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…

As far as the eye can see

“As far as the eye can see.” How many times have we heard, and even uttered, those words without really considering their true meaning? Just how far can the eye see? Adults use the expression to convey wide open spaces, and as a kid I remember arguments on the playground about who had seen the farthest, trying to one-up each other with our ocular feats. To me the words “as…

A small dose of mind-bending perspective

So what’s happening here? The orange glow at the bottom of this frame is light from 1,800° F lava bubbling in Halemaʻumaʻu Crater inside Hawaii’s Kilauea Caldera, reflecting off a low-hanging bank of clouds. The white band above the crater is light cast by billions of stars at the center our Milky Way galaxy. So dense and distant are the stars here, their individual points are lost to the surrounding glow. Partially obscuring the Milky…

Road trip!

Sacramento isn’t exactly known for its scenery, but as someone who makes his living photographing nature’s beauty, I haven’t found any place I’d rather live (okay, so maybe Hawaii is close). Just listen to this list of scenic locations I can drive to from home in four hours or less (clockwise from southwest to southeast): Pinnacles National Park, Big Sur, Monterey/Carmel, San Francisco, Point Reyes, Muir Woods (and countless other…