Category Archives: Digital Night

Earthlight

At sunset, the crescent moon reflected in the intertidal flats. The moon does not produce light. We see the moon because of reflected sunlight.

In this photo, only the crescent is really bright, but the further shape of the moon can easily be seen behind the shadow of the earth.

Earthlight © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Under the Wide and Starry Sky

As Robert Louis Stevenson put it, “Under the wide and starry skies glad did I live.” But if you live in a city or even a town, it is likely that you don’t often see the wide and starry skies in all their glory.

Nothing compares to the experience of lying out under the stars and watching the Milky Way and our fantastic galactic core rotate their amazing show through the heavens—seen here with Ladyboot Arch in the Alabama Hills east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the foreground.

Ladyboot Arch © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D850, 28mm, 30 seconds at f/3.5 and ISO 3,200 with minimal post-production.

Times Square

From high above Times Square, New York does indeed seem to be the “city that never sleeps.” A pulsing light show of humanity whatever hour of the day or night, reflected in the world of glass and girders. 

Times Square, New York © Harold Davis

Also posted in New York

Lighthouse on the Hill

Back to the Far de Cavalleria, this time at night. Weather conditions weren’t ideal. The idea had been a Milky Way arch over the lighthouse, but clouds—with an occasional burst of lightning—covered the relevant portions of the sky. We waited in the wind, with hope against hope, and having some fun chatting, even if it was a bit breezy. In the meantime, when dealt a bit of lemon soup, why not make lemonade?

Lighthouse on the Hill © Harold Davis

This is a fairly technical image. I used sets of in-camera multiple exposures, ten captures per set, fired manually with my remote. The camera was steady on my tripod for the entire period of engagement, although I stood close-by to make sure there were no wind-related accidents!

I tried to time the capture for when the light beams from the lighthouse were in an ‘X’ formation. I experimented with exposures a bit, but roughly the EXIF per exposure was 1/3 of a second at f/1.4 and ISO 3,200 on my Nikon D850. 

I used my Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 wide-open to “scoop as many photons” in as I could. This lens is optically strong enough even at f/1.4 that it is great to use at night.

In post-production, I took four of the best in-camera composites (so this means I was working with forty images). With each of the four composites, I processed them twice in ACR—once for the light beams, and once in a lighter pass for the night sky.

I combined each of the two versions of each of the four composites using a layer mask, and primarily a simple gradient.

I then stacked the four finished versions, using Photoshop Statistics set to Maximum mode. This overdid things a bit, and added too much in the way of star trails. So I went back to one of the four layered composites, then layered on top of it bits of the other versions, and also a few elements from the stacked aggregation.

Also posted in Photography

Central Park South at Night

Wandering around New York City about a year ago with my camera and tripod at dusk, on my way to a meeting with a publisher, I came upon the reflections of the Plaza Hotel and city lights coming on in the lake at the southern end of Central Park.

Central Park South © Harold Davis

I always feel so peculiar in New York since I know it so well from having lived there and grown up in “the city”: familiar, and at the same time a place that is utterly alien and has changed beyond recognition (kind of like our overall society). In any case, I am looking forward to a few days in New York between Maine and Germany this coming summer.

Also posted in New York

How Long Must Eye Wait?

Wedged in a crack behind the aptly-named Ladyboot Arch in the Alabama Hills of the eastern Sierra near the Nevada border of California, I already knew this wasn’t going to be the perfect image. For one thing, the lens I was using, my dearly beloved Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 horizontal fisheye had blown over in an accident a few days earlier, with a nasty crack on the front optical element.

How Long Must Eye Wait? © Harold Davis

The focus of the lens was also jammed, stuck (fortunately) on infinity. That is, nobody wants focus to be jammed, but if an extreme wide-angle has to have a single focus, infinity would be the choice.

Ultimately, I had no idea whether shooting through this damaged lens would produce reasonable results.

I was also faced with a problem of topography: the crevice I was in would not let me set the tripod up normally, and I had to spread the legs and wedge them against the rock walls.

Finally, all was ready to start the timer on the intervalometer. But for reasons unknown, it simply wouldn’t work with the camera. 

Falling back on “Plan B” with grace under pressure is a normal part of any photographer’s toolkit. My Nikon camera has on-board intervalometer functionality, admittedly with an inscrutable user interface. The limitation is that the shutter speed maxes out at 30 seconds. 

Normally, my practice with this kind of photography is to set the camera to Bulb, and shoot a sequence of wide open (or nearly wide-open) captures at four minutes (using ISO 400). 

Dropping the shutter speed down to 30 seconds meant I was exposing for 1/8 the duration of time I normally would (because 30 seconds is 1/8 of 4 minutes). To compensate, I needed to boost the ISO by a factor of eight, from 400 to 3,200.

The final exposure data was 141 exposures, each exposure made at 30 seconds, f/2.8, and ISO 3,200. Post-production was in Photoshop, using the Statistics script with stack mode set to Maximum.

Here’s an image from the front of Ladyboot Arch, and another image from the rear of the arch (made with my other camera, a working intervalometer, and the Zeiss 15mm wide-angle lens!).

Night photography workshops are indeed a great deal of fun, and I am looking forward to a repeat engagement in Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, with my friend and distinguished night photographer Steven Christensen of Star Circle Academy as co-teacher in 2018. The dates are Friday, September 7 through Monday, September 10, 2018. Click here for more information!

Also posted in Landscape, Photography, Workshops

Under the Sheltering Sky

The novel The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles details a desert—the Sahara in trans-Atlas Morocco—that is anything but comfortable and sheltering, at least to foreigners. It’s true the desert can seem forbidding, but out at night with the stars and a few companions, the sky indeed seems sheltering.

Under the Sheltering Sky © Harold Davis

I made this image from the rear of the formation known as “Lady Boot Arch,” facing north, in the Alabama Hills of the Eastern Sierra in California.

Forgotten Kingdom

When you wander the desert of the imagination you don’t know what you might find—the possibilities range from a horse with no name to forgotten kingdoms of myth and legend and beyond.

Forgotten Kingdom © Harold Davis

Revelation

While my night photography group turned most of their attention to Mobius Arch, I set my camera on auto-pilot on a rocky knoll to photograph the apparently empty landscape of Alabama Hills. The star trails in this image were created from a stack of 37 4-minute exposures, each exposure at ISO 400 and f/2.8. The foreground was blended in at roughly 90% opacity, and consists of an HDR blend of three exposures made at ISO 64, f/22, with shutter speed varying between 0.3 and 3 seconds. I used my Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 throughout.

I think the coolest thing about night photography is never knowing what the camera will reveal—certainly more than the eye can see!

Revelation © Harold Davis

Night Finger Music

A few of us arrived in Lone Pine ahead of this weekend’s night photography workshop. After dinner, we went over to the Alabama Hills to practice a little night finger music—and to experience anew the wonder of the stars in the firmament.

Night Finger Music © Harold Davis

Blue Danube

The Danube River meanders from central Europe down through Budapest, finally to end in a Black Sea delta in southeastern Romania. The photo below shows the Danube at blue-hour-into-night looking towards the Chain Bridge and Hungarian Houses of Parliament as the river curves through central Budapest, Hungary.

Blue Danube © Harold Davis

The next photo shows the Elizabeth Bridge, also across the Danube in central Budapest, as dusk has deepened. The solid lines are boats on the Danube. I was helped to find locations by ace night photographer and guide to Budapest Miklos Mayer, who also helped me get into location on the following evening for the fireworks display for Hungarian National Day. If you visit Budapest with your camera, and want to make some special images, Miklos is highly recommended.

Elizabeth Bridge, Budapest © Harold Davis

Finally, the photo below is a three-exposure monochromatic HDR blend of the central part of the parliament building from right across the Danube River.

Houses of Parliament © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Fireworks in Budapest

In Budapest, Hungary over the weekend they were celebrating Hungarian National Day with a massive fireworks display. This was photographed across the Danube River, with the Houses of Parliament on the right.

Fireworks in Budapest © Harold Davis

When, Where, and How to Photograph the Eclipse

The August 21st 2017 total solar eclipse is gonna be a crazy event in the United States. 12 million people live in the path of totality, and many more are planning to journey to find the totality.
 
The creators of the photo planning app PhotoPills have written a detailed tutorial on both planning and photographing the eclipse. You can check it out here: http://www.photopills.com/articles/solar-eclipse.
Also posted in Photography

Moon over Xlendi Bay

The sound of the waves in narrow Xlendi Bay on Gozo, the Maltese island of Calypso, put me to sleep. Waking in the middle of the night, moonlight streaming through the open doors woke me. I didn’t even check the time. The whole world was in a dream state.

I went onto the balcony naked in the warm breeze, opened up my tripod, and made an exposure long enough ( 15 seconds) to show the movement of the clouds and waves in the glorious moonlight. Then I went back to sleep, and wondered, if it had all been a dream, when was I going to wake? The image remains as evidence that dreams sometimes converge upon waking reality.

Moon over Xlendi Bay © Harold Davis

Moon over Xlendi Bay © Harold Davis

Also posted in Malta

On the Brooklyn Bridge

Today I guest-hosted an informal Meetup of New York photographers. We gathered at the bridge tower on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. There was a great deal of talk about photography, many nice people, and I answered all the questions I could. The sunset looked to be unpromising, but as you can see it had its moments.

© Harold Davis

On the Brooklyn Bridge © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D810, 16mm fisheye, three blended exposures, each at shutter speeds of 8 seconds and ISO 64; f/8, f/11, and f/14; tripod mounted. Processed in ACR and Photoshop.

Also posted in New York, Photography