How to See and Photograph the Northern Lights

Northern Lights over Lake Michigan

Northern Lights over Lake Michigan. Click to see a larger image.

As we head into fall the Northern Lights activity will pick up. The best time to view Northern Lights is from September to late March (although things may start up in August and extend into April). This article will tell you how to capture the Northern Lights with your camera. The Northern Lights come and go in an erratic fashion so this article will also show you how to know which nights are likely to be the best to go out and look.

Continue reading

My First Post At This Blog

Screen capture of my first post at this blog.

My first post at this photography blog was December 9, 2004, 16 years ago today. The first thing that jumps out at me is the photo could have been edited for a better color balance and exposure. But it was a start.

Continue reading

Review and Introduction: the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i

Andromeda Galaxy in the Constellation Andromeda, photographed with a DSLR camera and 70-300mm lens mounted on a Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer.

I just purchased the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i. I read several comparison articles before making my choice. I put it through its paces and decided to write a review with a basic introduction as to how to use it. Not only does it work, it works very well. This photo of the Andromeda Galaxy was taken on my first night out with clear skies.

Continue reading

The Best Panorama Gear: Living in Panorama Heaven

180° Panorama: Yosemite Valley at Night. Eagle Peak, Yosemite Point, and North Dome. Yosemite National Park. Right click to see a larger version.

Really Right Stuff makes an excellent, simple to use panorama set up that won’t take up a lot of room in your camera bag. After using bigger, more awkward panorama gear, switching to Really Right Stuff’s set up was like being in panorama heaven. It is compatible with the Arca-Swiss-System.

Continue reading

December 21: the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is Coming!

Saturn (upper left) and Jupiter with its four biggest moons in the night sky, December 5, 2020.

December 21, is the “Great Conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. This is the closest they have been in 397 years. Start looking now. Go out and look in the southwest sky at dusk. Jupiter and Saturn will be the brightest objects you will see other than the moon.

Continue reading

The Best Star Trackers

Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer

Put a camera on a tripod and take a picture of the night sky. If the shutter speed is too long the stars begin to streak due to the rotation of the earth. A star tracker compensates for that rotation. A quality star tracker will extend your shutter speeds from seconds to several minutes so you can capture more detail in your night sky photos. A star tracker is the best way to do long exposures of the night sky without going to the time, trouble, learning curve, and high dollar expense of doing guided photography with a telescope.

Continue reading

Freedom from Want

Freedom from Want (2016) by Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur in collaboration with Eric Gottesman and the Wyatt Gallery

Norman Rockwell’s classic painting “Freedom from Want” was created in 1943 and was part of his Four Freedoms series. It was inspired by FDR’s annual address to Congress, January 6, 1941. That address became known as the Four Freedom’s Speech. Contemporary photographers and artists have been inspired to create contemporary versions of the Four Freedoms. This is one of them.

Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

“Freedom from Want” (1943) by Norman Rockwell

I love Thanksgiving! When I was growing up, we spent many a Thanksgiving and Christmas at Grandpa’s house. Thanksgiving was a much anticipated and happy time. We would often leave home on Wednesday afternoon after dad got home from work. It was a long 7 hour drive to Grandpa’s house in those pre-interstate highway days, so it would be really late by the time we arrived.

Continue reading

Mastering Photoshop: Advanced Color Correction, Part Two

Photoshop Lab Color (2nd edition)

Photoshop Lab Color (2nd edition)

Everything you need to know about Dan Margulis is in Mastering Photoshop: Advanced Color Correction, Part One. After you have devoured the book I recommend in that article, you will know why you need to get Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace (2nd edition).

Continue reading

Mastering Photoshop: Advanced Color Correction, Part One

If you want to master color in Photoshop, Dan Margulis is the best of the best. He is one of the first three persons to be named as a member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame. And the book to get is Professional Photoshop 6: The Classic Guide to Color Correction. It is well worth finding on the used market (which you can do via my photography store). What Margulis teaches you to do with color is amazing. The before and after images will make your jaw drop.

Continue reading

Mastering Photoshop & Lightroom: Adobe Camera Raw (ACR)

The Digital Negative, 2nd edition

The Digital Negative, 2nd edition

If you shoot RAW camera files (and you should), this essential book should be at the top of your list. It is far and away the best of the best. You will be amazed at what you can get out of your RAW files. Your images will thank you.

A lot of the quality of your final image will be determined by what you do with your RAW files when you open them in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) which comes with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop Elements, and Adobe Lightroom.

Continue reading

The Best Digital Photography Books

Some of the Best Digital Photography Books

Some of the Best Digital Photography Books

Some well chosen books can make a world of difference in your digital photography. Some of the best books are about the camera side of digital photography, some are about the digital darkroom side, and some are about both. Out of hundreds of books in my photo library, I picked out the best.

Continue reading

Ansel Adams: Books by (and About) the Master

Ansel Adams - Half done, Merced River, Winter

Ansel Adams: Half Dome, Merced River, Winter. © Ansel Adams Publishing rights Trust

I have no idea when I was first entranced by the photos of Ansel Adams. There is a wonderful, luminous quality to his work. Small wonder he is America’s best known landscape photographer. Collections of his work would make a worthy addition to any photographer’s library. This is also the time of year that Ansel Adams calendars pop up like snowstorms.

Continue reading

“How To” Series: Astrophotography with the iOptron SkyTracker

Camera and telephoto lens mounted on an iOptron Sky Tracker and iOptron ball head.

Camera and 70-200 telephoto lens mounted on an iOptron SkyTracker and iOptron ball head.

You would love to take beautiful, long exposures of the night sky, but even with a 24mm wide angle lens the stars start to streak with exposures longer than 20 seconds. And with a 300mm lens the stars start to steak after just 2 seconds. Not that long ago it would cost you well over $1,000 to buy the equipment that would follow the stars and allow you to take longer exposures.

Continue reading

The Best Night, Astronomy, and Astrophotography Books

Orion's Belt and Sword Scabbard and the Orion Nebula

Orion’s Belt and Sword Scabbard and the Orion Nebula

There is a whole world of things to photograph after the sun goes down. Cityscapes at twilight and after dark. Landscapes in the late evening light. Thunderstorms. Fireworks. And then of course, there is astrophotography. The simple stuff is simple to do (once you have learned how to do them) and all you need are a camera, lens, and tripod. For some astrophotography you will need specialized but not very expensive equipment like the $300 sky tracker used for the photo above. The challenging stuff is hard, complicated, and expensive to do if you want the kind of eye popping photos that you see in Astronomy and Sky and Telescope magazines (you should subscribe to one or the other or both if this is your thing). No matter what you want to do, the books below will get you started. And if you just like to look at the night sky, I recommend some books for that too.

Continue reading