First Night: Testing an iOptron SkyTracker, Part Two

Orion Nebula and Nebula NGC 1977

Orion Nebula and Nebula NGC 1977. Three minute exposure with a 300mm lens and camera mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker. This is cropped from a larger image.

After a one minute exposure using the iOptron SkyTracker (see the photo in part one), I tried a 3 minute exposure with the same 300mm lens to create the image above (which is cropped from a larger image which you can see below). The Orion Nebula (M42 and M43) shows up quite well and you can even see some of the nebulosity of NGC 1977 just above the Orion Nebula around the 5th magnitude stars Orionis 42 and 45. The iOptron StarTracker is an impressive piece of equipment.

Posted March 17, 2016. Updated Dec. 5, 2017

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“How To” Series: Using GPS

Temple Image with GPS coordinates. Click for a larger version.

Temple Image with GPS coordinates. Click for a larger version.

The GPS system is increasingly important to photography. It will help you figure out where you took some of your more obscure photos and help you caption your photos.  More and more photo editors want GPS information for the photos they publish.  A GPS communicator could save your life. This series will help you learn the ins and outs of GPS, plus keep you and your family safe.

Originally posted Jan. 29, 2016. Updated Dec. 29, 2016. This whole series has been revised and re-posted here.

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How To Work With A Model When The Windchill is 4°

Selina

Selina, Downtown Columbus Ohio

You would think a windchill of 4° Fahrenheit (-16°C) would be too cold for a photo shoot, but not with some models. We booked this January shoot weeks in advance so we knew it would be cold, but we had no idea how cold until the day arrived. Here’s the story behind this image and how to work with a model when it is so cold.

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Testing Your Camera’s Snow Exposure Latitude

Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers

Cascade, Barry, and Coxe Glaciers, Prince William Sound, Alaska

Exposure compensation is one of the most important keys to good exposures, great images, and the best colors your digital camera is capable of producing. Knowing your camera’s snow exposure latitude is one of the keys to using exposure compensation in a winter scene. It is different for every camera model. You won’t find it in your camera’s manual but it is easy to determine with a simple test.

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Photo Shoot: Using a Halo Softbox with a Yongnuo Radio Controlled Flash System

Kristina

Kristina. Sunlight coming from the right. Halo softbox with Yongnuo speedlite providing light from the left.

After testing a Bob Davis 45 inch Halo Softbox and Yongnuo YN600EX-RT radio flash on my most available model (my dog), I needed to test it out on a real model. Opportunity called in the form of a message from Kristina, a professional model based in Los Angeles (and an absolute delight to work with). She would be in Ohio for Thanksgiving and she wanted to schedule a shoot. I was leaving town for Thanksgiving, but fortunately for us we had one day to shoot after she arrived and before I left.

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Using the Histogram to Check Studio Flash Exposures

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

Sarah, Professional Fitness Trainer

When using studio flash units, usually the best way to check your exposures is to use an incident light meter which is capable of metering flash exposures. But what if you don’t have an incident flash meter? Or what if you have a subject that absorbs a lot of light? Or a subject that reflects a lot more light than your typical photographic subject? You can double check your exposure settings by using the histogram on your camera. FYI: Do not trust the LCD image on the back of your camera to judge your exposures.

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How to Photograph the Milky Way

The Milky Way from Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park

The Milky Way from Horseshoe Park, Rocky Mountain National Park. The golden glow is from Denver city lights 70 miles away. The blue hues of late twilight are fading in the west. Click for a larger image.

On all of my weekend nature photography workshops, weather permitting I take everyone out once or twice to photograph the night sky. For those who haven’t tried it before, it kicks down the door to a whole new realm of photographic possibilities, and not just for night photography. Once a photographer tries one thing that is totally new and different and ends up with beautiful images they are proud of, they are ready to try all kinds of new things.

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In a Photo Rich Environment: Be Prepared

Front seat camera gear.

Front seat camera gear. Canon 5D Mark III with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 lens. Canon 7D Mark II with Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS lens.

You probably recognize the scout motto: “Be Prepared!” It also applies to photography. When I am in a photo rich environment, especially if there is a possibility of seeing wildlife, I usually have two cameras and lenses on the front seat next to me, all ready to go.

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POTD: Stars Trails Over El Capitan

Stars over El Capitan with climbers on the granite cliffs. Yosemite Valley.

Stars over El Capitan with climbers on the granite cliffs. Yosemite Valley. This is a stacked image combing 8 separate exposures. Click to see a larger version.

El Capitan is a splendid sight in Yosemite Valley. Small wonder that for decades photographers have been showing up in droves to photographic the iconic granite cliffs. It is the largest block of exposed granite on our planet.

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How to Create a Stacked Image of the Night Sky

Night sky with airplane lights, Fremont, California

Venus, Jupiter, stars, and airplane lights. Fremont, California. 27 separate images stacked together. Click to see a larger version.

It is a handy thing to know how to stack multiple night sky images into one photo. It allows you to create one stacked image covering a long period of time (using multiple photos) when it is not possible to make one long exposure of the night sky. What is a stacked image? Several images taken over a period of time which are combined to create one image fro the whole time period. This tutorial will show you how to create one.

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Panorama: Yosemite Valley in the Moonlight

Yosemite Valley at Night. Eagle Peak, Yosemite Point, and North

Yosemite Valley at Night with Eagle Peak, Yosemite Point, and North Dome. The vertical light near the center is one of two planes that ended up in this image. Click to see a larger version.

Night photography has its own unique charms, whether it is a dark night with no moon and thousands of crystal clear stars, or with plenty of moonlight which (if you choose) you can turn night into day. And it isn’t all that complicated to do. With the addition of the right gear, you can turn your night time vista into a panoramic photo.

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Preferences Part Two: Shutter Speeds and ISO Settings

Folder opened with Adobe Bridge.

Folder opened with Adobe Bridge. You are looking at 128 images out of over 1800 images in the folder. Click to see a larger version.

I was asked recently if I have a favorite focal length, lens, or aperture setting (see Preferences Part One). And I have also been asked if I have favorite shutter speeds and ISO Settings. So I decided to open a folder with over 1800 of my images (a little of everything) and take a look at my shooting preferences from a statistical point of view. I chose a folder that has a wide variety of subject matter and a high number of images. I used Adobe Bridge for the way it gathers metadata statistics (see the prior article).

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Preferences Part One: Focal Lengths, Lenses, and Apertures

Adobe Bridge screen capture

Folder opened with Adobe Bridge. You are looking at 128 images out of over 1800 images in the folder. Click to see a larger version.

I was asked recently if I have a favorite focal length, lens, or aperture setting. And I have also been asked if I have favorite shutter speeds and ISO Settings (see Preferences Part Two). So I decided to open a folder with over 1800 of my images (a little of everything) and take a statistical look at what I do.

(This article was originally written Nov. 11, 2015 and revised Nov. 13, 2015.)

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Garden Photography Interview for the Akron Beacon Journal

iPhone Photo: Bee and Blanket Flower (click to see a larger version)

iPhone Photo: Bee and Blanket Flower (click to see a larger version)

It all started October 9 with an email from Mary Beth Breckenridge, asking if she could interview me early this week for an article in the Akron Beacon Journal. She wanted to interview several photographers and get our suggestions for creating garden photos with a camera phone.

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POTD: The Maroon Bells by Moonlight

The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake by Moonlight with the Milky Way. Colorado.

The Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake by Moonlight with the Milky Way. Colorado. Click to see a larger version.

The Maroon Bells deserve their reputation as one of the best photo locations in the state of Colorado, especially in the fall. They look just as spectacular by moonlight. It is an added bonus if you get a hint of the Milky Way in the frame (left side of the image). It won’t be as sharp and defined as on a dark night without the moon, but it will be there.

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How to Photograph the International Space Station

Light Path of the International Space Station

Light Path of the International Space Station. August 1, 2015. 10:05 – 10:09 pm EDT. Click to see a larger version.

The International Space Station (ISS) passes over Columbus Ohio. It isn’t that hard to find and it is relatively easy to photograph. In this photo the light path curves below the center of the frame from lower left to upper right (click to see a larger image). There are also airplane lights in the lower right corner of the frame. The stars are slightly streaked due to the motion of the earth during the long photograph.

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POTD: Wood Poppy

 

Wood Poppy (Celandine Poppy), West Lake Nature Preserve.

Wood Poppy (Celandine Poppy), West Lake Nature Preserve.

On my way home from my photography workshop in Grand Rapids/Holland, another photographer and I stopped at West Lake Nature Preserve in Portage, Michigan. It is one of my favorite nature photography locations in southwest Michigan. Something is happening there most any time of year.

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