Welcome to Berlin

Location: Berlin, Germany

Here we are at Teufelsberg in Berlin, Germany on top of the only hill around for miles (or km if you're in Germany) it's not a natural hill, it's man-made from the the rubble and bombed buildings of WWII. There are a handful of old NSA spy towers that were abandoned after the cold war and that's where my teleporting skeleton zaps itself to the next destination.

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Up here in the towers you'll find a great spot to watch the sunset, perhaps drink a beer, see some interesting graffiti, and whistle a tune in the old towers that look like giant golf balls.

NSA Towers

If you want a killer sound system to listen to music while you're up there, a small bluetooth speaker like the one we brought will suffice - these massive interior spaces project sound like crazy when you go inside them. 

One of the coolest parts to Berlin, in my opinion, were all the abandoned buildings to explore - radio towers, water parks, hospitals, etc. I wish I had more time, I left feeling like I had only scratched the surface.

Some of the places were generally intact - the brick held up especially, but a few were burned down and mostly unusable, like this once-waterpark with broken glass and burned wood:

The art on the walls of this building were too cool not to give each light-skeleton their own room, I took this 441 second exposure I call "Full House" around blue hour.

Created using the whole jar of color-tips for my Night-Writer LED marker.

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The stairs in some of these buildings do not have any supports and look like they could fall at any moment. In certain buildings, the roofs and stairwell areas were already collapsed.

Walking around in the dark here was especially treacherous. 

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Now let's go up to the attic inside this partially burned down building and I'll share a new stegosaurus Light-Fossil that took me 180 seconds to draw. It's my last image I'll be sharing for a little while until next week's post.

Title: A Noise in the Attic

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Thanks for reading, and stay bright!



Nocturnal Netherlands

Location: Netherlands - The Hague & Amsterdam

Hello again, this is the first post I've made in over a month, it feels good to be back in the states after a long travel abroad! Let's start with my trip to the Netherlands where I met up with fellow light-art photographer Hugo Baptista

He welcomed myself and Astrobandit to his home and showed us a local park that he thought we might like to take some photos at, so we stayed up late this night and came up with the following animation (above) along w a few other gems.

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This (above) was the first image of the night, we were walking down this tree-lined path when suddenly a park employee truck cast some light from behind the trees and gave me an idea for a photo! Without delay I unpacked my camera gear and set up for this shot - my 'October Skeletons' with some nice orange light from behind - thanks Hugo for the backlighting here!  

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As you can see, the fog began to grow thick late into the night, this presents some interesting lighting opportunities to silhouette figures or trees and give a mysterious feel to the environment. 

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Before we hop over to Amsterdam, I wanted to share this 'Tree Rex' image that took a bit of coordination between myself and Hugo. He did the orange backlighting combined with the front 45 degree blue lighting on each side the trees for added depth. Then I added in my pink T. Rex for a pop of dinosaur in the center using a Night-Writer w pink color-tip.

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I can tell you it wasn't easy to get this shot of Amsterdam at night, not only because of the light-pollution, but because of all the bicycles and foot traffic! I was dodging selfie-sticks and bikes throughout this image, it's not my best light-writing but it definitely captures the vibrant life of the city! Old and new together in a hodgepodge of tourism combined with a long history of trade, war, art, and culture. 

Amsterdam II

Here (above) on a more quiet street I was able to capture a better light-font with the backdrop of one of Amsterdam's famous canals that permeate the city, but I think I like the last one better overall due to the character of the city in it. Tell me if you agree, and stay tuned for more because the next city we visit is Berlin in Germany. Until then, stay bright my light friends!

Eastern Sierras

Location: Mono County, CA

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Here we are at June Lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, the elevation here is around 7600 ft and it gets a bit cold at night. I had this place in mind for a few months, the last time we visited it was too cold to get in the water, but on this night the conditions were just right!

Upon arriving at the camping spot, our neighbor alerted us to the fact that there was a large black bear mere feet away and that we should immediately put all our food in the bear box, so we did right away!

We heard the snapping of large branches on the ground and bush-shaking noises for a bit. After speaking with the rangers we learned that they have a local bear that weighs about 700 lbs and likes to investigate any smell of food. They told us not to have food in our tents because the bear was not shy about poking his head in to grab a bite!


Here's a deer on the outskirts of the lake, it pulled the 'deer in headlights' look long enough for me to snap this long exposure with some stars.

The next day we took an off road trip to Lake Crowley and checked out these strange formations I really wanted to see in person. There was a 2015 LA Times article about how they were formed that you can read HERE. Something to do with hot volcanic steam & ash mixing with cold waters above. Be advised that if you try to see this for yourself, you will need a 4x4 vehicle to get there.

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Here's another view from inside the Crowley Columns. 


It was blazing hot out there so we took a few umbrellas with us to block some of the sun. It was nice to cool off a bit on the walk back by stepping into the lake. Look at those sun rays!

lake walker

One of the more disgusting aspects of this location was all the fossilized maggots in the rock.

After an adventurous ride back, we made our way to Mono Lake for sunset. The yellow road out there looked really nice at golden hour.

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I brought my trusty Night-Writer with me to take a few glamour shots. Here I am levitating it with THE FORCE!

Look at that sunset!

sunset at mono lake

One more glamour shot for good measure, the pink light was too nice. 

Back at the camping spot we made a small fire and I did a short circle around the fire pit to create this looping gif. It might make you dizzy..


I pulled a late night mission to do a few other images in Owens Valley area and came away with this group of Quails walking across the road.

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Around this time, it was about 3am and I was starting to get a bit delirious from lack of sleep.. Which is when the best stuff happens!

I really let this last shot rip.. It's actually 33 images in one! 32 for the Panorama of the environment and 1 for the light-painted skeletons. Very happy with the way this crazy image came together, I mirrored it bc I thought it looked great as a circle.

Title: Bigger Than Us

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That's all for now, if you liked these images, do check out my light-art archive for the full collection and print purchasing options. Thanks for reading, and stay bright!

The Rocky Mountains (Night)

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

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Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park offered calm and reflective waters on this night. It made me a bit nervous being called 'Bear Lake', here I was hiking around by myself in the dark hoping I would not run into a bear.

I was on high alert and of course all I could think of was bears, so I decided it would be a good place to light-paint one for my Animals Series.

Title: Green Bear (please don't eat me)

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Let's move up in elevation from this spot and visit the Alpine Tundra. As you can see, you never know what to expect from the weather up there. For the image below it was pouring rain toward the end of the exposure and lightning was going off in the background! I only had one chance to try this photo below.

Title: There's a Storm Coming

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The title for the image above is a reference to the common saying in cinema 'There's a Storm Coming' as foreshadowing for something big about to happen. I really like this supercut of all the times people say it in films, it's comical how many times it is used - but I felt that saying here.

I did a short timelapse of an electrical storm (above) viewed from Estes Park, CO. The storm was directly over Loveland about 30 miles away, what a wild light show!

Moving down in elevation, let's visit Sprague Lake on a calm night. Unreal reflections on the lake, this cloud hung in the air as it passed the core of the Milky Way, nice to see it twice!

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Now let's get our feet wet with some light-painting. I wanted to try a Hadrosaur reflected on the water with the galaxy behind, so I took off my socks, rolled up my jeans and hopped into the cold water. Happy to get this blue Light-Fossil (below). 

Title: Blue Hadrosaur

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Since this was such a beautiful location, I had to try something suggested on instagram (@DTnightwriter account) - it was supposed to be Nessie vs. Giant Squid, but I thought it looked like were hugging, so I just went with it. I was really cold after this, so I decided to call it quits for the night.

Title: Starcrossed Lovers

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We'll end this post with a backyard light-painting session at our friends Bob & Tara's place. They had a great hammock that we used as a prop, fun times using the Night-Writer and hanging out with friends in Colorado!

Here's Bob's first light-painting. A solid smiley! I lit the hammock with a bit of red and blue from the sides. 

Astrobandit draws a pink dancing figure. Great form!


Meanwhile, I drew a skeleton holding a martini, cheers to you, and goodnight. If you haven't seen it already, check out my post about visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the day RIGHT HERE.

The Rocky Mountains (Day)

Locations: Denver, Boulder, Estes Park, Rocky Mountains - Colorado

The image above was taken inside Rocky Mountain National Park, in the Alpine Tundra region. Here at over 12,000 feet elevation you'll find a unique landscape, totally devoid of trees with interesting geology and alpine animals.

The ground up here is different, littered with crystals and small plants that survive temperatures below freezing for at least 5 months of the year.

Above, a sign that explains how some of the landscape formed during the last Ice Age.

Let's take a quick tour of Rocky Mountain National Park:

Below I've put together a short selection of iPhone shots that will give you a short guided tour of Denver, Boulder, Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park: 

Now we'll segway into the night images - click RIGHT HERE to check out the park at night!

Perseids Meteor Shower 2016

Location: Mt. Pinos - Frazier Park, CA

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Here's a quick post on current events in astronomy, the Perseids Meteor Shower has been going on for the past few days, reaching its peak the other night. In this composite above, I've put the 14 meteors I caught into one photo-frame.

Check out my timelapse below of the full 3 and a half hours I had my camera snapping away:

Using a Canon 6D camera, with a 14mm lens, plus tripod and remote trigger, my settings for each shot were at F2.8 / ISO 6400 / 15 seconds. The Lapse is about 514 images - each flare that comes up is someone leaving in a car from the parking lot. I really liked this one flare because it looked like a stargate or something, would make a cool album cover I think:

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For more info on where to watch meteor showers or to find the best dark sky area in your location to see the Milky Way, check out this post I did on finding dark skies RIGHT HERE

Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Ventura

Location: Davenport ~ 6 miles North of Santa Cruz, CA

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The road South from San Francisco is riddled with interesting seascapes due to erosion in the sandstone cliffs with rough waters and wind constantly crashing into the California shoreline.

Carried in from the vast Pacific Ocean environmental forces create caves and formations like Shark Fin Cove here in Davenport, CA. 

This place is popular for night-photographers due to it's proximity from city lights, you can see the Milky Way Galaxy well from this location. Unfortunately, it was extremely foggy when I visited. I did notice interesting lights from boats in the distance, so I tried to take advantage of the eerie mood for my Rainbow Shark.

To get up-close and personal with the shark fin, be prepared to make the steep trek down to the beach. Once there you'll see a rotten looking drainage cave to your right and a natural sea cave to your left with the shark fin formation dead center.

This color run was the last image I shot during the course of the night, I made a really long drive from Los Angeles, earlier in the day and all I wanted to do was sleep after this session, I like the way the light captures the amount of moisture in the air here. What is terrible for cameras is somehow great for pictures.

Just South of Davenport at Santa Cruz, CA I made a little trek around Natural Bridges State Beach. Besides the obvious rock formation this beach is known for, there's an area you can access North of it as long as the tide isn't too high and you'll see some interesting tide pools like these ones below where I drew my Pinchy-finger Dukes crab fellow below.

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I've done a similar illustration before in San Diego, CA of a Lobster character. I think the two seafood friends go together nicely. 

This image was taken earlier that day when I stopped by Santa Cruz, this was on a bridge that links the east-side of town to the boardwalk downtown. If you've seen the 1987 film 'The Lost Boys' you might recognize this bridge.

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The road from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obispo takes about two and a half hours, I passed by this rusted truck along the way and had to take a picture of it. It would be cool to find out it's back-story.. Or take pictures of it every season for the next year and see how the moss develops on the back of it.

A place I've been wanting to visit for a while is a spot in SLO called Montana de Oro state park. It's a coastal beach that has some interesting caves and rock formations with bluffs along the side and a really distant view of Morro Bay. It takes a while to get to because the 1 hwy does not connect South of it, the road out merely projects in a peninsula shape that you have to double-back on when you exit the area. 

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I took a short walk around the bluffs and decided to try a weird looking bug I've been wanting to illustrate for my Insect Series, shortly after blue hour I was able to capture a green Praying Mantis with Morro Bay in the background.

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Down on the beach, there's a slanted and enchanted cave where the waves crash below your feet as you slip around on it's smooth-worn rock. This is where I found the Neighborhood Troll.

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Further South on the 101 highway I stopped by Rincon Beach in Ventura, CA and tried to light paint a Mermaid on the rocks.

I was fairly delirious from staying up so late at this point but knew I had a few hours of driving left to get back to Los Angeles. So naturally, I bought some sunflower seeds from the next gas station I found and chomped on those for the rest of the drive, it certainly helps me stay awake and mentally active. That's all for now, stay bright!

San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, CA

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Before we get started on this set of images, let's drop the digital needle on this track:

Here we are in San Francisco, on a dock looking out toward the Bay Bridge with it's sparkly animated LED light-installation in full effect. 

I made my own light-show to go along with it on the rail of the popular tourist destination, and answered some camera gear questions from a few curious people passing by. My light-pelican is a more colorful variety of what you might find on just about any pier in California. This location was a tough place to take long exposures due to all the foot traffic, but how can you go wrong with that view!

After a failed attempt at another scenic viewpoint, this option was a great plan B to capture sunset into blue hour without too much fog rolling in. Thanks to Michael Shainblum for the spotcheck.

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Larry Lumen waves a bright 'hello' to Pokemon Go players as he walks a narrow line down the handrail of the pier.

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From the pier you can see the historic ferry building across from the embarcadero, it contrasts from the newer skyscrapers behind it. I did a little camera-trickery for this long exposure with a slow zoom and hold. 

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Did I mention how many Pokemon Go players were out and about? I couldn't help but be influenced by the cultural phenomenon I was caught up in. Here's a Pikachu in the middle of the Embarcadero.

I was told to be on guard due to the amount of theft that happens in the city at night, camera gear is an easy target so I don't recommend hanging around the same location for too long. Crime in the city is a big problem, if you leave stuff in your car, don't be surprised when you come back to it with a broken window and your personal belongings missing. This has actually happened to entire blocks of cars parked on the street, it gets pretty crazy!

The crime problem is not something that you'd know if you were to visit, so let this be your warning! 

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Here we are at Baker Beach, buried alive but with a killer view of the Golden Gate bridge. This view is just south of the bridge so you don't have to pay the toll to cross unless you miss the exit (make sure you don't). 

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I'll end this post with another classic view of San Francisco I took years ago from the North side of the Golden Gate bridge. I will say that this night was unusually clear! It's almost always fogged in and you have to pay the toll to cross, so try and time it just right. This image was taken at Battery Spencer - a short hike from parking at the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. Stay Bright!

Canyonlands National Park

Location: Canyonlands, Utah

Title: Spectral Brontosaurus Takes a Walk

Here's something new and never been done in the animation department. It's all about pushing that bar a little further in regards to the ever-changing media that is light-art.

I've included my frame by frame photos below - this compositing technique is similar to what I've described before in my blog with combining two images together to create a type of HDR-style light-painting.

I first take a timelapse of the milky way at a very high ISO and open aperture, then do the animating at a very low ISO in 'bulb mode' and a mostly closed aperture. In post-production, I combine the two images together and *PRESTO* you have a galactic light-fossil in motion.

Let's move on to the incredible place that is Canyonlands National Park! Here's an overview from Grand View Point during the day, the same location I chose to shoot my dinosaur animation at night:

My girlfriend Astro Bandit and I had a great time visiting the area, going on a few hikes and seeing the park at night. Check out that Milky Way, it doesn't get much better than that:

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In terms of hikes, you've got a few amazing options, one of which is to 'False Kiva'. A place of unknown origin that is a bit hard to get to if you're not sure where to look, there are no signs for it, and the location is being studied to determine how old it is (could be ancient).

I did a bit of research before hand and was able to make the trek out this iconic Southwestern US location. Doing the hike at dusk was a bit of a relief from the intense heat during the day, but even at night the temperature was around 85 degrees. Not so good for camera sensors as you can see from the quite noisey pano below. I bounced a light off the rock behind me to cast some light on the large kiva structure:

false kiva

Of course we had to do a bit of light-painting in the center of the kiva. I brought out some Light-Painting Brushes to try some angel-wings on Jordan standing in the middle of the kiva. Special thanks to Astro Bandit for managing the difficult hike out here in that dress:

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One last thing worth noting is how close Canyonlands is to Arches National Park, the two are practically neighbors, with Dead Horse Point state park in the middle. All three places are unique and incredible, if you visit Moab Utah, I encourage you to stop by all three for yourself.

Here's a view of Balanced Rock in Arches National Park that I did not post in my last blog on Arches, I figured I could throw it in here for the ender. Thanks for reading and feel free to share!

Arches National Park

Location: Arches National Park, Utah

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Title: Dragonfly at Delicate Arch

After a grueling two and a half mile ascent, the last thing we expected to find was crowds after dark at delicate arch. It became immediately apparent that we were not the only ones with the great idea to photograph the Milky Way Galaxy as it rose behind Utah's current license-plate art in real life.

For the image above there was some heavy post-processing to remove other photographers from the final image. I'm very happy with the way it turned out and did not think it would even be possible to shoot this idea at the place in person - thanks technology!

What we saw that night on location resembled a rave, with murmurs of photographers quietly talking amongst themselves about how the person 50 yards away was messing up their high ISO shot with their spotlights on the arch. Just as one person would stop with their high-powered lights, another would begin 20 yards away. I set up my camera too, mainly just to let other night-photographers know what it might look like during a typical summer weekend, a bit mobbed:


It was comical to eavesdrop on photographer's conversations and would have made a funny South Park episode about the burgeoning night-photographer trend we are seeing across the National Parks during these summer months. Lots of passive-aggressive comments from the peanut gallery, times like these I just kind of toss my hands in the air and tell myself 'what can you do?'.

It was a nice night, but if I had to do again, I'd go in the off-season.

35mm Light-paintings

Location: Southwestern US

Title: Reflecting on a Sad Memory // Location: Joshua Tree, CA

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I've recently developed a roll of 35mm which I brought with me on a trip through the Southwestern US and some areas of the California Coast. 

I often keep a camera loaded with a roll of Portra 400 ISO in my bag and take it out on just the right occasions. It costs a few dollars per image just to get this thing developed and scanned, so I'm a bit conservative when it comes to shooting.

Usually, I take the 36 images per roll over a few months and by the time I actually fill it with long exposures, I've forgotten most of what I had captured to begin with. I like the surprise of it all, and you truly have no idea what you've captured for months. It's a very un-attached way of capturing images, and as I've mentioned before, the negatives for film do not lie in the way that digital photographs can (ie: photoshopping).

For this roll, it worked out very well. I'll tally this up to beginner's luck due to my first time shooting with the late 70's era Canon A-1 and it's 50mm lens, which produced some interesting reflections with the LED light entering and bouncing out of the camera. Overall, I really like the aesthetic and it brings a more organic feel to the media. The colors seem to seep into other tones and it gives the content another layer of character.

Title: Amethyst Dinosaur // Location: Dead Horse Point, UT

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For the shot above I mixed it up a bit and used a small Amethyst crystal that we bought at a rock shop in Moab, Utah in place of a color-tip for my Night-Writer. It had some strange and unintended color-effects on the landscape, taking blue hour straight into purple hour! The view at Dead Horse Point close to the entrance to Canyonlands National Park was an incredible backdrop to see in person, inspiring for sure!

Title: Endless Grind // Location: Monument Valley, UT

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I saw that handrail leading into the valley and couldn't get this image of a skateboarding skeleton grinding it out of my head.

The last rays of light were hitting the rail in an interesting way, highlighting the metal edge all the way into the distance through twists, turns, and kinks. Toward the end of the rail it looks like the material turns into a car's light and continues toward infinity. I felt like it was a good metaphor for riding out life's twists, turns, and kinks. 

Title: Best Buds // Location: Joshua Tree, CA

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Title: Goblin Slayer // Location: Goblin Valley, UT

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Title: False Kiva Hot Tub // Location: Canyonlands, UT

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Title: Rainbow Tree // Location: Angeles Crest, CA

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Title: Raven Rooster Mockingbird // Location: Santa Barbara, CA

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Title: Sharing a View // Location: Bryce Canyon, UT

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Title: Tree of Light (35mm) // Location: Santa Barbara, CA

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Title: Goombasaurus // Location: Valley of Fire, NV

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Thanks for viewing! If you'd like to check out more film light-paintings, you can see my entire film collection right here.

Bryce is Nice

Location: Bryce Canyon, Utah

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Bryce Canyon National Park under a new moon is a one-of-a-kind sight. At this elevation and proximity to the nearest city, it's a great place to capture the Milky Way Galaxy. For the image above, I wanted a colorful and updated version of my last unicorn I did years ago. This time I decided to mix it up a bit and brought a Vixen Polarie Star-Tracker to get the stars looking incredibly bright.

The way this device functions is that you first align it by attaching it to a tripod and then pointing it towards (Polaris) the North Star. After it's aligned, you mount a camera to the device and it will rotate slightly to match the movement of stars. You'll notice some slight light trails in the lower left of my 'Space Unicorn' image above, those are lights in the distance (on Earth) that the star tracker has rotated to compensate for the stars.

The same location during the day makes for a layered amphitheater of giant hoodoos and other interesting geological formations carved out of the sandstone, great colors.

bryce canyon amphitheater

Along the road we stopped at a recovering burned forest, the light looked great during golden hour, so Astro Bandit and I could not resist a bit of exploration.

burned forest

One important thing to mention about Bryce Canyon is the effect of elevation on the weather. At most of the places on our Southwestern road trip we encountered very warm weather. Bryce was the exception - the temperature was warm during the day but dropped to around 34 degrees at night. If you do choose to visit, pack something warm enough to sleep comfortably if you are camping.

We slept in a tipi this night, but some jerk outside would not shut up with his obnoxious flute!

No but seriously, this kitsch tipi was interesting to sleep in for the night, but I would not recommend staying in it due to how close it is to the main road entering Bryce Canyon, cars would go by and wake us up easily. It would be fun for kids and it's easy access to park, but not great for sleep.

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Inside the tipi was a different story, I managed to capture a large honey bee with a very wide angle lens and some Night-Writer + yellow, purple, and white color-tips: 

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Outside, the Milky Way was putting on a show over the hoodoo amphitheater, naturally I went on a little night-hike.

I was surprised by how many other night-photographers were out hiking in these pitch-black conditions and light-painting from different locations within the canyon! It was difficult to photograph long exposures in this location due to how many other people were attempting similar style images with different photo settings. Next time I'll bring a Bullhorn and tell them "You down right, yes you, go easy on that light buddy!", the modern equivalent of this classic scene from Midnight Cowboy. I'm photographing here!

At the top of the canyon there's a great little classroom-style sitting area, so I took advantage of it with my teacher and students drawing. May I present, 'Schooled on Space':

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If you want to get schooled on light-painting, check out the EDU section where you will find all sorts of information from long exposure camera settings, to long exposure iphone settings, to general tips and editing tricks.

Goblin Valley

Location: Goblin Valley, Utah

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There's a place in Utah that looks like a Goblin kingdom due to its unique concentration of strange geological features called 'Hoodoos'.

Astrobandit and I took a road trip there recently (and other incredible locations that you will see soon). Here's a short vid I shot on my phone of us seeing it on arrival. This will give you a sense of space and how easy you could get lost in this weird and awesome place:

My LED tool of choice for the evening - the eldest current model of my Night-Writer, practically polished from use, basking in the last rays of light. Later I would lose this Night-Writer for the rest of the trip only to discover it in a bag weeks later. Thankfully, I always pack a few when I travel!

Here are some of the images I got the chance to light-paint during our night at Goblin Valley.

Let's start with introductions, say hello to Harry, Larry and Jerry:

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Delving deeper into the Goblin Kingdom, I brought out my old (Canon A-1) 35mm film camera for another light-painting featuring some Goblins. I call this one 'Goblin Slayer'. It would make a cool video game I think:

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I love the dynamic range of film! Look at that glow around the light-lines, and the way that light hits the rocks around our characters. 

I feel like the SOOC movement (straight out of camera photographers) should only shoot film if they are concerned with the purity of an image, for film by nature does not lie and cannot be manipulated in the way that digital can. It has a negative for record so you can see for a fact that it was unedited. Otherwise it's just one photographer's word against anothers.

After a bit of exploring in the dark, Astrobandit and I definitely got lost. With a new moon on a cloudy night, it was hard not to get lost in this goblin-riddled labyrinth! Luckily, after a few long exposures at high ISO in different directions, I made out the shape of a shade structure overlooking the valley. This gave me some insight as to where the hell we were in this massive Hoodoo labyrinth.

The next image I wanted to create was one with a caterpillar in it. I thought the hoodoos looked like mushrooms anyways, so it was a clear choice:

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The clouds parted briefly so I could get some stars in my image! Really happy with the way this one turned out :D

I lit the mushroom hoodoo by using a red LED light and my hand to block the lower portion of the light so that it only hit the top part of the rock. It took a few tries to get it just right!

Next up is a little NSFW but I thought it was funny, I'll end this post with a light-painted dick pic using a particularly phallic part of the environment:

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That's all for now, check back in a few days for a Southwestern light-tour update! Shine bright friends.

Dark Skies of Borrego Springs

Location: Borrego Springs, CA

dark skies

On a new moon, the best place to see the stars is in an area away from city lights. I saw a recent photo from NASA that really helps put light-pollution in perspective here:

Looks like we have it pretty good on the West Coast! East Coast is densely lit up! Just seems more developed than other areas. Here's an animated view of the globe, find your respective area and see how it compares with the rest of the world:

For me, one of the better spots to visit is a place called Borrego Springs, out in the desert on the fringe of San Diego County. I drew an alien face to circle the spot these images (below) were taken. You can find an interactive dark sky map right here if you'd like to do a bit of research yourself.

On a clear night in Borrego Springs, you can see the Milky Way Galaxy with your naked eyes. It looks like a smoky cloud that follows an arc across the sky and is most visible from May to August in the Northern Hemisphere . The Milky Way is normally faint compared to the image at the top of this post, but if you set your camera at F2.8, ISO 6400 for about 15 seconds, you will see some interesting features appear!

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Another remarkable attraction to Borrego Springs is the metal sculptures around Galleta Meadows built by sculpture artist Ricardo Brecceda. For this elephant looking sculpture, I did my best impression of how an extraterrestrial greeting might go.

Here's a hand drawn map to find most of the sculptures in Borrego Springs. Be warned that the map is not to scale, it helps to look at satellite view on your phone for a general reference. Click the image for full scale, and perhaps save it to your phone if you're out and about!

falcon grab

Falcon Grab

For this image (above), I photoshopped out the wires and supports that normally hold this massive structure upright. I could see why they were all there when the wind picked up!

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We'll end this post with a young gomphotherium sculpture I lit using my Night-Writer under a very bright Milky Way. Thanks for reading!

Light-Painting Buyers Guide - May 2016

Today I'm outlining my buyers guide to some of the best and most important items for long exposure and light-painting photography along with a link list. 

gear list

Here are my current best picks for quality & price along with links to buy through Amazon.com below (this is mostly for the US due to Amazon Prime's shipping service), keep in mind that my own photos are done with a Canon 6D, but that is not the number one camera that I recommend due to the photos I've seen from other photographers that I follow and the images that they are producing:

1. Tripod - This is almost more important than the camera itself and will likely outlive the camera in terms of updating technology. A good tripod can last almost forever, a cheap one only lasts about a year if you're lucky, and may destroy your camera if you're not careful with weight distribution.

If I had to choose one for today, I'd go with a carbon fiber model with about 60" of height like this one by Manfrotto that runs around $300.

If I was to go for something around $100, I'd roll with something like this 60" carbon fiber tripod by Dolica w ball-head and aluminum central. Both of these look like great options for long-lasting photo equipment.

2. Camera - You'll probably want a killer sensor on a full frame model. My best picks for 2016 are the new kids on the block - a Sony A7Rii and A7Sii (bundle link) mirrorless cameras because they are killing the dynamic range game.

Runners up are Canon 5D Mk iii, Canon 6D, and the Nikon D500. These are tried and true mechanics that are still great options.

3. Lenses - You'll want a wide lens for the stars if you intend to capture the galaxy above us or just be able to fit everything in a tight space. I recommend the Rokinon 14mm F2.8 (Link to Canon Model), or Samyang 14mm F2.8. One thing I have to add here is that these particular lenses will not auto-focus, you have to focus them manually.

In addition to the wide, it's good to have some range in terms of zooming in on a subject, that's why I find myself using the 24-70mm F2.8 L-series from Canon.

You could also get a 24-70mm F2.8 Sigma lens that does about the same for about $1k less.

3a. Lens Adaptor - If you have a lens kit already with Canon and you're switching to a Sony model, you should probably have this Metabones adaptor so your expensive kit isn't useless on your killer new camera.

4. Camera Remote - Because you'll be shooting in 'bulb mode', you'll want a remote to trigger the camera's shutter (open/close) in the dark. I use this one for my Canon DSLR but there are a host of other options for around the same price for other camera manufacturers.

5. Camera Bag - If you're looking for a good 'carry all the things I need' kind of bag you can take on hiking trips, this bag by Lowepro will do the trick, at $119 it's moderately priced and will probably last for a good 5 years or more. 

On the budget-packs side, this AmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras looks decent, and for $30 you could buy 4 of them for the price of one Lowepro bag.

6. Light-Painting LEDs - If you want to seriously draw with lights, I recommend using Night-Writer because I personally designed it for doing just this! It's a precision LED illustration tool that's great for detailed work like skeletal creatures, built with solid ergonomics that just 'feel right'. 

If you're just starting out with light-painting and seeing if you like it, I recommend starting out with a few cheap LED keychains like these ones. The momentary push-button switch is the most important feature to look for.

If you've already been light-painting and you're into large color-filtered brushes and interesting effects and adaptors for current LED lights you already own, Light-Painting Brushes is a great resource for novice to pro light-painters.

7. Headlamp - If you're going to shoot anything good, you usually have to get to it in the dark first. Here's a decent headlamp (165 lumens) at $15 with a lifetime warranty, you really can't go wrong.

8. High-powered directional LED - Here's a small cheap one for $10. If you want a better build quality and rechargeability, I'd go with this one for $65, it comes with a lifetime warranty.

9. Color Filters - This is a must for anyone that wants to use that high-powered directional light I just mentioned to light-paint with. This Roscolux Swatchbook comes with just about every color filter you could imagine. For $6, it's definitely worth having in your bag.

For more info on the details and methods of light-painting photography, please see the dariustwin.com/edu page.

Desert Nightlife

Location: Pioneertown, CA

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Here's a slow dance with an equally slow shutter, this image took 156 seconds to illustrate with my red and blue tipped Night-Writer

Astrobandit and I checked this place out last week in Yucca Valley called The Ruin Venue which is mostly used for large parties and weddings. I set up for a few images using it's interesting outdoor features like this geometric lighting arrangement which was powered by a small generator.

For this image, I began the exposure with the lights on, and then walked to the generator and unplugged the lights to illustrate my dancing skeletons. The weather was strange this night, it was relatively calm in this part of the desert, but we could see intense storm clouds forming in the distance. Lighting struck a handful of times, but it was far off in the distance, so we just enjoyed the show.

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Here's a view of the fireplace inside the actual ruins. I thought this would be a good spot for my Stegosaurus Light-Fossil - this particular image is a composite of two shots. The stegosaurus took 198 seconds to produce, then I did an additional shot for the sky so I could capture those stars that were visible for a brief moment between the stormy clouds.

If you'd like to try this sort of image (above) for yourself, you can check out my blog post on compositing High/Low ISO photos together RIGHT HERE.

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Another view of the interior from outside the structure with the lights on. I really enjoyed the inside/outside feel of this place, it blends in well with the environment and makes for unique photo opportunities like this one. 

To learn more about light-painting, check out my EDU page for a full how-to explanation.

Old Westerns

Location: Joshua Tree, CA

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This car looks as if it had been in the desert for about a century. Judging from the Model-T appearance of the car, it probably has.

The old ranch was originally bought in the 1930's for gold and silver mining by Bill Keys (left). He had a land dispute with his neighbor Worth Bagley (right) over control to an access road for gold and silver ore processing and shot him dead. The actual spot of the gunfight is marked by a tombstone further down the trail.

Here's a good view of the car, if you know the specific model of the car, let me know and I'll update this post!

old car

Next we're at wonderland wash, where there's an abandoned brick house that looks out to the desert from a large base of rocks.

For the image below, I used part of the wall on right side of the house to illustrate the dinosaur's head and then moved slowly down the neck and across a floor littered with bricks to the other side of the house, ending with the Brachiosaurus tail. One more addition to my Light Fossils collection.

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Shortly after illustrating the dinosaur above, a warm glow began to cast from the east. When the moon rose just above the hills, another unique lighting opportunity presented itself. Here is my view through the window of the old brick house:


With the moon now highlighting the front of the house and leaving joshua tree shadows on the old ruins, I started another long exposure. For this image I drew in twenty nine eyes looking through the doorway and window.

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We end the night with a song by the fireplace. Thanks for viewing!

Here's a link to the hike if you'd like to check this place out for yourself!

Big Sur Session II

Location: Big Sur, CA

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Here's a super-fly butterfly idea I've had in mind for a while, but all of the water I was visiting wasn't still enough to make the reflection work until now. In the middle of the creek at Pfeiffer Beach, the conditions were just right - still wind, still water, and relatively mild temperatures. In this case, a decent pair of water shoes is a 100% necessary thing to have if you're stepping around on slippery rocks in the dark.

We faced some gloomy clouds for most of our time in Big Sur along with some rain, but we saw a bit of color in the clouds as the sun set on an evening hike. I've been wanting to add some new food items to my Light Morsels series. I got a chance to add this banana I made w a white and yellow tipped Night-Writer along the coast.

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Back at Pfeiffer Beach, and leading into the dawn, this was the last image I was able to take before it got too light to light-paint. Another color-tip challenge here, using all the tips in the jar. I call this one 'slippery when wet':

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Along the same lines as the butterfly image at the beginning of this blog post, for this light-skeleton, I wanted a very colorful look. I love the intricate details in all of the light reflections. Light-painting over water is like adding a mother nature filter to your work:

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Check out Big Sur Session I right here.

Big Sur Session

Location: Big Sur, CA

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If you've read this blog for a while now, you'll already know my love of exploring Big Sur, CA. It's a small coastal pocket of California made accessible by the PCH highway that is literally carved into the cliffs on the West Coast high above the Pacific Ocean. 

The mountains meet the sea in this area, resulting in awe-inspiring 180 degree views of the ocean as well as redwood trees, rivers, creeks and incredible beaches. Here, the weather changes quickly and you'll often see dense fog, rain, and sun, sometimes on the same day.

On this trip, I brought up a pair of water-shoes with me because I wanted to use the reflections of the creek that feeds into Pfeiffer Beach, I was hoping to see some stars out but the cloud coverage was too thick for that!

Here's a link for a dirt-cheap pair of black water shoes if you're interested in this sort of light-painting. At $3.99 you can't really go wrong!

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Here's a piece of sushi I made with my Night-Writer light-pen using the white, red and blue color-tips. This particular photo was illustrated in the Pacific Valley of Big Sur. If you visit this area in the Spring, you might see a hillside full of purple and orange flowers. The trail to the the coast is just opposite of this landmark.


Now let's get back to the creek at Peiffer Beach where I put those water shoes to work.

I've been on an Animal kick recently because I think it's an important thing to draw attention toward - Animals can't talk selfies and snapchats like we can, so we have to take sweet pictures of them and make sure everyone in the world knows just how awesome and inspiring they are and how we should try to protect them - it's in our best interest as a human race to do so.

Each species could be a 'canary in a coal mine' (advanced warning) when it comes to large scale environmental changes, let's pay special attention and try our best not to disrupt or cause harm to their fragile ecosystems.

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Camera Settings for my Sea Dragon (above): F8, ISO 50, 284 second exposure.

Speaking of the environment, what do you think caused this anomaly? A doorway through solid rock at Pfeiffer Beach:

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After a steep climb at dawn, I gazed on an aerial perspective that may shed some light on how the arch (image above) was formed.

I'm no geologist, but I know that most of the solid rock is actually sandstone, and that water can bore a hole through sandstone if enough time goes by and it has a relatively single point of pressure.

I think this perspective of the beach gives a pretty clear idea of what might have happened. My hypothesis is that the creek bored a hole through the large rock during strong rainfalls. This would have happened over tens of thousands of years:

keyhole creek

Just look at that constant flow here and imagine it going right into the middle of the rock face instead of left into the cove, and yes that sand really is purple:

pieffer flow

Let's end this post with a killer sunset, I hope you've enjoyed it - stay bright!

Check out Big Sur Session II right here.