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.

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.

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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.

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!

Eastern Sierras

Location: Mono County, CA

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Here we are at June Lake in the Eastern Sierra Nevadas, the elevation here is around 7600 ft and it gets a bit cold at night. I had this place in mind for a few months, the last time we visited it was too cold to get in the water, but on this night the conditions were just right!

Upon arriving at the camping spot, our neighbor alerted us to the fact that there was a large black bear mere feet away and that we should immediately put all our food in the bear box, so we did right away!

We heard the snapping of large branches on the ground and bush-shaking noises for a bit. After speaking with the rangers we learned that they have a local bear that weighs about 700 lbs and likes to investigate any smell of food. They told us not to have food in our tents because the bear was not shy about poking his head in to grab a bite!

deer

Here's a deer on the outskirts of the lake, it pulled the 'deer in headlights' look long enough for me to snap this long exposure with some stars.

The next day we took an off road trip to Lake Crowley and checked out these strange formations I really wanted to see in person. There was a 2015 LA Times article about how they were formed that you can read HERE. Something to do with hot volcanic steam & ash mixing with cold waters above. Be advised that if you try to see this for yourself, you will need a 4x4 vehicle to get there.

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Here's another view from inside the Crowley Columns. 

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It was blazing hot out there so we took a few umbrellas with us to block some of the sun. It was nice to cool off a bit on the walk back by stepping into the lake. Look at those sun rays!

lake walker

One of the more disgusting aspects of this location was all the fossilized maggots in the rock.

After an adventurous ride back, we made our way to Mono Lake for sunset. The yellow road out there looked really nice at golden hour.

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I brought my trusty Night-Writer with me to take a few glamour shots. Here I am levitating it with THE FORCE!

Look at that sunset!

sunset at mono lake

One more glamour shot for good measure, the pink light was too nice. 

Back at the camping spot we made a small fire and I did a short circle around the fire pit to create this looping gif. It might make you dizzy..

campfire

I pulled a late night mission to do a few other images in Owens Valley area and came away with this group of Quails walking across the road.

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Around this time, it was about 3am and I was starting to get a bit delirious from lack of sleep.. Which is when the best stuff happens!

I really let this last shot rip.. It's actually 33 images in one! 32 for the Panorama of the environment and 1 for the light-painted skeletons. Very happy with the way this crazy image came together, I mirrored it bc I thought it looked great as a circle.

Title: Bigger Than Us

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That's all for now, if you liked these images, do check out my light-art archive for the full collection and print purchasing options. Thanks for reading, and stay bright!

The Rocky Mountains (Night)

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

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Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park offered calm and reflective waters on this night. It made me a bit nervous being called 'Bear Lake', here I was hiking around by myself in the dark hoping I would not run into a bear.

I was on high alert and of course all I could think of was bears, so I decided it would be a good place to light-paint one for my Animals Series.

Title: Green Bear (please don't eat me)

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Let's move up in elevation from this spot and visit the Alpine Tundra. As you can see, you never know what to expect from the weather up there. For the image below it was pouring rain toward the end of the exposure and lightning was going off in the background! I only had one chance to try this photo below.

Title: There's a Storm Coming

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The title for the image above is a reference to the common saying in cinema 'There's a Storm Coming' as foreshadowing for something big about to happen. I really like this supercut of all the times people say it in films, it's comical how many times it is used - but I felt that saying here.

I did a short timelapse of an electrical storm (above) viewed from Estes Park, CO. The storm was directly over Loveland about 30 miles away, what a wild light show!

Moving down in elevation, let's visit Sprague Lake on a calm night. Unreal reflections on the lake, this cloud hung in the air as it passed the core of the Milky Way, nice to see it twice!

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Now let's get our feet wet with some light-painting. I wanted to try a Hadrosaur reflected on the water with the galaxy behind, so I took off my socks, rolled up my jeans and hopped into the cold water. Happy to get this blue Light-Fossil (below). 

Title: Blue Hadrosaur

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Since this was such a beautiful location, I had to try something suggested on instagram (@DTnightwriter account) - it was supposed to be Nessie vs. Giant Squid, but I thought it looked like were hugging, so I just went with it. I was really cold after this, so I decided to call it quits for the night.

Title: Starcrossed Lovers

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We'll end this post with a backyard light-painting session at our friends Bob & Tara's place. They had a great hammock that we used as a prop, fun times using the Night-Writer and hanging out with friends in Colorado!

Here's Bob's first light-painting. A solid smiley! I lit the hammock with a bit of red and blue from the sides. 

Astrobandit draws a pink dancing figure. Great form!

chillmode

Meanwhile, I drew a skeleton holding a martini, cheers to you, and goodnight. If you haven't seen it already, check out my post about visiting Rocky Mountain National Park during the day RIGHT HERE.

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!

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!

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.

Big Sur Session II

Location: Big Sur, CA

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Here's a super-fly butterfly idea I've had in mind for a while, but all of the water I was visiting wasn't still enough to make the reflection work until now. In the middle of the creek at Pfeiffer Beach, the conditions were just right - still wind, still water, and relatively mild temperatures. In this case, a decent pair of water shoes is a 100% necessary thing to have if you're stepping around on slippery rocks in the dark.

We faced some gloomy clouds for most of our time in Big Sur along with some rain, but we saw a bit of color in the clouds as the sun set on an evening hike. I've been wanting to add some new food items to my Light Morsels series. I got a chance to add this banana I made w a white and yellow tipped Night-Writer along the coast.

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Back at Pfeiffer Beach, and leading into the dawn, this was the last image I was able to take before it got too light to light-paint. Another color-tip challenge here, using all the tips in the jar. I call this one 'slippery when wet':

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Along the same lines as the butterfly image at the beginning of this blog post, for this light-skeleton, I wanted a very colorful look. I love the intricate details in all of the light reflections. Light-painting over water is like adding a mother nature filter to your work:

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Check out Big Sur Session I right here.

Superbloom

Location: Death Valley, CA

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Death Valley recently had a rare event called a 'super bloom', it happens about once every ten years and Astro Bandit and I decided to check it out over the weekend - it was mobbed, but it was beautiful. There weren't as many flowers as I was hoping for, but there were still quite a few along the highway to badwater basin and around furnace creek. We trekked it out to a few spots you might want to visit if you do plan on checking this out while it's still happening.

Here's a quick view from inside our car on the way there. High winds had kicked up a lot of sand from the dunes off highway 190, the motorcyclists had it the worst! The winds were averaging around 35 mph with gusts up to 50 mph - terrible conditions for camping.

windy

Luckily, we checked out forecasts along the way there and it looked pretty favorable that the winds would die down by the evening, which they did for the most part. Here is Astro Bandit saying farewell to the storm.

You can see a sparse blanket of desert gold flowers along the base of the image above. Funny that it's called the 'desert gold flower', because the rainbow we saw on the way into the park definitely led us to believe we might find the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

We found our pot of gold :)

That night the winds kicked back up so we opted to sleep in the car rather than try to set up a tent in 25 mph winds (no thanks). Throughout the night, we listened to other campers shouting and yelling as their tents whipped and blew over from the strong wind gusts. I felt pretty good about our decision to not set up a tent.

At 3:30am, we woke up so that I could snap this image of the Milky Way over the mesquite dunes using my star-tracker tool that allows for much longer and clearer exposures of stars. The hike out there took about an hour and it was tough to navigate in near pitch black conditions. I'm glad we got to a decent spot before just the sun came up! You can see the sunrise start to fade in on the lower left of this image below:

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My camera settings for this exposure above were F2.8, ISO 1600, with a 78 second exposure time. I lit the dunes from frame left and right with a red/blue tipped Night-Writer.

While we were there, I added a rattlesnake to my Spirit Animals series just before dawn broke on the horizon. 

Good Morning Death Valley! Now it's time for some coffee.

Day 2

We did some exploring around badwater basin and found a weird hole in the ground that lead to what looks like part of an aquifer under all that salt! Crazy stuff (tap an image to see it large):

That night we went to the Artist's Palette, a colorful mountain in Death Valley formed by volcanic activity. If you visited this place in person, you'd say 'it looks photoshopped'.

Here it is at blue hour, just after sunset:

It's tough to compete against a background as colorful as this with a light-painting, but I was feeling this one because I've had this creature on my mind for a few weeks now.

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Don't let Looney Tunes and the Wile E. Coyote fool you, the greater roadrunner is also a vicious predator. Just look at the poor lizard in it's beak, or imagine it eating a rattlesnake (they do). These guys will eat almost anything smaller than them including snakes, lizards, tarantulas, black widows, scorpions and mice. It's easy to imagine them as evolutionary descendants of a dinosaur like the velociraptor.

Zion Zebra

Location: Zion National Park, UT / Settings: (Composite of 2 images) Light art at F5.6, ISO 50, 319 seconds. Landscape at F2.8, ISO 1600, 15 seconds.

This image was an idea I've been thinking about for some time. I keep trying to think of animals that I haven't done already - Zebra was a big one on that list, and how perfect - Zion.

I thought it would have to be in black and white, but after visiting the location, I decided to do the Zebra in color instead. The natural lines were too great not to have contrasted in black and white! Happy with how this came together using the Night-Writer V.2 prototype. 

I blended two images together to create this image - a black and white of the landscape (high ISO, low F stop setting) along with the colorful Zebra light-painting (low ISO, high F stop setting). I feel like this creates a more visible 'balance of detail' contained within the image. For more info on this technique, visit the EDU page - it's addressed in Question number 5 at the bottom of the page.

composite

Astro Bandit and I went on a little hike during the day, scope out this incredible layers of earth:

Saw some autumn color in the wash. A nice change from the usual foliage in Los Angeles.

Check out other Light-Animals along with Printing options in the Gallery below: 

Ride the Fire Wave

Location: Valley of Fire, NV / Settings: F6.3, ISO 50, 206 seconds

Had this idea for a little while, so here we are at the Fire Wave - a very similar phenomenon to it's more famous cousin the Wave in AZ - but with snazzy white stripes.

Here we have Shiny-bones casually shredding the gnar with a frontside ride on his pink swallow tail board.

The biggest challenge with shooting this location was the perspective - I really wanted a physically surfable wave. Fire Wave is a 35ft basin with a kidney-shape and a deep end. It took some near light-art along with far-away perspective from a wide angle lens to capture the effect correctly. I felt like I was drawing at a wonky angle and had a lot of trouble getting things to line-up - some brain trickery going on there!

Here is a visual of my vertical camera's perspective from the side:

perspective

I found this little scorpion when we were out at night - he was hiding among the many crevices in and around the layered sandstone. Valley of Fire has a lot of little critters to be careful for - Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, Bats, and Tarantulas to name a few. A good check around where you leave your bag will give you piece of mind (don't leave any pockets open either) - just be sure to do a quick light-up around the area whenever you reach for somewhere you can't see.

scorpion

Here's Astrobandit and I checking out the view after checking out for critters.

fire wave at night

More light-skeletons and printing options can be found in the Gallery below:

Into the Valley of Fire

Location: Valley of Fire, NV / Settings: F7.1, ISO 50, 153 seconds

Recently returned from a road-trip into the heart of the Southwest - I have lots to share over the upcoming weeks! 

Let's start with Elephant Rock in the Valley of Fire, just North of Las Vegas, NV - about an hour by car from the city.

I've wanted to visit this place for a few years but the timing has never been right until this trip - I thought a mouse would compliment this ridiculous natural rock-formation!  

The full moon helped to light the environment from high above so you can get a feel for the rest of the park. I did my best to highlight the shadowed areas with red and blue gelled lights. For the mouse I used my trusty yellow color-tipped Night-Writer.

Here's an overview of this location in relation to the road and last parking lot as you leave the state park - I set up the camera close to my elephant-subject in order to keep the road from view in my main image - even though I really like the way the nearly full moon is lighting it up here.

elephant rock

One thing we did not expect was all the tarantulas crossing the roads on the way there.. I'd heard of friends tell me that there was a time of year this was common in the desert, but have never experienced it myself until this trip! Strange to see large furry spiders crossing the road and then thinking about sleeping in a tent so close to them all. Luckily, we survived.

road

I made sure to pick up and kick my camera bag anytime I left it on the ground for more than a few seconds on account of all the spider-bros. 

Here's a parting shot of my gang of colorful mice bullying the poor elephant rock - all color-tipped Night-Writer creations: I'm experimenting with a new 'pink' color-tip addition.

parting shot

More light-animals and printing options available in the Gallery below:

Spectral Triceratops Passes Time

Location: Sedona, AZ / Settings: F.16, ISO 1600, 217 seconds

Gear: Canon 6DRokinon 14mm LensManfrotto TripodRemote Shutter-release, and Proto Night-Writer.

For this shot, I was trying to capture part of the landscape in Sedona from Schnebly Hill, but was having difficulty because of the clouds blocking the moonlight. 

I opted for a high ISO and high Fstop to achieve this look, I like the way a long-exposure can capture slow movements - you can start to see some patterns emerge in the way the clouds flow, like an upside-down river.

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