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:

enhance

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.

Wakey Wakey

Location: Red Rock Canyon, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 140 seconds. Stars at F3.2, ISO 1600, 15 seconds.

Info on how this shot was created:

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto Tripod, and Remote Shutter-release.

What if I told you there's a place where the hillside looks like a giant strip of bacon?

arrival at bacon rock

If you're like me, you would think that bacon is not enough - It needs eggs! I hope you like them sunny-side up, I prefer mine over medium.. Here's Jordan (Astrobandit) patiently waiting in the car for her eggs to cook under a bright near-full moon.

You can check out my 'Light Morsels' gallery for other foods that are light on calories.

Cherries on top

Location: Anza Borrego, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 91 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

As many of you may have noticed, I've been doing a lot of composite shots lately - the reasoning is simple - I want you to see the stars! Screw the trails, who cares about that? I want bright stars in the background! Galaxies, nebulas, constellations, meteors, I want them all crisp and clear! I didn't travel 3 hours by car to see dim skies!

A simple explanation of the technique I'm using is that I take 2 photos for every composite image you see, one for the light art, and another for the background. I don't move my camera from the tripod - I just take 2 for every one, making sure to re-focus from rather close to near infinity, it's basically a type of HDR for light-painting.. Which I think camera manufacturers are going to implement eventually, but for now it's a bit of camera-hack.

My method is to first find the most picturesque location, bearing in mind where the stars look best. To do this, I use my eyes first, then I confirm where the constellations are with an app I've recently acquired called 'Sky Guide' (iphone app) which uses your GPS to identify constellations.

After I've found my spot, and taken a high-ISO shot (around F2.8, ISO 3200 for 15 sec) - stars and environment should be pretty bright. Then I begin the light-art process - for this, my settings are around F8, ISO 100, for as many seconds as needed (use bulb mode!). If you've done this right, you should see decent light art and everything else should be rather dark. After you've got a decent take, re-focus for the stars, and reset your ISO to around 3200 (like before - during your initial test-shot). Get a bright and sharp star-shot then combine the two images in post.

With photoshop, start with the base light art, then put the star-shot on top and select 'lighten' on the top image to sandwich your two shots into one - presto! From Darius Twin to Starius Twin.  

starius twin

Milk with your Coffee?

Location: Joshua Tree, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 40 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

The desert is a strange and beautiful place. It's harsh with extreme conditions like heat, cold, strong winds and venomous animals.

But there's another side to the desert that is peaceful, magic and spiritual - a place of wonder where you can feel insignificant in the best way possible.