Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Channeling Alan Watts....

I have all of Alan Watts's work on podcast. Or at least all the work of his that is available on podcast. I won't go into the why as it's not important for this blog post. What's important is something I he said at a talk that resonated with me deeply as it solves a riddle I've been pondering for quite some time - "how do you do you make your photographs?" 

I've never had what I felt was an adequate answer. I don't really know how or why my photography turns out the way it does. I just work on it until I like it. I don't have a formula or any particular process by which I follow, though I have learned that I like a few methods and stick somewhat to that, but always give myself the flexibility to play around. Well, Watts gave me my answer. Here's the quote....
"An artist is a person who performs certain things skillfully, but doesn't really know how he does it."

And there ya go. 

Actually, here's the full quote, which further emphasizes the point...
“An artist is a person who performs certain things skillfully, but doesn’t really know how he does it. You learn art by methods that you don’t know how you learnt, you can’t describe, because your brain is capable of absorbing all kinds of information that is much too subtle to be translated into words."
Now, there are, of course, certain technical aspects of photography that can be taught - the exposure triangle, camera settings, using lights, having a working knowledge of the tools in Photoshop and Lightroom, along with some plug-ins, etc. 

But what is it that catches my eye? How do I know when to stop processing an image? I haven't a clue. I'll use a shot I took during my recent trip over the Christmas holiday. One of my favorite areas is U.S. HWY 395 in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range in California and Nevada. It's magnificent and quiet, with little towns dotted along the route from Carson City to Mammoth and into Bishop, which is a fairly decent size town where you can't rent a car to save your life, but I digress. 

It's a road I've been traveling for a good 30-plus years and a scene that I've passed hundreds of times for some reason caught my eye. It's an abandoned house with a barn or some other structure, perhaps a neighbors house, who knows. It's just off of the hwy so easily visible, but I never took note of it until this last trip. Something about how the very diffused light of the scene caught my attention and I turned around to try and figure out how to capture it. 

There was a fence keeping me from getting any closer (I respect no-trespassing and private property regardless of how cool I think the shot would be by ignoring them) so I walked up and down a bit until I liked what I saw. What are the basics? The rule-of-thirds, horizon line is in the top 1/3, and a foreground base, so to speak. A bit of the barbed-wire fence made into the scene, which I cloned out.

I actually first shot this with the horizon-line in the lower-third to really capture the desolation and loneliness of the scene, but decided it really didn't capture the desolation and loneliness, it just show a lot of empty space at the top. So I lowered it and went with this composition, which is pretty much how it came out of the camera. Oh, I also liked the layering of the two buildings from this angle, so there's that.

I didn't have an idea of what the final would look like, I never really do, and I certainly didn't consider it as a black and white, though I was in a area frequented by the master of B&W - Ansel Adams. I just thought the old buildings and sagebrush looked cool. 

Once I got home and downloaded the RAW files I started playing with this and another scene from down the road a spell, closer to Bishop. As always I was curious what was going to come out the other end. And that's where Watts's thought comes into play again. I created the basic, fundamental scene without any notion of the final product, then just went to work and kept going until I was done, and when I started I could not have told you where that was going to be. But when I got there I knew I was done, and that's how it usually is. I will admit that I've learned to be a bit more patient and walk away for a bit, sometimes even a day, and return to see the scene a little differently. But for the most part I know when I'm done. How I see the finished product once it arrives is often a surprise to me, as in the case of the image above. I thought to try it as a monochromatic image and it instantly worked for me. It was almost as I'd seen it while there in the snowy storm.

So what's the takeaway here? Just get out and shoot, then get back and process. Do your thing as you see it. My work does not appeal to many people and that's fine, everyone has their tastes. But I like, for the most part, how things turn out and that's the most important. Don't do this to please others, do what makes you happy.



Golden Crossing
I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Futures event on Jan. 27 at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $20 pre-event (purchased by 1/20), $25 at the door. You can pre-order at - http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Your support is most appreciated. All those purchasing tickets will be entered into a drawing to win a 16x24 stretched canvas of one of my most popular and award-winning prints - "Golden Crossing".

Each ticket purchased counts as an entry.

*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Hoekwater Studios in Walnut Creek to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Back to The Boat...


When I first shot The Point Reyes in Inverness I said that at some point I'd go back and do it again with the intention of getting a brighter star trail. I've been there many times since, but hadn't gotten around to this re-shoot until last night.

Moonrise wasn't going to be until near 11:00 p.m. so I wanted to be out there before that to get the darkest sky possible. I arrived about 8:30 and had everything setup and ready shortly after. It was a bit breezy with some fairly strong gusts and thought I'd planned on keeping the camera low, not extending the legs of the tripod at all, I added a sandbag for more stability.

It was a wonderful evening. Even with the wind it wasn't terribly cold, though I did have on my winter coat and a skullcap. Last time I did this shoot was in Feb. of 2012 and it was freezing, literally. I had to bundle up in my down sleeping bag, which kept me warm but wasn't conducive to enjoying the view.

Anyway, got everything set, fired a few test shots to make sure the boat was in focus and the composition was as I wanted it. The nice thing about this is I had the 17-40 4.0 with a full-frame Canon 6D. Last time I used the 17-70 Sigma on the crop 7D. Of course the image came out beautifully, but I'd always wanted more stars. This would do the trick.

Since I really wanted to star trail to pop this time I set the ISO at 640, and went with one-minute exposures at f/4. The max I can set up on my intervalometer is 99 exposures. Then I pushed the button and sat back to enjoy the beautiful night sky.

I'd brought a mag flashlight in order to do some light-painting on the boat. I knew at this time of night I wouldn't get the bright image I did last time, when I was there before sunset. I painted during a few of the frames, then sat tight. After a while I remembered I had some colored gels in the Explorer, so I went back to get those. I used red and blue on the boat, and green on the surrounding grass, as you can see.

The wind started picking up towards the end and I was concerned that even with the sandbag I was going to get camera-shake. I'd gotten about 90 exposures and figured that would be plenty. I noticed a bright light coming up to the east and realized the moon was finally making its appearance. As it got brighter I decided to try and get a few shots with that in view so moved the camera a few feet away and extended the legs. The exposures were going to be as long but I still used the sandbag. I had to light-paint the boat, which exposed the nice reflection. The final is above, if you hadn't noticed. ;)

As with any somewhat long exposure, and I'm talking 1/100 or less, the moon comes out as a white spot or blur. Sometimes that's okay, and in this case it was okay, but I wanted it to be more prominent so added a moon from a prior shoot. I like it. This was another one of those instances where the "after-thought" image turns out to be really nice.

There's not much else going on in Inverness at 11:30 at night, especially on a Tuesday, so I headed home. Got everything loaded into Lightroom, then grabbed the files to load into Photoshop and run the Statistics option. The result was absolutely horrible and at first I was devastated. This was the second time it had happened so I'm not entirely sure what causes it, but I suspect it has something to do with the light-painting throwing off whatever the algorithm is using to combine the images.

In any case, there is another option and that is simply to select the files in Lightroom, then right-click and select Edit->Open as Layers in Photoshop." With 90 files it takes a bit but when they were all loaded, and I had to do was select the whole stack and use the ""Lighten" blend mode, and viola! Star trails. I've used this in the past and it's done fine. I'm not quite sure what the advantage is to using the Statistics option so unless I find out there's a significant reason to do so I'm going with using the Layers/Lighten method with star trails.

When it was done I needed to remove some of the layers that I had light-painted as they were really blowing out the boat. And the one I did with the red gel was too saturated, so it had to go. Then I merged the visible images and deleted the layers. They're no longer needed and to save them would create a huge file. Saved it as a .tif and did a few adjustments in Lightroom, mainly highlights and clarity changes, and that was that.

This one is significantly different than the first, which is what I wanted. I like the colors on the boat and the brilliance of the star trails. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Happy Shooting!




Don't forget, I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Ecompass event at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. It's quite an exciting time for my work and it's nice to see it getting attention. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $15 pre-event, $20 at the door, and you can pre-order at - http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Also, please let me know you're coming at PhotoWorks by Don at RAW Artists

Those who pre-order will entered in to a drawing to win a 32x24 signed canvas wall piece! Out-of-area folks are eligible*!


*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Studios to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Come to the RAW Artists Show in San Francisco and Win a Canvas Print*!


That was fun! Tonight was the walk-through for the venue at 1015 Folsom!
There will be a ton of artists there from all kinds of genre's. Photographers, painters, digital artists, models, hair stylist, make-up artists, wardrobe designers, and a fashion show to boot.
If you're planning on using BART, get off at the Powell St. station and walk to 6th. Head south about 4 blocks to Folsom. The venue doesn't have a huge marque...or any marque for that matter, but is on the corner of Folsom and Harriet, just west of 6th. Took me about 10 minutes to walk. There is parking there, but BART would probably be a better option as there will be a LOT of people there.

Your support is needed and appreciated. Please purchase a ticket as soon as possible. Also please make sure I am the artist getting credit. The cost is $15 until Midnight on Oct. 20. Then it's $20 at the door, and I won't get credit for your support.


All those who purchase tickets will be eligible to win a 24x32 signed canvas - Pescadero Beach! You don't need to actually attend, so you out-of-the-area people are also included. Of course it will be much better if you are there. The drawing will be held at the event*.


Get your tickets at:

http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Thank you so very much! I'm incredibly excited about this and am looking forward to seeing you there!



Don't forget, I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Ecompass event at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. It's quite an exciting time for my work and it's nice to see it getting attention. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $15 pre-event, $20 at the door, and you can pre-order at - http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Also, please let me know you're coming at PhotoWorks by Don at RAW Artists

Those who pre-order will entered in to a drawing to win a 32x24 signed canvas wall piece! Out-of-area folks are eligible*!


*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Studios to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.

Tickets are now available for purchase for the 10/23 RAW Artist - Encompass! Click on the banner.






Don't forget, I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Ecompass event at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. It's quite an exciting time for my work and it's nice to see it getting attention. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $15 pre-event, $20 at the door, and you can pre-order at - http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Also, please let me know you're coming at PhotoWorks by Don at RAW Artists

Those who pre-order will entered in to a drawing to win a 32x24 signed canvas wall piece! Out-of-area folks are eligible*!


*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Studios to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

If no star exists, we'll create one...

To order this print please contact info@photoworksbydon.com

When I was in college I did a project on life at the James Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton, which sits above San Jose and at one time had the largest refractor telescope in the world. It was also instrumental in helping to prove Albert Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity.

Not only is it a science laboratory, it's also a community. A group of around 18 astronomers and other various scientists and technicians actually live on the mountain. While it's only 20 miles to San Jose, the drive is about an hour due to the winding mountain roads. A few do make the commute but most live right on the top of the mountain. During my many visits there I'd made friends with a couple of the folks there, including the local cop, so was able to get special access to be there at night while they worked. It was a fascinating experience.

One of the teams with which I closely documented was the group working on what's called "adaptive optics." In a nutshell, the "mirror" used for capturing light is actually several dozen individual mirrors working together to form perfectly clear image of the cosmos. There are lots of geek-terms to explain what it does, but the main function is to compensate for the distortions created by the atmosphere. And part of calibrating the machine is to focus on a star in the area in which they want to study. However, there isn't always a star in the precise place they want, so a laser is shot into the sky to mimic a star, hence allowing the astronomers to work their magic. And their motto was, "If no star exists, we'll create one."

What does this have to do with my current work?

A friend of mine was married yesterday in Merced, which is about 90 miles from Yosemite. When one is that close it's criminal not to visit the park regardless of the time. I first hit Glacier Point, and saw that a light dusting of snow fell earlier in the evening. That means the road will soon be closing for the winter.

So, even with a nearly full moon I wanted to try to get the star trail image I wanted. My friend Jason loaned me his 17-40 4.0L, which is a much better lens for what I wanted as opposed to the 50 mm 1.8.

Once there I saw the clouds were receding, but were also wrapped nicely around Half Dome. I rushed to get set up but was just a but late. They wrapped again later but not like how it was.

Timing is everything.

However, even with the brightness of the full-moon I couldn't get a focus lock, and using Live View at 25,600 ISO still wasn't allowing me to see if I was getting good focus. That's when the motto of my friends at Lick popped into my head, paraphrased - If daylight doesn't exist, I'll make it. Yeah, kinda dorky but it was a better story than simply telling you I left the shutter open for a long time, so deal. ;)

I set the focus at infinity and popped a minute-long exposure at 4.0, 100 ISO. That way I could see if Half Dome was in focus the way I wanted it. I'm glad I did it that way as I had to make a slight adjustment to get it sharp. The image above is the first test shot and if the stars weren't there you'd be hard-pressed to say that it was around midnight. Looks really cool.

I decided I didn't want to wait a minute of more for each test image so I set the ISO at 26,500, which only took a few seconds. Those, as you might imagine, were far more noisy.


To order this print please visit
photoworksstudios.com
Once everything was ready I set the intervalometer to shoot 99, 30-second exposures, f/4 at 320 ISO, then ran back to the Explorer to keep warm. Just a bit of a side note - it was around freezing, 33-34 degrees, and at that temperature, an exposed lens will collect a lot of condensation. With the time it would take to get all the exposures that was not something I wanted. It's not good for the lens, either. So, I set the camera in an area low enough to give it protection. I don't know why it works, but it does. Short of setting up a tent this was the best it was going to get, and it worked. I checked every so often just to make sure, and all was well.

Once done, I had to get home and had a four-hour+ drive ahead of me, so off I went. I was sad to go as it's so peaceful there when nobody is around. The roar of Nevada and Vernal Falls below made it seem like I was right next to them. And after the storm the sky was clear and bright. A beautiful sight.

On the way out I had the idea to stop at the Tunnel Overlook just to see what that scene looked like. Yosemite Valley during a full-moon has a surreal look to it, almost like a negative, and is quite awesome.

Coming out of the tunnel I knew I was going to have to stop and get a few captures. There was a fog along the base of the Valley that made an incredible view.

To order this print please visit
photoworksstudios.com
There was another person there, who turned out to be another shooter by the name of Huggen Angeles. Turns out he is pretty damn good, too, and from the Bay Area, so after I set up we talked shop. I always love meeting other photographers, and meeting those who are great is even better.

He was there shooting the fog in the valley, I was still in trails mode so set up for that, same deal. I got there just in time as shortly after I started shooting, the fog started lifting. As such, Huggen left, and I headed back to the Explorer to, you guessed it, get warm.

Once that was done, I was done. I briefly thought about heading into the Valley and doing something with Yosemite Falls, but I'll wait until spring for that when the falls are full. I'd also want to do that with a new moon.

Got home just before 6am so it was a full day. Started at 8am on Sat with laundry, then driving to Merced, enjoying the festivities, up to Glacier, then to the Valley, then home. And I loved every minute of it. I went straight to bed and started editing when I woke up.

Downloaded the card into Lightroom 5, and moved the RAW images into Photoshop CC via File->Scripts->Statistics with it set at 'Maximum' then had brunch while it did its work. Once done I did the rest of the processing to get the finals you see above.

Happy Shooting!



Don't forget, I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Ecompass event at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. It's quite an exciting time for my work and it's nice to see it getting attention. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $15 pre-event, $20 at the door, and you can pre-order at - http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Also, please let me know you're coming at PhotoWorks by Don at RAW Artists

Those who pre-order will entered in to a drawing to win a 32x24 signed canvas wall piece! Out-of-area folks are eligible*!


*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Studios to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The creation of Star Trails...


Speaking of star trails, the post about the shoot the other night coincides nicely with the awarding of Contest Finalist to the image, appropriately enough, "Star Trails" on Viewbug.com. I remembered I'd posted a little "how-to" shortly after I put this together and thought now may be a good time to repost for those who may be interested but didn't get a chance to see it before. So, here it is again.

While I'd love to claim that this image was inspired in my head, as with just about all of the things I've done up to this point, the idea came from a book. Harold Davis has some wonderful night photography pieces, and he's from this area so a lot of the shots he presents are local. And most are in the Pt. Reyes area. His star trail image of a similar shot in one of the books is really nice, but the boat is darker than I like. As such my goal here was to capture the trails and have the boat more visible.

I went out late Friday night and the sky was quite clear, especially for that area. However, I soon found that the wind was whipping around too much for long exposures. While I have a pretty sturdy tripod, it's not the best for real windy conditions. Any little shake with those kinds of long exposures is not good. I also had the tripod at full extension so it's exposure to the wind was even more pronounced. I doubt if lowering it would have made any difference, though. The winds were steady at 10-15mph with gusts of at least 30mph.

Heading out at 12:30 a.m. probably wasn't the best time to try this, but I was awake and excited. Once I got there I was glad I made the trek (a little over an hour from my place) as it was very quiet and peaceful. The boat is located in Inverness, on the way to the tip of Pt. Reyes. It's is a quiet little community with a couple of hotels, a store, and a restaurant/bar. It lies at the southern end of  Tomales Bay. I've been to this area on many occasions and asked a few of the locas, but haven't yet gotten a clear answer on the history of the Point Reyes.

So, I arrive and start hauling my gear out to the area by the boat. It sits on a sand bar about 100 yards behind the local store and is very easy to get to. I have my camera setup, chair, and flashlight and all is well.

I'll wrap up this part of the project fairly quickly. I used a manual trigger, light the boat with my flashlight to help get things framed, set the focus to infinity at f/4, and fire away. The wind is making things difficult, not to mention unpleasant, so after six exposures I figure I'm not going to get anything useful and decide to head home. I downloaded the files and saw right away that things, as expected, hadn't turned out. However, the trails were there, which gave me incentive to head out again the next night. What I also learned was that I needed to make sure the long exposure noise reduction function was turned off. When on, the camera works on the image to reduce noise. Makes sense given the name of the function. However, while it's working on this the shutter remains closed for as long as the original exposure. For instance, in this case, that's four minutes. What happens then, as you can see, is that the star trails become star dashes. That may be kinda cool, but not what I wanted. By disabling the function the camera immediately begins the next exposure.

I decided to get out there before sunset so I could better see the shot, and be able to get the boat focused (rather than setting to infinity). I arrived around 6:00 and got everything set up, fired a couple of test shots to make sure everything was framed and in focus, and sat down to wait for night.

One major difference for this evening was that I traded the wired, manual trigger for a wireless, programmable remote trigger. What that allowed me to do, in a nutshell, is set up the shooting sequence, press the button, and then spend the next hour and a half trying to stay warm. After a few hiccups, and the realization that the remote and the camera have to "see" each other to communicate, I settled down to let the equipment do its work.

Although the wind was far more calm on this night than the previous, thank goodness, I decided not to fully extend the tripod, or extend it at all. I figured lowering the center of gravity and lessening it's exposure to the wind would all help reduce the effects of any wind.

However it was probably 10 or more degrees cooler, and there were more clouds. It wasn't complete cover but enough to concern me. I could see the stars but they were much less bright than the night before.

I did end up having to go back to the Explorer and grab my down sleeping bag, rated at -15. Needless to say that made things much more bearable. And, having the remote trigger doing it's job meant I didn't have to stop anything to get the bag, or get out of the bag for any reason once I was warm and cozy inside.

The shooting finished around 9:00 and I headed back to the casa to start processing. I'd taken 17, four-minute exposures with a Canon 7D and a Sigma 17-70 2.8-4 Macro set at 17mm. Stacking is pretty simple, the program does the work - all I need to do is tell it which images to stack. I won't go to deeply into the details of how this is done as it's a lot of geek-speak, but it begins with 17 images that look very similar to this one, the only difference being that the stars are in different areas of each image. If you look closely you can see the trails forming.

The results were far better than I expected. The cloud cover that was present did have an affect, but not as great a I feared.

Once the program had finished stacking the images, I saw the boat was dark but I had taken a couple of shots while it was still relatively light knowing I would most likely want to mask one or more of them in during editing. That was the ticket. Another hour or so doing some additional toning and editing and you see the final outcome. A lot of fun for sure.

I may have to break down and get a more sturdy mount, though. Many of the places I like to shoot are exposed, therefore windy. My carbon fiber tripod does okay in a light wind, but anything over 15mph (common in a lot of areas around here) is going to require something more stout. Problem is, as with anything photo-related, is cost. The good ones start around $650 and go up from there. (UPDATE: I still have the same tripod and it works just fine).

I'd appreciate a favor. If you like the image, please tell your friends, have them like the Facebook page and let them know they are welcome to contact me about pricing. I have this on a canvas and it looks very sharp.



Don't forget, I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Ecompass event at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. It's quite an exciting time for my work and it's nice to see it getting attention. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $15 pre-event, $20 at the door, and you can pre-order at - http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Also, please let me know you're coming at PhotoWorks by Don at RAW Artists

Those who pre-order will entered in to a drawing to win a 32x24 signed canvas wall piece! Out-of-area folks are eligible*!


*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Studios to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Delta River Star Trails...

I'm going to go about things a bit differently from now on. Facebook's new (or old, not sure) policy of using my images for their profit without any compensation to me doesn't sit well with me. Yes, they let me use their platform to promote my work, but they also make money off of the advertising, of which I also get none.

Moving forward I'll post recent images, or reworks, here or at the gallery at the PhotoWorks Studio Gallery, from which I can link to the Facebook page. If it turns out that FB also wants to use those than I'll stop posting images there altogether. They already have quite a few of my images (and yours), and at this time it doesn't appear I have any recourse to keep those from being used. Hopefully at some point some legal action can be taken, but for now it is what it is.

To purchase this image please visit
http://www.photoworksstudios..com
Now, on to the fun stuff. On a whim my buddy Jason and I decided to head out to the delta to do some star trails. Actually, I came up with the idea and Jason wanted to tag along as he wanted to try out a new piece of firmware that works as an intervalometer, meaning the camera does the work of taking the exposures once it's programmed to do so. Mine is external and works like a charm. It is much more fun to have someone along on shoots.

We set off a little before midnight. It takes about 45 minutes to get out there, and it's a big area but having been many times I had an idea of where I wanted to setup. However, as we turned off of HWY 12 onto a delta road outside Rio Vista, one of thousands of windmills there wasn't spinning, which would have been a perfect anchor for a star trail shot. Thing is, it was windy as hell  and neither of us wanted to go through shooting the star trails and have them blury from wind-shake. We both have fairly sturdy tripods but when the shutter is open for over a minute, the slightest wiggle is noticeable. Onward we ventured.

We eventually found a spot where we could use the Explorer as a decent wind blocker, and things were on. I eventually got things set up to shoot at f/4, ISO 500, with one minute exposures. I had the 6D and a 24-70. Jason had his 5D MKII and a 17-40. The 17-40 is a great lens for this kind of work, but the 24-70 was just fine.

In the past I've set these up at f/4, ISO 200 with four-minute exposures, usually between 17-25 shots, using my Sigma 17-70. Can't use that with the 6D so a friend has been generous enough to loan me his 24-70. Oh yes, I will be getting one, along with a 17-40 at some point. Anyway, rather than 18-20 four-minute shots I went with 60 one-minute for a couple of reasons. First off, I wanted to try something different with the 6D. Secondly, using the original method hasn't provided really bright trails, while I've seen brilliant images elsewhere using higher ISO with shorter exposure times.

Jason fiddled around with different settings and I think came up with seven-minute exposures at 1200 ISO at f/4. Not exactly sure, though.

The place we landed was at a gate into one of the windmill farms. It made a nice anchor. The moon was out at 3/4 so finding Polaris was a bit tricky as it was difficult to see the dippers. For those not familiar with astronomy, Polaris is at the tip of the ladle of the Little Dipper, and the two stars that makeup the bottom of the Big Dipper are used to point to Polaris. I used a compass and we figured it out. Thankfully, once the moon set and we could see, we picked the right star.

Once everything was set I pushed the button and let the rig do its work. Jason finally got going to we spent the next hour or so arguing about which group of three stars were Orion's Belt. I lost. We also talked about how cool it would have been to have this area when we were in high school, for a variety of reasons.

It was around 3:30 when we finished up I was happy with mine and Jason was happy he was able to figure out the firmware (I have forgotten the name).

To purchase this image please visit
http://www.photoworksstudios..com
The result is above. I'm happy with this one because it came out really bright. That's not only nice for this image, but I realized I could use it for other captures, one in particular that just called for this - The Dancing Lady of Treasure Island.

While I like the image as I originally processed it, from the beginning I wanted to add some sort of star field to the sky above and behind her. Now I have it.

I'd also taken a couple of shots of the Milky Way, and added that in for good measure.

I'm also considering adding these trails to the images with the Point Reyes, the beached trawler in Tomales Bay near Inverness. I think the trails in that image could do for some enhancing.

Another spot where you can check out some of my work is at 500px.com/PhotoWorksbyDon. I've had the account for some time but haven't used it. Now, with my decision to stop using Facebook for posting, I've resurrected the account there. Plus, there are some fantastic photographers there, and I'm thinking a ton of inspiration will ensue!



Don't forget, I'll be showing at the RAW Artists Ecompass event at 1015 Folsom in San Francisco. It would be great to see you there. It's quite an exciting time for my work and it's nice to see it getting attention. I will be joined by a wealth of other up-and-coming local artists. Tickets for the event are $15 pre-event, $20 at the door, and you can pre-order at - http://www.rawartists.org/photoworksbydon

Also, please let me know you're coming at PhotoWorks by Don at RAW Artists

Those who pre-order will entered in to a drawing to win a 32x24 signed canvas wall piece! Out-of-area folks are eligible*!


*No purchase of art necessary. Drawing will be held at the event and the winner need not be present. However, if the winner wishes to have their canvass shipped, they will be responsible for shipping costs. If local they can stop by PhotoWorks by Don Studios to pick up the prize. Winner will be responsible for any local and state taxes.