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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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