Well, it's that time of year again for Milky Way Season. The part of the year when the galactic core is above the horizon. In our part of the country that really kicks in from about mid May to mid September.
Night sky photography can be challenging any time of the year, but especially this time of year for the northern latitudes, mainly because it is dark for a much shorter part of the night.
In the winter we can have darkness from 5 PM to 7AM, but this time of the year, it's really only dark from about 11 PM to 5 AM and even then, at both ends you will still get a bit of light pollution. Compound that with full moons taking up about a week per month of bright light, and the normal spring and summer cloudy, stormy days and you might get 7 to 10 good nights of photographing the night sky in a season.
That said, it pays to make it a priority when you can. If you see that it will be a clear night without the lunar interference, try to get out and take some photos of the milky way.
Here's what you will need to a make it happen.
A good camera with decent ISO performance is a must. You will be shooting from ISO 1600 to 6000 depending on your lens and the area where you shoot. The lower this number the better, but there are other factors that will determine what ISO at which you'll be shooting. Also, you need to be able to set a long exposure or have a bulb mode with cable release or remote.
Lens: Wider is better for a number of reasons, but also a low aperture number is key and having a sharp lens, with low levels of chromatic aberration also helps. These types of lenses can be expensive if you buy brand name, but if you are buying just for this type of photography, they don't have to be. Manual focus capability is actually beneficial so if you find a cheaper lens without auto focus, and it has good ratings for sharpness and a F 2.8 or lower aperture, go for it. Also, you won't need vibration compensation as you will be shooting on a tripod all the time. I shoot on a 12mm Rokinon F2 lens which is manual focus and was $269.00.
Tripod: You will need a good stable tripod. Lighter is not necessarily better unless you plan to carry it a lot. Also, bring something to weigh it down so it won't move in the wind.
So with the gear nailed down here's some of the explanation of the shoot.
First is finding the milky way. Even in a dark skies location this can be a challenge unless you have seen it before and know what to look for. I suggest an app like Sky Safari, or The Photographers Ephemeris. I like Sky Safari 4 as it shows me real time, on my phone where to look for the milky way and many other night sky objects just by holding it up in the direction I want to look.
As with all photography, you want to have an interesting foreground and middle ground, to accentuate your amazing background of the milky way. Composition matters and can make or break a great milky way shot. If you have power lines in your shot it will screw it up the same at night as it does during the day.
Next, set up to get the composition you want and check your settings before getting out of the car. I go for about ISO 3200 on my Sony A6300 and 25 seconds at F2. Make sure you're focus is set at infinity for your lens, or figure a hyper-focal length where everything from a certain distance will be in focus. There are apps for this as well.
Your lens will determine the shutter speed before smearing of the stars, as you want to use the rule of 500. That is the Full Frame 35mm equivalent focal length of your lens, divided into 500 gives you the max time you can expose without star trails. If you are using a 12mm at 1.5 crop, that's equal to 18mm at Full Frame, then round up to 20mm for a buffer and divide into 500. With the new math that's 25 seconds. If you are using a 24mm on a Full Frame Camera, that's easy. Round to 25 and divide giving you 20 seconds. If you are on a Canon, cropped sensor, you have a 1.6 crop factor which may require a calculator, but works the same way.
Now you're ready to get some great shots and maybe bring a flash you can pop during the exposure or a flashlight to do some light painting. You also can use the milky way as a great background for compositing with other shots like the elk photo when combined in your favorite layering software.
So now you're all set. Camera set up... On the tripod... in a great location... with no moon or lights from a town and you hear a coyote howl 50 feet away... LOL. I know from experience how fast I can pack up my gear and change locations. :). Bring a friend and enjoy the night sky. It's a blast. Oh, and if you hear a bump in the night... It might just be me moving my tripod.
Ah Spring... When young photographers minds turn to thoughts of.... What? Just saying... There are many opportunities for spring photography that do not present themselves at any other time of the year.
The sun is getting higher in the sky and staying up longer so there are opportunities for great sunset and sunrise photos even though you might have to get up a bit earlier to take them. Also, the spring clouds lend themselves to some great sky shots. You may also get a spring snow storm that will give you some great last snow shots for the year... The color plays between blue and the browns of the grass will make an interesting juxtaposition. Also, if there is harsh light, you can always play on the contrast and make the shot black and white.
Spring storms can make for some great photography as long as you understand where to be and how to photograph them without getting rolled by a tornado or struck by lightning. These storms can develop quickly and may get dangerous. Taking a course put on by the National Weather Service can help you understand how to do it, and even be able to report on the storms as a Skywarn Weather Spotter. If interested, check out the site below for times and places.
One of the other opportunities that only happen in the spring is getting photo's of the waterfowl migration and mating dances. You can also get some final shots of the Dark Eyed Junko's as they load up on food and head farther north, or get photos of the Hawk migration, and also get shots of Geese, Ducks, Swans, Cranes, etc doing what Cranes and Swans do. If you are lucky enough to get a non-windy day you might even get a great reflection shot.
Lastly, Take advantage of the conditions. If it's windy, get shots of things the show motion in the wind, like horses manes. If it's sunny get photo's in black and white or if it's cloudy, take portraits of animals or people. A spring rainstorm can make for some interesting street photography as people run between the buildings. Even shooting airplanes in the rain is interesting as the prop spins in the rain and makes a spiral behind the fuselage. It's all up to your imagination as to what to shoot, but bring your camera and make a shot.
As always updates first.
This Thursday 3/21/2019 will be this months Education night for the FMCC.
Thursday, March 21 @ 7 pm
Fargo Moorhead Camera Club - Education Night We will rotate to different areas for presentations by:
Angela Hoffman - Long Exposure Photography
Sharon Watson - Bird Photography
Jackie Feil - Infrared Photography
First Presbyterian Church
650 2nd Ave N, Fargo, ND
On the gear front, there have been a huge number of announcements for new lenses and camera bodies for multiple manufacturers so whatever brand interests you, know that there are some really cool options for upgrading and adding to your GAS... (Gear Acquisition Syndrome).
Having just returned from a vacation to not so sunny Arizona, (60s clouds and rain for 5 of the 8 days), I wanted to talk about photographing while on vacation.
The key to photographing vacation is taking advantage of what you have available. If you get clouds in Arizona, take a day trip to the White Tank Mountains and take advantage of the great lighting to get some fun landscapes.
Or you could photograph some birds at a friends feeder.
The key is to represent the area that you are photographing if you are going to use it for documenting your trip, whether while submitting for a Salon, for a travel magazine, or just to make an album of your vacation.
Another important feature of travel photography is to bring in important parts of the trip, like using a vintage car to make your drive to the mountains.
Make sure to include fun and interesting places that you take in, like an air museum, swap meet, vintage car show, or music museum. When you put it all together, and bring in the interest points you will have a great documentation of your adventure.
Commemorative Air Force Museum, Mesa AZ
Mesa Market Swap Meet.
This Thursday, 2-21-2019 is the monthly Education Night at FM Camera Club and we will be photographing birds from the C.A.A.R.E Parrott rescue program in Fargo.
The Center for Avian Adoption, Rescue, and Education (CAARE) is an all-volunteer, North Dakota, 501(c)(3), non-profit, parrot shelter devoted to the welfare of companion parrots. This group rescues parrots and helps people better manage the adoption of these amazing birds through education and awareness of their unique capabilities and needs. They also educate the general public about the proper care of exotic birds whenever anyone not familiar with owning and caring for parrots comes into the shelter. Another benefit of this group is that they will go out to events and locations to do this education in person, for a donation to the organization.
What makes us want to photograph birds and how do we do it well?
Birds are amazing creatures for many reasons. Most of all, that they can fly. They soar and wheel and seem to float effortlessly while we mere mortals are stuck to the ground.
For this reason alone they are great photographic subjects. If we do it well, we can capture that grace and the aerodynamic shape of the bird in flight in a spectacular photograph which can take the observers breath away.
To capture birds in flight we must have long focal lengths and fast focus capabilities to make sure to get the subject sharp. This is many times expensive, especially for lower light opportunities, but with the right light, lower priced equipment can be used and will do a good job.
Another trait that lends itself to great photographs of birds is their color and texture. Brightly colored feathers can be very interesting in photos. Make sure to accentuate these colors and textures in your photos to bring the subject to life. Using contrast, and making sure to expose properly will bring out the colors and textures to the highest level.
The EYES. Many bird species can have very interesting eyes and if you are close enough or have a long enough lens, you will be able to capture some stunning photos.
If you get a chance to come out Thursday to the Education Night at First Presbyterian, make sure to bring your camera and tripod. It should be a very interesting night of learning.
My theme for 2019 is fighting the creative funk that can plague photographers, to some degree, many times throughout their photographic career.
These creative funks can be caused by many things.
1. Lack of time and being busy with work, or shooting for paying customer's projects.
2. Doing the same things over and over.
3. The end of the year blah's or even just winter.
I've been identifying with most of these lately and have been trying to find ways to get back on track to making creative and interesting photographs.
I watched a video on You Tube recently, called "13 Creative Exercises for Photographers", which had some great ideas, and I'll embed the link below. There are some really great ideas here, but the one that I really liked was incorporating as many of the 9 elements of photography into your shots as possible.
By incorporating more of these elements, you are making sound fundamental photos and as any sports person knows, the fundamentals are what make you good at anything you do. Baseball players constantly practice the fundamentals of batting, throwing and catching, to continue to grow in their sport.
These 9 Fundamentals are:
There are also 5 other components that make a great photo.
3. Quality of light
5. Negative space
The more of these things you can incorporate into your photos, the better they will be and the more creative you can be in taking and making them.
I will be trying to work these into more of my shots going forward, and break out of the photo funk to move ahead again.
I hope these help.
Up next for the Camera Club is the rescheduled Salon Night which is now Tomorrow, Thursday 1/17/2019 at First Presbyterian in Fargo. The Assigned subject this month was Minimalist.
How many of you have started the New Year in a Photography Funk?
I'm sure it's not just me.
I'm struggling with mediocre shots that aren't up to my standard for what I consider great, but we all know that on average we really only get one or two "great" shots a year no matter what level of photography we are at.
I think like many hobbies and even professions, we need to get back to basics and do something fresh periodically to keep us moving forward.
What I did to break the funk was to try a new type of lighting. I did some research and found out that you can sometimes make an average flash work like a black light, and set up a few shots in my dining room to do some black light photography.
While I was shooting that with my Macro lens on the camera I started playing around with some macro shots of the flower pot in natural light, and got a nice result there as well.
Photography tends to expand to the space that you allow it to fill, so I was able to get some pretty interesting shots.
As with all, photography, it's about light and shadows, and composition, and leading lines, and... you get the picture... (Small Photography Pun).
Hope you are all working through your first of the year photo funks as well and looking forward to seeing your results at the Salons.
A shot of a Peace Plant Flower in Ultra Violet.
Small Cactus in Ultra Violet.
A Macro Shot in Natural Light.
The Holidays are upon us again and the opportunities for photographers abound. Documenting the season can give a photographer many ways to expand their photographic skills, and capture new and different subjects. There are always the family photo's by the fireplace, that we do year after year, but there are also many ways to make unique and different photographic compositions. How about taking photo's of your decorations with a different lens and making them look like a snow globe? How about taking that lens to a location you are visiting and doing some different photo's for the location, then posting them on social media and tagging the location to give them some photo's they can use to promote their event? How about trying to knock a couple of key bucket list items off your list by visiting local attractions and documenting them? How about trying to capture a family member or friend's pet with a holiday theme? These are just some ideas for making this Holiday season a photographic one.
Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful Holiday, however you celebrate it, and a Happy Photographic New Year.
My Tree as a Snow Globe, Taken with my Sony a6500 and a Meike 6.5mm Fisheye Lens.
The Sunken Garden at the Como Zoo and Conservatory with the 6.5mm Fisheye.
A more classic wide angle look at the Sunken Garden. I went their right before closing and was able to capture it without people in the shot.
A shot of the Sunken Gardens with a 90mm Macro lens.
Bucket List shot of the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis.
Another Bucket Lister of Minnehaha Falls in St. Paul.
My Brother In-Law's dog guarding the presents.
Well, another 1st Thursday of the month, and another Salon. This one has the Assigned Subject of "Starts with K". Kangaroo? Kite? Kleenex? Kickbox? Kick, Knuckle, Knobby? Ketchup... These are just a few that you can choose from. How many did you think of? I only got 2 of these and that's all I needed to complete the category, but this was a hard one. I usually have many to choose from in my catalog, but not for this subject. Good luck to all this Thursday and may the best photographs win.
PQ. This blogs Philosophical Question is more of a statement, but it is something I heard on a You Tube video about Storm Photography. The photographer said, "The reason I like photographing storms is that it is capturing a moment in time that no one else will ever see again. If you do it well, you can change someone's view of the world and show them something they may never have seen or will never see again."
I totally agree with this statement, but also will say that you could potentially create an interest in that person which could shape history.
How many people have seen a photograph of an event or place, that then decided to go there and help the people affected? How many times have photographs of a home, sold that home, and great photographs sold it for a higher price? How many times has an actor's amazing head shot photo, got them a role that changed their careers as well as the industry? These and many others are reason's why photography will always be a medium which has importance.
On the news front, there is less happening than the last blog. Very slow for photo news this week other than not posting a photo of your $650 World Series Ticket on Instagram, since someone did, and his seat was stolen.
This weeks tip is to have a reason to shoot. If you are finding it hard to take photos on a regular basis, try doing a special project for a month. Maybe it's shooting with only one lens, or focal length, maybe it's only black and white for a month, maybe it's setting up a small studio with flash/strobes or even some end table lamps and seeing what light does to different subjects. Skrim it, Diffuse it, make it hard and directional and see how it affects a different subject every day. Or better yet, see how many ways you can shoot the same subject with different light or backgrounds. Can you get to 30? If you get some really good shots, share them here. Just make sure they aren't of your 50 yard line Bison Ticket.. :)
So, the first Salon is in the books and we are into the full swing of this 80th year of the Fargo Moorhead Camera Club. This weeks Education night is on Thursday at 7PM at First Presbyterian in Fargo, and the topics will be on Preparing Your Images for Competition, and Storm Chasing with Ryan Mauk. I hope you can make it out for this one as it will be pretty interesting. Also, bring your laptop along to embed the tips and potentially create some presets to help with sizing and file naming.
This blogs Philosophical Question is, Why or Why not specialize in Photography? Some say that the only way to get to be a "World Class" photographer is to specialize in one genre of photography. (Weddings, Events, Sports, Scenery, Street, Portraits, Wildlife, etc.). My contention is that the only way to get better in photography is to try many different genre's and get better at all of them. I always talk about light being the key to photography and that you need to learn how to use and create light and shadows to make the shot what you want. Another component of great photography is composition. You need to learn to see the leading lines, the background distractions and what makes an interesting photograph. This being said, improving your scenery photography will improve your wedding photography. Improving your street photography will improve your scenery photography and improving your ability to focus quickly will improve your street, wildlife and sport photography. It all works together.
I'll have to confess that I've been out of the loop on the news of late, but the biggest news I've seen is that Adobe is updating Lightroom and Photoshop CC versions and adding Photoshop as a IPad app.
For you drone photographers... The flying kind not that you are unresponsive... DJI is updating their software so you can create a line of communication between the local airport tower and the drone pilot. This means you will be able to fly closer to an airport as long as you are in communication with the flight controller, allowing for safer operation in and around airports where drone flights are now prohibited.
This blogs tip is take a photo walk with a lens that you don't normally use. (If you only have one lens or a zoom lens, limit yourself to not zooming.)
Tonight I went out to walk my dogs and just on a whim, threw my 90 Macro on. I was interested in what I would find to photograph and found many things including my dog. By limiting your choice to a specific focal length, you will expand your view of the world and get better at looking for interesting things to photograph. I'll call this one "Braving the Fall Winds".
Well... It's almost upon us... The first Salon of the Fall 2018 season is this Thursday. I hope by now that you've entered some of your finest work and are looking forward, like I am, to seeing what everyone was able to capture during the break.
This blog's Philosophical Question is, Why is competition necessary for a photographer?
That's right, I said NECESSARY! I really think that becoming and excellent photographer takes:
1. Learning the techniques of photography. (Which is why we have education nights)
2. Learning what makes something artistic. (Get a book on the old masters of painting and other forms of art, go to museums, peruse the web...)
3. Learning how to capture the light... or create it if you don't have what you want.
4. Entering a competition to see how your photo's stack up.
5. Practicing your craft.
6. Repeating all these steps again and again.
Photography is a form of visual media that tells a story or sends a message. The competition aspect allows you to see how well you've sent that message, TO THAT JUDGE. Yes, there is a subjective opinion by the judge about how you've done, but you usually get feedback on what you could have done better as well. In that feedback comes the learning and the ability to get better at the craft of photography.
The first year that I entered my photo's in the salons, I think that I recieved 1 honorable mention. The second year, I did much better and now I do pretty well at it.
What I know, from personal experience, is that my photography has improved dramatically since I started entering competitions and that I really enjoy winning awards with my photographs. That's not to say that I've wasn't disappointed when my "Super Stupendous Photograph" didn't win that month, but you can re-enter it and see what someone else thinks and even though it didn't win at the club level, it may get chosen to go on to the N4C competition and win there.
If you have been following photography for any length of time, you know that PhotoKina, the every other year, photo extravaganza has just ended for 2018. This is the showcase where most of the photo companies release their new gear and show it off. There were some very interesting releases which are too numerous to mention, but the big news this year was Full Frame Mirrorless cameras from Panasonic, Canon, and Nikon as well as another 100mp medium format sensor that was released. Just Google PhotoKina 2018 and you can see all the info there and pick the products in which you are interested.
Get a rocket blower and keep it in your camera bag.
There have been many times where I thought that I would need to use liquid and a cloth to clean my lens, or have a professional sensor cleaning for my camera due to dust spots, when all I had to do was hit them with my rocket blower and it took care of the problem.
A rocket blower is just what it sounds like. A small bulb blower with fins that make it look like a rocket. The fins help it stand upright on a desk or dashboard.
Get a large enough one that you can deliver a fairly good blast of air, and make sure you don't touch the sensor or the lens with the tip when you are squeezing the blower. Then tip the body of your camera or lens down so the dust can exit and hit it with couple of good puffs and problem usually solved.
I also like to use it when switching lenses as a preventative measure.
Meet up Opportunities:
Lonnie Sager and I had a great time going out to Maplewood Park in Pelican Rapids Last weekend and shooting the Fall Colors. I imagine they will still be pretty good this weekend so if anyone is interested in going, please communicate with others from the club.
So, Hope to see you all at the Salon this Thursday and good luck.