smoothly and that prints and images were ready to go on time. We had deadlines to meet.

I graduated HS in 1993 and began college. I entered some images into our local County Fair and took first place in all the categories I had entered. After arriving back home from a trip to Montana my mom told me that the owner of our 1 hr film lab wanted to talk to me about a job. I was very excited…I had wanted this job for a while but was turned down about 6 months earlier. When I asked my mom why he wanted to talk to me now, she said that he saw my work at the fair.

I went to work at the photo lab for about 3 years  saving all my money and I was finally able to purchase my first Pro camera (Nikon F4s).  While working there I was also doing some sports photography for our local newspaper that just happened to be across the street. I did that for about a year. My real love was photography for me, for my soul, not working for someone else. The money and benefits weren’t good enough at those jobs so I had to grow up and get a real job…..with benefits. Photography kind of went by the wayside for many years…

In that time digital cameras had hit the market in a big way and changed photography. I jumped on that bandwagon and am still riding it today. I love photography in general. Digital is great, fast paced and fairly simply given my background with film. I was no computer wizard so that was the tough part of the learning curve.. Film went bye bye, I wasn’t working in a darkroom or making prints anymore. I felt as though something was missing from my life. The years went on, I moved a few times, had a few more real jobs, got married and had a child…

2016 – 41 yrs old and I’ll be dammed if I can’t do what I want when I want…

I want to shoot film again, I want to make pictures and I want to develop my own film – I knew this would not happen overnight. First, after deciding that I wanted to shoot film again I also knew that I wanted to shoot Medium Format as well as 35mm.

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Choosing a Medium Format camera that I felt was a good fit for me took a little while. I did not want a fixer upper but I also did not want to spend an arm and a leg – remember I have a family.  I finally decided on the Mamiya C330f – Twin Lens Reflex. It shoots 120mm film and each negative is 6cm x 6cm which is quite a bit larger than 35mm. I had never shot medium format before as well as I had never shot a camera that did not have a light meter built in. Now with a camera and some film I am ready to go.  I get out there and all set up and now I am not sure how to meter the scene. Good thing I had my Nikon D810 with me. I set all the settings the same and used it to meter the scene. This worked pretty well  but if I am going to be honest it was a bit of a hassle to have another camera just for that.. A month ago I purchased a handheld light meter that does a great job. Sekonic 308 because it was small, decent price and offered both indecent and reflective light metering.

After having a few rolls of exposed film I needed to get them developed and since I did not have the proper chemicals at my house I took them to Englewood Camera to be developed. I have created a nice working relationship with the employees there and they have always done a great job with my work.

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Now that I had some processed film and paper to print on, I was ready to get back into the darkroom and start making prints. Well there are not many darkrooms left that don’t want either an arm or a leg or for you to bring all your own stuff i.e chemicals. After a little research I found a place up in Boulder, Colorado that offers darkroom rentals for a very reasonable price. I rent it for 3hrs at a time and this allows me enough time to get a fair amount of work done.

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With the camera, film, a lab to process the film and a place to make prints I am pretty well set up to begin producing my own prints again. Over the last year since acquiring the camera I have had a lot of fun buying new films, light meter and chemicals so that in the very near future I will be doing all my own developing at home. I am not sure I will ever have a place where I can make prints at home and I am OK with that. I am simply very happy I have all the tools in place to begin this journey again.

Last week I took advantage of an expired film sale that Englewood Camera had. Some of the film has been expired for almost 40 years. I just shot a roll of black and white the other day that was expired 18 years ago and after getting it developed it looked really good…no light leaks or fogging. I will be printing from those negatives tomorrow.

 

So by now you may be asking yourself, “Why is he shooting film again?” and the answer is very simply. It slows me down, makes me think and let’s me appreciate what I am shooting/doing. From setting up the camera, getting a good focus, checking the light, taking the image, getting the roll developed and then choosing the best image to print can be a time consuming process. The center print above of Yosemite Falls was taken last summer while on vacation with my daughter. Starting next week I will be doing some scans of the images and while I plan on doing scans to post online. I am not going to do any prints from the digital scans unless I get an order for one that is bigger than I can print myself.

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As of right now I can print up to 16×24 directly from the negatives. If I were to do a drum scan of the negative then the native print size at 300dpi would be 60×60 inches.  Yes, that is the power of shooting Medium Format film. In digital terms that would mean your file would have to be 18,000×18,000.  As soon as our living room is done being painted I will be printing an image 36×117 inches that is a panorama from my digital camera. The file size is 24089×7379.

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For me personally, this is something I loved to do as a kid and something I want to enjoy again. The images that I produce wont be available to the masses. Not everyone will have one and more than likely not more that 10 prints will ever be made from the same negative. From start to finish I will have my hand on the process the entire way. The images that I create on film will not be the grand landscapes you see from me today. I will be shooting people, cityscapes, close ups, abstracts, patterns, textures, shallow DOF ect…. I love shooting landscapes, big, colorful landscapes and now I want to incorporate images that tell more of a story and really make the viewer think about what they are looking at or the story that goes with the image.

I hope this gives you a little insight on what is coming up for me in the very near future. Do I plan to give up digital?, No. Just planning on shooting more film along the way.

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Be sure to contact me directly if you have any questions or just want to talk about photography. You can also find me on the interwebs, FB, IG, and TW..

2016 – A Year In Review

It feels good to sit down with a little free time and finally write this blog. As bad as I wanted to write this before I left for my trip on Dec 21st, 2016 and just get it out-of-the-way, I am glad I waited. One of my favorite images of the year was captured on New Years Eve in Bandon, Oregon. Taking 2 weeks away from the chaos of the holidays was the perfect way to end the year and cleanse my mind. I spent my time along the Oregon Coast and the weather was really nice for December.

I am doing this a bit different from most other photographers. Many photographers simply pick their favorite images of the year. I am going to share with you 2 images from each month. That being said, obviously some will be much better than others simply because there are certain months of the year when I don’t do as much in the field.

January – Starting the year off with a bang broncos-win-afc-championship-game-20161

Holy Cow! If you were a Denver Bronco Fan then your year started off pretty dang good when they beat Tom Brady and the Patriots to win the AFC Championship and head to the Super Bowl. I had 2 options. Buy a ticket to the game and get a shot from the inside or find this vantage point and hope they won. Including myself there were only 3 photographers who had this view and only 1 other photographer who got a shot similar to this. We were on the overpass (in a pedestrian walk area) getting live updates from our phones so that we could time our shooting so we did not miss the fireworks. The fireworks only lasted a couple of seconds and they were gone. Given all the back story to this image, this is a once in a lifetime shot. Peyton Manning’s last game in this stadium. The last time he would ever play against Tom Brady. Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @82mm, 64 ISO, F16, 1/4th second. Multiple images at these settings combined to make the final image.

rustic-winter-morning

Steamboat, Colorado is such a beautiful small place. I had been wanting to photograph this old historic barn/cabin for several years and the right conditions never presented themselves when I could go. After learning about a massive snowfall and then a day of clearing, I took my chances, I arrived in the middle of the night and simply waited for this light. Sunrise this morning was a bust, it was very foggy. After a couple of hours the sun had come up and the fog had lifted. I feel blessed to have shot this with no footprints or any signs of people. What drew me to this particular image was the shadows and lines in the snow. I also loved how the wood grain of the barn contrasted so nicely as the sun was hitting it. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @62mm, F9, 64 ISO,  1/250th second.

February balanced-rock-mono

Balanced Rock is an iconic location in Colorado’s “Garden of the Gods”.  From the parking area the rock really doesn’t look like it’s going to tip over because the base seems so much larger. I was set on trying to find an angle and vantage point that was a bit more dramatic. Something that would really give the viewer the illusion that it was ready to fall at any moment. Even walking around while standing up was different from getting low to the ground, as I did in this shot. I used the widest lens I had, got very close to the ground and shot the image looking up. I waited for a few minutes until the clouds were right over the rock to add a bit more drama to the overall image.  Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, F11, 64 ISO, 1/20th second.

sunrise-trees

No scene is ever the same twice. This is 100% true when speaking about landscape photography. If you see something you like, you better shoot it now because it will be totally different when you come back. I was actually on my way to another location when I was driving into Chatfield Lake State Park near my home here in Colorado. I saw the sky blowing up with color through the trees and I had to stop and get this shot. It took a moment to compose it to my liking and while this image doesn’t have a huge impact at this smaller size. Imagine it as a very large print in the 50×50 inch range. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105, F5.6, 200 ISO, 1/160th second

Marchoregon-storms

A typical, classic overcast day along the Oregon Coast. I had spent most of the morning hiking around the various areas of Cape Meares and I could see a big storm rolling in out over the ocean. As I made my way back up the trail I found this scene with the layered clouds and seas that were just starting to get rough. The color version looks black and white with very little contrast. I decided to just go with the Monochrome on this one and bring out the drama I was seeing with my own eyes when I shot the image. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @68mm, 64 ISO, F8, 1/80th second

sunset-circle

Ahhh, those springtime sunsets. The ponds have thawed, there are still some clouds in the sky and the colors are so unique. When I was walking around the pond I couldn’t quite find the comp I was looking for so I decided to do a panorama image of the entire scene. My results fascinated me. I never expected the land to be perfectly level with the clouds forming a circle in the sky and reflection. I believe this is a 5 shot vertical pano covering 180 degrees as I am looking north. The clouds were the reason I decided to pick this image. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @24mm, 100 ISO, F8, 1/2 second.

April

rainbow-from-red-rocks

I live 11 miles from Red Rocks and when I am home and there are no concerts going on this makes a nice vantage point to get above the city. I could see these clouds building up and was actually going up there for sunset. The weather in Colorado is crazy, don’t let anyone tell you different. As the sun began to set behind us and this cloud started pouring down rain, this gorgeous rainbow appeared. This lasted for about 3-4 minutes before the clouds behind us got dark and angry. We barely had time to get to the car before the lightning was striking all around us and hail was pounding the ground.  Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105, 64 ISO, F8, 1/320th second.

milky-way-rainbow

The Milky Way Rainbow over the Paint Mines near Calhan, Colorado. Away from the town of Colorado Springs far enough to take advantage of some really dark skies is a beautiful place known as the Paint Mines.  We timed this image so that we could get the full moon rising a couple of hours before sunrise. This image showcases a few different things. A full 180 degree Milky Way. Roughly 8 images were used for the panorama sequence. The full moon rising under the Milky Way, the Milky Way bubble with the Lagoon Nebula and a very very rare siting of Comet 252p/linear. I am not sure if you can see that on this image but during April many photographers were noticing a small green dot in their night images. After doing a little research I found out that it was indeed a comet. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm – 3200 ISO, F2.8, 30 seconds.

Mayblack-ponds-1

During one of our workshops in Grand Teton National Park. While our Night Photography Workshops focus on shooting the night sky, we also like to allow our students to take advantage of sunset conditions when they present themselves. We could see this forming for miles. We arrived at this location with our students and it was fun to watch them all scatter and find a good vantage point. Mike stayed up top with some of the students and I went down along the creek with the rest and then the sky just started lighting up and put on a show for about 30 min. It was one of the most incredible sunsets I had ever seen. When we all gathered back at the cars we were all just speechless. It was a great bonus for our students to get to see such an amazing sight in such an amazing place. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @35mm, 64 ISO, F8, 1/15th second.

my-million-star-hotel

I’m not sure there is a better place to get a good nights rest. This particular night I went out with 2 other photographers down to 11 mile reservoir west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. We knew our timing was perfect for the milky way shots we wanted to get. One of my friends decided to bring his yellow tent. Towards the end of the night we decided it was time to set it up. The Milky Way was in the perfect location in the sky for the shots we wanted.  Many people will argue that this is a composite image or multiple image blend but I can assure you this is a single exposure. We used some creative lighting techniques to properly illuminate the tent from the inside and the longer, blurry stars in the water are simply from the water moving a little bit during the exposure. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24mm 1.4, F2.2, 1600 ISO, 30 seconds.

Junebleeding-light

Vacation time with my daughter. We set out on a 6 week road trip, traveling through many states and national parks. We left our home in Denver and drove straight through to Yosemite NP in California. Crazy I know. It was her idea. I will openly admit I had never been here before and I had not planned out any places to shoot. I wanted to experience it with fresh eyes and no set images I wanted.  We car camped up at Glacier Point that night and what a great experience that was for her. My daughter loves car camping. It was a crystal clear night, billions of stars to see. The next day we wandered around the park in the early hours after sunrise and I found this scene. I loved the way the light was beaming down behind the rocks yet in the middle of the scene. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @90mm, F7.1, 64 ISO, 1/320th second.

coastal-clover-sunset

As much as I love the Oregon Coast all year-long, there is one thing that makes Summer that much more special. The clover blooms along the beach. When you book a room at either the Overleaf Lodge and Spa or Fireside Motel these blooms are right our your front door on the beach. I happened to be here at peak season and they were beautiful . There was a very thin haze in the sky which made for a very colorful sunset in spite of the fact that there were no clouds. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @52mm, 200 ISO, F13, 1/80th second

Julydelicate-explosion1

Delicate Arch, Moab, Utah, Arches National Park with the Milky Way bursting out from behind. I had tried this shot on many occasions and was bound and determined to get it right. I knew it could not be done with 1 image so I started looking around for software programs that would zoom the stars for you. I didn’t find any that I thought gave good results. One night while out shooting I decided to use my zoom lens and do a longer exposure while zooming the lens. It worked. It took me a few tries to get it like I wanted but in the end I had the stars just how I wanted. I knew I could then shoot the arch and blend to the 2 together. For those of you who have been up to Delicate arch in the summer, you know the Milky Way does appear right behind the arch. It’s quite a sight to experience. I was happy to be able to make my vision come to life with this image. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-35 @35mm, F2, 3200 ISO, 20 seconds

colorado-morning

Rocky Mountain National Park, 90 miles from my home. This particular morning I was scouting for Elk in the meadow and I noticed these clouds forming over the mountain. I walked along the stream to find a decent comp where I could include the foreground rocks under the water. A short exposure freezing the water would not allow the viewer to see the rocks. By using a slightly longer shutter speed the water moved over the rocks during the exposure and allowing them to be visible. When I took this shot I remember thinking how nice it was the way the clouds expanded from the mountain covering the entire sky of my frame. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, F18, 31 ISO,  0.8 seconds.

Augustkolors-of-kansas

August was the month I fell in love with Kansas all over again. I used to visit all the time as a kid. We had (have) family that live there. I remember big hail storms in the summer and everyone running for cover. Broken windows, dented cars, ect… I met Barbara Mandrell in Kansas back in the early 80’s. Family got older, we quit going to the reunions and time passed. Then one day while scrolling through the internet I found this picture of an arch. An arch I had never seen before. When I found out it was in Kansas and only a 5 hr drive…I took off. Not knowing what to expect I figured I would get out there, see it and then turn around and come home. Quite the opposite. While the area is rather small and there are only 2 rock formations on the property, you can walk around all of them to get different views and angles, depending on what the weather is doing. I went out there twice  for a couple of days at a time and there was never a dull moment. massive thunder and lighting storms all night and epic sunrise and sunsets in the morning and evening.  This particular image was taken just as the sun was setting and these monster clouds were building. I kid you not. An hour after I shot this, we had major lighting bolts 366 degrees all around us. It was amazing. I left the person in here to give the area a sense of scale. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, F15, 64 ISO, 1/2 second.

milky-way-monsoon

And then it happened. This cloud produced serious lighting all night long. While most of it was internal it still lit up the cloud very nicely. Again, this is a single exposure image. There are a few areas of the clouds that look like they are layered and the reason that it looks that way is because the lightning was going off multiple times during the exposure so the clouds were in very slightly different positions, therefore, showing the movement of the clouds. This was only the second time in my life where I had a chance to witness a storm cloud and lighting with the clear sky above. The previous time was up in RMNP and I was already at 11k feet. This image in Kansas was taken at sea level. Exif Data – Nikon D810 –Sigma 24-35 @24mm, F2.2, 1600 ISO, 30 seconds.

Septemberwindow-to-the-heavens

Mike and I plan our workshops roughly 9 months in advance. After looking at the dates for our final Arches workshop in 2016 I began to do a bit of research. I had been to this location several times for sunrise or sunset and even one time at night by myself. None of the images I go turned out like this. This was the image I wanted. I had been dreaming of this image for about 3 years. I quickly checked the position of the Milky Way and knew it would be lined up perfectly. I knew with both instructors we would have enough light panels to properly light each of the areas of the arches. We made the suggestion to our students on what was a crystal clear night and they jumped at the chance to do this. We had 2 students from Austria who were very excited about this location and were asking me about it even before the workshop started. Working together with other people to create an image that is rarely seen sure is a nice treat. Mike worked with one group of students back at Turret Arch and I worked with another group at this location. By using walkie talkies we were able to do test shots until we got the lights in just the right spot. We let after my group got their shots, we let the groups switch locations so that everyone who wanted a chance to shoot this got it. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-35 @35mm, F2, 3200 ISO, 25 seconds.

oxbows-autumn

Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, Wyoming. Mount Moran reflecting in the very calm Snake river as the fall colors line the banks. When shooting this location ( and I have many times ) it’s amazing how just a few steps this way or that way can really make a difference in your composition based on the way you’re facing the mountains. We generally schedule our final workshop of the year in Grand Teton National Park. We are able to take advantage of the late summer Milky Way as well as the fall colors. When we have ambitious students like we normally do, it’s not uncommon to show up at class in the afternoon and hear how awesome their day was shooting the sunrise. We really like that they can take advantage of the other wonderful scenery as well as the gorgeous night sky. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105mm, F5.6, 64 ISO, 1/250th second.

Octobercrystal-mill-fall-sunrise

I have a 4×4 Jeep but it’s not really suited for the kind of driving needed to get up to the infamous Crystal Mill near Crystal, Colorado. So, when a group of friends asks you to go along for a weekend of shooting and camaraderie up in the mountains, you don’t say no. Even better was the fact that we were going during the fall colors and we had a cabin right across the street. I had seen a billion shots of this mill and knew I wanted something at least slightly different for my own. Anyone who has been here knows that it’s a pretty cramped location. You can just pull out a 35mm lens when you’re down near the water and get the whole scene in the shot… I mean that mill is right there in front of you looking down on you.  I used the widest lens I had at the time and did a sequence of about 7 shots to get this more than 180 degree pano and still include the entire stream and the sky. I had to leave a day early  and when I left there was a nice storm blowing in and the next day all the fall color was gone and the trees were bare. Hearing that made me even more glad that we arrived when we did and not put it off till the following weekend. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Rok 14mm, 7 images, F22, 64 ISO, 1/20th second.

pumpkin-spiced-aspens

After getting back down to my Jeep I knew I had the whole day ahead of me. I wasn’t in a rush to get home. I took my time wandering around Colorado and enjoying the fall colors. We stopped in Crested Butte and had lunch at Secret Stash Pizza. So good. Highly recommended when you’re in Crested Butte, CO. After some pizza I continued on my way home, again not in a hurry. I was getting close to Buena Vista when I saw a sign for Cottonwood Lake. I had never been there before and decided to drive down the road to see what I could find. Well, let me tell you, that entire area is great for fall colors. As I was looking for a nice grove of Aspens I also knew I wanted some color mixed in. By this time the sun was getting low on the horizon and the road, which is pretty much just a canopy of Aspen trees wasn’t letting much light in. I was almost to the end and I looked to my left and saw these nice Aspens with some nice colors mixed in. I quickly  grabbed my camera and took 2 shots before the light totally changed the entire scene. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105mm, F7.1, 200 ISO, 1/40th second.

Novembertree-trunks-in-the-sunset-light

One of the things I always tell people is that the light is never the same twice. Even if it looks close, it’s not. Your camera will read it differently each time. These trees are generally pretty ugly and not much to look at. I walk around this pond where they are located often, usually not seeing much to shoot. This particular evening happened to be different. The light was low and soft. Some fall color still remained and the way the light was hitting the grasses really struck a chord with me. I carefully composed the image with the trees offset so that nothing was centered. I wanted the viewer to be able to look around in the image yet not go out of the frame. By keeping a tree on each side I feel I accomplished this. I also liked the layers this image offered. From the golden grasses to the reds and then back to the sunlight coming in from the top. I felt as though there was just enough depth to make it work. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 105macro, F2.8, 64 ISO, 1/50th second.

hallett-nights

Hallett Peak from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Yes, I like to shoot at night when it’s cold. Not only do the skies seem clearer but the cool temps also keep your sensor from heating up too quick and adding excess noise to your images. This image was actually shot as we were leaving. We had been shooting from the other side as the moon was rising and lighting up another mountain. As we were leaving I noticed the partially frozen lake and thought that might make a nice foreground in addition to the stars in the sky. As you can see here this is a late in the year Milky Way image. The Milky Way has already flipped over and is now leaning  slightly to the north.  Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-35 @35mm, F2, 3200 ISO, 30 seconds.

Decemberpolar-express

The Polar Express – Durango, Colorado. This gorgeous steam engine is historic yet well-kept up by the Silveton Durango Narrow Gauge Railroad. You can hear it all over town when it’s running and on a cold winter morning the steam is really thick and there is lots of it. When you are on a family trip it makes things a bit more difficult to get a particular shot you may want. Adding to that the schedule of the train and it can be near impossible. One afternoon before we went to lunch I asked when the train was going to be coming back into the station?  They told me 2:45pm. That worked for me. As we were finishing up our lunch I noticed the sky getting darker as if there was a storm moving in. I went down to the tracks and found a good vantage point that would allow me to fill the frame with the steam engine. Just after I shot this it started pouring cats and dogs…I packed up my gear and found cover.  Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @105mm, F7.1, 200 ISO, 1/500th second.

bandon-new-year-eve-light-show

Last but not least, the reason I waited to write this blog until after my trip to Oregon over the holidays. In the 10+ years I have been going to Bandon, Oregon I have only been totally skunked one time. Even when the weather is overcast you can still get some great shots. It’s simply a photographers paradise. I had been in Bandon for 4 days and didn’t have many clouds. I, personally, like clouds in my images. I am not a fan of clear blue skies unless I am planning on shooting the stars at night (I did some of that too). Just as my luck would have it the clouds started forming early on New Years Eve day. I could see it was going to be great. I just needed to find a nice comp that would showcase not only the clouds reflecting in the wet sand but also the depth of the beach.  I found my comp, made sure there was separation between the 3 middle rocks and then started shooting. I did some long exposures, short exposures, really long exposures, some with the water coming into the frame, some without out. While I am out shooting I generally will shoot though most scenes and then pick the best one when I get back to have a good look on the computer. Something about the waterline in this one as the wave stopped and then headed back out to the sea really caught my eye. I feel like when I am looking at this my eye initially sees the entire scene but then follows the white line through the frame. This lets the viewer explore more of what the scene has to offer. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end 2016. Exif Data – Nikon D810 – Sigma 24-105 @24mm, F14, 64 ISO, 2.5 seconds.

As you can see 2016 was a great year. I had a wonderful time with my family in various locations as well as co teaching our night photography workshops. All of these images are available as Fine Art Photographic Prints, Fine Art Canvas Gallery Wraps, Fine Art Metal Prints or Fine Art Acrylic Face Mount Prints. I will offer special discounts to those of you who contact me via the contact form below.  Simply message me with the medium you would like, the image description and size. Thank you all again for your continued support throughout the years. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog,

Darren White – Darren White Photography