Travel advice for night-photographers in Maui, Hawaii

Location: Maui, HI

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It's times like these that I wish I had a little drone to send up into the atmosphere and take a picture of this insane double rainbow from the sky's perspective with a very small and fast wide-angle lens to get the perfect full-circle rainbow.

I'll hang loose until then.. Welcome to Maui, you're on island time now! 

This is a land of comfortable temperatures for the most part, it was about 80-87 degrees whenever I looked at weather forecasts. It rained often and high winds affected the North side of the island more than the South. We traveled around the island extensively, taking the Hana highway, visiting the volcano atop Haleakala for sunrise, and hiking to countless waterfalls, and of course visiting lots of beaches with sands of white, red, and black.

Comfortable temperatures can change if you plan on visiting the top of Haleakala, the volcano that sits around 10,000 ft elevation and was about freezing temperature when we visited. It wasn't the low temperatures that got us there, it was the intense and biting wind chill!

That said, the views up there are basically perfect for astrophotography, on an island in the middle of the pacific ocean, above the clouds, and about as close as you can get to the stars without too much trouble breathing. Here I was able to capture the best meteor I've caught yet:

On the top of this volcano I felt as if I was on an island in space rather than just the Pacific. People come up here to see the sunrise, but the other stars are the best part for me!

If you plan on visiting Haleakala, definitely pack for the freezing temperatures and be sure to reserve a parking space at the top! This is a relatively new thing as of February 2017, and it helps with mitigating extreme crowds - they will turn you away at the entrance if you do not reserve a spot!

Ok, now let's talk animals.. At many of the beaches on Maui you might see sea turtles!

These are well documented in petroglyphs scratched into lava rock and on t-shirts and stickers all over the island. So I got a bit of inspiration from that and did my own light version at Ho'okipa beach, where we saw some turtles earlier that day. Cops kicked us out shortly after this image, the park closes after sunset.

Another small and interesting reptile that inhabits the island is the Gecko! This little friend will eat those pesky mosquitos and just about any other insect it can catch. They are fast little critters and can crawl almost anywhere because of the setae under their feet that allows them to hold onto most surfaces, unless the surface is wet! 

One of the more interesting geological structures we visited was a trail called 'Dragon's teeth' (Makaluapuna Point) - this was at the edge of a golf course in Lahaina. I thought a Spinosaurus light-fossil would be a good addition to this scene.

There's a few myths that are widely known around Hawaii, one of which is the 'Night-Marchers' - the story goes that if you are out hiking at night, and hear a conch shell sound in the distance followed by mysterious night-marchers holding torches, you should immediately lie on ground and not look at them. For if you look, they will kill you unless one of the spirits confirms that you are a native ancestor of their people. 

While I did not see any night-marchers on this trip, I was cursed by mosquitos trying to get this image above shot in Hana Bay.

I hope you've enjoyed island time, and some of the images I've illustrated with my Night-Writer light! Until next time, stay bright!

In the path of totality - Great American Eclipse - 2017

Location: Shaniko, OR

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This sort of opportunity only comes once in a great while and I was excited to see it happen in person! After following all the news reports, double checking the social-media accounts of well known Oregon-based photographers, doing calculations on Nasa's eclipse-app, as well as checking traffic reports, closures and warnings from Oregon Dept of Transportation, we finally decided to hop off the fence here in Southern California and just go for it!

Astrobandit and I drove 12 hours North to Madras, Oregon starting at 6am. The goal was to be in the middle of the totality path for the 2017 August 21st Solar Eclipse.

Once we got there, it was so packed full of people that we got a bit claustrophobic and decided to go to an area a half hour North but still inside the Totality zone, a little place that I'd been to once before on a roadtrip to a music festival back in 2011, a small historic-looking western town called 'Shaniko'. Here's what it looked like to me nearly 7 years ago during a delirious (we drove all night) yet magic sunrise:

When we arrived at 9pm on August 20th, the small ghost town was in full-on party mode. There was a band playing in the middle of the historic buildings and people dancing in the streets. People were camped out by the old rusted automobiles and it seemed like everyone was having a really great time. I stayed up to snap this pano of the old barn with the Milky Way above it. It felt like the completion of a circle:

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That night we slept in our car and woke up to what must have been thousands more that had arrived in the middle of the night or perhaps early that morning. The people parked next to us had driven from Washington and the people next to them had flown in from Japan! The general mood was filled with anticipation and a common sense of purpose, everyone was really nice to each other! It was a beautiful thing to witness in person because all I've read in the news recently is doom and gloom, this was the exact opposite of that!

At 10:20am is when it began, not that either of us could see the transition much.. We had opted not to get solar glasses - this was a pretty glaring mistake in the transitional phases of the eclipse, but I figured the most important part was the totality.

Here's a video I recorded on my phone (and a few other cameras) of the totality happening, one of the things that was a little unexpected was how much the temperature changed during totality, it must have dropped 20-30 degrees in just a few minutes! Also, it produced an incredible 360 degree sunset!

'Wow' pretty much sums it up:

Here are some of my favorite images we captured of the eclipse, I was trying to take some long-exposures to get stars in the background but that proved totally impossible because the sun was still so bright behind the moon!

I've listed the cameras used to shoot the various images below - iPhone 7 Plus, Canon 6D with 70mm lens + UV filter, Canon 7D with 300mm lens plus 10-stop ND filter, and a Sony A6000 with 200mm lens:

The traffic exiting Madras, Oregon was some of the worst I've ever experienced - historic for sure.

Bottlenecking everywhere due to all the 2 lane roads and massive camps of people all leaving at the same time. Add on a few small towns in the middle with a few traffic lights that were not designed to accommodate millions of people and we were looking at about 10hrs of 2mph traffic from Madras to La Pine - a terrible price to pay but an surreal experience I'll never forget.

Thanks for reading! If you'd like to see more nature related imagery, check out my landscapes gallery here!

Superbloom 2017

Location: Borrego Springs / Lake Elsinore, CA

I feel like I've been hibernating for a bit.. But all that's about to change with Spring in the air! Here's a quick animated loop I made with the most recent version of my Night-Writer prototype at Walker Canyon nearby Lake Elsinore.

You can see these flowers off the side of the 15 freeway and they make the hills look like they were covered with Cheetos from a distance. Closer up, they are actually vast fields of wild California Poppies and a very popular place to visit for photographers.

The beauty of this bloom is a sight to behold, supposedly the best in over a decade.

All these flower fields in bloom gave me an idea for a light-drawing, so I did this quick sketch and have been thinking of it for a little bit. It seemed appropriate.

It took a few tries to get right, there was a whole process of set lighting for the actual creation, I'll go over the whole process below the image:

First, I used a remote triggered pod-light to cast red up from the base of the flowers around my soon to be light-drawing for about 10 seconds. Then, I highlighted the area in front of the flowers and up the hill from the left and right side (off frame) w a high-powered white light. After this, I began drawing in my fire-flower with an un-filtered Night-Writer for the starry eyes and color-filtered Night-Writer for the flower itself switching colors from yellow to red and then green. Lastly, I used red EL Wire for the fireball.

Out in the desert of Borrego Springs, we visited Coyote Canyon and Henderson Canyon. So many varieties of bright colorful flowers in the normally reddish brown areas.

For the next light-drawing, I decided to focus some energy on my 'Insects' series. Here's a popular (or un-popular) and spring-appropriate character, the Mighty Grasshopper.

The last image I will leave you with was made with a weird color-wheel device I created over the weekend with some color-filters and a skateboard bearing.

The tool was kind of difficult to work with, but it functioned well enough to draw this 'High Flower' waving goodnight.

A Visit to Big Sur, CA

Location: Big Sur, CA

After a long drive out of city, through hours of vacant roads in the farm country of the central valley and some curvy roads through wine country in the hills, we made our way to the coast of central California.

There were several landslides and road closures along Highway 1 North so the scenic route was not an option, our trip was scenic anyways:

Here I am spelling it out at Bixby Bridge with a new color-tip design that looks like a crystal (in gallery above).

Tucked away in the heart of the California coastline, Big Sur has some of the darker skies in the country and you can see bright stars at night. During a new moon, it was ideal astrophotography conditions. It was difficult to pick out constellations you could see so many in the sky at once.

Looking North up the rocky coastline:

McWay Light Posse:

The sky was so dark, clear and calm that stars made reflections on the ocean. Here Sirius is backlighting an agave blossom:

Last image I'll leave you with is one of 'Sea and Space'. See more posts about Big Sur, CA by clicking this link.

Joshua Tree at Night

Location: Joshua Tree National Park - Joshua Tree, CA

During this time of year in Joshua Tree the temperatures can drop dramatically at night, the higher elevation (around 2700 ft) certainly adds to this effect. It can be 60 degrees during the day and 30 degrees once the sun goes down, make sure you pack a good jacket and layer-up if you plan to visit. 

For the photograph above 'Stand Tall', I used a new light tool I made especially for taller creations. For scale, the left skeleton is about 6 feet tall and the right one is about nine to ten feet tall. I used an old antenna, an LED and single wire to create an extendable light source I could draw with. Later I wrapped it in clear fishing line for a more diffused look:

Sunrise and sunsets create vibrant transitional colors in the sky, and at night the backdrop of space itself appears bright and unobstructed by city lights in the distance. 

The occasional passing car lights define narrow paths cut through the park, highlighting mounds of giant boulders.

setting up the shootout

Here I am setting up the next shot, I wanted a western shootout look with one character in the foreground and another far off in the background eating lead.

I was hoping to get a bit of that fading sunset color in the shot.

You can get a feel for about how much time went by taking a look at the length of the star trails. The 'Midnight Showdown' scene (below) took 370 seconds:

Later that night we headed to a really cool place called Cactus Moon Retreat, and I drew a cactus and moon in one of my favorite rooms in the property using my newly designed jumbo Night-Writer tips.

cactus moon

Here's a sneak peak at what some new modular (and larger) color-tips look like up close, I plan on making these available soon but need to fix a few minor things about the way they clasp together first.

Here's a short GoPro video I captured while trying to create the images in this post, hopefully it gives you a good idea of what making light-drawings is all about.

We'll finish this post with the 'Devil you Know', made with a red modular tip and a really bright white LED to create some flares over the eyes.

Click Here for more articles on Joshua Tree, CA.

 

Winter Redwoods

Location: Humboldt County, CA - Prairie Creek Redwoods and Avenue of the Giants

Here we are in the freezing Redwoods of the Northernmost coastal areas of California. A place that looks like time was forgotten and Giants remain. Indeed, these trees have been on Earth for around 240 million years.

My personal (probably incorrect) theory is that this was once a part of Pangea hundreds of millions of years ago and most of it broke apart and collapsed into the ocean on part of the Juan De Fuca Plate leaving a tiny portion that remains on the coast of the North American tectonic plate. 

It's fun to think of Dinosaurs once roaming between these trees, but it's another thing to draw them doing it frame by frame in 34 degree weather with a Night-Writer (+ yellow-tip) in the dark.

I sketched this animation frame by frame (below) to make sure the movement was accurate, a triceratops light-fossil is a complicated character, here it is simplified:

sketchy at best

The first thing you have to know about this area is that it's fairly remote and a bit difficult to get to (especially if coming from Los Angeles like us!), be prepared for many hours of windy roads on the 101 past San Francisco, CA.

During this time of year it typically gets cold at night and can be rainy, watch out for black ice on the curvy roads deep in the forest, we tried not to drive on these roads too late into the night.

Our stops along the way up were: Santa Rosa, Willits, Trinidad, Klamath, then we came down the coast visiting Fort Bragg, Tomales Bay, and lastly Big Sur.

 Most light-painting sessions occurred just after sunset and until 9pm, after that it got a bit frosty.

ice cold

Welcome to Winter!

I drew a 'Lost Rudolph' with his nose so bright on an old bridge off the 101 in an area called 'Lost Man Creek'. I like how he looks a little confused here.. This area was pitch black at night, a bit spooky also.

Looks like we've got a hairy situation on our hands here, 'Bigfoot'!

For this image (above) I experimented with a new homemade Night-Writer tip made of cut, sanded, and glued plastic pieces.

I like the texture it added to my bigfoot:

I can't stress the importance enough of scouting a location first before it becomes too dark in the forest.

At night it's difficult to see anything more than 20 feet ahead of you. For the image below I was reaching around in the dark a bit.

Here are some of my 'light-skeletons' hanging around this fallen giant in the night, we'll call them the 'Forest Spirits'.

Looking further into the forest, I had an idea to topographically map the depth of the trees with a high-powered laser, the result is almost exactly as I envisioned, pretty wild!

Here is what 'Laser Vision' looks like.

That will sum up our adventure for now, here's a smiley face for you - Happy Holidays! 

Click Here for more articles about The Redwoods.

smiley

Night-photography in the Valley of Fire

Location: Valley of Fire State Park - Moapa Valley, NV

In one door and out the other.

These 'cabins' (above) were built for travelers in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a public work relief program made in response to the Great Depression under Franklin D Roosevelt as part of the New Deal.

Here we are at Valley of Fire (VOF) State Park in Moapa Valley, NV. It's blue hour (above) and I'm thinking of where to light-paint for the night.

I took this photo (above) during a Supermoon, just as the park rangers stopped by and told us to leave this section of the park because it closes at sunset.. I hate it when parks close at sunset.

toast people

During the day, you can walk through some of the hiking paths inside the park and see many signs of pre-history chiseled into the rock like these petroglyphs above. 

I'm not sure what this one means (above) but here's my interpretation - the toast-people are allies.

round rocks

You'll see some unusual rock formations throughout the park, everything is made of sandstone and can be easily eroded with wind, water, and other forces of nature.

This results in psychedelic swirling colors of red, yellow, orange, black, pink, and white rock. The circular stones (above) were about the size of walnuts, you could see they've been formed over a very long time. 

This looked like a fitting circle for a vanity shot of my Night-Writer. Those colors rock (*ba-dum-tss).

Light-skeletons 'In the House' - 243 second exposure / F 7.1 / ISO 160

Under a bright full moon I used the darkest shadows in and around the house to create some color contrasts with my skeletons in the Cabins.

'Capturing a Light-Fossil' - 547 second exposure / F9 / ISO 160

This is at a spot called 'The Beehives', it's toward an entrance of the park and was being well lit by the Supermoon above. Climbing around on those rocks was fun.

'Bee Yourself' - 547 second exposure / F8 / ISO 160

Of course I couldn't resist putting a Bee on guard of one of the hive-looking rock formations. Interestingly, the exposure time is exactly the same as the previous image.

'Dinosaur Island' - 328 second exposure / F9 / ISO 160

This lonesome rock looked like a good place for my lonesome Light-Fossil.

Same place as the prior two images, the Beehive rocks were my favorite night-spot on this particular trip.

Night-photography during Winter in Death Valley, CA

Location: Death Valley, CA

The animation above was shot under a recent Supermoon on Racetrack Playa inside Death Valley National Park, you can make out my shadow rotating throughout the frames as the camera pans right under the brighter-than-usual full moon's light.

Make no mistake, getting out to this spot is a mission - 26 miles of narrow jaw-chattering washboard roads, a few stray boulders, and sharp volcanic rocks will definitely give you a run for your money if you don't have the right tires on your vehicle. 

The last time I was out here was for another Supermoon in 2012.

Winter in Death Valley is great for night-photographers due to it getting dark so early and the relatively mild temperatures. It's nice during the day and it gets a bit cold at night, if you're prepared for it, it can be a lot of fun.

The national park is vast (covering over 5200 sq miles!) and offers a variety of desert landscapes. It has a bit of a micro-climate effect going on in certain parts of the park - for instance, the racetrack playa was 37 degrees at night while the area around stovepipe wells was 65 degrees. Big difference!

Let's talk locations, this image above 'Light Widow II' was shot around Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at around 280 feet below Sea Level.

When it gets windy here, you get salt in your hair, you get salt everywhere!

Badwater Basin at night lights up with stars, here I used a Vixen Polarie Star-tracker to capture the Galaxy and composite my light-painting 'Lemur Demeanor' (above). If you look at the image larger by clicking on it, you can see the meteor I caught in the middle of the Milky Way toward the top - Lucky!

Another killer spot in the park is the Mesquite Dunes, there are a few good dunes around the park but this one looks great during sunrise if you manage to wake up for it. Bring a jacket bc this place is freezing cold before the sun rises. This 'Smile' (above) sums up my feeling of being out there at that moment.

I got to add a yellow 'Triceratops on the Dunes' to my Light-Fossils series before the sun rose, casting red and blue light from the sides during the 213 second exposure made the dunes look extra wild.

Flash forward to the night and I got some 'Buzzards' to rest on a dried out Mesquite tree around a bloody carcass using my Night-Writer LED tool. 

Almost anywhere within the park is interesting if you're willing to walk out to get to it. Be advised that distance in the park is more than meets the eye - areas that look just 100 yards away can actually be a few miles or more in some cases, bring water, a hat, and maybe a compass if you decide to trek way out there!

Here a 'Green Galimimus' walks along cracked earth under the backlight of our Galaxy, drawn with Night-Writer plus some blue and green color-tips.

Here I am goofing around during the day (thanks Astrobandit for the snap) it was around 80 degrees in the picture (below). You can see what I mean about vast distances in the park.

why did the light-painter cross the road

This road was like many others in the park, when you're here it's good to know where the few gas stations are - Stovepipe Wells or Furnace Creek, your nearest fuel could be a hundred miles away at any given moment in your travels here.

Next location on the list is Zabriskie Point - a strange viewpoint where the land transforms into a psychedelic vision, especially at sunset!

I wrote my twin-brother Ross's name here during blue hour.

From here out I'm offering light-writing services to anyone willing to pay me $100 for a high-res digital download of a custom-made (10 characters or less) light-painting at an interesting location along my travels. Need a unique gift with a personal touch? Say it with light!

Another spot along the road yields an interesting view of a small rock formation juxtaposed with the Milky Way. Here is where I created 'Ibex' for my 'Animals' series.

The panorama above is 'Ubehebe Crater' it's a volcanic crater that's about a half mile across and 500 feet deep, this is under a supermoon and the light is coming from almost directly above. If you look closely you can make out some stars.

The last image I'll leave you with is 'Star Stinger III' in my growing 'Insects' series.

Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, California is one of the most Zen places I've visited, it feels like a blank canvas - perfect for light-painting!

For more info on Death Valley, CA check out the park's website.

China

Location: Longhushan, China

'Tiger & Dragon' (above) is the result of a large collaboration with a team of international artists at one of many ancient temples in Longhushan - Jiangxi Province, China. 

Before getting into our story, let's introduce the cast: Sergey (Head of LPWA from Moscow, Russia), Lichtfactor (German LP collective), Alfredo (Children of Darklight - Spain), Mass (LP art from France), Sfhir (Multi-media artist from Madrid, Spain), Roy Wang (LP Artist from Beijing, China), Diliz (France), Ivan (Spain), Nacho (Spain), Edu (Spain), Ramon (Spain), and of course my Fiance Astrobandit (USA).

Many sleepless nights in the rain to accomplish this special long exposure photograph (above). A 10 meter tall platform was built just to get this angle.

Our story starts in Shanghai where we all flew in from our home countries of Russia, Germany, USA, France, Spain and China. All of us took a bullet train 3 hours South to Longhushan only to be greeted with a large Typhoon for the next four days.

We were hoping to take some photos at night but sometimes the environment does not cooperate!

typhoon

Here is our light-painting group scouting the location with umbrellas and rain boots on. We're all here for a massive LPWA collaboration (Light Painting World Alliance) to be done in a few nights, if the weather allows it!

Of course I took my trusty Night-Writer along for the journey, I rarely leave home without it these days. It got wet quite a bit during my time in China, but functioned well in most trying of circumstances.

It wasn't like the rain in the West that I was used to, the humidity was high all the time, as was the temperature - I wore tank tops and shorts most of the time in China.

Here is Sergey (below), the main man behind LPWA (Light Painting World Alliance) - standing in about a half inch of water inside the ancient temple walls.

The purpose of our trip was a 2 part operation, the first was a large light painting photo exhibition and presentation in the city of Longhushan (see gallery below), and the second was to create an animation and large scale photo collaboration that would represent the location.

Longhushan literally translates to 'Dragon (&) Tiger Mountain', it's the birthplace of Taoism in China and you can feel this location has a rich history by walking around in it.

Below you can see the animation our international team made over the course of two nights:

For me, it was the similarities and differences in both geology and culture that made this place interesting, the ancient temples and pathways gave a feel of the past that was also connected to the present.

Yin and Yang was the most powerful and prolific symbol we encountered during our trip, the group would see it everywhere as a constant reminder of balance, mostly between chaos and order for us.

Somehow everything came together at the last possible moment every step of the way during our journey, it was intense and inspiring.

I like this image of Astrobandit that I shot in the ancient city inside the middle of the national park, it candidly captures what it was like to be there at that moment.

I think most of the natives were shocked to see a blonde-haired person, it was as if they had seen a unicorn.

Now let's zoom in to those Fu Dogs outside that temple (above). These were made of stone and inside the mouths of these statues were orbs of stone that you could not remove. Imagine the craftsmanship! 

Here my friend (and killer artist) Mass tries to remove one of the stones, not possible.

Here are some of my favorite phone images (shot by myself and others from the trip) in a massive gallery below. 

It was a shared experience I won't forget and I made some great friends along the way. It's hard to explain what this kind of traveling means to me - it speaks to an understanding of life itself.

During most of the trip the underlying theme was simple - NO SLEEP. Here we are after dinner, most of us had not slept in 48 hours, the bags under our eyes doubled and tripled:

Even though I barely managed to sleep, there were some great images I was able to capture in China, here are my favorites below:

Title: Temple of Light / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Temple of T Rex / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Chinese Nessie / Location: Longhushan, China / View large + print options

Title: Shanghai / Location: Shanghai, China / View large + print options

Along with the images, I got some animations along one of the hikes in the national park of Longhushan.

'Coffin Rider' (below) tells a story about the historical and precarious cultural practice of wrapping the dead in bamboo coffins and placing them inside the small naturally occurring caves within the mountain.

For my story I wanted to show one of the mountain inhabitants breaking out for a midnight joyride on a piece of the coffin and riding it like a skateboard down the handrail and along the hiking path. I thought this would be a good demonstration of balance, it made sense to me with all the Yin & Yang symbols we had seen around this location:

Some say Shiny Bones is still sliding that rail to this day.. Stay bright light-friends!

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!

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:

ravers

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.

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.

Carrizo Plain

Location: Carrizo Plain National Monument - Maricopa, CA

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The image above was taken at Carrizo Plain around Maricopa, CA - as you can see it was in full bloom. I've never seen so many flowers in one place, it looked like a massive yellow uneven carpet that stretched for miles toward the base of the hills.

This location in the Central Valley of California is a large grassland home to elks, antelopes, kit foxes, squirrels, owls, rattlesnakes, birds, and lizards.

In addition to the animals, it has some interesting geological features, like the San Andreas Fault:

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Our group hiked onto an island split and walked to the end of it for this view between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. This would be a great spot to fly a drone for an aerial view.

Here's Astro Bandit making the most of a sunset.

campfire

Later that night we camped out and had a little guitar session. I had no idea my friend Evan was a human jukebox - we brought a great bluetooth speaker but never used it bc he was always killing it on the guitar!

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That night we drank some whiskey and then I thought of drawing a space-martini with my Night-Writer to add to my Food series - this photo had an added bonus directly above the martini when I was looking at a zoomed-in version of it on the computer screen.

It looks like I captured a small meteor or something:

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Here's a 130 sec exposure of the brightest star in the sky that night, taken with my Vixen Polarie Star-tracker. Click the image for a large view, it's worth seeing on a big screen.

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On our way back to Los Angeles, we saw a 'sundog', a rainbow reflecting through the clouds.

Mono Lake Session

Location: Mono Lake, CA

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I'm happy with how my Light Animals collection is coming along, the goal is to make up the entire alphabet with all of them, from Aarvark to Zebra

I had this idea to do two flamingos reflected on water for a few weeks now, but I never imagined how cold it would be while I was creating them - I had this idealistic vision of illustrating these animals somewhere tropical, like the caribbean. But here I am, stepping around a frigid lake when it's 27 degrees out. I used a pink-tipped special water-proofed Night-Writer for this image.

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This is the entrance to the South Tufas of Mono Lake (above). Don't make a mistake and visit the North entrance, it doesn't have the tall formations like the South entrance does.

At this elevation (6378 ft) it gets really cold after the sun goes down. It was 68 degrees earlier in the day but at this moment the temperature had dropped some 40 degrees. It was 27 degrees when I left the Lake.

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Once you get to the Tufas, about a quarter to a half mile walk from the parking area, it feels like you're on another planet. Say hello to the tufa alien.

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One of the more fragile and unique areas of Mono Lake is the sand tufa formations, these are a little harder to find than most of the South Tufas you'll see close to the lake but they are equally strange. One of the interesting parts to this place is that you can never tell how large or small these are in photographs, it's something about the perspective of it all.

The only way to tell scale here is to look at the footprints on the lower right.  These pedestals are about waist high, I put a little power-up on the center tufa just in case you're feeling small. This mushroom is the latest addition to my Light Morsels series.

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I let the full moon do most of the work for this image, that's the beauty of having a bounced light 230,000 miles above the Earth, casting down on the Eastern Sierras and part of these strange sand tufa formations. I thought these pedestal people would be a good otherworldly addition to my Aliens collection.

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Here's a photo of my over/under-water light-painting attempt at Mono Lake. I didn't stay in the water very long because it was so cold out (27 degrees!). 

Mid-Century Modernists

Location: Palm Springs, CA / Settings: F6.3, ISO 50, 202 seconds

Let's take a little trip to Palm Springs - this is a building designed by Albert Frey built in 1965 - It was first a gas-station, then it was turned into an art gallery, and now it's a visitor center. I illustrated some yellow skeletons to go with the red light on the side with the help of my Night-Writer and a yellow color-tip.

It looks like some sort of jetsons-style spaceship. Stand underneath for the full warp-speed effect:

It used to have a really cool entrance, but now there's a curved wall that contains the building, making it a bit more difficult for photography. Here's a link to see it back then with some fountains in the front and an overall more angular feel.

In addition to the triangle shape, there's a few stone boulders off to the side, they must weigh a ton each - I opted for some smiley faces using the Night-Writer with some pink/purple color-tips:

If you take the road up towards the mountains you can take a tram-ride up from the Palm Desert into the San Jacinto Mountains where the temperature can drop 40+ degrees - don't forget to bring a jacket! 

Once up top you'll see sweeping views of the desert and Palm Springs below. I took this opportunity to draw in a light-skeleton skating one of the handrails up there (I used the Night-Writer with white/orange color-tips):

I call this photo 'desert iguana' because after looking at the skateboard, I decided it looks a little bit like one of these creatures. The tail is far longer than your standard skateboard.

You can check out more light-skeletons along with print options in the gallery below: