Archive for November, 2015

Learning…the hard way.

November 9, 2015

petit jean night skyOne of the things I wanted to do during our recent trip to Petit Jean State Park was night sky photography.  I was so excited to be in a place far out in the country where I could anticipate skies unaffected by city lights.  With visions of the Milky Way swimming before me, I lugged my tripod and camera out to the edge of the overlook near our hotel.    I had done quite a bit of reading on the subject of night photography.  I knew I wanted the fastest lens in my arsenal.  I knew I wanted to crank up the ISO – but not so much that noise would be a problem.  I knew I needed to keep the exposure time under 30 seconds, because after that amount of time, the movement of the earth becomes apparent in the form of star trails.  I knew all of this.  But, when it came right down to it, I seem to have forgotten much of what I had “learned.”

I do own a fast lens.  It’s a 50mm f1.5.  Plenty fast enough for the task at hand.  I cranked the ISO up to 1600.  I was a little nervous about going that high, but the buzz about my camera is that it handles high ISO quite well.  I decided to go on faith.  I had downloaded an app for my iPhone to plug the camera into which, among other things, can direct the camera shutter to remain open a specific amount of time.  Just the ticket for night sky photography!  Good planning all the way around.  But, that’s where my plans broke down.

First of all, even though I was armed with a fast little lens, for some reason I decided to stop it down a bit in an effort  to increase sharpness.  WHAT was I thinking?  That forced me to keep the shutter open way too long.  Plus…I failed to actually practice with my handy-dandy little shutter control app.  So, I counted.  One-Mississippi.  Two-Mississippi.  That doesn’t work too well.  Some of my exposures were as long as 39 seconds. Not good at all.  I had noticeable star trails.  That was NOT a goal.

I learned that even a large state park is not really all that isolated from city lights.  I don’t know what city (town) it was – but there was clearly something going on across the valley.  I didn’t mind that so much, however.  I think it sort of made the photo more interesting.  The ambient light over “there” provided a little bit of interest on the horizon.  I also learned that plain ol’ stars aren’t that photogenic.  I didn’t capture any of the Milky Way.  A black field full of little white blobs just didn’t get it for me.  Plus…all those little blobs had trails.  Silly me.

I ended up with five or six photos similar to the one above.  They’re nice.  I like them.  But, they don’t have the punch I was hoping for.  Next time, I’ll pay better attention to details.

Arkansas Leaf Peeping

November 5, 2015

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We got out of town last weekend for a quick trip up to Petit Jean State park, just north of Little Rock.  It was a whirlwind trip of a day and a half, but it couldn’t have been better.  We needed a little bit of crisp fall air, and some turning leaves.  We found both and so much more.

The park has really great camping, but we stayed at Mather Lodge.  I should have grabbed a couple of photos, but there was so much more to photograph.  There was just never a good time to fiddle with lodge photos.  It was perfectly fine.  A little on the rustic side, but nice.  Our bed was really comfy, and that’s 3/4 of the battle, in my humble opinion. We had three good meals at the lodge restaurant.  It’s an affordable, handy choice for lodging.

I’m just going to shut up now and post a few more pictures.  I took a couple hundred, but I’ll cull them down to three or four of the best.

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Next time I’ll talk about my night photography experience.  It was not what I hoped…but I learned a lot.