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.

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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

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

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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)

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Golden-Ratio

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

Rifle Falls

return to Rifle Falls

Rifle Falls is a very popular waterfalls in western Colorado, a State Park about 14 miles north of the town of Rifle. It is comprised of 3 waterfalls each about 80 feet tall and is as close to a tropical feel as you can get in a largely semi arid Colorado. It was my first time at the falls for a shoot in several years, and is the first time I had used my Rokinon 14mm for something other than astrophotography. I timed my visit to the falls during a very rainy afternoon, in fact we had a strong thunderstorm that produced a gust of wind that toppled my camera with the 24-105 L lens over, luckily the camera and lens survived unscathed though my heart almost gave out when it happened.

 

This first one below was still taken with the required standard landscape lens. the Canon 24-105 F4L, all of these images are blended from two or 3 exposure, one for the foreground, one for the sky and if needed a 3rd with a really long shutterspeed to create the silky smooth water. The day was still bright enough that any accurate exposure at even F22 didn’t produce a long enough shutter speed, and though I do not have a ND filter, I learned how to produce the effect in layers in PS CC

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The following were taken with the Rokinon 14mm, I have up to this point exclusively used it for astrophotography. It has proven to be quite efficient as an ultra wide angle lens for landscape though a little soft on the edges even in apertures not in the extreme wide. It will still be used mainly for astrophotography, but I now know I can get away with some grand scenics with it.

 

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The falls has some really nice Lilac bushes to the right of them, but as of the shooting of these the leaves have barely started, seemingly a couple of weeks behind.

New Volunteer Work

Volunteering for campaign

I almost never involve politics with my photography. It’s something I feel you should not make a habit out of.  Despite that fact, I do have my beliefs I hold very close to me and am very uncompromising which is the idea of liberty. Which has lead me to become politically active on a side, this time around though I am involving my photography volunteering my time with a US Senate campaign.

I realize many people in the US are fed up with the two parties and the whole political process, but there are choices and new opportunities. That is why I have volunteered for my time as a photographer with the campaign of Lily Tang Williams. Libertarian candidate for US Senate. She was born and raised under the flag of Communism in China but fled to the US and has been living here for over 20 years. She has developed a huge appreciation and respect for her adopted country and it’s freedoms and liberties that so many of us American’s take for granted.

Currently she is traveling to various regions speaking and trying to get her message out. Starting the end of April and beginning of May she will be traveling to my region of western Colorado. She will be in Grand Junction on May 2nd at 5:00 PM at the Mesa County Library,  at 443 N. 6th St., Grand Junction, CO

The following morning she will be at the Parachute Library at 11 AM. This event I personally have a hand in organizing. The address is 244 Grand Valley Way, Parachute, CO. There will be more events coming up at Craig and Glenwood Springs but times and dates have not been set yet.

I will be at both events with my camera and tripod so try to attend either or perhaps both and meet Lily Williams and I

Her website is at lily4liberty

my website can be found at PaulsColoradoPhotography

If you have time visit both to see what we are about and to view my art

 

This is truly an exciting time for me and my country

Back to McClure Pass

I was happily able to return to the McClure Pass region, this time during our recent massive spring storm that dumped several feet of snow in some mountain areas. Luckily it didn’t drop that much in the McClure Pass region, but it definitely had a wonderfully wintry feel. Two aspects of spring storms in the west that makes it an exciting time to get out is the wetter snow, it clings to trees better than the dry powdery snow of winter, and the fact that it is warmer so snow will not accumulate on roads as much. The drier Winter snows may be better for skiing, Colorado and Utah are known for this and is what brings millions of skiers and billions of dollars to the states economies, and the spring storms have a tendency of dropping significantly greater amounts of much heavier snow which can still create major travel issues. So it may not be all unicorns and puppies. For this photographer these spring storms are the opportunities to get out to capture some of the missed winter scenes that the slight colder winter temps kept me inside next to a heater.

I ended up with almost 500 photos that day and could have gotten more. Here is a hint, try not to forget where you put your extra memory cards, or better yet, don’t forget about those memory card pouches on the main camera compartment flap on your camera bag. It sure could save you some headaches, especially when those slots are staring right back at you.

Below are a few examples of that day. It’s been a long process of going through these and fine tuning the photos to fit exactly my experiences of the day. Each one of my photos is given it’s own personal touch as each photo was taken with a new and unique experience, even if it is taken from the exact same spot. It’s a long process to go through all 500 photos and with many more to be discovered in addition to the ones posted here, the post processing journey is as exciting as the trip itself.

The above two were taken at a small unnamed lake just west of Marble, it was a constant change of lighting almost the entire day with periods of snow and periods of sunlight with periods of snow with sunlight. A common experience in this dry western climate

A couple of scenes along the Crystal River further down from McClure Pass and much lower in elevation taken during sunrise, the opposite time of day from the above two photos

The dramatic weather and scenery along highway 133 between Carbondale and the town of Marble which is situated at the foot of McClure Pass.

The last two above are the exact same spots of the same mountain peaks. One minute the sun is shining and the next I am getting snowed on. The top photo shows the falling snow

 

 

Galactic Core Returns

Once again the center of our Milky Way has risen above the horizon for us in the Northern Hemisphere and will remain so until the end of October. At this point it sits low enough in the sky to make some dramatic panoramics.

nature photography with the Milky Way

 

 

The above image is a 12 image stitched panoramic from just west of my town in western Colorado. You can see the glow of the lights of the town and the much larger town of Rifle further east in the center of this image. to the far right  is the faint edge of Grand Junction’s light pollution and to the far left is Mt. Logan of the Roan Plateau.

At this point I will not be able to photograph this for another couple of weeks, these last few days it has been cloudy and rainy and will be that way for a couple more days, once it clears out I will have to contend with moonlight as we approach the full moon. Once the moon is no longer a factor the Milky Way core should be even higher above the horizon. Perhaps high enough to photograph it in the mountain areas

 

This current storm system is giving me an opportunity to get out and take some landscape photos of western Colorado desert regions with rare dramatic storm light. Plus some heavy snowfalls in the nearby Elk Mountains including McClure Pass.

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Above Photo: Haystack Mountain above a meadow with farming communities not too far outside of town in western Colorado. Most of this region is desert but there are obvious pockets of greener soil

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Above is a 3 photo stitched image of Chair Mountain from the Marble Valley, it is at the foot of McClure Pass, the road is visible below Chair Mountain as a dark straight line through the trees. This area has received several inches of fresh snow during this powerful spring storm, a huge opportunity for me tomorrow to head up here for some new photos.