Travel advice for night-photographers in Maui, Hawaii

Location: Maui, HI

hangloose_maui_rainbow_travel_double_rainbow_shaka_hawaii_goodvibes.jpg

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!

Man On Fire

Location: Pine Mountain, CA

See more in the  Animation / Licensing  collection.

See more in the Animation / Licensing collection.

The other night I checked out a nearby spot that has a burned down section of the forest. A stark reminder of what can happen over the Summer when the weather is hot, dry, and windy.

This must have happened a handful of years back, you can see smaller growth making a comeback but it could be many more years until we see trees here again.

burned forest

Here's a blend I did of all the frames in the animation above so you can see the frame by frames. The steps are a little wonky, but hey - he's on fire! Fire effect produced with red El Tape.

stack

The next light-art challenge is a different type of photo-merge. This one is done in-camera during a long-exposure. It's essentially a double exposure using the lens-cap and two tripods. 

Light-painters call it the 'Lens-cap Trick'.

The best way to accomplish this 'Lens-cap Trick' yourself is to have two tripods with the same quick-release plate, that way you can quickly set up different positions and remove the camera and set it up easily on another, just remember to cap your lens while you move the camera from one location to the next and re-adjust your focus each time.

If you're in the market for a killer tripod that won't break the bank, check out this lightweight and ridiculously strong Pro-series 'Dolica' Carbon Fiber Tripod for about $100. I've been using the same model for the past year or so and I am thinking of getting another soon - for this price it can't really be beat! Other carbon fiber tripods can cost 5x the price!

Back to the 'Lens-cap Trick', first set up the tripods in two different locations, I chose one up close to a fireplace (close focus) and another further away from the camera to draw the heart (long focus).

The idea is to line up the two separate compositions so that they are relatively seamless and look like one surreal photograph. It requires getting the exposure accurate and in focus for both composites - this takes a bit of trial and error to get just right - you have to remember the focal length for each exposure.

I recommend getting a good shot of the plate first, then trying the light-art until it's lined-up correctly separately, after these are both dialed in, then go for the make of both. Here are my practice shots, I try expose a little darker so that the blend works out:

stove

Sometimes it's the simple things that are most difficult! This heart took quite a few tries to get just right, but now I have a sweet burning heart .gif:

heart on fire

Here is my end result:

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After the make, I wanted to try another more ambitious shot where I set the tripod up outside in my backyard by an interesting V-shaped tree.

For the image below it was more like 3 exposures - First I exposed the stove (lit w bare Night-Writer), then I capped the lens and started a small fire in the stove. Next, I took the lens cap off to expose the flames (2nd exposure) and capped it after the fire had burned a bit. Lastly, I moved the camera to the outside where I refocused and exposed for the 3rd time toward the 'V-shaped' tree in my backyard and drew in the light-skeleton with a clear-tipped Night-Writer

Give it a try the next time you're in the right place for it!

The 'Lens-cap Trick' is one of the more advanced techniques for light-art and takes a bit longer to master than almost any other kind of shot, so please be patient and give yourself plenty of time to try and fail... If you don't give up, you will eventually succeed. Stay Bright!

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.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

Location: Alabama Hills, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F16-F4, ISO 400 571 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Night-Writer with Red and Blue Color-tips.

This image was captured as the clouds rolled in - the skies are incredible out here, especially under a new moon. Too bad this was my only glimpse of them!

As you can see from the exposure time of 571 seconds, climbing rocks in the dark is not easy task - It's an easy way to break your neck, ankle, or anything else you can think of.

Slow and steady may not win the race here, but you can still manage to try again tomorrow with this technique - a sure foot beats a hasty one.

I found the Alabama Hills to be a perfect spot for my between a rock and a hard place light-illustration - I often feel this way when trying to tackle too many projects at once and having all my financial burdens come to a head at the end of the month :P

T. Rex in Bagdad

Location: Bagdad, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F11, ISO 100, 172 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Night-Writer with Green Color-tip.

Astrobandit and I took Route 66 on a whim to see what we could find along the way to Needles, CA - some of that road didn't look like it has been maintained since the 1930's - it was like driving on a never-ending cheese-grater!

Late at night we passed a small ghost-town by the name of Bagdad, it had some interesting junk-cars and even junkier buildings, but there was a large yellow light coming from a construction company that blew-out the spot - not good for night-shooting.

Halfway between Siberia and Bagdad I stopped at this place because there was so little light-pollution and drew this T. Rex second take using my new color-tips for Night-Writer (which are available for purchase starting today)!

 

 

Stargazing Spirits

Location: San Simeon, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light Art at F8, ISO 100, 552 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Info on how this shot was created:

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release and Prototype Night-Writer

For me, this type of photo could not have been created merely a year ago.

I say this because in the last year I've started getting into compositing very high ISO star-shots along with my very low ISO light-art shots (always shot on location - it's a method I've outlined in this recent blog post).

Combine that with the development of a new light-pen (It's like turning B&W to color TV!) and you have the true holy-grail of technology and art - PROGRESSION.

The adventures of Hobo Baggins - Volume I

Hobo Baggins sets off on the journey of his after-life without a penny to his name.

After scoring a ride with a lonesome trucker, Hobo Baggins gets dropped off on the wrong side of the tracks in an industrial section of Los Angeles. The trucker was kind enough to share a smoke and point him in the right direction. Hobo takes one last look back into the dark and begins a long walk towards the light.

downtown railroad

After following the tracks for hundreds of miles up the coast of California, Hobo arrives in Portland, Oregon in a much better state of mind.

portland tracks

Continuing his journey into the woods with a pair of red boots he picked up in Portland, Hobo Baggins is inspired and in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds him.

After months on the road, Hobo arrives in Ojai, CA on an olive orchard, transformed and enlightened by his travel experiences. 

Reaching Out

Location: Sunken City - San Pedro / Settings: (Hacked Holga to shoot long exposure) ~ 200sec exposure on ISO 400 film.

It's not often that I spend more money on developing film than buying the camera, but that was the case with this Holga 120 cam I used to create this image.

This was the riskiest shot I took that night - after viewing the frame, I thought the cliffside peak would be the best spot for my character but soon realized how sketchy it was as I was climbing the brittle structure hanging about 80ft over the rocky shore below. I like how both a helicopter and a ship are visible on the horizon and you can scarcely see my shadow behind the skeleton figure.

Cave of Mystery

Location: Leo Carrillo Beach - Malibu, CA / Settings: F3.5, ISO 200, 189 second exposure.

The California coastline is riddled with mysteries waiting for the curious to explore - We found this little cave spot just after sunset and it was a nice relief from the high winds!

I got to put my recently fixed light-pen to work here - I re-wired the old white LED with an led that fades through the color spectrum.. It was a different style than my usual quick light-lines and I was forced to be more strategic with the color fades and shapes here.