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FIRST LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER

MAY 2018

DIGITAL CORNER - MILKY WAY

We're getting to that time of year when the core of the Milky Way will start appearing for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. While bands of the Milky Way can be seen year-round, the most gaseous section is best visiable from mid-April to mid-September. In May, the best time to see the core is early morning and June in the late evening. The core of the Milky Way will appear after sunset and appear more vertical in July and August. In September you'll see part of the dense center just after sunset and it disappears quickly. Even without the dense core, you will still get nice images of the bands coming off the center at different times of the night and other times of the year. But, to get the thickest part with the most stars and gasses you want to go at these times of the year.

No matter the time of year and where you're at, there are several applications that can help you see when and where the Milky Way is going to be located in the night sky. I have numerous ones on both my computer and on my phone. These include Stellarium, Star Walk 2 and Night Sky 4. Stellarium is a good one to get on your computer as you can put in different locations and dates to track and plan for future trips. Photo Pills is also a great app that costs $9.99 while the others are free.

Cameras today are making Milky Way photography extremely easy. The newer the camera you use the better you can get the incredible shots you see out there. I recently purchased the Canon 5D Mark IV and can't wait to try it out in Joshua Tree in a around May 15 on a scout trip I'm going to be taking. With my 16-35mm f/2.8 lens in for a clean, calibrate and service right now, everything should be in great working order for a really good shoot. Speaking of lenses, when doing the Milky Way you will want one that is at least f/2.8 to lots of light can be allowed in and at least 35mm wide for a full frame body or 24mm for a crop body. Somewhere around 24mm for full frame is a good size to use as it will bring out the core more and make your foreground subjects more prominent.

The Mark IV also allows the camera to connect to an iPad so I will be working with this for composition and exposure as well as to review images. Technology is getting way out there and we should learn to take advantage of this.

MY PREFERRED SETTINGS

ISO - With both the 5D Mark III and Mark IV along with other high ISO capable camera bodies, don't be afraid to push the ISO up to 6400 with an f/2.8 lens. If you only have f/1.4, don't go higher than 3200 ISO.

SHUTTER SPEED - For full frame cameras, a good guideline to use is 25 seconds for 16mm, 20 seconds for 24mm and 15 seconds for 35mm. If your lens is set at another focal length, a good guideline to use is the 500 Rule. This is where you divide the focal length into 500 to determine the general area for how many seconds to have the shutter open so that you get star points instead of blobs or streaks. For crop bodies, 20 seconds for a 16mm and 15 seconds for a 22mm.

WHITE BALANCE - A good range is somewhere between 3400 and 4500 degrees Kelvin. I tend to use 4000 degrees but you can always do some slight adjustments in post processing. You want to use these cooler settings to help darken or give the sky a bluish cast rather than having it too warm.

FOCUS THE LENS - It's best to get an infinity focus before it gets too dark outside. Use Autofocus and aim at the horizon and then turn the lens to Manual focus. It's best to then put a piece of tape on the lens so you don't change the focus by accident. There's nothing worse than moving this and getting all of your shots out of focus.

ACCESSORIES - A cable release or at least use your two-second timer so you're not pressing down on the camera to take a shot. A tripod is a must as no can hand hold a camera still for 15 to 20 seconds. If you want to do some light painting of your foreground there are lots of options out there. I'm currently using a Kodak SL3200 LED light panel that allows you to change both the color temperature and brightness of the light.

COMPOSITION - Make sure you go out and scout your area to find areas that have a very strong foreground in front of where the Mily Way is going to appear. Find this out with the apps mentioned above but typically it's to the southwest. Your first shots you can do a shot at twilight and then wait for the Milky Way to appear in order to blend the shots but once you move to other locations you will need to light paint if you want the foregrounnd illuminated. If you're just doing the Milky Way, make sure you have numerous spots scouted out for each night. If doing star trail stacking, you won't need as many as you'll be shooting for 30 minutes to an hour at each spot with a little light painting at the beginning and end to get it right. Every setting is going to be different with light painting so you have to practice with this in order to get each scene correct.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Bristlecone Milky Way
- notice the density of the core shot in early September

rockhopper penguins and crashing waves
The ability to change temperature on the light is very helpful


FEATURED UPCOMING WORKSHOP - FLOWER TECHNIQUES (JUNE 29 - JULY 2)

Photography IS art. No where is this exemplified more than with the extreme subtleties and beauty of flower photography. Think outside the box where field instruction emphasizes creative extreme macro, impressionism, multiple-exposure and focus stacking to create some magical views of the subjects and how the light plays with them. This workshop also includes several in-room sessions where some very interesting and different post-capture Photoshop effects demonstrations and hands-on activites make you think differently while shooting. The use of different elements such as light pads and post-processing techniques to turn a photo into a water color or adding a textured background will make your flower images come alive. Handouts will be provided so you have notes to take home with you to make doing these later a bit easier. Many other computer techniques will also be included. Our day shooting will include stops at one of the best botanic gardens in the country - the Denver Botanic Gardens, as well as a nice public rose garden. Your eye will love you for allowing it to see how a subject can be looked at so differently. Come create works of art you never imagined before as we explore an entirely new way of photographing flowers. I like keeping the size of the trip down to three or four people so I can provide as much hands on help to everyone as possible. Find out more about this trip on the Flower Techniques page. The first person to contact me regarding this workshop to mention the newsletter will get a special bonus.

glowing edges filter example
One of the Photoshop techniques taught during the in-room sessions

FLORIDA BIRDS RECAP

I changed things up a bit for my Florida Birds workshop this year and put the St. Petersburg side first on the list and then finished up in Orlando after a stop at the new lake filled with osprey, which turned out to be the most popular part of the trip. The St. Pete side was not too shabby as a couple of stops ended up being more popular than the nationally know Fort Desoto Park, even though we did get some good stuff here.

Doing this trip a little bit later than I usually do allowed for some new and different opportunities than we've gotten in the past. A couple of migratory birds provided some colorful shots at Fort Desoto with some scarlet tanagers and some prothonotary warblers and a rose-breasted grosbeak. The rarest find was at North Beach where we came across an endangered clapper rail. With having grown up in St. Pete and having run this trip for 20 years or more this is the first time I have come across one of these. At one point it did come out of the grasses not too far away so those who were there got some good shots of this rarely seen bird. The hurricane last year did a bit more changing to the sand bars at the park and chased a few birds away but Fort Desoto is still one of the best birding and photography locations in the country. We only had a few minutes of 'Big Red' the reddish egret one evening but everyone was able to see him put on a good dancing show while fishing. We did have a couple of egrets hang around long enough for a sunrise shoot with color in the water one morning but not as many as usual. While the black skimmers did not come in for the evening, I did have another spot for this and they cooperated nicely doing some skimming as they came in for a little while before we lost light.

Another spot proved to be very popular as we were able to get some nesting pileated woodpeckers with the mother coming in to feed them. We ended up going to Sawgrass Park twice because of all that we saw. In addition to the woodpeckers there were also baby limpkins and baby gallinules getting fed by their parents. We also saw some kites and scarlet tanagers here along with several other birds. I had a day in St. Pete at the end of the trip and went back to the park to check on the nest and the young woodpeckers had fledged and it was empty so our timing could not have been better. Shooting for the same time or just a little earlier for this trip next year.

skimmer pair fishing
Canon 1D X and 600mm f/4 at f/8, 1/2000th sec, +1/3 EV, 800 ISO

As is always the case, the boat ride to the rookery island in Tampa Bay proved to be a popular destination. I counted nine different species on the island but what people tried for mostly were the roseate spoonbills. With the young quite large they were up on top of the mangroves doing a bit of flying in and out to do some fishing on their own along with getting fed by their parents. Some snowy egrets were positioned in some great spots as well as some young great egrets fighting over getting fed.

After the first half of the trip was completed we headed over to a lake about 70 miles south of Orlando for a session on a couple of boats shooting osprey. Audubon had been there recently and the nest count in the area surrounding the lake has the numbers up to 325 nests. When you consider there can be several young in each nest that's a mass of birds to photograph. Not every nest had babies in it but when you think about the chance of up to 1,000 osprey in the same area you know you're coming away with some good shots. Next year I'll be doing things differently for this trip and for the main Florida Birds workshop we'll be doing two sessions here, thus a price increase, along with a trip where we will do two or three days (4, 5, or 6 osprey sessions) here, the Gatorland rookery and possibly Viera Wetlands (which I heard was not very good this year). Both trips could also include Circle B Preserve outside of Orlando. I'm working out the dates and details for both of these trips but you can contact me now to let me know your interest. I can only take five people on either of these trips because of space on the boats, maybe six on the Osprey Galore and More trip.

After the osprey it was up to Orlando for a day at the Gatorland rookery. The hurricane last year took out a couple of key nesting areas but the activity was still good. All week we had pretty good weather but our last evening and morning (at Circle B) were lost due to a storm that was coming through. Irregardless, lots of great shots were taken by the full-house group. What we didn't get at Gatorland or the St. Pete rookery was great egrets displaying but other than that everything I hope people see and experience happened. At Gatorland we did get the usual babies in the nest just feet away from the boardwalk and cattle egret in full plumage with a nice green background.

The biggest takeaway people took from the trip was the use of getting at least 1/2000th of a second for their shutter speed as well as using a little more depth of field so all of the wings of larger birds are in focus. Shutter speed was the biggest as they immediately saw the difference it made for much sharper shots.

Now to figure out how to work around low tide at Fort Desoto being over the weekend for good shooting there to get this trip put together. So much has to go into putting the dates together for this trip that time can be tough from time to time and this is one of those years. Keep an eye on the main workshop page to see when and how much these two trips are available. Let me know if you are interested in either and I'll let you know as soon as I get something together.

glowing edges filter example
Canon 1D X and 600mm f/4 at f/6.3, 1/2600th sec, +1/3 EV, 800 ISO

 

SCOUT TRIPS

With our move to Orange County, I knew it was a location I would be checking out to find some new workshops. This month I'm going to head over to Joshua Tree during the new moon to do some landscape work as well as some night shooting of the Milky Way to get this trip added for 2019. There are some very interesting trees that will make for some good foreground subjects for the Milky Way. There are also some pretty good rock formations here as well that I'll be checking out along with whatever else I can find over several days and nights of shooting.

I'm also looking to do some bird shooting along the coast from Orange County down to San Diego. I know there is supposed to be some great bird shooting opportunities around San Diego but haven't pin-pointed enough locations as of yet. Going to one spot near Huntington Beach in OC (Bolsa Chica Wetlands) and at another wetlands area this week but need to find the best spots near San Diego for a potential workshop. If anyone knows of good hot spots please pass them on to me as I plan to go there in the coming weeks for a couple of days.

Our timing wasn't right this year but next winter I want to chase down the migrating monarch butterflies and some time I want to get down to the Gulf of California for the whales. I may do this next January or February.

NEW FLORIDA TRIP

In additoin to my regular Birds of Florida trip I will be adding an Ospres and More trip that will concentrate on the osprey at this one lake south of Orlando that has at last count 325 nests. I'm working on the details but we will spend two or three days here along with one or two days at Gatorland in Orlando. Details and dates for this trip will be on the workshops page in the near future. The full Florida trip will be just before or after this new one. You can sign up for both and get $250 off the price.

LAST CHANCE FOR OREGON COAST - 1 SPOT LEFT

There is just one spot remaining for the Oregon Coast workshop scheduled for August 5 - 11. Might be able to fit two if it's a husband / wife combo. This trip features stays in Newport and Bandon Beach. We will be visiting sea stacks for sunset and sunrise, lighthouses, tide pools and more. With it being near a new moon during the trip, we will probably stay out quite late one night to capture the Milky Way with the sea stacks for some very dramatic images. Techniques and post processing tips will be discussed during a midday program leading up to this shoot. Days will be long but the resulting images will be well worth it.

NEXT BEAR TRIP

IT may be a bit off, but let me know if you are interested in attending a Kodiak Bear trip in the summer of 2020. Because of the price and length some people need to have a lot of lead time. I will be getting the dates set when I'm up there this year and try to get a better deal on pricing. If you have any interest please let me know. I do need a minimum of six for this trip so the price won't have to go up.

SUPERB DEAL ON CANON PRINTER FROM HUNT'S PHOTO

Now through May 31, 2018 or until supplies run out, Hunt's Photo is offering the Canon Pixma PRO 10 printer at $379.99 before rebate (Canon sells it on their website for $699.99). If you purchase the printer plus a package of 13x19x50 sheets of Canon Semi-Gloss or Luster paper, $50, Canon will send you a $250 mail in rebate! This is a pigment based printer and is always reviewed very well. Your final cost is $129.99 plus the $50 paper package after mail in rebate. Act fast as this is a deal you won't see any other place. Contact Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383. If you call this weekend ask about their other Digital Days Spring Sale offers or check them out by clicking here.

 

glowing edges filter example
Canon 1D X and 600mm f/4 at f/7.1, 1/4000th sec, -1/3 EV, 640 ISO - Carry a bit of depth of field so all the wings and tail are sharp.