Night Photography Basics Part 2 – Full Moon, Star Trails, and Auroras

Moonlight illuminates Glen Canyon and the Colorado River near Page, Arizona.

In Part 1, I discussed the ideal settings for shooting a dark night sky under a new moon, as well as what all those settings mean. If you’re not comfortable working in Manual Mode (M) on your camera, you should go back and read it to make sure you’re up to speed. This section will assume that you’ve got the basic understanding of M Mode and how it works.

This time around, I’ll be discussing how to alter those settings to account for a full moon, how to capture star trails, and also how to photograph the northern or southern lights, aka the Aurora Borealis or Australis, respectively.

Understanding The Histogram

Before moving further, it’s important to understand the histogram as displayed within the camera. Put simply, the histogram shows you the light that was captured in a given scene. – Continue reading

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Silence Your Critics

Light on the walls at Pueblo Bonito create an abstract photo in Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

It’s easy to enjoy receiving feedback from others, and in many cases, it provides helpful tips and techniques to help us evolve. There are times, however, where we let other peoples’ opinions dictate how we should be following our passion. Consistently following their advice, no matter what their rank or recognition or how well-meaning they mean to be, can be detrimental to your work.

The title of this blog post could be misinterpreted to mean create a body of work that awes and inspires them, rather than giving them something to critique. Yet I don’t mean that at all. When I say "silence your critics," I mean let them say whatever they want, but don’t let somebody else’s subjective opinions define how you should express yourself. – Continue reading

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The 12 Best Photos from 2011


Pilgrim Mountain in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming rests under glowing sunset clouds.

I found myself rather unproductive in early 2011 in terms of stills. With the recent purchase of a 7D and getting it up to working order, as well as discovering time-lapse photography, my still photography became a bit stagnant. As a result, most of my work was in the form of a time-lapse and before finding a good balance of time-lapse, video and still, I even wondered if I would move entirely into video. Eventually the balance did work itself out and once I had my 7D back and functioning properly the following spring, it was full-steam ahead in every direction!

I discovered this image during that time after forgetting about it. I was looking back through a day in January where I hadn’t shot very much at all, but saw potential in a nice sunset above Pilgrim Mountain. – Continue reading

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Court of the Patriarchs in Zion Canyon

The Virgin River flows past the Court of the Patriarchs in Zion Canyon of Zion National Park, Utah.

Zion Canyon in Zion National Park can be a tricky place for sunrise or sunset. Locations for capturing direct light on any of the surrounding peaks or canyon walls is pretty minimal, so as a result, I began scouting out some potential shots, and eventually settled on the Court of the Patriarchs with the Virgin River as the foreground. While it wasn’t a spectacular sunset, there were a few clouds in the sky that made it worth it and provided a good amount of interest to round out the whole scene.

Zion National Park was the first national park I ever visited back in 2004, so it holds a good amount of sentimentality for me, and seeing the towering sandstone peaks is always a welcome sight. – Continue reading

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If There’s Good Light, Capture It

A fiery sunrise lights up the clouds above Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District near Moab, Utah.

Several months ago, I was visiting with another photographer passing through town, and we got on the discussion about breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. We both agreed that no matter what the foreground or landscape below looked like, it would come out looking great simply because of the light and clouds, provided they offered enough interest. While I certainly agreed with it, it was never my intent to be forced to try it. As a photographer, I always want to be around some magnificent landmark with such dramatic skies.

On my recent road trip, my first morning into Canyonlands National Park, however, gave me no other choice. I miscalculated the distance from my campground to the park, and as a result, saw the beginning signatures of a brilliant sunrise forming while I was still driving to the entrance. – Continue reading

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Fajada Butte of Chaco Culture National Historic Park

The sun rises on the top of Fajada Butte of Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico.

Throughout the road trip that I returned from earlier last week, I was telling people that one of the places that left a lasting impression on me was Chaco Culture National Historic Park, aka, Chaco Canyon, and the ruins found therein. The entire complex is quite mesmerizing and is well worth the journey into a completely remote area of northwestern New Mexico.

There is one set of ruins, however, that is closed off to public access due to its fragile nature. Erosion from tourism forced the park service to shut down the Sun Dagger site, which rests at the top of a lone butte called Fajada Butte, rising out of the desert floor at the mouth of Chaco Canyon itself. The site made incredible uses of petroglyphs to mark the equinoxes from both the moon and sun using spirals carved into boulders as light broke through other boulders. – Continue reading

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