August 2017

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.