Tha Gores

Summit County, Colorado

One of my favorite mountain ranges in Colorado, an example of a fault block mountain range only about 12 to 16 million years of age which is quite young in geological terms.

They are named for Irish explorer Sir George Gore, though he spent his time exploring Wyoming, his influence was significant enough in Colorado to name one of Colorado’s most spectacular mountain ranges after him.

Peak T emerging from the clouds

_MG_5887_MG_5970

 

spectacular Guyselman Mountain up close and in person just before sunset

_MG_5992

_MG_5671-HDR-Recovered

_MG_5674-HDR_MG_5944

 

just an FYI my Astrophotography Basics Part 1: The Milky Way course is up and running. It is just over 3 hours of information and entertaining filled content on how to photograph and process the Milky Way with beginners in mine, but you don’t have to be a first time photographer to enjoy this, anyone might learn something new from this

get the first 3 months for only $ .99 per month which gives you access to ALL courses taught by ALL instructors on the site not just my own.

Where have I been?

Greetings planet Earth calling fresh from photographing our Milky Way. Though I never left the Earth I was super busy with our home galaxy.

I was working on developing an astrophotography course currently at 3 hours long with more courses and lessons coming

Please watch the video below and click on the link. All new Premium subscribers get it for only $ .99 per month for the first 3 months. It also gives you access to all the courses on the website, not just mine.

The best part is, you get to hear my voice, making a fool of myself. So not is it just educational but it is entertaining too.


Shiny Milky Way

Diptych

More to Come?

Dryptich

Not much else to say other than if I can get a shot with a similar subject matter with the North Star in the center perhaps I will make a Triptych. Your thoughts on these? Should I try more?

Sigma 70-200 F2.8 review

Great at F11 iffy at F2.8

A cut and dry quick review of my own personal non scientific test of the Sigma 70-200 F2.8 EX APO HSM

sigma

A while back I wrote about me buying the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX  APO HSM. I finally have been able to shoot it enough to get a good idea of the performance of this lens. The first striking thing I noticed was the soft focus at f2.8 to f5.6, it is exceptionally noticeable on a full framed camera such as my 5D II. Starting at F8 it started getting sharp with F11 being the sharpest (which is quite surprising as most lenses are sharpest around f8 to f9 range). On the full framed camera F2.8 was almost useless with nothing in an image being sharp. At first I thought it was severe camera shake, but even on a tripod with a shutter release I was still getting the effect. After which I tried shooting it with the Canon Rebel T2i crop sensor camera I recently picked up as a back up, there it definitely performed significantly better at all apertures though still soft at F2.8.  On the crop sensor the F2.8 would perhaps be decent as a portrait lens making the soft focus great for skin though the eyes would not be as sharp as can be.

Below are some samples taken with my 5D MKII at F5.6 and F7. The bottom at F2.8 with a larger crop section of the sharpest area, notice how nothing seems to be tack sharp._MG_0455

_MG_0325_MG_0341

test

Below is with the 5D MkII at F11, definitely much better

_MG_0489

and below is with the Rebel T2i crop sensor at F9

_MG_5303

The other issue I have had is an attempt at getting a lens hood for this lens, the hood made specifically for this lens by Sigma did not fit and appeared to actually be misshapen, at this point I have not attempted to purchase another one and am not too sure if I will.

Not too sure what it is but this lens definitely is cleaner with a crop sensor camera. At some point I might try another lens to see if perhaps it is just the one I have, but as of this writing I am still sticking with the Canon L lens (even if it is just the F4) though I will be keeping the Sigma for my T2i. Personally I would invest in the more expensive canon L lens before the Sigma.

I would love to know who else has experience with this lens and how you feel about it. Does the Sigma have quality control issues? Or did I just have a run of bad luck.

Below is a shot from my Canon 70-200 F4L at F4, notice the greater clarity as well as sharpness._MG_9829

testl

Has It Been This Long

photos of speaking engagement

So how did I end up going almost 3 weeks without a post? Anyone have a time machine to send me back so I can catch up with the missed weeks?

 

Speaking of going back in time, a while back I mentioned about volunteering for the Senate Campaign of Lily Tang Williams. Many things did not go as planned, but I still was able to meet up with her and spend some time with her. To understand more of her positions you can go to her website at Lily4Liberty.com. Lily is the first Chinese Immigrant to run for the US Senate, and someone I am very excited about having and promoting. She received a unanimous nomination for the Libertarian Party of Colorado for the Senate race.

_MG_2306

Above: Lily waits for people to arrive before a speaking engagement in the western slope. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak do it. She is regularly speaking on the radio and events all over Colorado and places in other states as well

_MG_2638

She regularly speaks about her experiences growing up in China under the Maoist system and some parallels of modern US policy.

_MG_3200

Not only is she an amazing speaker but she is a great listener

_MG_3080

_MG_3277

So check her out. If you like what you see, perhaps show her some support. I know many of us are looking for an alternative to the current line up.

Lily4libery.com

Lily4Libery Facebook Page

and while you are at it

My website

Facebook

Instagram

_MG_2750_MG_3243

 

 

Vega State Park

I recently went to Vega State Park for the first time ever. Eeeeeeeever, it is at the base of Grand Mesa south west of Grand Junction. I chose this because it was a location far removed from any light pollution and is relatively high enough in elevation without it still being in winter mode (oh like the top of Grand Mesa is). the combination of the two make for some extremely dark skies. The disadvantage was the half moon, I decided on staying to well after moonset which was close to 2 AM

_MG_3942

The sky itself was dark enough even with the half moon that once the moon got low enough in the sky the Milky Way was still quite visible as you can tell with the image below as the moon was still casting shadows on the pier.

_MG_3923

I also had recently purchased the Canon Rebel T2i (550D) as a small light weight backup top my 5D MKii and I REALLY wanted to see how well a consumer grade Dslr from Canon fared at night photography, I had not shot a camera like that since the xti days (now that is a long time)

_MG_4742

Golden-Ratio

_MG_4746

As you can tell, not too bad. The vertical one was shot with the 24-105 F4 lens at 6400 ISO. Perhaps a little too much for the camera to handle cleanly, but I was pleasantly surprised at the performance of a $200 consumer grade camera though I would not shoot it at 6400 ISO, even with heavy noise reduction with either Topaz Denoise or NIKs Dfine software was I able to cleaned up the noise enough for my tastes.

To be honest with that one test, once the moon had set and it was getting extremely dark. Dark enough for air glow to become quite apparent (see my previous blog post), I ended up putting the Rebel away and worked strictly with the much better low light performing 5D camera with the 14mm F2.8 Rokinon where I could comfortably shoot at 3200 ISOs and much higher and shoot up to 35 second exposures without much star trailing

I will leave with this last image taken with my 5D and compare it to the photo immediately above from my t2i and let you see the difference. Let me what you think of the low light performance of these consumer grade camera. Of course, all of which while using proper techniques

_MG_3923

I Have Been Doing It All Wrong

How dark are our night skies

So wrong have I been, what an eye opening experience it was for me the other night. My very own perception of things were wrong. What I saw the other night totally changed my perspective and processing techniques.

 

What am I talking about? This

nature photography with the Milky Way

and this

Buffalo-Milky-8bit-tiff

What is wrong with these?

Almost everything about the skies. They are totally black. Isn’t that what the night sky should look like? Yes and No. To our eyes looking up with no reference our eyes and brain translates a black sky, but using a reference against the sky, we see a whole new perspective of our night sky, it is literally glowing throughout the sky. Try this experiment, and this requires an extremely dark sky with no light pollution. Sorry everyone who lives in a city, you will have to travel a good long distance, and sorry to those living on the east coast of the US or most of Europe, you are going to have to travel for a couple days by car or hours by plane to get skies dark enough. To truly experience this effect you will need to travel to a location that has skies rated at a Bortle Class 2 at minimum. For  more information on the Bortle Classification of sky darkness go here http://www.bigskyastroclub.org/lp_bortle.html. For a link to a listing of the darkest skies go here http://darksitefinder.com/maps/world.html, this site allows you to zoom in really close. Notice how bad Europe and the East Coast of the US is? Now back to the easy provided you are in a dark location experiment, hold your hand up to the sky, notice a very dark void against a brightly glowing sky? That is air glow, the light of all those millions of stars filling the whole sky, your hand literally looks like a black hole against brilliant light (the glow of light pollution does not count, don’t try to be sneaky). Just that experience has changed my whole processing of the night sky, I always attempted to build a contrast resulting in a black sky. NO MORE from me, It is far more impressive to include as best as I can the amazing star glow I am witnessing every time I go out.

_MG_3774

The above shot is a simple silhouette of the foreground. The sky really does glow enough to create a clearly defined silhouette when viewed against it. If you notice to the right of the center of our Milky Way are the planets of Mars and Saturn as the two brightest “stars”.

The other night I was at Vega State Park which is at the foot of Grand Mesa far from the slightest light pollution, the air glow was able to illuminate the ground enough for me to walk without needing a light. The kicker is that we are so accustomed to artificial light, either through light pollution of the cities, house lights, electronic equipment or dash/headlights from our cars it takes a couple of hours for eyes to adjust to that level of darkness, it is best to be at these dark locations from evening and allow our eyes to gradually adjust to the darkening skies naturally to enjoy the benefit of seeing the night like we were intended. I am by no means recommending going on a hike at night or a stroll through the woods at night without the proper illumination, so don’t even think of doing such, but the next time you have an opportunity to spend a night in a truly dark location do it, put up your tent and pull out your camp chair and sit back watching the stars move across the sky, your eyes will clearly make out the dust lanes in our view of the Milky Way

MG_3706__MG_3717-12-images

_MG_3738

to view all of these photos at their uploaded size just right click on your mouse and click on “view image”. All above photos were taken about 15 miles north of the tiny town of DeBeque in western Colorado, you still get a slight glow of the city of Grand Junction in each of these images, but the overall sky is rated a Bortle Class 2. Vega State Park, images will be posted in an upcoming blog post, is about 40 miles south of that same tiny town of DeBeque. Again with each photo above Mars and Saturn are also visible to the right of the core of our Milky Way.

So how many of you live in a region that gives you an opportunity to see truly dark skies? How many of you are on the US east coast or Europe? Wanting to experience these amazing dark skies? I am considering doing photo tours and perhaps some workshops coming up in the future if anyone is interested.