A look back on 2019 in pictures

Before we get started I wanted to say, “thank you” to everyone who has helped support me over the last year. From purchasing prints, licensing images and taking workshops 2019 was a fantastic year with so many memories. When I asked on my FB page if people wanted to see 12 of my favorite images of the year or my favorites from each month, the answer was clear, you wanted to see my faves from each month.  I love that you want to see this because it helps keep me shooting all year long when in reality, I could easily take some time off in Jan and Feb when the weather isn’t favorable for photography where I live.

It’s super hard to pick 1 image from each month because some months include several shooting locations. So this year I have sat down and picked out 27 images to share with you. I picked these 27 out of the 754 master files I created this year.  I love photography, I love being out shooting images and sharing the beauty of what I see with you. From the West Coast all the way to the Caribbean, abandoned nights to beautiful sunrise and sunsets, I’ll be talking about each of these images in detail so you know the story behind them.   In this set of images there are no blends or composites. All are real images as seen through the camera as they were when I shot them. I hope you enjoy!

 

January

Smooth Water At Thunder Rock
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 64, F/9, 6 min exposure 

“Smooth Water” 

After hosting a workshop along the central Oregon Coast, I took some time for some personal shooting along the southern Oregon Coast. There are many places where you can get right out to the waters edge with breathtaking views. This is a short 10 min hike down to an overlook (flat spot on a rock) that offers views that span 270 degrees wide. When I started this shot the sunlight wasn’t showing but during the super long exposure the sun started to light up the horizon. The smooth water is created by using a very long exposure.

February

Jupiter Rising
Nikon D850, Sigma 50mm, ISO 6400, F/2.5, 8 seconds

“Jupiter Rising” 

2019 will always be known as the year Jupiter was riding around the Dark Horse Nebula. Right above the cross on the old abandoned church you will see a bright spot, That’s Jupiter, and it stayed there for the entire summer. It moved around a little bit but not much. I am honestly happy to say that as much fun as it was to watch the various positions of Jupiter in the DHN, I am glad it wont be there in 2020. It will be under the Milky Way aligned with Mars, Saturn and Pluto (the 9th planet). Venus is the bright planet you see in this image in the lower left. Shot in Eastern Colorado on a moonless night.

March

Afternoon at the Dunes
Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Sport Lens, ISO 31, F/14, 1/60th second

“Afternoon at the Dunes”

Great Sand Dunes National Park offers stunning views, there is no doubt about that. My intentions were to hike out onto the dunes and create some images with beautiful sand patterns in the foreground. Upon my arrival I realized I had picked the windiest day of the year to attempt this. Making the most of it, I did walk out onto the dunes only to find that it was impossible to shoot while being sandblasted. I don’t mind shooting in a little rain or wind but when there is blowing sand involved I am a little more careful with my gear… 1 or 2 grains of sand can run a lens. I saw the clouds rolling in and decided to cut my losses and come back another time in hopes of calmer weather. As I was driving out of the park I noticed some deer along the side of the road. I stopped to take their picture and then looked back and saw this scene. What caught my eye was the angle of light and various textures in each of the 4 layers of the image from foreground to sky. The baby blue sky was nice but I felt the image was stronger in back and white and that was my thought when I was actually shooting the image.

Orion's Winds
Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 3200, F/2.2, 30 seconds

“Orion Winds” 

In March I had a unique opportunity to visit Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico with a friend who was able to get us permission to stay up there for a night and shoot. We had planned for 2 nights in case of weather and we lucked out and had great skies on the first night. The second night a storm rolled in and it was totally cloudy. While we were there we had the freedom to pretty much shoot anywhere we wanted as long as we were not in the way of the researchers. The astronomers who were working there were super nice and willing to talk to us about what they were doing. Most were college students working on various levels research for papers. We got to see how the Sloan 2.5 meter telescope worked and how they are using fiber optics in metal plates to map the sky.  That was really cool. Looking south in this image you see Orion as it’s rising up over the housing for the SDSS (Sloan Telescope) on the far left and the ARCSAT 0.5m telescope just to the right of it. Higher up in the atmosphere were some winds which caused the clouds to streak during the exposure. The lights in the background are from El Paso, TX and Juarez Mexico.

April

Through the Looking Glass
Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 31, F/7.1, 1/320th second

“Through the Looking Glass”

In and around the Moab area there are many hidden treasures if you are willing to go looking for them. Because I knew we had a BLM permit to teach in other places besides Arches and Canyonlands I started doing a little research for other places to take our group during our workshops.  As coincidental as it may be, while looking on Google Maps I was also scrolling through facebook and noticed an image of this arch. I asked my friend if he would give up the location and he soon responded with enough info for me to find it.  I had some time to kill so I went and scouted it out.  When I got close enough to park I was looking at it thinking, nah, this wont work but then when I got out and started walking around I soon realized that this was an amazing place to shoot the night sky with a group. What I also noticed was how the midday sun was creating some amazing shadows that were just deep enough to give this image so much depth and texture. I shot low and wide to capture the beauty of this place in it’s sunlit glory.

May

Riding through the Heavens
Nikon D850, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 6400, F/2.5, 15 seconds

“Riding Through the Heavens” 

Here we are with the group of amazing workshop students who were willing to trust our knowledge and planning. We arrived just as the Milky Way was rising up over the arch. We took our time and got everyone set up in a spot they felt comfortable. After everyone was set up and shooting, I dropped back to set my camera up and capture a timelapse while I worked with the group. During one of my test shots to dial in the settings this meteor when streaking through the sky.

Graffiti Inn
Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 8000, F/2.5, 13 seconds x 90 images 

“Graffiti Inn”

An old abandoned stagecoach sits under Polaris as the Earth spins at roughly 1000 mph. The goal of this location was to shoot the Milky Way as a pano arching over the old building. We were able to do that successfully and then we decided to try other things.  The sky was super clear and that means it’s a great time to do some star trails. There are some reports that this place is haunted. Legend has it that the lady ghost is waiting for her fiance to arrive on his horse. He was killed in a hold up on his way to join her on their wedding night in May of 1878.  I was hoping to see her but she never appeared. Maybe next time I’ll ride a horse to the old stagecoach.

Valley Views
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 64, F/10, 1/8th second

“Valley Views” 

This is the Lasal Viewpoint in Arches National Park. It’s a place I visit often, generally at night, but rarely shoot during the day. I find the scene rather challenging most of the time. On this particular morning I could see the clouds building as it was getting light and thought this may be a good time to take out my camera and find a nice composition. Often times the clouds are never where we want them. Just as the sun was getting ready to come over the horizon this really nice pastel light appeared and created the soft tones you see here. I gave the image some breathing room by standing back just a little bit from the edge so that the viewer would have a sense of place as if they were standing there too.

June

Canyon Clouds
Nikon D850, Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 64, F/10, 1/50th second

“Canyon Clouds”

I spend roughly 35-50 days a year in Arches National Park. Scouting locations and teaching workshops gives me a good sense of the area.  This is a location I had been to many times before but had never went the extra 100 feet past the arch to see what was on the other side. Directly behind me is the arch. The sun was setting and we were waiting patently for the sky to get dark so we could shoot the Milky Way when I noticed this unique rock that looked to be balancing on one side. I had nice clouds with good light but I couldn’t figure out the composition…It needed balance and I was very limited where I could stand to shoot. I felt the rocks on the right and left balanced out the image nicely with the sprawling clouds in the sky.

Sugar Beach Piton Views
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 64, F/8, 1/400th second

“Sugar Beach Piton’s View”

With a small family of just 3 people it may seem easy to agree on a vacation destination yet we all have different likes and wants when it comes to where we want to visit. We sat down and did some looking and found a place that fit all our needs and wants. We ended up in St. Lucia. This worked out well for all of us and I was even able to do a little work while I was there. From our resort we had amazing views looking south between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean but the real adventure started when we took a catamaran out into the Caribbean to see the island from the water. The views were idyllic. The lush green trees of the hillsides towering up into the sapphire blue sky with homes nestled along the shores and boats in the water. It was just too perfect not to capture with my camera. We visited 2 locations to do some snorkeling and I opted out of the second one so that I could spend some time capturing this beautiful island.

July

Warmth Rising
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 14mm, ISO 3200, F/3.2, 20 seconds

“Warmth Rising”

After a couple years scouting and planning (and waiting for permits and lodging) we were finally able to make our 1st Yellowstone National Park Night Photography Workshop a reality. It sold out extremely fast and we were super excited to be able to bring people into such a popular place and have them leave with such unique photos. After the sun goes down the crowds just vanish and we basically had the entire park to ourselves. This is one of the locations we had scouted out to share with our workshop students. In this area there are 3 thermal pools which all offer great views of the Milky Way. The trick here was to get the image while the steam was being blowing in the other direction so that it wasn’t blocking the view of the Milky Way. You can see Andromeda just to the right of the steam above the hill in the back. The workshop was a huge success and we look forward to doing it again this year!

Final Sunrise
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 14mm, ISO 64, F/7.1, 1/30th second

“Final Sunrise”

We finished our Yellowstone workshop on July 7th about 2am in the morning and I knew I was headed to Montana. I had seen pictures of this old church and it top on my list of places to visit and photograph. I packed up all my stuff and left Yellowstone about 2:30am and made the 600 mile drive up to Dooley, Montana. I stopped along the way and shot other things, took a nap and just made sure I was up there before sunset.  I had plenty of time and made it with time to spare. I took my time getting familiar with the area as a massive storm rolled in. About 9pm on July 7th, thunder and lightning started and it lasted a good 5-6 hours. The sky started clearing just before sunrise. I grabbed my camera and did a walk around of the building to find a good vantage point to shoot from. After shooting for 30 min the sun came up and headed out to my next locations.  When I got home a few days later I found out that the church had collapsed just hours after this shot was taken. There was another photographer who was doing some scouting just after I had left and when he arrived the church had already collapsed.  The Rocky Valley Lutheran Church was built in 1915 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. Collapsed July 8th, 2019. I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to be the last person to photograph it during it’s final sunrise. The scary thing is, as I was walking around the church I stopped on the right side, looked in the window and snapped some pictures of the sunrise through the windows on the left side. I am very lucky it didn’t fall on me.

Feeling Alone
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 19mm, ISO 100, F/8, 1/400th second

“Feeling Alone”

Each summer after our first set of workshops is over, we take a break for about 30 days to allow us time with our families and friends. During that time I always make my way back to the Oregon Coast. I always enjoy being on the beaches when the tides are super low. This allows me to access places that you usually can’t get to during a normal tide. This morning was one of those days. I had just finished shooting sunrise and continued my walk along the beach to see what I could find. I went through an arch and up over some rocks and ended up here on this wide open expansive beach. I had been here before several times when I lived on the coast. There were no other people here when I got here but as soon as I was done photographing this lone crab a few other people showed up. The crab was alive and well, just hanging out watching the waves roll up on the beach. He had the whole beach to himself and the sun was on his back!

August

Stargazing Dock
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 24mm, ISO 6400, F/3.2, 15 seconds

“Stargazing Dock” 

I wont lie, I first saw an image of this location on Instagram. Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention but there was something about the image that really caught my eye. I kept looking and looking and trying to figure out how the photographer lit the trees on the other side of the water so perfectly. I didn’t see any lights in their image and after finding the place on Google Maps and seeing how it was positioned even made me more curious. I contacted a friend and asked if he wanted to join me to see what this place was really about and he willingly said sure! We arrived before sunrise to have a good look at the place in the daylight and neither of us could figure it out. We were completely confused on how they had lit the far side of the water up so nicely. We were in awe of how still the water was and how we could see the reflection perfectly. It wasn’t until after it got dark that we solved the mystery of the unlikely light source.  If you look on the far left side of the image you will see a yellow light, that light is from a pole that is in a rest area and that is the light is is positioned so perfectly that it lights up the side of the lake. Not too bright and not too dim…just far enough away to work perfectly. I made sure to set up my camera with the light just outside the frame yet still show a little of where the light was coming from.  We shot here for a couple hours and then the wind picked up, killed the reflection so we called it a night.

Sunflowers at Sunset
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 24mm, ISO 64, F/22, 1/25th second

“Sunflowers at Sunset”

There are a few areas in Colorado that are known for their massive fields of Sunflowers. Farmers rotate the crops each year so the first people who go looking never know where they are going to find them. Of course once they are found and put on the internet the whole world knows. That’s ok, they’re just sunflowers and they are still on someones property which we need to be respectful about. Knowing I did not want to go into the fields, I walked around trying to find a grouping that looked nice that I could shoot from outside on the edge. These 2 looked so happy to see me and I knew the sun was going to be going down fast. I did my best to compose the image with balance and depth making sure not too many of the sunflowers were being blocked by other sunflowers. Easier said than done. Making sure to get close enough so that my horizon wasn’t dead center and that the 2 flowers were helping fill the frame was my goal. I set my tripod up, got the camera positioned correctly and began shooting as the sun went down. I could see in the camera the way the petals were backlit by the sun and I knew that was going to help make a strong image.

Nobody's Home
Nikon D850, Sigma 24mm 1.4, ISO 8000, F/2.5, 15 seconds

“Nobody’s Home”

Summer wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Kansas. Just my opinion. It’s funny how things come full circle in life and it may take years and years and years before we realize it. All my Mom’s side of the family is from Kansas. When I was in 2nd grade (1982) I visited Kansas for the first time for a family reunion. When I was 18 (1993) I took my Grandma back to the family reunion with me. This was only my 2nd time in Kansas. My mom and grandma were both big on keeping up on family trees and our ancestors. Fast forward to Summer of 2016. I’ve now been living in Colorado for 3 years and decide it’s time to start exploring other states. Kansas was right next door. The Kansas border is 3 hours from my house.  By this time my love for old abandoned buildings was rising at an alarming rate.  Kansas was the perfect neighbor. Ever since then I have been spending about 2-3 weeks a year in Kansas, exploring the backroads. I have spent time in the towns where my relatives were from, learned some of the history and really just had a chance to explore and find things I never knew existed. This old square home being one of them. I was on my way to Zurich, KS (pop 99, less now) to see the place where some of my family was from when I looked up on a hillside and saw what looked to be an old home.  I turned around, drove up the gravel road and found this beauty. I was in awe. It was amazing, I had not seen any other pictures of it and it was in the perfect location for night photography. I went to Zurich, looked around but didn’t find much, pondered my family’s existence there and wondered how they lived or ended up not living then took the long quiet drive back to my hotel, grabbed some dinner and made my way back here in time to capture the Milky Way right over the house.  I saw 3 cars in the 4 hours I was there. None of them wanted anything to do with me (normally people stop and grill you with questions). This was a special night for me that I will remember for a very long time.

September

Nightlights
Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 100, F/2.2, 37 minutes

“Nightlights”

Our workshops are made up of a diverse student base. Students come from all over the globe with different skill levels and ideas of what they want to capture. This is where having 2 instructors comes in really handy. On this evening we arrived at our location and a large portion of the group wanted to shoot the Milky Way while 1 of the students wanted to learn how to do star trails. I knew where this tree was that would work perfect as a foreground subject under the swirling stars. We split from the group. Mike and his group went to shoot the Milky Way while Jim and myself walked over to this tree. Working together, side by side with Jim, I was able to help him capture the star trails like he had always wanted to do. The light you see on the horizon is Moab, Utah and the light in the foreground is from a LED panel on the lowest setting, facing straight down at the ground so that only the residual light is hitting the rocks and tree.

Moonlight and Milky Way
Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8, ISO 8000, F/3.2, 20 seconds

“Moonlight and Milky Way”

There is no doubt that for most people who attend our workshops in Moab that Delicate Arch is the most prized location. Yes, it’s iconic, yes, it’s crowded at sunset, these are statements I wont deny. I’ve seen as many as 300 people or more up there for sunset at times. Our group hangs back and enjoys the views as the sun dips below the horizon. Almost like clockwork, the moment the sun is below the horizon people start leaving. My guess is because they don’t want to hike back down in the dark. We stay patient for a little while longer and then when most of the people have left or are headed out, we make our way over to the arch and claim our small piece of real estate for the night. This image is a late season image meaning it was shot towards the end of Milky Way season when the Milky Way is more vertical in the sky. We timed it with a setting moon that would light up the arch for the first half of the night. When the moon goes down the skies get super dark and the Milky Way just pops out at you once your eyes adjust to the dark. In this image I wanted to convey all the elements to the viewer so I left the students in the shot, the Moon as it was very low on the horizon and the Milky Way in perfect position over the arch.

Radio Silence
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 24mm, ISO 8000, F/2.8, 10 seconds

“Radio Silence”

Located in SE Colorado in the middle of nowhere sits this old radio telescope. When you’re parked on the dirt road looking at this, it’s pretty big. As it gets darker and darker and the Milky Way appears, the telescope gets smaller and smaller. This is an image that really puts things into perspective for me. The Radio Telescope is maybe 100ft tall, top to bottom. Jupiter, the bright dot to the upper left of the telescope is 450 million miles away and is big enough to fit 1300 earths inside. The lagoon nebula, the purple dot inside the milky way just to the left of Jupiter and up a hair is 4077 light years away from Earth. Each light year is 93,000,000 miles. That dot, the lagoon nebula, is 600 trillion miles across. Let that sink in for a while… We, not just humans, but Earth in general, are dwarfed by the size of our universe. I found this location to be a fantastic spot to sit quietly and just ponder.

October

Guiding Light
Nikon D850, Sigma 70-200mm Sport at 200mm, ISO 800, F/4.5, 0.8 seconds

“Guiding Light”

Oct 13th, Nebraska, Hunter’s Moonrise. Photographers can be over thinkers and planners. We have so many tools at our disposal now that we can sit in our house and plan a shot without ever actually seeing a location. After finding this church on Google Maps, that’s what I did. I figured out what events were coming up, what days I had free (the family was on another trip with their family) and decided to make the most of it. I knew the full moon would set behind this little old church. I knew what day it would happen and I knew the exact time based on info I gained from PhotoPills (everyone should have this app). I allowed myself 4 days. The church sits atop a small hill in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. I made the trip with a short detour through Kansas (to scout other places). I was so focused on capturing the moon setting behind the church that I never even thought to think about shooting it as it was rising. I literally stayed at this church for 3 solid days waiting for the perfect moment. I drove the backroads in the area looking for other little gems, shot the stars at night under the moonlight and then on the last night, right after I shot this image, the clouds rolled in. It had been crystal clear for 4 days with not a hint of clouds… I was ok with that because I knew it would make for a better sunrise with the setting moon and it did. The sky turned an amazing shade of pink just before the moon went down. I got the exact shot I was after and all my planning paid off.  But this, this was the unexpected surprise of the trip. I had totally forgot about the full rising Hunter Moon. I was coming back to the church after shooting another abandoned place and I saw the way the sunlight was hitting the headstones of the graveyard. I then started to see the glow on the horizon and realized it was the moon rising. I quickly (1 min or less) figured out where I needed to be to get the moon perfectly in front of the church. I was able to take about 3 test shots before the moon was in place, I shot a couple with it perfectly centered while the light was still hitting the headstones and then it was out of place and too high.

Joe and Kelly at the Overleaf watching the storm
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 35mm, ISO 31, F/9, 1/60th second

“Joe and Kelly”

With my Oregon Coast workshop coming up I had been watching the weather very closely. I always arrive a few days early to scout areas (tides cause big changes in beaches) and get settled in. From my room at the Overleaf Lodge and Spa in Yachats I could see this massive shelf cloud forming but it was so far out that the rain was not affecting us on the shore.  I walked out of my room and saw this couple sitting on the bench watching the storm and grabbed their picture. They later got up and as they were walking back to their room I stopped them to show them the image and ask if they wanted a copy. They were more than pleased to have one. As luck would have it the dates I picked for the workshop were right between 2 major storm systems. It’s not often you see clouds like this on the Oregon Coast so I was happy to have the chance to photograph the storm watchers!

Frosted Trees
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 18mm, ISO 64, F/8, 1/2000th second

“Frosted Trees”

Living next to a state park has it’s perks. It gives me a “go to” place to photograph when I time is short or the weather changes in a very short amount of time. It was really cold and had snowed all night. I got up, looked at the weather app and saw clearing just after sunrise. In Colorado the snow rarely sticks around on the trees. It’s either super dry snow and evaporates or the temps rise really quickly and the snow falls off and melts. Getting over to the park in a timely manner was crucial. They have re-done many parts of the park which allow new vantage points. I found this area with extremely calm water to shoot the reflections of these freshly coated trees. Getting super low allowed me to capture the full reflection of the tall trees.

Fall Romance
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 35mm, ISO 31, F/18, 1/2 second

“Fall Romance”

At the end of October I took a trip to the east coast to photograph some fall colors with a friend. I knew we would be a bit late but due to other commitments I had to plan the trip when time allowed. We visited several state parks and other photogenic areas while I was there. Even made a trip up to New York which was beautiful. This image was shot in Pennsylvania in the bottom of a canyon where to water systems meet. This was half way through our 10hr hike in Ricketts Glenn State park. The day was perfect for shooting waterfalls. We had overcast skies and smooth even light the whole day. I actually like the sparsely colored scene as it allows your eye to appreciate the colors but also focus on the waterfall. This was an amazing place that I hope to return to someday. This hike isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s steep going down and steep going back up. There is no easy way to hike the entire loop.

November

Glade Creek Grilst Mill
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 16mm, ISO 31, F/18, 1/3rd second

“Glade Creek Grist Mill” 

On my last morning of my trip back east we visited this iconic location. I had seen a million images of it and sure enough it was just as nice in person. There is always a special feeling I get being in a spot I have seen so many pictures of. Looking for some slightly different comps (are there any) I decided to get low by the water and shoot looking up towards the mill. We had some nice clouds and some nice light as the sun was just making it’s way over the horizon. While we were there, only one other person showed up. It was nice to be there past the peak season so we didn’t have to fight the crowds.  It’s a working mill that is only 44 years old. I am sure most people think it’s much older. The basic structure comes from Stoney Creek Grist Mill which was located in Pocahontas County and dates back to the 1890’s. The giant wheel, which is pushed around by Glade Creek, and in-turn powers the giant grindstone, is from the Spring Run Grist Mill in Grant County.

Midnight Rest
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm 2.8, ISO 400, F/5, 4 seconds

“Midnight Rest”

Another opportunity to photograph something that I may never get to shoot again in my life? Yes, I’ll jump at the chance. At the end of November The “Big Boy” locomotive was making it’s way across America and it just happened to be coming through Kansas. Like I need another reason to visit Kansas!  I started looking at Google Maps trying to find a place away from the crowds where I could photograph it with the big plume of steam as it crossed a trestle. I did my research, found a great spot, contacted my friend in Kansas and he was able to figure out the land owner and tenant. We got permission to access the land and shoot the train. It was a huge success. Everything worked out as we planned. I ended up following the train to Sharon Springs, Kansas. My plan was to shoot it at sunset and then again at sunrise. After the train had parked for the day and I arrived, I found hundreds of people gathered around. It was very cold out so I decided to find a hotel room and grab a shower and a nap. I looked to find out when the moon was going to come up and realized it would be coming up at 3am. I left the hotel at 1am went down to the train station and I was the only one there other than the police officer who was on duty.  I talked to him and told him I was going to photograph the moon coming up over the train and he said that wouldn’t be an issue since it was parked. He told I could go anywhere I needed.  It was still freezing cold out so I would take some shots, go sit in my car and warm up and then repeat until the moon had come up far enough where I could shoot it over the train. While I was there there were 2 other people who showed up to photograph it as well. Both nice people who I ended up talking to for a while. One of them is the gentleman you see in this image. The other guy had left and it was just he and I shooting the train, as he walked off and set up his own shot, I stayed in my spot and kept shooting.  He couldn’t have positioned himself any better.

December

Pull me in
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 at 14mm, ISO 100, F/8, 2 seconds

“Pull Me In” 

I ended the year with a 2 week trip to the Oregon Coast. A week of shooting for myself and a week to visit my Dad. It was amazing. For the most part of the trip I didn’t have epic skies for sunrises and sunsets (only 2 days of the whole trip) but I did have storms, big waves and dark, dramatic clouds. For an Oregon boy, that was perfect. I had just as much fun hiking along the coast in the rain as I would have taking pictures.  In between storm systems I did pull out my camera to capture the drama as it unfolded before me. This is an image that was shot well before sunrise when the clouds were super dark. It allowed me to use a long exposure and capture the water rushing around the rocks in the foreground. I have not seen many pictures, if any, of this rock which is surprising because it’s very easy to access.

Storm Channels
Nikon D850, Sigma 24-105mm at 48mm, ISO 31, F/22, 1.6 seconds

“Storm Channels” 

To some of you this may look familiar. It’s a scene I shot last year too but when I did, I cut the tops of the trees off. I am not sure what I was thinking. I wanted to go back and re-shoot it and make sure not to cut the tops of the trees off. Just like before, I had nice dark, stormy skies to work with. The light was moody but even which allowed for easy exposures. For those of you who don’t know where this location is, it’s near Brookings, Oregon and down a hillside to where you come out and are standing on top of an arch. You can feel the waves hit the rock you’re standing on and the rush you get is amazing. For me, personally, it was the perfect way to end the year. During the first part of my trip I had a friend with me and being able to show him these places was a blast.

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog’s. I do appreciate it. I welcome any questions or comments you may have and will gladly answer questions.

I’d like to say thanks to the following companies for their continued support over the years. Please take a moment and check our the links as you may find something that interests you. 

Sigma Lenses and Cameras

Overleaf Lodge and Spa

Moab Fine Art Papers

Robus Tripods

Englewood Camera

Nitecore Flashlights and illumination

Reed Art and Imaging Printing

Artbeat Studios Printing

If you are interested in workshops you can find more info at the following links. 

Night Photography Workshops in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

Oregon Coast Workshop in Bandon, Oregon

If you’d like to purchase prints of any of my images, please visit my website Darren White Photography and use FEUFEX at checkout for 30% off. Worldwide shipping available. 

 

Last but not least. I have the Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art Lens for Nikon for sale. It’s in near mint condition, cleaned and boxed up ready for a new owner. I am only asking $650 for it and will ship for free to anywhere in the USA. Contact me directly if you’re interested. The reason for selling is that I have another lens that covers the 20mm and I simply don’t need it anymore. 

 

Sigma fp review with images

 

Over the last 2 weeks I had the chance, thanks to Sigma, to get my hands on the “Worlds smallest, full frame camera” . The Sigma fp.  It’s about the same size as your smartphone but a little thicker. They had to make it deeper to put all the crazy bells and whistles inside. While this camera is, in my opinion, designed as a video/cine camera it also works amazingly well as a still photographers camera.

This is the very first mirrorless camera I have ever shot with. I admit I was a little nervous at first but it was much easier than I thought.

Pros-

  • Super Low ISO’s down to 6!
  • Very small and lightweight – Epic travel camera
  • Super Easy to use
  • Fantastic image quality up to 3200 ISO
  • Some lenses are smaller and lighter than their DSLR equivalents
  • Files are fast and easy to work with
  • 24mp Full Frame
  • 60-500 seconds in camera for the lower expansion ISO’s
  • Solid Build
  • Designed to be fully customizable

Cons-

  • No flip screen on back of camera
  • Really small camera for those with bigger hands – a grip would solve this
  • Color noise in underexposed images.
  • Image Stabilization only available in jpg modes
  • HDR only in jpg modes
  • IS and HDR can not be used at same time

 

Sigma fp c43900

I had the chance to use this camera here in Colorado as well as on a trip to Kansas to photograph the largest running locomotive, Union Pacific’s Big Boy 4014. I shot in some extremely cold temps but nothing that would be considered warm. The weather was very cold over the last couple weeks which made me worry about the battery life. I was surprised to see the battery last as long as it did.  I did not count image to see how many I got off one charge but I can say for me that having 2 or 3 batteries would be enough to last me all day shooting.  This was nice to see since the camera does not have an EVF or eye piece.  Everything is done right from the back of the camera in live view.

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The info on the back of the camera is well laid out and easy to read. One thing I really love about this camera is that the histogram is one of the display options on the screen.  Having the histogram and the level on the same screen was great for me. I teach people that the histogram is the scientific proof of how much data you are or are not collecting in your image. Being able to see the histogram and how it changes based on your ISO, Shutter Speed and Fstop was really nice. I didn’t have to take a shot, look at it and then adjust. I could just dial up the histogram so that my exposure was correct every time!

Sunrise Path
Chatfield Sunrise, Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm at 23mm 

 

I’ll be very honest here, the real reason I wanted to try this camera was because of the ISO going down to 6. Yes, 6 ISO. I don’t think there is another camera out there that has an ISO that low. This meant that I could shoot long exposures in the daylight, I did not need any filters and the image quality would be amazing.  What I did not know at the time was that the lower ISOs – Below 100 – had longer shutter speeds available to them as well. At ISO 6 you can shoot for 500 seconds, that’s crazy!!! It totally makes sense though. Why would any camera company give you the option to shoot at an ISO that low and then limit your shutter speed to 30 seconds…So I had to try this for myself.  I went into Denver where I knew I could see the skyline and hopefully get a nice sunrise. I arrived before it was light so I could take full advantage of the super low ISO and the super long shutter speed.

Denver 5001
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 6, f/16, 500 seconds

I fell in love. As someone who loves the lower ISO’s and longer shutter speeds, I was in heaven. I had to try more…so I did… in the snow and some very cold temps.

Cold Morning at Nymph
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 6, F/5, 60 seconds. 

My goal on this morning was to shoot Dream Lake under a partial moon and shoot sunrise as well. When we got up to Dream Lake the wind was blowing at least 100mph. Those of you who have been there know it’s like a wind tunnel at times. This particular morning was nothing less than brutal. I stood on the ice as the wind pushed me around like an ice skater. I knew there was no way I was going to set up a little camera on a tripod and expect to get any kind of decent shot. We decided to head back down to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park where we were partly protected by the wind. It was still very cold out!  Once again I cranked the ISO down to 6 and used a 60 second shutter speed to completely smooth out the clouds. I liked how the clouds formed the same shape as the tree line. Yes, there are some trees moving because of the wind but the details on the face of the rock, Hallett Peak, are amazing.

Moraine Valley
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/10, 1/160th 

After leaving Nymph Lake I headed into the meadow where I captured this stream in front of the mountains with a wave cloud over it. The light was nice and the camera handled the highlights and shadows without fail.

Coco
Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/800th second handheld. 

On a walk with my dog, I decided to try and see how well the focus points worked. This is the one things that is touch activated on the back of the screen. If I were to press down and focus, then I could simply touch the back of the screen where I wanted it to focus and it would bring up all the points where I could change it to. In this image I was able to move the focus all the way over to my dog’s eye. My dog doesn’t like to look at the camera so a side profile is the best I’m gonna get!

_SDI0151
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/125th second handheld 
Anytime I get some new camera equipment the first thing I do is test it out on my daughter. She hates having her picture taken. I think I have ruined her.  Knowing the fine details of hair, eyebrows and eyelashes I knew she would be the perfect subject so that I could get a great idea of how well the new Bayer sensor was going to perform. I took the shot, zoomed in and was blown away with the details. The ISOs from 100 down to 6 are very smooth and creamy but retain a lot of fine details.

 

 

Chatfield Snow
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/5.6, 1/500th second

Whenever it snows, I always go over to the lake near my home. The Fall colors were over for the most part but a tiny bit were hanging on. It was snowing when I shot this and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had actually photographed a deer walking in the snow in this image. I did not see the deer when I pressed the shutter. I loved the intimate details in the image from the background all they way to the front of the image where the snow is falling and actually out of focus because it’s so close.

Foggy Creek

Later in the afternoon I ventured over to this little stream/waterfall and found these bubbles floating down from the bridge. It was fairly bright out but with this camera I wasn’t worried…I just cranked it down to ISO 6, F/22 and shot for 2 seconds. That was enough time to allow the bubbles to move and create a sense of motion.

HDR
Sigma fp, 14-24mm, ISO 200, F/5, 1/400th second – top image is in camera HDR, bottom image is a single image. 

This past weekend I headed to Kansas to photograph the “Big Boy 4014” Locomotive that was touring across the USA as part of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Completion.. I thought this could be once in a lifetime opportunity to see it in action.  When I arrived in Kansas I found this old church next to a museum and thought this would be a perfect place to test out the HDR feature in the camera. I set it to shoot + and – 2 along with a normal image and then combine them all. The top image is the HDR image and the bottom image is a single image metered the best I could get with the white conditions.  Because the HDR is only able to be used in Jpg mode it doesn’t have the latitude for post processing as a DNG file. With the DNG file I was able to recover a lot of details in the shadow area without any issues with noise at 64 ISO.

_SDI0528
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 1600, F/5.6, 1/80th second handheld 

In Wallace, Kansas is “The Bank” it’s an old bank that has been converted on the inside to a coffee shop/antique shop. I met the owner and enjoyed a cup of hot coffee on this cold morning while I snapped some shots on the inside at higher ISOs. I had nice soft light coming in the window on the left and it really made the image look very natural. I was extremely happy with how ISO 1600 was working.

Inside the Bank
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 3200, F/2.8, 1/250th second handheld 

I loved all these old farm and tractor signs hanging behind the antique cash register. I thought they would make a good case for a higher ISO. Generally with higher ISO’s they tend to lose color as the ISO gets higher. I felt this one came out very natural based on the lighting inside the shop. The greens, reds, yellows and blues all came across nicely. Even upon close review ISO 3200 is really nice and very usable. Just for kicks I ran this image through Topaz DeNoise and it came out super clean in the areas that did have a little extra noise. That being said. I would print images shot at ISO 3200 out of the Sigma fp.

Ride To Church
Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm, ISO 100, F/7.1, 1/200th second handheld 

A fun image for sure with a wide angle lens. When I saw this little cart on the train tracks I knew I wanted to shoot it with the church. My reason for this was to see how well the camera would balance the white of the snow and church with the yellow of the cart. As you can see here it did a great job. The yellow stayed very natural and the white stayed white without greying out. I feel this Bayer sensor in the fp was a great choice.

Midnight Rest
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 400, F/5, 4 seconds

Big Boy arrives in Sharon Springs, Kansas for an overnight maintenance stop. When I arrived in the afternoon there were still quite a few people around the train. That wasn’t my idea of an image I wanted to capture. I checked into my hotel about 5pm and at 1:30am I got up and went to down to the station to find myself alone with this beast. I talked to the police officer who was “on guard” and he was really nice telling me I could get a close as I wanted to do photography. I told him the moon was going to be rising soon and that I wanted a shot of the moon over the train but he didn’t seem to care too much. From 1:30am – 3am I had the whole place to myself. I shot many image at lots of angles. This gentleman shows up and we talk for a while and then we go our separate ways to do more photography. I really wanted the moon rising over the train so I stepped back to include the tracks in the foreground and I noticed him down a ways shooting his own images. I normally don’t include people in my images but I felt he added a great sense of scale compared to the locomotive.

Wheelhousing
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 32, F/4.5, 40 seconds
Big Wheels
Sigma fp, Sigma 45, ISO 32, F/9, 100 seconds
In review, this camera was an absolute joy to work with. It takes crazy sharp images and allows the photographer to use super long shutter speeds without the need for a cable release or using the bulb setting. I was reviewing this camera as a backup, travel camera and it fits the bill perfectly. For still photography this camera has most everything you need and it can be fully customized as well. I see a lot of people picking this camera up to take on longer trips when packing a 44lb camera bag isn’t going to work well. I know as I get older I am always looking at ways to downsize my gear and what I take on each trip. I found a lot more positives to this camera than I did negatives. One of the positives is that some of the lenses for this camera (L-Mount) are smaller than their DSLR Counterparts. As you can see below, the Nikon lens is almost a pound heavier than the Leica L mount. The L mount is also smaller. So if weight is really an issue for you in your travel and adventures, I would highly recommend you taking a good hard look at this camera. Because it’s such a small camera you can also get away with a smaller tripod too.
Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 1.44.51 PM
Now in all fairness let’s talk about some of the things I would like to see improved in the next version or a firmware update.
  • Articulating screen on the back of the camera. This is something I would have loved to have since the camera is so small. I mentioned this to Sigma and they agree and said that many other photographers had mentioned the same thing.  The camera is so small that doing reflection shots at ground level seems like an obvious thing to do. Without the screen being able to tip up means you need to get down to ground level too.
  • I did notice some color noise in underexposed images when I tried to boost the shadows on ISO’s over 400. I am guessing this is to be expected, I’d just like to see a bit less.
  • IS and HDR only work in jpg mode. I think IS should work in RAW or DNG mode too.  If you have a lens that has IS on it then this is not an issue for you. I am only talking about the electronic IS in the camera.

The 3 issues above are not deal breakers for me in anyway.  I would never base my decision to purchase a camera on the fact that HDR or IS don’t work with RAW files. As long as you expose your images properly the color noise should not be an issue. Having the screen be able to flip out would be super nice but I could be happy with the camera without it.

When I am testing out a camera the main things I look for are image quality, ease of use. I shoot all my images in Manual so I adjust the settings myself. Being able to do this easy is a key for me. The Sigma fp made it super simple. They even have a quick select button that, when pressed, it brings up 8 of your basic settings like ISO, File type, Metering, WB and aspect ratio. F stop is controlled by the dial on the top right of the camera or the lens itself as with the 45mm. The shutter speed is controlled by the dial on the back right side of the camera. These can be changed to your liking as well.

I would be thrilled to take this on a longer trip with me overseas where I am walking around cities and doing some night photography. Using a smaller travel tripod would be perfect with this camera and I would not need to sacrifice image quality.

I look forward to using this camera again in the near future!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs.  I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to drop me a line by filling out the form below.  I am going to include a bunch of links fo you to check out if you’re so inclined. Thanks again

Sigma fp Camera

Sigma 45mm Lens

Sigma 14-24mm L Mount ART

Robus Tripods

RRS BH55 Ball Head

2020 Night Photography Workshops

Bandon, Oregon Workshop Feb 2020

 

Robus Tripods and Night Photography

IMG_7545 2

There is no doubt about it, you have to have a tripod when shooting at night.. None of us can handhold the camera for 1 second or longer. If you can, please show me!  We teach about 10 night photography workshops a year and see all kinds of tripods. Big heavy ones, little ones that look like toothpicks and some medium sized ones.  In all honestly, some people are very new to night photography and their little tripod does well for them when they are traveling and working in daylight conditions.

After finishing up our May workshops I knew it was time for me to get a new set of tripod legs.  I wanted light weight yet solid. twist grips on the legs, something that wasn’t too tall and wouldn’t break the bank.

I am not sure where, but I saw an ad for Robus Tripods and at the time thought they looked like a good fit for my shooting style. I didn’t think much of it until it was time to upgrade my tripod legs.  I did a bit more research and didn’t find them on any social media sites. Instagram only has a few #Robustripod tags so I decided to reach out to the company and see about the possibility of working together. I did not need their biggest, most expensive tripod. Just something that worked great and and fit my needs. I ended up getting the Robus RC Vantage Series 3 5558

IMG_7515 4

When I think about tripods, I think about how they will work at night. Generally, when shooting sunrise, sunset or during the day the exposures are not that long and therefore it’s not as crucial to have a really solid tripod as it is to have one at night. Often times our exposures are anywhere from 10 seconds to an hour or more. This really gives a lot of time for things to happen. Wind is a big issue with night photography and needs to be taken into consideration when shooting the night sky. If you’re shooting and winds are gusting it’s pretty natural for you to want to grab your tripod and hold it down. This works well if you are already holding it before the exposure starts and you hold it all the way through the shot.  If you feel wind and grab your tripod during the exposure there is a good chance that your image wont be as sharp as you like.  After having shot in the wind quite a bit over the last week I have realized that this tripod works pretty well even in gusty winds. That makes me a pretty happy camper.

When stability is key so that your images are as sharp as possible you want to keep your camera as close to the tripod base as possible. This means you don’t want your center column extended very far if at all. I recommend purchasing a tripod that has a short column or no column at all. The Robus does not have a center column but can be purchased separately if you really want one.  I, personally, like the fact that my camera is extra solid on the tripod because I don’t have a center column. When choosing a tripod size be sure to not use the center column height to help you determine if the tripod is right for you. I would suggesting going off the base height and then figure in the ballhead height and the distance from the base of your camera to the eyepiece.

IMG_7517

Design and functionality are also important. You don’t want to be out in the dark fiddling around with your tripod while your friends are all shooting already. You want to keep things simple and easy to use. I love the design of the legs and how they extend out to get the camera even more solid. You simply pull the silver lock out and then you can move the legs freely to the desired width. I also love the twist locks for the leg extensions. In the past I have owned tripods that that had clamp locks and I found they jammed too easy and were a pain to clean. The twist locks make for simple extension and retraction in just a second or 2.

IMG_7520

I like and sometimes need to get my tripod into odd positions to get a shot. This is where I really like Robus’ decision to make this tripod without a center column as well as make the legs go out almost flat. For both landscapes and nightscapes this is a real benefit.

IMG_7957

Having a larger base at the top with the legs on the outside make the tripod very easy for me to hang my camera bag on the oversized hook in between the legs. On my last tripod the legs were mounted under the base and my Mindshift 36L did not fit. Why do I hang my almost 40lb camera bag under my tripod when I am shooting?  Added stability. By doing this it does 2 things.. It keeps my gear all in one place and it adds a whole other level of solidness that you can’t get by doing anything else. This allows me to shoot in really windy conditions without worry. I know my images are gonna be razor sharp no matter how long I am shooting.  Because I can spread the legs nice and wide, I can put the bag on the hook and even if the wind moves the bag a little I still don’t have to worry about the camera moving during the exposure.

Snapseed

Your tripod should fit in or on your camera bag to help keep your hands free during hiking. Trying to carry your gear in your hands isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Too many chances to have something happen and the gear get’s broke or damaged.  At the same time you don’t want to put a huge tripod on your little camera pack. They should fit each other well and it should wear well when you’re hiking or walking.  I did several hikes in Utah over the last couple months and found that I didn’t even know the tripod was on my back. It fit really well. Balance was good and it’s easy on easy off.

You may notice the white tape on the legs and ask what that’s for. It’s glow in the dark tape so that I can see where my tripod is in the dark without having to turn on lights.  Even if you only shoot at night occasionally, I highly recommend it.  You can get it on Amazon.  I checked all of my local hardware stores and no one had it.

IMG_7809

In review – things to look for when purchasing a tripod for night photography

  • short or no center column
  • proper height
  • legs that extend wide
  • legs on the outside of the base, not under it
  • Hook to hang your bag for added stability
  • Twist lock leg sections
  • Carbon Fiber – Weight

Had Robus and I not been able to work something out, I would have still purchased this tripod and I would have been thankful that I did.  I like to keep a $500 budget for my tripods and this one fits right into that amount without going over.

Robus is owned by B&H Photo and the Gradus Group

Thank you for taking the time to give this a read. I appreciate it and look forward to more blog posts in the near future.

Links where you can read more about the products and my work

 

Workshop Season in Full Swing

Wow!

That went fast. It seems like just yesterday we were finishing up our last Night Photography workshop of 2018. Getting home taking a break and making final plans for the 2019 season and now it’s here.  I was in Moab, Utah last week kicking off the first workshop of the season.  I had a great group of students who were passionate about learning all they could about night photography.

Sharkfin MIlky Way
Nikon D850 – Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art

It’s possible that this may be the last year we are allowed to use Low Level Lighting to illuminate our foregrounds. The Parks are proposing a change to this rule that will ban all forms of artificial lighting except when moving from one location to the other.  I don’t want to start a discussion about that on my blog, I am simply stating what I have heard and seen in emails from the Parks.

Low Level Lighting is one of the things we love to teach so that our students can go out after the workshop and do it on their own in their own hometowns or when they travel.

If the ban does come into effect for the 2020 season we do have a plan. Another aspect of our classroom training during the workshop is Planning and Scouting. We teach you how to plan your shot based on what you want to accomplish. Next year is when we will be putting into practice what we have been teaching and using ourselves for years. We don’t want our students going home with great skies and black foregrounds. We want nicely lit foregrounds to go with our wonderful skies. This is something we will plan for before setting the dates for 2020.

Path to the Milky Way
Nikon D850 – Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art

The above image does not use any Low Level Lighting. All the light you see is natural. These are techniques we teach so that you can make the most from any shooting situation. Just because the skies are dark and there may not be any moonlight does not mean you can’t get great images. It just takes a little more time in the field shooting but the results are well worth the effort.  Do you think this image would look as good if the entire foreground was just dark?

Corona Pano
Nikon D810 – Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art – 6 vertical images stitched for pano

Corona Arch is a fairly popular spot but because it’s outside the National Parks near Moab, it sees much fewer people at night than other places like Delicate Arch. On this particular night we took our group up during a time when we had good moonlight. We timed it so that we could hike up in the moonlight, get set up and then the moon would set and the skies would get dark. I shot this image just as we arrived and our students were getting set up to help show what kind of illumination you can get from the moon. Once your eyes adjust in the moonlight it’s actually pretty easy to see and only minimal light should be used for safety reasons. This really allows us to have our senses be in tune with what is around us and it causes our hearing to be more sensitive as well.

OOF
Nikon D850 – Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art

What is the absolute most crucial part of Night Photography? Yes, it’s focusing (right after safety)  and how to properly focus in the dark. It doesn’t do you any good to go out in perfect conditions only to come home with blurry images. To the untrained eye it may be hard to see if your images are in focus or not just by looking at the back of the LCD on your camera. We teach you how to properly focus in the dark so that you get sharp images every time. There are a lot of things you can fix with Photoshop but an out of focus image isn’t one of them!

DS
Nikon D810 – Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art – Image is at 300% crop

Part of our classroom training focuses on Noise Reduction, it’s actually a fairly big part of the classroom training because, let’s be honest, who wants to go out and shoot awesome scenes at night only to end up with grainy and noisy images….Not me!  While I can’t take all the credit for figuring out some of the techniques we teach, I can say I do a lot of trial and error work to find the best and most efficient ways to do them. If you look on the right side of the image above you will see what looks like confetti sprinkled on the image. Now, look at the left side and you wont see it. You may be asking yourself, “how long did it take him to remove all that with the clone took or healing brush?” The answer, about 5 seconds max and I did not use either one of those tools…  We want the fun of photography to be out in the field, in nature, photographing the scenes you love without having to worry about spending countless hours cleaning up your images once you are home. We show you how to do this and in fact it’s so easy you’ll probably be mad at us because we don’t take longer to explain the process…trust me when I say the process is only 5 mouse clicks from start to finish!

Moab Group 2018 September

Arches Group May 25 2017

Mike and I love our workshop groups. Many of the students take multiple workshops with us in various locations as we expand our locations over time. Before we even released our 2019 Yellowstone workshop we had 3 students who were on a workshop in Moab sign up.

I am home now till the end of April when I head back to Moab for 2 weeks to help teach 5 back to back workshops.  We have filled 59 of 60 spots and have 1 spot left on our May 9-13th Night Photography Workshop

We also have some openings in June as well as August and September. These months make it a bit easier on the body since the Milky Way is up right after sunset.  We sure hope you will consider joining us under the starry skies.

I love hearing your feedback, questions or comments so please feel free to use the contact box below.

 

Links to products used in the making of these images.

Sigma Lenses

Nitecore Lights

Nikon Cameras

 

2018 – Year In Review

As I look back on 2018 after having a full week to reflect, it’s hard for me to really put into words what 2018 meant to me. I was blessed to travel to Paris with my family in March and spend my daughter’s 11th birthday at Disneyland Paris. During the Summer I traveled through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, and all over Colorado. During the Fall I went to Iceland for 8 days with some friends. 2018 was simply filled with so many enjoyable moments and memories that there is really no way to put it all up here in a single blog post.  I asked my Facebook followers Facebook Fan Page if they would rather have me post my 10 best images or my favorite image from each month. They chose to have me do 1 from each month. While social media can be annoying sometimes, I still respect what my followers say and value their opinions.

I hope you enjoy these images as much as I did creating them. With each image you will find camera exif data and a description of each one. Please note that while I am doing a lot more composite imaging these days for fun, I picked images that were either single exposures or focal length composites of real scenes. Each of the images I have picked to share with you are real images that you could see with your own eyes…Not, just something I came up with in my head.  I know there are a lot of people who are inspired by other photographers so I wanted to make sure I only shared images that you can create yourself, should you choose.

January

fire and ice 2
Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art, ISO 64, F/7.1, 1/5th second

Chatfield Lake State Park is only a couple of miles from my home and more times than not, it’s my “go to” spot when I just need to get a quick photography fix. We had a pretty good cold snap and the lake froze completely. As Colorado weather would have it, the next few days were very warm and the ice started to break up due to winds and water movement. These big ice chunks were layering themselves along the shoreline. When I arrived at this part of the lake I was happy to find some nice pieces that made for a good foreground. Getting the camera down low with a nice 20mm Sigma wide-angle lens let me take it all in and still capture the great sunset in the sky.

February

frosted rox
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm Art, ISO 64, F/8, 1/100th second

Roxborough State Park is another park that I am fairly close to. I love to shoot these slanted rock formations at various times of the year. I would rather be outside than sitting in my house. After a few hours of heavy snow I decided to go take a drive and see what I could find. I loved the soft trees against the jagged rocks that were fading away in the distance.  Temps were in the single digits and the wind was blowing fairly good. I used my Sigma 24-105 Art lens at 90mm to bring this scene in closer and fill the frame.

March

bogue sunrise
Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art, ISO 200, F/16, 1/160th second

Bogue, Kansas, Population 136

This was my 2nd of 3 trips to Kansas in 2018 and both the 1st and 2nd were much more pleasurable than the 3rd. I am a huge fan of the small towns across America that didn’t make it. I find the people who live in these towns to be very kind and gracious. They tend to like to talk about the history of the town and what happened.  This old building on the corner was a small shop of some kind, possibly a car garage shop. As we were walking by I noticed the sun coming up on my right. I thought it would be neat if I could get the sun coming up through the tree. It wasn’t till I got home I realized I had also captured the reflection of the old grain silo in the front window. The Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art lens allowed me to get close to my subject and still capture all that I wanted in my scene without any extras.

April

magic in the mountains
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm Art – Sky, ISO 10K x 15 exposures at F/4, 15 seconds at 28mm – Mountain, ISO 100, F/4, 16 minutes

Rocky Mountain National Park, Milky Way Over Longs Peak was sure a sight to see. I had just got home from a workshop in Moab and I called up a couple of friends to see if they wanted to do a midnight hike in the snow and freezing temps to this spot that overlooks Longs Peak. They agreed and we made some final plans and off we went. Hiking the 1 mile up here is fairly easy in the summer but not so much when the trail is mostly ice and you’re going uphill. We allowed extra time that we knew we would need. In hindsight the uphill wasn’t so bad compared to coming back down. One friend slipped and almost went over the edge. We were able to get him up to safety and past the sketchy part of the trail. There are only about 45 days of the year that this image is possible when the Milky Way is right over Longs Peak. If you take into consideration things like work schedules, weather, and moonlight, realistically for most people this view is only seen for about 7 days total. I’ve seen this shot without any snow and I have seen it shot one time right after a big fresh snow…This image takes advantage of a setting moon which creates the shadow under Longs Peak.  I used a Tiffen Double Fog Filter at the time of capture to enhance the stars in the image.

This image is a combo of a blend and stack where I simply used 2 focal lengths and exposure times. Both images capture with the Sigma Corporation of America 24-105 Art Lens.
Sky – 15 exposures, ISO 10,000, F4, 15 seconds each at 28mm stacked to reduce noise. 
Mountain – 1 single 16 min exposure at 42mm, ISO 100, F4,

May

twisted universe
Nikon D810, Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art, ISO 6400, F/2.8, 20 seconds

Moab, Utah.

This big, beautiful old tree lines up perfectly with the Milky Way in April and May. It’s one of the places we love to take our workshop students who enjoy the tree as much as we do. Moab is known for having some of the darkest skies in the USA and it’s one of the reasons we love teaching there. Depending on exactly where you stand to shoot this tree it can take on many different looks. Having the Milky Way as a backdrop isn’t bad though!

June

milky way thermal pools
Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art, ISO 3200, F/2.2, 15 seconds

Yellowstone National Park

My daughter and I did a 3500 mile road trip from Colorado up to Yellowstone and then back down into Kansas. We enjoyed all the sights, animals and even visited the geographic center of the USA (more my bucket list item than hers). During the day we would explore and see the attractions but at night it was my time to do my thing.  Seeing these thermal pools in the day was great and I am glad I got to experience it with her. At night when all the people returned to their hotels, I could get out and shoot. Very peaceful at night with a faint bubbling sound of the thermal pools. I really enjoyed shooting this image as our nearest neighbor, Andromeda, rose up behind the trees. It was a beautiful night in a beautiful park.

July

hug point mist (1)
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm Art, ISO 64, F/9, 30 seconds

Hug Point, Oregon

Heavy mist and fog can do amazing and crazy things to the visual surroundings you see. The fog was laying on the beach like a first time tourist to the tropics. It just wouldn’t go away. The Sun was getting lower and lower and everything was this odd grey/silver color when all the sudden everything lit up. I looked to my left and saw there was a small break in the fog that the sun was coming through. It was more like the sun was shining through a thin layer of fog, not really a break. I scrambled around and found this composition and began shooting. The light lasted a couple of minutes and was gone.  Having lived on the Oregon Coast for many years, I really feel that this image summarizes what the Oregon Coast is all about. Hazy, Foggy, some sun, damp and yet extremely refreshing.

August

mountianous majesty
Nikon D810 Mountain -ISO 64, F/2.5, Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art, 30 min exposure. Sky – 20 images stacked, ISO 8000, F/2, 6 seconds, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art

Mount Rainier National Park 

Finally able to check this off my bucket list and it feels good but I know I’ll be back to see it again. We were on the tail end of our 6 week journey through the Pacific Northwest. Many months earlier I had made plans with a friend to come up and shoot this scene with them. We were treated to a wonderful sunset before it got dark and the stars came out. We picked this location based on where the Milky Way would be as we knew we wanted to get it over the mountain. It was stunning!

This image uses 2 focal lengths to create a more natural (to what your eye sees) scene. The mountain was shot at 24mm and the sky at 50mm The human eye sees at roughly 50mm.

September

gullfoss mist
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 64, F/11, 0.3 seconds at 52mm

Iceland

Depending on where you are in Iceland, one of the biggest challenges can be shooting so that you don’t get other people in your shot. In the southern region there are more people simply because it’s closer to the capital, Reykjavik. Here at Gullfoss waterfall this was sure the case. Probably at least 1000 people here while we were here. What you can see here is all of them on both sides of me and up on the trail leading down to the falls. I loved the way the water was flowing over the falls and then the mist would shoot straight up along the rock walls into the air. I like to challenge myself when not so perfect situations present themselves. This was one of those times.

October

mountain waters
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm Art, ISO 200, F/9, 1/30th second w/OS on at 105mm

Iceland

Our trip to Iceland spanned the last week of September into the first week of October. The first image I picked for October was a nice sunset with some wave action along the beach. After thinking about it for a while I realized it didn’t show the true Icelandic landscape. I wanted something that showed the more rugged side of the country as well as the changing weather. This image was shot near Snaefellsjokull National Park on the far west side of the island. As we rounded the corner of the road I knew I wanted to shoot this scene. I love the golden tones of the grasses and land while the snow-capped peaks rise up above. The waterfall looks like it’s coming out of nowhere and the little farm in the lower right corner really puts this into perspective.  One thing we noticed while driving around is that a lot of farms/homesteads were built near the bases of waterfalls so they could have fresh water. Yes, there are that many waterfalls in Iceland! They are everywhere.

November

reflected golds
Nikon D810, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 64, F/10, 1/50th second at 24mm

Moab, Utah may not be known for it fall colors but if you look in the right places you will find some nice groves of Cottonwood trees. I had just finished up a workshop and had some free time when I started hiking down this little muddy creek/canyon. The water was very still and made a beautiful reflection against the blue sky. Sitting here simply enjoying this moment was priceless. I’ll always remember these trees and look forward to my next visit when I can shoot them in another way!

December

comet 46p over stagecoach
Stagecoach – Nikon D850, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art, ISO 6400, F/2.8, 15 seconds. Sky – Nikon D850, Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art at F/2, ISO 8000, 5 seconds. 

At the end of the year, Comet 46p graced us with its presence. It wasn’t an epic comet with a big long tail like others before it, it was just a nice green dot in the sky letting us know we are not alone. At only 3/4 of a mile across and 7.2 million miles from Earth, it’s amazing that it shows up this bright. This comet is ONLY 3 laps around a track wide. That’s not very big in the grand scheme of things when you think that Jupiter could hold 1300 Earths. What a great experience for those who go to see Comet 46p to finish of the year. This image was taken behind an old stagecoach building in rural Colorado on Dec 7th, 2018.

 

2019 should be a year of just as much fun. I have a lot planned this year and tomorrow I am starting the year off right with a trip to the Oregon Coast. I look forward to catching up with everyone soon and please feel free to contact me directly using the form below.

I hope you find these links helpful.

Darren White Photography

Sigma Lenses – See these amazing high quality lenses and all their info

Night Photography Workshops in Colorado, Yellowstone, and Moab, Utah – Take your night photography to the next level and beyond.

Nitecore Lights for all your needs – The only lights I trust while out playing in the dark.

 

Simplifying Night Photography

gear

As a night photography workshop instructor over the last 5 years I have seen a lot with our students. I have seen very happy students and I have seen, at times, very upset students. 99% of the time, if they are upset, it’s because they don’t know their gear well enough to work with it in the dark. This is not a bad thing, it’s just part of the learning experience.

I am writing this today to help ease some of that frustration. I am writing this to help ease some anxiety you may have because you want to get into night photography but at the same time you are scared you don’t have the correct gear.

Today I am going to tell you exactly what you need. That’s it…I run a no BS approach to photography. I wont sugar coat things, I wont say they are OK if they are not. Why accept somethings that’s OK only to get home and find out that it’s not. Unacceptable.

YOU ONLY NEED 3 things, 2 really, to begin your quest as a night photographer.

  • Digital Camera  with at least an F/4 lens.
  • Tripod – Med sized to full size will work fine
  • Remote cord – Optional

Surprised?  I thought so. Let me explain

Camera and Lens – This is where you will adjust your settings and capture your images. You don’t need a 40 or 50mp camera to get good night images. You simply need a camera. Any camera that can expose for 30 seconds will do the trick as long as your lens is F4 or faster, this means that it could be a 2.8, 1.8 or 1.4 lens. If you are just starting out and don’t want to spend a lot of money get an F4 or 2.8 as they will work just fine to capture images. I use an F4 lens for some of my work and have no issues. I also use a 1.4 sometimes.

Tripod – This is what holds your camera steady while your shutter is open. I suggest a tripod that does not have toothpicks for legs… Really, you think your camera will hold still on toothpick legs, it wont! If you do have a tripod that has very thin legs then I would simply suggest that you do not extend them and shoot with the legs fully collapsed and close to the ground to hold the camera as steady as possible.

Remote Cord – Optional – Why optional? Because your camera has a shutter button that you can, believe it or not, press down with your finger or thumb if you like. Seriously, it works, try it. If your camera is on a stead tripod and the tripod is tightened down so that the camera does not move then yes, it’s ok to use your finger to press the shutter. I personally like the remote cords that connect directly to your camera and not the wireless ones. Why? I have never seen anyone have issues with a remote cord that connects directly to the camera. I see people all the time fuss about because their shutters are not going off because they can’t get their wireless remotes to work. I have also seen a lot of people who try to program their intervalometers on their remote cords even when they have a camera that can do exactly what they are trying to do. If the camera can do it, let it do it. Unless you have a very specific need and need to take a long series of images that are over 30 seconds each you do not need an intervalometer. You can simply set your camera to any exposure time 30 seconds or less and press the shutter on the remote cord or camera and it will take the image. If you need to take a series of back to back shots just change the setting on your camera to continuous mode and press and lock the remote cord button. It will now take as many images as you like until your memory card is full or you release the shutter.

Let’s review.

You need a digital camera that will allow for exposures up to 30 seconds long.

You need a tripod to hold your camera steady

You need a remote cord if you wish to take back to back images for a series.

 

DO NOT get caught up in the gear game. You simply don’t need that much stuff. So now you’re looking around your room thinking, hmm, I have a camera, I have a tripod and he said I really don’t need a remote cord so I think I’ll go see if I can take some pictures of the night sky or even a city skyline at night.

Pro Tip – Set your camera on Manual mode, change your ISO to 6400, set your lens to the widest it will go, ie, 2.8, 4 or 1.4, set your shutter speed(exposure time) to 30 seconds and shoot. These are starter settings. If the image is too bright then you can cut your exposure time or ISO down.  For information on how to focus in the dark please visit our website at www.nightphotographyworkshop.com

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..