New Zealand Night

One of the questions I get the most about the New Zealand workshop Don Smith and I do is, “Why winter?” The simple answer is that it’s the best time to photograph there. This answer is usually followed with, “But isn’t it cold?” Not really—it’s more like a Northern California or Oregon winter, with highs in the 40s and 50s, and lows in the…

Right Vs. Left

Two photographers approach the same scene: One can clearly visualize a uniquely beautiful image, but he has no idea how to achieve it. The other is so intent on finding the hyperfocal point for her lens’s “sweet spot” focal length and f-stop that she barely registers the beauty before her. While most photographers don’t fall at these extremes of the creative/analytical continuum, the vast…

Star Struck

Nothing in my life delivers a more potent dose of perspective than viewing the world from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Days are spent at the mercy of the Colorado River, alternately drifting and hurtling beneath mile-high rock layers that tell more than a billion years of Earth story. And when the sun goes down, the ceiling becomes a cosmological light show, each…

Compromise less, smile more

Night photography always requires some level of compromise: extra equipment, ISOs a little too noisy, shutter speeds a little too long, f-stops a little too soft. For years the quality threshold beyond which I wouldn’t cross came far too early and I’d often find myself having to decide between an image that was too dark and noisy, or simply not shooting at all. Because…

Starry, starry night

Few experiences in nature surpass a dark sky brimming with an impossible number of stars. The darker the sky the better, and the sky doesn’t get much darker, or more impossible, than a moonless night at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I schedule my annual Grand Canyon raft trip for the week of the new moon to ensure the darkest skies and the most stars;…

Photograph the Milky Way: Part Two

Previously on the Eloquent Nature blog: Photograph the Milky Way: Part One Viewing the Milky Way requires nothing more than a clear, dark sky. The Milky Way’s luminosity is fixed, so our ability to see it is largely a function of the darkness of the surrounding sky—the darker the sky, the better the Milky Way stands out. But because our eyes can only take in a fixed…

Photograph the Milky Way: Part One

See the Milky Way Look heavenward on a moonless summer night far from city light. The first thing to strike you is the shear volume of stars, but as your eyes adjust, your gaze is drawn to a luminous band spanning the sky. Ranging from magnificently brilliant to barely visible, this is the Milky Way, home to our Sun and nearly a half trillion other stars of varying size, age, and temperature. Size and…

I love you, goodbye…

Last week I said goodbye to my Sony a7S. More than any camera I’ve owned, this is the camera that overcame photography’s physical boundaries that most frustrated me. I’ve been interested in astronomy since I was ten, ten years longer than I’ve a been photographer. But until recently I’ve been thwarted in my attempts to fully convey the majesty of the night sky above a grand landscape. What was…

Cool stuff on a cold night

About a month ago I huddled with my Eastern Sierra workshop group on a mountainside in the White Mountains (east of Bishop). We were waiting for the stars to come out, but after driving over an hour on a road that would test anyone’s motion sickness resistance, hiking a steep half mile in the thin air above 10,000 feet, and waiting out a couple of rain showers, it looked like…

2015 Grand Canyon Raft Trip: River of Light

Last week I took 27 photographers on a 6-day raft trip through the Grand Canyon. It’s the second year I’ve done this (and I have no plans to stop). This year’s conditions were significantly different from last year’s: colder, wetter (it rained all but our first and last days), and windier. But with the miserable weather came much better photography, as we enjoyed beautiful light…