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!

Bryce is Nice

Location: Bryce Canyon, Utah

Print Options

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.

Print Options

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: 

Print Options

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':

Print Options

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.

Make Way for Mcway

Location: Mcway Falls - Big Sur,CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F.5.6, ISO 100, 205 seconds. Environment at F.2, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6D, Zeiss F2 28mm lens, Manfrotto 190x tripod, Wireless Remote, and Night-Writer kit.

To get this place properly lit at night you really have to do your homework in terms of where the moon will be - it's nestled away in a cove.

I'm not saying it's properly lit here - it's about halfway there (as you can see from the halfway lit waterfall just below the heart - will have to try again under different conditions. Live and learn!

If you'd like to draw your own light-skeletons - check out my video for a guided how-to lesson - just don't add a face for it to appear turned around.

Becoming a big fan of Big Sur, CA yet? Check out another blog post on Big Sur, CA from our last visit in June.

Click the image below for the full gallery of light-skeletons with art-printing options:


Out There

Location: Anza Borrego, CA / Settings: 8 vertical images shot at F.2, 3200 ISO, for 8 seconds

I used a Canon 6D along with Manfrotto 190x Tripod and a Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm F/2 Lens to shoot this super-crisp pano in the desert last fall. You can click on the image to see it larger - I'm pretty amped on the clarity of this image. Can't wait to this lens and my wider angle 18mm Zeiss Distagon T* 3.5 lens the next time visiting dark-skies.

I've edited together this pano of 8 vertical images using photoshop in the past - they have a photo-merge feature that usually works great.

Sometimes I'm not thrilled with the results, so I take it next door to the old App Store - recently I've bought a program (for mac) called Panorama Stitcher that works pretty great, ofter better than photoshop. It seems to have less issues with the blends, see for yourself:

campers pano

If you'll notice the sky, there's three ribbons that appear between the stars where the program had some difficulty.

See my full collection of Nature-related images on the Gallery:




Fire-buds

Location: Giant Rock - Landers, CA / Settings: 11 shots at F2.8, ISO 3200, 13 seconds

firebuds

Info on how this shot was created:

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

For this quick gif I set up the camera in a half-circle space around the fire and shot 11 images - moving the camera and tripod a foot or two each shot and combined the shots using the animation window in photoshop.

animation tip

Just a couple of friends telling stories around a campfire with the universe above twinkling on to oblivion. Have fun out there!

Campvibes at Giant Rock

Location: Giant Rock - Joshua Tree, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light-art at F8, ISO 100, 538 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

Enjoy the outdoors this weekend! 

For this image, I used the 'illuminated tent trick' during a long-exposure. Here I can light the tent from within or just behind with a powerful light source to make the inner space glow a bit. Definitely a nice trick in photos to try the next time you go out camping! 

I used an LED light-pen prototype I've been working on for all the colors here ;)

Killer Cake

Location: Mt Pinos - Frazier Park, CA / Settings: F7.1, ISO 200, 153 second exposure

If driving into the mountains and hiking into the forest to freeze your ass off in the pale moonlight holding a machete and illustrating cake is your idea of a good time, then you are a prime candidate for light-painting photography! 

Just make sure to bring your long-underwear for that 38 degree 8800 ft altitude.

killer cake sketch

It always helps to sketch out the idea on paper before tackling it in real life. I was going to illustrate a regular cake, but making it a killer-cake just seemed like the right thing to do.

Tuojiangosaurus

Location: Salt Point State Park, CA / Settings: F8, ISO 200, 271 second exposure

This location was interesting because of the combination of sandstone and tafoni formations that scattered the coastline. After scouting around during the day (photos below) I tried to go back and shoot it at night. Unfortunately, it started to rain and most of the spots I wanted to hit were miles away. 

I took a chance and ran out to the first formations I could find and did the quickest light fossil I've ever done just as it began to really pour down. Happy to get this one in! Will have to look for a good all-weather solution to my photography.. A little rain is a crappy reason to put away gear.

trail

Here is the beautiful hiking trail.

alien coast

The rocky coast formations go on for a few miles. Apparently this sandstone was used to create the streets and buildings in San Francisco during the 1800's.

tafoni

Close-up of tafoni. Here's a link to the park's website in case you'd like to check it out for yourself.

Pizza Reaper

Location: Big Sur, CA / Settings: F7.1, ISO 100, 339 second exposure

The pizza-reaper was an idea my friend Jeff Morris said I should try out a few years ago. He's got a great drone video he just released called 'Above San Diego' that has some really unique shots - you should watch it.

Anyways, I liked his idea and tried a few photos years ago but they never came out quite the way I wanted - they were rough and un-practiced back then. 

Fast-forward a few years of practice and take that same idea to Big Sur, CA and now you have something worth looking at! Here's the fellow offering a slice, any takers?

You can download the wallpaper-size version of this image (iphone 6 size) in case you might want a pizza-reaper phone:

pizza-reaper wallpaper