Category Archives: Workshop

Sequenced Shots (How To)

How on earth did I end up with this:

Annular Eclipse Sequence [C_040079+fives]

What I started with was lots of shots that looked liked these first three images – i.e not much of anything.

As I went along I ended up combining the “specks” into the image at the lower left. I combined the sequence with a shot taken just after sunset (middle bottom) and the result is as shown in the lower right.

We will soon provide the explanation of how to create the result. First we would like to give some clues about how the shot was planned – because, as it turns out, planning is an important part of all sequences like this one!

Avoidable Technical Content

The May 20, Annular Solar eclipse was well documented. Particularly handy is Nasa’s map based application. Choose a spot on earth by clicking on the map and some useful data pops up:

See those highlighted numbers… they tell you that when the eclipse starts it will be 31.5 degrees high in the sky, and when it ends it will be 5 degrees high – about 27 degrees top to bottom.  Allowing another 5 degrees above and say 10 below we need an image that spans 42 degrees in one direction.  Looking at the Azi numbers  The eclipse begins at 270 degrees (due west) and ends at 292.2 degrees (WNW).  So to take that all in and allow a little breathing room we need about 30 degrees.   Thus we know our field of view needs to be somewhere around 42 degrees vertically and 30 degrees horizontally. Already it sounds like we would prefer portrait mode to keep the sun/moon as large as possible. Using one of the many online tools, like the Angular Field of View Calculator by Tawbaware. Canon people might prefer the “easy to click, but perhaps not so easy to understand Canon equipment specific calculator.”

On a full frame camera, the 50 mm lens comes out to 39 x 27 degrees. which would just fit the whole sequence.  I decided to use my 70mm lens – because I already had a solar filter for it. My plan was to wait until I could catch the sun in the upper left of the frame and the foreground I wanted at the bottom. When the sun arrived, I slapped on the solar filter and started automatic 30 second intervals between exposures.

Or Just Go with Luck

Perhaps my first attempt was not so well planned.

Mamma Glows, Baby Shines

I was too interested in keeping Mt Tamalpais in the picture and ALMOST didn’t get the whole moonset. I know better now! Over three years ago I described how I created the image.  The technique is an extension of my previously described Easy HDR method.

To Be Continued…

In Part 2 of this article, we will show you a few helpful little addenda to make the process easier to manage. We will reveal a Photoshop-only method to approach the problem, AND for good measure a nifty tool to make it easy as pie.

Meanwhile if you are intrigued by the moon, you might want to join us from WHEREVER you are on one of our fun, informative, and oh so reasonably priced Moonatic Webinars.  Or maybe the next Photo Manipulation webinar is just your size.

Learn from the HDR Pro

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating.  Were it not for what I learned from my friend and mentor, Harold Davis, my Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 win would not have happened.

Photon Worshippers  **Winner Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 - People and Space **

It is really just not possible to capture the wide range of exposure latitudes without post processing. Moreover processing with traditional tools does not result in as pleasing a result. It took application of the Hand HDR blending technique I learned at one of Harold’s workshops (and from his book) to make the image possible.  I hope you’ve also noticed that the image above bears none of the hallmarks of “typical HDR” imagery.

Harold is teaching an HDR workshop on March 24, 2012 in Berkeley, California. For details please see “Photography with Harold Davis”  Harold has a book on the subject scheduled to publish in July, 2012. You can pre-order it now for a quite modest price.  The Hand HDR techique is also covered along with several other powerful tips in his book The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post Processing.

A Line in the Sand [C_035604-8PSb]

Here is the same subject using automated HDR processing:

In Another Universe [5_019718-23hdr]

And another example that “screams” HDR with its “gritty” texture and surreal look.

That Sinking Feeling [C_035617-21de]

But you do NOT have to make images like that. You can if you wish. Harold will show you both!

If you’d like to see all of my images of and around the marvelous location, take a look here.

New Way to Get Night Photography Instruction

We just launched – it’s free to join… please do. On this new site you can engage in discussions, sign up for classes, workshops or seminars – and be the FIRST to know when something new pops up.  In fact, you might want to sign up right now. Our introductory rates for classes and workshops are incredibly low as we get hopping.

Where else can you have an award winning photographer guide you to recreate his  winning shot for a tiny price.

Photon Worshippers  **Winner Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 - People and Space **

Or learn how to determine the best time to get to a “secret” beach?

Or how to get started in Astrophotography without getting soaked. Astrophotography is one of the most daunting and expensive and rewarding types of photography ever invented by man.

Or would you rather learn how to get the moon RIGHT where you want it via an Online Webinar that you can participate in from anywhere in the world!

All this – and wait, there’s more – can be found here!

Please help us spread the word. We know there are more people like you who are passionate about night photography.  Share us on Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus.

Transit of Venus

Below is the the thought process I used to plan to take photos of the once-in-a-lifetime event – the Transit of Venus across the face of the sun. The event occurred on June 5, 2012. For some background, read here.

This is an especially useful tool:

A Goal

Get a recognizable foreground silhouetted against a large solar disk featuring the “dot” of Venus. To be useful, the sun needs to be large and the foreground recognizable. Here is what I actually achieved.

Drift Mode [composite]

With a Recognizable Silhouette (Here the Golden Gate Bridge)

Peek a Boo [C_037975]

Of course the sun would have to be higher so that the recognizable tower foreground would be visible as a silhouette. It should be possible to also process the shot like this one:

Rise and Shine [C_037951+77]

Imagine the “dot” on the face of the sun.

All this is possible if we catch the sun near sunset.  Sunset configuration rules out the Lick photo since that is facing east.

Important Factors

  1. Weather!
  2. Recognizable foreground
  3. Good distance from the target (to get a large sun diameter relative to the target)
  4. Long focal length.
  5. Weather!
  6. Sun azimuth will be about 300 degrees near set.

Possible Locations

  • Pigeon Point Lighthouse – alignment works. Fog might be a problem. NOTE the Lighthouse will be much smaller than shown here. Indeed, nearly the entire lighthouse will be present against the face of the sun due to the distance of two miles to the lighthouse.

  • Transamerica Building – probably won’t look like much in silhouette
  • Sutro Tower – wonder if it has the recognizableness, and if the thin towers will really show up against the sun.
    • Bristlecone Pine Tree – almost certainly doable somewhere!
    • Washington Monument?
    • US Capital Building?
    • Seattle Space Needle (Anything in Seattle is unlikely due to trees everywhere)

Locations Ruled Out

  • Most “mountain tops” as they are not easily recognized in silhouette – especially e.g. Half Dome (on the wrong side of the valley and so huge it’s not possible to get far enough away)
  • Golden Gate Bridge North Tower (mountains behind)
  • Coit Tower (unlikely – vantage is on Alameda and the Marin Headlands will be behind.)
  • Golden Gate Bridge South Tower (for the same reason as the North Tower)