Bodie (Ghost Town) at Night Workshop

This month, I had the fun opportunity to attend a two night workshop at Bodie State Historic Park in Eastern California. This was my second chance to photograph the stars at Bodie, and I was quite excited to have another chance.  It's an amazing opportunity to be in a state park after it closes with a total of 12 photographers free to roam and shoot until 1:00 am.

Having been there last year, I was able to go with a few ideas as to what I would like to try.  Having two nights allowed me to go back with fresh ideas after seeing what I was able to do the first night.

If you just want to see the album, head on over to:

I went out the night before to Mono Lake.  We had shot there last year, so I was familiar with it and felt that it was a good place to "tune up."

I wandered around before dark and chose this location to set up:

Made from 8 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median
Made from 16 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

I also set up a star trail shot with my other camera:

Mono Lake was amazingly calm this night which is very unusual for such a large lake.  Check out the star reflections in the lake:

Made from 16 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

Now on to the Bodie nights :-).

Before it got dark the first night, I did some shooting the late sun coming into some of the buildings:

Having played with star reflections in water, I went to Bodie with the idea of trying to catch reflections of stars or even perhaps the Milky Way in some of the windows of the buildings.  I had pre-scouted possible locations using maps, but I found that a number of those wouldn't work.  However, once I got there, I wandered around looking for possible candidates and this is my favorite from the first night:

Made from 8 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

I had also set up a star trail shot at a location I had been at last year and wanted to try again:

And here is the same location without star trails:

Made from 8 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

Here are a couple more from the first night:

Made from 8 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

On the second night, before it got dark, I some more windows ideas, and this ended up being my favorite:

Made from 8 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

I managed to squeeze in two star trail sequences.  The first was a location I scouted out and thought I'd give a try on my own.  The second was one that a number of people tried as well as some light painting.

This was a shed that the group had set up an interior light, and since it was right by my first star trail attempt, I played with it right after setting the star trail shot up:

Made from 8 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

And then some other group light painting shots that we did:

Made from 8 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median
Made from 4 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median
Made from 4 light frames (captured with a FUJIFILM camera) by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.6.2. Algorithm: Median

I definitely had a fun time, and it was really good to have the in depth time to explore possibilities beyond what we were able to do last year in one shorter night.

The "Oh My!" Trip

(36 pictures, but it was 5 different parks along with astrophotography and the very photogenic lightning storm.)

 Cedar Breaks to Red Canyon to Bryce, dark skies and stars, an eclipse, a state park named Kodachrome Basin, pronghorn antelope, the Grand Canyon, and lightning. Oh My...

On the way to Bryce Canyon, we decided to detour through Cedar Breaks National Monument. 10,000 feet altitude, and we were wheezing coming from sea level, but definitely worth it.

Then, of course you should stop at Red Canyon since you drive through it on the way to Bryce.

That evening at Bryce, Colin and Prabha got to experience stars under a truly dark sky.

The following day, we wandered (drove) up and down the length of the park and stopped at various points along the way. At the southernmost tip of the park, we hiked the Bristlecone Loop Trail where there are Bristlecone Pine trees over 1800 years old. Later, we hiked down into Bryce Canyon with an eye towards where we might spend the evening after dinner. This was my favorite daytime, in the canyon, shot.

And then after dinner, we headed partway back down the same trail to a spot that looked promising. Colin was impatient to see the Milky Way again, but it didn't disappoint.

The following day, we headed into the canyon again for a longer, more strenuous hike to take in more. Definitely worthwhile.

I love the variations in colors in this vertical panoramic shot.

We were really looking forward to an afternoon in the canyon, but then the cloud in the picture above decided to start spitting lightning, and we decided to head out. Thunder echoing in a canyon like that is rather awe inspiring to say the least. Colin did get freaked out a bit, but ultimately, it led to him later in the trip wanting to hunt down and (safely) see more lightning when we could.

The following day was about seeing the solar eclipse. But first, an early morning out to the rim of the canyon where I was treated to a most acceptable sunrise.

I was the first one there, but then some hordes showed up.

They left when the sunrise ended, but I walked over to a different angle to see the sun come up hitting the rock formations and lighting them up wonderfully.

And then I was treated to a rainbow as well.

We chose to head out of Bryce National Park because it was clouded over, and we headed to a local state park further east that the weather showed might be clearer. Kodachrome Basin State Park. With a name like that, we figured we couldn't go wrong anyway.

I cleverly left our solar eclipse glasses back at the lodge :-(, but we mostly made do with some photographic filters that I have. Some of the eclipse was visible, but we ran into some clouds as well.

The park itself is amazing and definitely worth a return trip when we have more time to explore it.

On the way back, we got to see a herd of pronghorn antelope along with a buck.  We had never seen these before, so it was quite the treat even though we were getting rained on.

And then we went back to a couple of locations further south in the park as the weather was still threatening, and we weren't keen on hiking until the lightning went elsewhere again.

This is a shot with a fisheye lens that I thought would be fun to try at this particular location (Bryce Point).

The following day was all about packing and heading to the Grand Canyon, but we did one more small hike on the way out, and this was a shot from that hike and perhaps my favorite of an individual hoodoo. I really like how the clouds seem to be boiling out around the hoodoo.

And then on to the Grand Canyon and another round of oh my's.  After dinner at the lodge, we headed quickly to a spot called Cape Royal that had been recommended to my.  The setting sun played very nicely with the canyon as expected.

Then everyone else left and we had the location to ourselves, again waiting for the stars and the Milky Way to appear.  We weren't disappointed.

The following day was our final day of the trip, and we decided to hike partway down into the canyon almost because we felt we had to.  So, we dropped down some 800 feet in altitude in a bit under a mile.  It was really hazy, but we enjoyed the views, and there were some amazing wildflowers along the way.

That evening, after dinner, we were treated to a most amazing thunderstorm that started out on the other side of the canyon and then headed our way.  We were able to watch it safely from the lodge.

Starry Skies Workshop - Day Zero

This past week, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a nighttime photography workshop led by Michael Frye. Definitely one of the best investments I have made in "equipment" in quite some time. And well worth spending some precious free time on.

The workshop was centered around the town of Lee Vining on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

Day Zero

The day before the workshop, I drove up through Yosemite with enough time to go out practicing using my equipment in the dark. I headed to one of the locations we would be shooting at during the workshop, the South Tufas at Mono Lake. It turned out that a very large PhotoPills (app, see the app store) workshop (about 80 people) had wrapped up, and pretty much everyone had headed to the same place I did. But, since I was there to practice, that's what I focused on.

This one which I happen to like a lot was an "accident" in the sense that I was taking a sequence of shots and another photographer decided to light paint the tufa I was using for the sequence.

Made from 17 images by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.4.0.

This one was also an accidental light painting result in a sequence. I stacked together 17 images and then picked out the foreground that I liked out of those images and used it for the bottom of the image. The thing that is really cool is that you can see the Andromeda Galaxy. It's the bright smudge in the center, a bit to the right of the tail arc of the Milky Way.

Click for --> Day One

Starry Skies Workshop - Day One

The first day of the workshop, after time spent in the classroom, we headed out to Olmstead Point in Yosemite for the evening and night. There wasn't much of a sunset, but the rocks often light up nicely just before the sun goes behind the hills.

After the skies got dark, it was time to start practicing what we had been learning about that afternoon.

This was another accidental light painting from a car heading along Tioga Rd as the shot was taken.

This was a planned light painting where a group of us went with Michael up the hill to a particular tree. We all set up and did various attempts at capturing him painting the tree.

Before all this started, I had set up my other camera to capture my first attempt at a "star trail" shot at a particular spot recommended to me by Michael's assistant, Robert. So while I shot away elsewhere, my camera was shooting 4 minute exposures one after the other that I then processed into this picture. My "second" camera was one I rented specifically for this workshop, so that I could do both star trails and other shots at the same time.

After Olmstead Point, we headed down to Tenaya Lake, also along Tioga Road in Yosemite to try and capture the stars reflecting in the lake. It was remarkably peaceful with just starlight and a calm lake. I shot this image with an extremely wide fisheye lens, and I liked how the curvature emphasizes the bowl of the lake, so I didn't try and "de-fish" the image.

Click for --> Day Two

Starry Skies Workshop - Day 2

On the second day of the workshop, we headed to the South Tufa area of Mono Lake which was the same place I had headed the night before the workshop. Fortunately, this evening, there were far fewer people there, and once the sun had set, we mostly had the place to ourselves.

While scouting around for possible spots to shoot at nighttime, I took some opportunistic shots.

We were treated to a very nice sunset as well as some lightning far in the distance. I captured a few bolts, but nothing worth posting.

After the sun had set, I went back to the spot that I had chosen earlier for my first Milky Way shots. This site ended up having some fun possibilities with the clouds.

During the blue light "hour" before full darkness

Practicing my own light painting. I was interested to see if I could do some of what we worked on the previous day on my own this day.

We did a group star trail this night once the clouds cleared away. This picture above was one I took while my other camera was off doing the star trail thing for about two hours. I had been waiting for the Milky Way to line up just in this spot while taking other shots, periodically checking in to see its position.

And here are the results of the star trail work. Probably my favorite of the three star trail shots I did during the workshop.  Mostly because there are fewer more well defined trails in this one.

Click for --> Day 3

Starry Skies Workshop - Day 3

On the last day of the workshop, after classroom work and an early dinner, we headed to Bodie State Historical Park. Bodie is an old mining ghost town at around 8000 ft that is kept in a state of arrested decay. This basically means that they try to keep it in the state it is currently in, not letting it fall completely apart.

The very special thing about this evening and night is that the park closes to the public at 6:00 PM. We started our time here at 6:00. This meant that other than the people who care for the park, we were there alone. 12 photographers who played nicely with others able to spread out and shoot pretty much wherever we wanted.

While scouting around for possible nighttime shots, I took these.

This was the site I chose to set up my star trail shot later.

After being rained on a bit, we were treated to a pretty special sunset.

At the tail end of the sunset, I came across this composition and decided I would try some non star trail photography doing my own light painting here.

Here are the results.  The windows an door were lit by various lights I had.  The church in the background was lit by others in the group doing their thing, but I liked the combination so asked them to keep the lights on there.

Then I went over and joined he church group for a couple of shots.

After the church shots, I headed over to the general store which has these lights in it that are lit all the time.  Strangely, they are not sure where the power for those lights come, so a bit of a legend has sprung up around them. I painted the truck with a light to get it to show up along with the store lights.

And my star trail shot for the final night.  This is a combination of three different frames.  Two lighting the wagon from different angles, and a composite of multiple star trail shots.

Click for --> Day After

Starry Skies Workshop- Day After

On the way out from the workshop, I decided to head to Lundy Lake just north of Lee Vining and then on out through Sonora Pass. The Sonora Pass road was quite "interesting". Definitely not for the weak of stomach. Lots of ups and downs to go with the twists and turns.  Very pretty, though.

An infrared shot.

What's not to like? A lake (reservoir), a waterfall, beaver ponds, wildflowers, snow on the mountains. And a nice hike. Definitely a pleasing way to end the trip.

Firefall 2017

The water was flowing nicely, and the skies were clear (too clear, IMO ;-)), but below are some shots that I liked.

I also posted a short video showing the progression from beginning to end:

Rainbows in the mist

After the storms that came through, the water was really flowing at BridalVeil Falls. The sun came through the the trees and provided a different opportunity to chase rainbows.

This last shows the view from tunnel view and shows how far out the mist was reaching at the bottom of the falls. Caught a fun rainbow in it during the afternoon, and even though the skies were unexciting, I liked the shot.