Monthly Archives: October 2008

Another Starry Night

Starry Night 3

Starry Night 3, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: This is another fisheye starry night stacked photo from Glacier Point. This one consists of 12 captures at four minutes and ISO 100 and f/3.2, and one high ISO capture at four minutes and ISO 800 and f/4. The bright purple comes from sensor flaring in the higher ISO capture in the stack. I intentionally left the foreground dark (the way it looks in the individual exposures) rather than trying to blend in a brighter foreground (as in the previous versions).

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Yosemite Morning

Yosemite Morning

Yosemite Morning, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Coming down from a night spent photographing star trails on Glacier Point, I hit the Valley floor about 6AM. I tucked into my sleeping bag, inserted the ear plugs, and slept for a solid hour or so. At about 7AM a deep rumbling noise penetrated the ear plugs and woke me. It was followed by sirens (what’s this, bears dancing on cars setting off their alarms?) and then helicopters.

Sleep fled, and I pulled myself out to see what was going on. A big rock ledge had fallen off Glacier Point into the valley, and right into Curry Village. (Here’s the story. Very frightening if you were staying at Curry, but luckily no one was badly hurt, and the place has largely reopened.)

In the meantime, the Merced River beckoned in the morning light (you can see some of dust from the rock slide in the background of this photo).

To create this image I groggily shot six exposures, at times between 1/13 of a second and a full second. My initial plan was to process these together as an HDR image, using the Photoshop HDR automation. So I converted all six from the RAW using one ACR settings file, and then opening the six files using Merge to HDR. The results looked like garbage, Photoshop didn’t really know which areas to include from which exposure. Next, I tried merging to HDR using the pre-converted RAW files, with more-or-less the same ugly results.

So, it was back to hand combining the six captures using ACR setting variations, layer masking, gradients, and the Paintbrush tool. Computers are great, but sometimes automation sucks, and there’s nothing like doing it by hand.

Related story: Multi-RAW Processing versus Automated HDR.

[Nikon D300, 12-24mm Zoom lens at 12mm (18mm in 35mm terms), 1/13 of a second, 1/10 of a second 1/4 of a second, 1/2 of a second, and one second, all exposures at ISO 100 and f/22, exposures hand combined in Photoshop, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Starry Night

Starry Night

Starry Night, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger

Many of my night photos are created in homage to Vincent van Gogh, who wrote in a letter to his brother Theo, “It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day.” The star swirl in this image seems particularly van Gogh, so I thought I’d name this one Starry Night, after one of his most famous works.

This photo was taken from Glacier Point in the middle of the night after the moon had set (you can compare the version from the same spot lit partially by the moon).

I made 14 captures using an automated timer, all with my Nikon D200 and 10.5mm digital fisheye at ISO 100 (of course, using a tripod). The first, and longest, exposure was at 8 minutes and f/2.8. The remaining exposures were at 4 minutes and f/4 (to capture the star trails). I then stacked the captures in Photoshop CS3 Extended using the Statistic script set to Maximum mode.

I found that the result included some unfortunate light flaring, as well as some purple sensor burning. So I went back through the 13 four minute captures carefully, and found one with both the flaring and some unintentional foreground light painting. I must have been looking at my other camera with my headlamp on, and lit some of the area of this image by mistake. I fixed the problem by removing the offending capture and restacking the images.

But there were a few areas of the capture that I’d removed that enhanced the image. So I laid it on top of the stacked version, and used a layer mask and paintbrush to paint in these areas.

I also needed to lighten up the foreground. So I reprocessed the eight minute exposure with this in mind, and layered it on top of the other layers, using a gradient to bring out foreground detail.

After this, it was my normal workflow.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Down in the Valley

Down in the Valley

Down in the Valley, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Taken from old Inspiration Point, this image uses a layer mask and gradient to combine a brighter foreground image with a stacked set of captures exposed for the sky and stars.

[All captures Nikon D200, 10.5mm digital fisheye, ISO 100, tripod mounted. Foreground: About eight minutes at f/2.8. Sky: eight captures each at four minutes and f/4.0, combined using the Statistics script in Photoshop CS3 Extended with the mode set to Maximum.]

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Leaning into the Stars

Leaning into the Stars

Leaning into the Stars, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is another thirty minute exposure, with the setting moon helping light the foreground. The view is, of course, Yosemite Valley, with El Capitan and Half Dome clearly visible. I took the photo from the Old Inspiration Point, about 1.5 miles up the trail and above Wawona Tunnel View, which is what most people these days think of as Inspiration Point.

You can see car lights in Yosemite Valley. Somewhat more amusingly (and you may have to look closely at the larger size), you can also see the headlamps of climbers bivouaced on El Capitan.

I used a little discrete light painting to illuminate the dead tree trunk in the left foreground.

[Nikon D300, 12-24mm zoom lens at 12mm (18mm in 35mm terms), 1,805 seconds (about thirty minutes) at f/8 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Stars Rush In

Stars Rush In

Stars Rush In, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

First, about this photo: here’s some information about the circumstances. Capture data: Nikon D300, 12-24mm Zoom lens at 12mm (about 18mm in 35mm terms), about thirty minutes (1,805 seconds) at f/4 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

You are invited to a free live webcast: Secrets of Digital Night Photography

DATE
Friday,
October 17
 
TIME
10:00am PDT
(17:00 GMT)
 
HOW TO JOIN
Register Now
Register now and we’ll send you a reminder!

Meeting link: oreilly.com/go/nightphotos

 
WEBCAST
Secrets of Digital Night Photography
 
PRESENTER
Harold Davis
 

In a letter to his brother Theo, the great artist Vincent van Gogh wrote, "It often seems to me that the night is much more alive and richly colored than the day." The advent of digital photography has revolutionized the practice of night photography because a digital sensor can record the spectacular colors of the night. These colors are created by light waves in spectrums that are invisible to the naked human eye. For the first time we can truly "see" the world of the night around us.

In this webcast, professional photographer Harold Davis, author of Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O’Reilly) and creator of the Photoblog 2.0 and Digital Night web sites shows why night photography has become increasingly popular among digital photographers. He demystifies exposure techniques at night, and explains how he post-processes night photos. Following Harold’s presentation, there will be time for a Q&A in which he’ll answer your questions about night photography.

Attendance is limited, so register now. We’ll send you a reminder before the webcast. And please feel free to share this invitation with others.

Date: Friday, October 17 at 10am PDT (17:00 GMT)
Cost: Free
Duration: 60 minutes
Meeting link: oreilly.com/go/nightphotos
Questions? Please send email to [email protected]

About Harold Davis

Harold Davis is a photographer and author. His photographs have been widely published, exhibited, and collected. Many of his fine art photography posters are well known, including some recent alternatively processed digital flower images published by New York Graphic Society.

The author of more than twenty books, Harold has written (and illustrated with his photographs) Digital Photography: Digital Field Guide (Wiley), The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite and the High Sierra (Countryman/W.W.Norton), 100 Views of the Golden Gate (Wilderness Press). He is the lead author of a new series of books about digital photography from O’Reilly Digital Media.

Harold writes the popular Photoblog 2.0, which covers aesthetic, technical, and personal issues related to digital photography. He is the creator of the Digital Night website.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Yosemite by Moon and Star

Yosemite by Moon and Star

Yosemite by Moon and Star, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I spent most of Tuesday night on Glacier Point, hoping for Draconid meteor showers but settling for star trails. I brought six batteries and two cameras. I set one of the cameras to automatically capture a series of exposures, with statistical stacking in mind; with the other camera I played.

This one is a combination of sixteen exposures, taken early enough in the night that the moon was still lighting Tenaya Canyon and Half Dome.

Back to my sleeping bag on the Valley floor at about 6AM and time to get some sleep. My ear plugs in place, I was startled awake a short time later by a deep rumbling followed by sirens and helicopters. Bears dancing on cars, setting off car alarms? Investigation showed that a shelf of Glacier Point rock had tumbled down on top of Curry Village. Luckily no one was badly hurt, although they did shut Curry down. Did my night time work disturb the geology?

[Nikon D200, 10.5mm digital fisheye, 16 ISO 100 exposures, foreground at 8 minutes and f/2.8, 15 star exposures at 4 minutes and f/4, tripod mounted, stars combined in Photoshop CS3 Extended using the Statistics script.]

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Prize Specimen

Prize Specimen

Prize Specimen, photo by Harold Davis.

This week Katie Rose went to see her pediatrician, Dr. Cuthbertson. Katie Rose weighed in at almost eleven pounds. She’s shown here being held by Dr. Cuthbertson for all the world like a prize specimen of some special fish.

Dr. Cuthbertson explained that she likes being held this way because it gives her the most possible head control, and she feels the effects of gravity less in this position.

Posted in Bemusements, Katie Rose, Kids

These Hands

These Hands

These Hands, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

These hands…are the hands of Dr. Michael Katz, who delivered Katie Rose when she was very tiny.

These hands…are strong enough to do what must be done, but gentle too.

These hands…last held Katie Rose the day she was born, when she hovered between life and death.

These hands…never gave up hope.

These hands…held Katie Rose yesterday, two months after she came home, a happy healthy baby.

Posted in Katie Rose, Photography

Angel Wings in the Morning Dew

Angel Wings in the Morning Dew

Angel Wings in the Morning Dew, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: A detail of the petal of a Dawn Chorus poppy in the early morning, shot this spring and never post-processed or posted due to the flurry of events around the birth of Katie Rose.

[Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro lens, 4 seconds at f/40 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops