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!

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

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:

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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.

Dark Skies of Borrego Springs

Location: Borrego Springs, CA

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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!

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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!

So Many Stars

Location: Red Rock Canyon, CA | Settings: F3.5 / ISO 1600 / 327 seconds

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Here's an image I took using a cool star-tracker device that mimics the rotation of the Earth, this makes for clearer and more detailed stars, constellations, and even nebulas to start showing up in the final image. Starting to see beyond what the naked human eye can see at this point. 

Check out my full gallery of Nature images below:

Space is the Place

Location: Mojave Desert, CA | Settings: F2.8 / ISO 3200 / 24 seconds

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For a shot like this, it helps to have a really good idea of what your location will look like. 

I scouted this spot a while back and knew it was very flat, and that I could get some interesting perspectives if I shot it low to the ground, using a white tipped Night-Writer for Astro Bandit's head. After doing some sketches on paper, I decided that I needed a cardboard cutout of a rocket ship for this to work the way I imagined:

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A few minutes of cutting and some glow in the dark tape later, my spaceship (to be back lit):

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These type of photos are usually one-offs that may or may not be incorporated into a full set down the line, for now they go into my Misc. Collection. Thanks for reading!

Strange Balance

Location: Rainbow Basin, CA | Settings: F5.6 / ISO 50 / 308 seconds

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I'll throw it back today, because it's Thursday, and I feel like I disregarded this image from a few months ago. It was competing against a rare blood moon event, and it was easy to overlook back then.

On second glance, I like it very much. There's a strange balance to all the subjects. The blue tree has a gravity that the green and purple pull from but are rooted towards. The motion of earth, sky, and stars is interesting too - you can see the motion of clouds and stars crisscross.

This was one of the most martian looking landscapes I've seen yet, here's a 270˙ view of the spot at blue hour. That tiny reddish spect on the left is the moon peaking over the horizon:

Check out the September post on the super blood moon HERE.



Final Frontier

Location: Vasquez Rocks - Los Angeles, CA / Settings: F5.6, ISO 400, 20 seconds.

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm Lens, and Manfrotto Tripod.

Another idea I've wanted to try for a minute - triple exposure at Vasquez Rocks using the lens-cap trick.

Point the lens in one direction, expose for 7 seconds - put the lens cap over. Point the lens in another direction, count to 7 and cap it again, continue until desired results are achieved.

Dig this image? Check out some other interesting landscapes here!

Parasaurolophus Crossing

Location: Route 66 near Bagdad, CA / Settings: (Composite) Light art at F16, ISO 100, 266 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 3200, 15 seconds.

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

A train speeds by as the ancient being lumbers over asphalt, the stars above remain seemingly unchanged, a sole connection to the past present and future.

Check out this interesting video of what these actual dinosaurs may have sounded like.

View more dinosaurs made of light in the Light Fossils Gallery.

Alien iphone

Location: Giant Rock - Landers, CA / Settings: (Composite of 3 shots) Light art at F8, ISO 100, 182 seconds. UFO light-stencils at F5.6, ISO 1600, 30 seconds. Stars at F2.8, ISO 6400, 15 seconds.

Out by Joshua Tree, CA and close to a strange architectural structure called the intregratron, there's a place called Giant Rock, home to (purportedly) the world's largest free-standing boulder.

Reading into this mysterious place will only yield even more mysterious results.

  1. Sacred Native American site - check.
  2. Former home of George Van Tassel - an aircraft mechanic for Douglas AircraftHughes Aircraftand Lockheed (Also a UFO convention organizer) - check.
  3. Site of a suspected WWII German Spy detonating himself while underneath it with dynamite - check.

In light of these connections, my idea for this place was to re-create what may have been George Van Tassel's vision while living under the rock - that an alien from from the planet Venus woke him up, invited him onto a space ship, then verbally and telepathically gave him a technique for rejuvenating the human body.

I used light-stencils for my UFO's and a step-ladder to give my alien some extra height - as the giant rock is seven stories tall!